Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power. -Abraham Lincoln
Andrew Dryden was nothing if not a man determined.
Jane found it a hair vexing when he first began to approach her, pulling her aside every now and again to give her a gentle reminder about what needed to be done. Always the same thing, seduce the captain, as if she could really forget—not with his constant badgering. If a moment presented itself for her to do so, she would humor him, bat her eyelashes at Teague or offer a coy smile, but more often than not, found it more beneficial if she avoided him like a sufferer of the plague. Not only did she have her own duties, tasks of actual importance to be done, but after she had fallen into bed with him, her already burning desire had exponentially increased and she caught herself wondering on more than one occasion what could be done to enable herself to lay with him again.
After realizing, courtesy of Captain Teague, that men were capable of more than just causing her grievances, her views on the entire sex had again begun to evolve. For years, she had suffered all sorts of humiliation at their hands, though she now found that they could deliver a euphoria unlike anything she had ever known, which unfortunately appeared to have addictive properties. Yes, she had inwardly chided her patrons for it, but it would seem she was as hedonistic as they, seeking out the finer things life had to offer.
The more she would think about just how good it felt, the more she envisioned herself partaking in the act with the most sensual, physically appealing male she had ever made the acquaintance of. She relished every detail of lying with him: the hard, sweat-slicked muscles she had once yearned to touch, the way his lips contoured effortlessly to her own and the rum he tasted of, how he could set her own body ablaze. Immediately after the fantasies she entertained reached their metaphorical climax, she would hate herself for her wanton thoughts and her willingness to again subject herself to a man, even if she too would glean pleasure from the act.
There was none to be found in her interactions with Dryden.
He seemed to sense her hesitation to approach Teague, though mercifully had yet to figure out the true reason why, for he grew steadily more persistent. Exchanges between herself and the quartermaster became a daily routine, often several times in one day, with him getting all the pushier. Part of her began to hope that Teague would grow as tired as she of their meetings and put an end to it. After all, he had severed ties with Tom, whom he believed to have chosen her side of his. However he did nothing of the sort, appearing downright oblivious or at the very least disinterested in what his second-in-command chose to do with his spare time. Likewise, he seemed every bit as determined as she to keep his distance, even if he could not recall their passionate romp between his sheets. He happened to be a good deal better at avoiding her, which only made it that much harder for her to appease Dryden, if for no reason other than getting him off of her back.
Why did he need her involvement anyway? Surely if he and the captain were as close as they appeared to be, he would have no trouble convincing him to resign—especially since the head of the ship seemed much less the cold, formidable force he was at the start of her voyage and much more a world-wearied man by the day. Jane very much doubted that his shrinking into himself was her doing, for, given what she knew about him, she anticipated that a breakdown of his nerves was long overdue.
Nevertheless, the bullheaded blonde seemed to find her inclusion an absolute necessity, like it might somehow expedite the captain's decline. ("He is already doubting himself, I want you to push him even further to the edge off insanity!" She was left wanting after that particular instance, to ask Dryden why he himself did not simply seduce Teague; that would convince him that he was mad much faster than being charmed by a woman, even if neither knew the truth about her.)
Their brief talks escalated into full-fledged dialogues, sprinkled liberally with complaints and critiques of Teague, anything Dryden could do to further drive his point home. Despite her low opinion of the former, she still found the latter's near-constant criticism unbecoming, especially since the captain considered him a friend, or at the very least a confidant. She was rapidly losing her taste for Dryden, whom she once felt exemplified the traits of an ideal gentleman, which made him appealing to her, even if he did hold a torch to Teague's rugged good looks. Now he struck her as disingenuous and petty as hell.
Between the information she had gleaned from the pair of them, she had since deduced that his wanting to unseat Teague revolved more around with some personal history between the two of them (perhaps the shipwreck?) than the commanding officer's actual incompetence. Maybe once in his life, he had been, though her first impression of him—from his pre-admittance spiel alone—was that he was a man who ran an extremely tight ship. He seemed as if he was trying to do right by his men, by encouraging the quartermaster's leadership abilities, though perhaps his frequent absences were not the way to go about it. After once being thought missing, he surfaced up in the highest part of the rigging, staring pensively out over the water, a feat that she had not thought him capable of, especially with his size and the delicate condition of his ribs.
His plan seemed to be having the opposite effect he intended however: Dryden seemed to grow forever more frustrated from filling in for him, still only the stand-in captain…
One day he came to her with the claim of feeling ill and without hesitation, she escorted him down to the actual surgeon's place of work—or was it theirs now since she frequented it as often as he? With very minor cases, she was given full reign, though she still watched him work if the diagnosis was undeterminable or the patient was in something of a critical condition. On the one hand, she was happy that such cases were a rarity, on the other, somewhat disappointed to be missing out on valuable learning experience.
"Now can you describe to me your ailments?" she asked earnestly, though she would not admit to being a tiny bit pleased that he was feeling rundown; she just might be spared of his harassment for a day or two while he recuperated. The timing could not have been any more perfect, though he was one of the few members of the crew she had not seen in her short medical career, and he always appeared healthy as he could be. Even now, he seemed positively robust, though his eyes narrowed ferociously the minute she made her inquiry.
"The only thing that is troubling me is that I am not yet captain," he snarled nastily, his rage coming from almost nowhere. His blood was getting too hot and rushing to his head, she decided, concerned but also feeling rather proud of herself for recognizing the symptoms and knowing just the remedy for it. "And it is because you have not been doing what I asked of you." His accusation came as something of a slap in the face to her—here she was doing it at this very moment. For a split second, her jaw hung stupidly agape, before she bristled indignantly at his attack on her.
"How dare you accuse me of being idle when I have been assisting in the care of the men day in and day out?" she snapped, anger making her forget her place. "While I am not always occupied, I made it apparent to you that I was willing to busy myself with maintenance. It was you who encouraged me to devote my time fully to medicine. I believed then that the others' health and safety was your main concern, but your actions as of late are beginning to suggest otherwise to me." Her eyes narrowed challengingly. "What is really motivating you to aspire to captainship, if not your concern for the crew's well-being?"
Blinded by raw emotion, not the least of which being the fear of his true intentions coming to light and the consequences he would face, Dryden swooped down upon the boy and automatically maneuvered him into the position he would assume when he was about to slit someone's throat. Acting in the heat of the moment, he had neglected to produce a knife (the most important component), but he had crushed the youth into his torso, clamping his hand firmly over his mouth and achieving the silence he was aiming for. Topper was subdued, his to do with whatsoever he wanted. He could just as easily break his skinny neck, less messy than using a blade. Livid as he was, though, a small part of his mind remained as attuned to its surroundings as ever, and urged him to take inventory of all that did not feel quite…right.
Slowly pulling himself back from the brink of a destructive rage, his thoughts touched briefly on the velvetiness of Topper's plump lips against his palm, not that he could focus on something as trivial as that. What really struck him was the feeling of the fledgling surgeon's body pressed forcefully against his own, much too soft…and curvaceous. Even though it had been some time since he had been intimate with a woman, he most definitely remembered what it was like to hold one in his arms.
The realization was dizzying. The seemingly half-grown lad was in fact a fully developed female.
That would explain Teague's near-crippling attraction to Topper, if that even was her real name; she had lied about everything else. Just another of that bloke's many weaknesses was women, and especially attractive ones undid him entirely. (It took a little imagination for Dryden to be able to look past the masculine garbs and the harsh haircut, but he found that he could visualize an absolutely stunning creature.) Gone was his anger, replaced by the bizarre impulse to throw his head back and laugh at the lovely gift that Lady Luck had bestowed upon him. To think, all of this time, the doltish captain had been under the assumption that he was drawn to a member of his own sex, being tormented by it!
Personally, Dryden felt that the commanding officer's yearning was a further testament to the state of miserable drunkard's mind, dulled by liquor and his sense of guilt over the shipwreck that robbed him of his dearest friend, now stretched to fraying. He had encouraged Topper to seduce him, expedite his descent into madness, before he knew the truth, but now that he did, oh, how he could use this serendipitous arrangement to his advantage. This woman was going to be what brought about the long-overdue demotion and demise of James Teague, and the bastard would never know what had hit him.
"It seems neither of us have been entirely honest with the other, does it not?" he purred huskily into her ear, allowing his lips to brush the skin. She struggled ineffectively and he only tightened his hold, smirking slightly. "I cannot say that is any way to start what I believe could be a very intimate relationship. Allow me to remedy that by revealing to you my true intentions: I plan to exploit the benefits of being captain to attain extraordinary wealth for myself. There is no need for you to say anything, I have figured out what it is that you have been concealing, Miss Topper." He let his teeth graze down to close upon her earlobe…
Jane's own teeth latched onto one of his fingers of the hand he had unwisely left over her mouth in response to the insult and she wrenched herself free when he started. Every rational instinct she had screamed for her to run after what she had done, but before she had taken two steps, Dryden recovered from the shock and lunged forward to grab her by the arm, squeezing it, and bringing her to an abrupt halt. Her free hand came up to slap him across the face, though he captured her wrist, twisting her arm painfully around behind her back and pinioning her against the wall. She knew immediately what was coming and fought ferociously to get herself free. Instances like that marked her first year of work at the brothel, the patrons too impatient to wait for her figure out the mechanics of the act, choosing instead to pin her down and commence their painful ravaging.
Fearful as she was, her defiance did not leave her. The only way she might avoid another occurrence, since her strength paled in comparison to his, was to do her best to convince Dryden that she was really a male. Surely he was not so depraved that he would continue, regardless of his hostage's gender; most men would sooner die than dare become intimate with someone of the same sex, talk of sodomy at sea aside.
"You are a demented man, Mr. Dryden," she snarled into the wood panels that her face was crushed up against, "imagining that I am a woman to make yourself more at ease with your sinful thoughts! I understand everything now: it is the captain that you are truly after. You are too much of a coward to go about it yourself, so thatis why you have been telling me to seduce him, under the pretense of aspiring to take charge, when in actuality it is so that you can reap the benefits of seeing him become all bothered. And now you are settling for me because you know that you can never have him." She twisted her head in an attempt to look witheringly at him, though did not succeed in moving it very far. "You sicken me."
Though he saw her countenance only in profile, several strands of black hair had come loose to frame it, and the one eye trained on him was smoldering in rebellious fury. How could he have not known from the beginning that she was a female? She was simply stunning and he would not be opposed to making her his, though he considered himself much too much a gentleman to take her in such a barbaric way. There would be plenty of time to coax her into his bed—but at a later point.
"While I can commend you for your efforts to lead me astray, you should know that, alas, you pitched yourself in your natural speaking voice," Dryden informed her, his tone reigned in with a calm that was far from how he really felt. In actuality, he wanted to throttle her for her impudence. What nerve! Suggesting he lusted after another man! "Which, may I say, was laughably unconvincing. Now if you are through carrying on, a most unbefitting way for a lady to conduct herself, really, I should like to have a dialogue with you. I am going to release you, but know that if you do anything to draw attention to us, or dare make an attempt to bite me again, I will break your jaw. Do I make myself clear?" She appeared to deliberate for a few seconds before nodding obediently.
True to his word, he let up on his tight hold of her and she moved away from the wall, turning slowly to face him. For a moment, the two simply looked at each other. Then, his long-repressed temper got the better of him, and he struck her across the cheek before she even had time enough to realize his hand moved. The blow sent her reeling. She tumbled to the ground, eyes watering with pain, blurring the shape of him as he towered over her. Out of instinct, she shrank away from him, though she had nowhere really to go. Dryden was satisfied with her newfound submissiveness and felt that since she had learned her lesson, they could proceed.
"That was your smart mouth," he explained evenly, squatting on his haunches so that they were almost the same height. "If you are a good girl, I shall I have no further need to raise a hand to you. Do as I say and your time on the Sea Serpent will be a pleasant one, disobey me and you will wish that that great fool Teague shot you on sight. Of course, you are probably wondering what it is that I expect of you, and that is simple enough for even an empty-headed female like yourself to comprehend: we are to continue with my plan. You will actively flirt with the captain, not give him a moment of peace, while still maintaining the pretense of being a lad. He should resign within a matter of days."
"How very valiant of you," Miss Topper snapped, struggling to push herself back up with shaking arms. "A grown man hiding behind a woman's petticoats. I cannot hide my astonishment at how you have not yet made captain…" Her head snapped back as his palm expertly made contact with the very same place, turning the area of impact a brilliant shade of pink.
Dryden heaved a sigh as if greatly troubled, when really he was angry enough with her to be willing enough to use the very harshest method that would yield results. "It seems you wish to do things the difficult way," he remarked. "Then so be it." He snatched her chin and made her look him in the eye. "Perhaps, I should pick back up where I left off..." She recoiled from his touch as though burned, but other than that acted strangely. She did not show the slightest bit of desperation to keep her virtue in tow, while most might have wept or pleaded for mercy. To further his frustration, she did not seem all that fazed by it, even if she had previously been under the assumption that he would violate her only moments ago. (Maybe it was not the act itself that troubled her, but how one went about it.) In all likelihood, she had been already tainted, likely long before she ever set foot on the Sea Serpent.
He had hoped that that the threat of taking her most guarded treasure might earn her compliance, but there were other ways to get her to cooperate, as quartermaster that was part of what his job entailed. How he would delight in crushing that maddening spirit of hers. He then considered telling her that he was handing her over to crew, fifty-some voracious sailors who would be eager to spill their seed into her every orifice and go about it in a riotous fashion, having been deprived of a woman's touch for almost two months. While it served as an effective scare tactic, it was utterly impractical to his plan, since he needed her to remain, in the eyes of everyone else, a young lad; besides, he was not so certain that he wanted to share his spoils.
Thankfully, at the moment, she was holding her tongue. She was much more tolerable when she did so.
"I think," he mused, again the placidness of his tone more to unsettle her (how could he act so casually towards violence, unless he had participated in a great deal of it) than genuine, "the way I need to approach this is not as if you were a woman—and an absolutely disgraceful one you are—but instead as a man. I have a good mind to haul you up onto the main deck…" Here he grabbed the front of her shirt and tugged her upwards to emphasize his point, making like he was going to stand. "…and have you flogged within an inch of life for your contrariness. No one would think twice about it, they would turn a deaf ear to your screams of agony."
Here, her eyes grew very wide, having witnessed several floggings (all by his hand, the addition of the fishhooks to the ends of the cat-o'-nine-tails his own personal touch) and tending to the bloody aftermath (there needed to be blood if the obtuse fellows being punished were to understand their wrongs), but it was then did Dryden realize that whipping her, too, held its risks—for him. When her shirt was ripped from her back, her breasts would be revealed for all to see; he looked quickly down the small opening he had made between fabric and skin—she did have breasts, did she not? Some woman she would be without them.—and decided that she had to have bound them. The bindings would not endure the number of lashes that he had in mind to get his point across, and she would still be exposed. Even if the cloth was somehow not torn to pieces, there would still be speculation about why the apprentice surgeon had his (her) chest concealed; the blokes they cohabited with wholly lacked the capacity to keep their noses out of everyone else's business, particularly when it involved a lashing, which was a rarity.
He gritted his teeth.
That wench was beginning to seem damn near unassailable, for all of his standard punishments promised to flop spectacularly. The thought seemed to have dawned on her as well, and he worried that he was losing his small window of influence on her. If he only had the proper leverage, someone she cared about for instance, that tactic worked without fail…
Suddenly inspired, he relinquished his grip, letting her drop back to the floor like a child's ragdoll while he rose. "Why bother to waste my time disciplining you, when there is someone who offered himself up as a substitute, volunteering to take all of your punishment upon himself? Poor fellow, he is not as young as he once was, he might not survive the disciplinary measures I had in mind specifically for you." Topper looked up at him in horror, unable to speak the name in question, and he knew that at last he had won himself her utmost compliance. "Yes, my dear, the man I have in mind is none other than our beloved former first mate and your personal friend, Tom. You see, for several years, killing him has been on my agenda, but what I needed was an excuse so that I could carry it out. I thank you for providing me with one."
Doing away with Tom was both wishful thinking on his behalf and the emptiest threat he had made yet as a means of taming her. There would be hell to pay if he in anyway harmed the aged fisherman, who had sailed with most of the older seamen for a lifetime, who became something of a surrogate father to a great deal of those closer to Dryden's age, who kept their bellies full with fish when all other foodstuffs had long since been devoured and spirits up with his stories when they were otherwise low. Incidentally, this was the same fellow who had also taken a particularly defiant young lady under his wing, and along the way come to love her like she was one of his own daughters.
Nevertheless, it produced the intended effect.
"Do not hurt him!" the cry wrenched from Topper's throat before she seemed able to restrain herself. From the raw anguish in her voice, to the welling of tears that had nothing to do with the pain of the angry red mark, he knew that she had, without even fully realizing it, become fiercely devoted to her protector. "I will do whatever it is you ask of me, but I implore you, do not let any harm befall Tom."
"Consider your obedience—and silence—to be the price upon his head. Disappoint me, Miss Topper, and he will die, even if I need to make it look like an accident. His blood will be on your hands. But let us make things more interesting, shall we? I would like to be known to all as 'Captain' Dryden by the time we make land. Assuming the weather stays as pleasant as it has been this whole spring, we should be arriving in the Caribbean within the week."
Jane could only hope, pray, that they were making port, at a genuine one, not a pirate-controlled one, to restock. That was where she would be departing from her voyage on the Sea Serpent and encouraging Tom to do the same. There was no future for either of them as a member of Captain Dryden's crew; once she thought Teague unbearable, though now he seemed the lesser of two evils. After Tom aligned himself with her, therefore losing Teague's good favor, the commanding officer showed no inclination of wanting to end his life, simply cutting him out of his own.
"I want your word," she whispered, managing to ease herself to her feet. She felt weak, battered, just from him throwing her about a little—she would never have been able to endure the torture he claimed he had in store for her, for that was what it was, not a means of disciplinary action, but was determined that Tom would not have had to bear it himself. "If I do what it is you ask of me, nothing is to happen to Tom. Swear it. On your honor, whatever little a heartless bastard like yourself might have." He moved forward at her words, raising his hand, and she automatically took a step backwards, half expecting to be slapped again. Instead, he very gently lifted her chin and curved his finger down the length of her still-smarting cheek, eyes never leaving hers.
His touch exacerbated the pain, infuriated her, but she knew better than to think that he was suddenly overcome by the desire to have her. He thought a great deal like how she herself did, a natural-born manipulator of emotions, and she realized that he was testing her, trying to coax out her temper, so that he could respond accordingly. It took everything she had to resist the urge to pull away, not to release the gob of spit she was working up, any insult she paid him would be laid into Tom's flesh. After everything Tom had done for her, saving her from Teague, bringing her food when she was in shackles, the tables were turned and it was up to her to protect him from a hateful man with an inexplicable vendetta. Even if it meant going against her very nature and obliging said hateful man's every command. (Similarly, that was the only way her former mistress had ever been able to get her to behave, making threats against Susanna.)
"Anything I ask of you, love?" he murmured throatily, unable to keep his gaze from trailing downwards to her mouth, leading her to believe that his head was not the only thing that had encouraged him forward. Realizing she was glaring at him, she blinked the anger from her eyes, and when she looked up at him again, it was coyly through her lashes. Ever-so-slowly, she dipped her head. Her feigned submissiveness seemed to please him greatly. "If that is case, then…" Trailing off distractedly, his lips came down upon hers, the single most demeaning thing she had endured in her twenty years, made all the worse by the fact that she could do not a single thing to prevent it. He tried in vain to encourage her participation, but she remained rigid, her hands balled into fists at her side, nails digging into the skin.
Squeezing her eyes shut, willing it to be over, she thought, inexplicably, of Teague.
Dryden withdrew, after what felt like an eternity, appearing to remember what it was that had slipped him his mind. "Effective today, you are hereby relieved of your position of whatever it is you fancy yourself to be, and forbidden to practice anything that is medicinal in nature. As captain, it would be downright irresponsible of me to permit a woman to treat the men." That could come back to bite him in the arse if the crew got wind of the fact that he had allowed a woman to tend to them. Negligence of such astounding proportions equated him with the man he hated most.
Though that was largely his motivation, he wanted to ensure that he had nothing short of her full compliance and how better that to strip her of something she seemed to enjoy, see how she responded to it? He, likewise, would respond accordingly and she might truly know his wrath.
Sure enough, Jane's exaggerated meekness was short-lived. "You cannot do that!" she cried, outraged and wishing to strike him like he had done her. She had finally found her calling in life and was not about to let anyone rob her of that. Mercifully her wits kept her ignited temper in tow. Considering the impracticality of his decision—for how would he expect her to seduce Teague if she did not have an excuse to get close to him, when tending his injuries had always provided her one, and would that not make it obvious that something was amiss—part of her was certain that he was goading her on at Tom's expense and quickly changed her tone. "It was the captain who granted me permission to train as surgeon. Going against his wishes would be an act of insubordination."
She had chosen the word deliberately, recalling a less-than-civil exchange between the commanding officers, trying to make it sound as if it was in his best interest. Judging from the sudden change in his expression, she knew fully well that he recanted it too. (During one particular flogging, involving a man who had acted aggressively towards a few shipmates, Dryden became so engrossed in the act [spurred onward by his long pent-up fury, not that she would know], that he kept laying into his hide until Teague had to intervene, grabbing hold of his arm and jerking it forcefully downward, and ordering the spectators away.
"Damn it," he hissed, having tact enough to keep his displeasure from being made known to the whole crew, "I said ten lashes were owed and you have given him more than double that!" Jane was edging forward to tend the bleeding sailor when she heard the captain, who had today decided to act the part of it, luckily for her patient, snarl in a voice meant only for his second-in-command, "What the devil has gotten into you?" She froze, realizing that she was witness to a conversation that was technically not supposed to be transpiring, and hoping she would go unnoticed long enough to overhear the exchange in its entirety. There was no telling when it might be useful.
"My apologies, Captain," Dryden responded stiffly, hardly seeming to mean it and looking even less like it, if anything he was practically seething, "I know that you do not tolerate fighting and thought I might make an example of him to discourage the rest of them."
"Leave that to me from now on," was the terse reply. "I do not want your apologies, Dryden. I want you to remember your place. I am well aware that you want command of your own ship, but take my rules into your own hands again, and you will be the next to wear a checkered-shirt, for your insubordination.")
"I am deeply touched by your concern, my dear, but you needn't trouble yourself with my safety," the quartermaster said sardonically. "Worry, instead," he added meaningfully, "about Tom's." He paused for effect, seeming to sense that up until that moment she had been planning to go about it behind his back. "I sincerely hope that your game of pretending to be a surgeon—and that is all what you are doing amounts to, pretend, for it takes years to become proficient, not a couple of months—is not more important to you than the life of the one man who was willing to put his faith in you when everyone else would not have cared if Teague shot you straight between the eyes."
Jane hung her head, the fire in her belly extinguished as she came to truly realize the gravity of the situation she had gotten herself, and Tom by association, into. Several times she had been on the wrong end of Teague's weapon, but something had always held him back from carrying out her execution. Though he was outwardly, unnervingly, calm, as if he plotted to kill his shipmates on a regular basis, she had seen, before lowering her gaze, that Dryden's eyes held the look of a man crazed, and she knew he would not be near as easily as deterred as the commanding officer, who surprisingly seemed to have a relative little tolerance for violence.
"It is not."
As much as she loved medicine, she realized in that moment she loved Tom, a man whom she had come to view as her second chance of having a father, more. "But what am I to do if the captain inquires as to why I gave up my post?" she asked resignedly. Now that she had consigned herself to be his puppet, she might as well fully commit to her role.
"He shall ask nothing of the sort," Dryden responded with conviction, naturally not planning to tell Miss Topper what he had in mind to make Teague think her incompetent. "Now be off with you; go attempt to make yourself useful. And know, that if you breathe a word of this to anyone, you have all but signed Tom's execution papers." He waited until the young woman skulked up onto the main deck, until the hatch closed with a gentle thump behind her, before striding smartly into the galley. If this did not convince Teague to see his way of thinking, than nothing would.
"We're 'avin' fish again, Messer Dryden," the cook, Risley, said as a means of greeting. "The men 'ave been constan'ly gripin' 'bou' 'ow they're gettin' sick ta death o' ih, an' righ'ly so 'cause ih's been our on'y fresh staple fer weeks now, buh I jus' be the cook, wha' the 'ell am I s'pposed ta do 'bou' ih? Ask Tom if 'e coul' pull a roas' ouh o' the ocean?" As always, Dryden could barely suppress an urge to shudder at the sight of him: a living, breathing cautionary tale of what happened to a fellow—a pirate—when he overstayed his welcome at sea. Luckily, he himself planned to be retiring in the very near future, so exceedingly wealthy that he would never have to work another day in his life, but perhaps the best part was that no one in the high society in which he would freely mingle would ever think to associate him with piracy.
"I shall notify the captain the very moment that the opportunity to do so presents itself," Dryden said curtly, in no mood to deal with something as trifling as the men wanting a more varied diet, "but I confess I have come to speak with you about acquiring a bottle of arsenic. Surely you have some lying about. The…ah…apprentice surgeon assured me that it just the thing to help me with my ailments." Ha. A small sip would make him violently ill, and well he knew it, but it seemed the best way to keep Teague unquestioning about why that highly vexing woman was removed from her post.
Risley looked skeptically at the younger man, though his bad eye drifted off on its own accord, further unsettling Dryden. How had that decrepit bloke not keeled over dead yet? "Ars'nic?" he echoed dubiously. "Yeh mean the rah poison? The on'y t'ing tha' kills 'em deader 'an ars'nic be the cap'n's cah. An' tha's ano'er bone I be wantin' ta pick wit' 'im. Seems the damned creature be the on'y one 'oo's 'appy 'bou' all t'is fish; I catch ih in 'ere stealin' 'em all the time, I do! If I coul' geh me 'ands on ih, I'd be perfec'ly conten' ta skin ih an' throw ih in a stew. Solve bot' of me problems, ih would…"
"Just the arsenic for now, if you please, Risley," prompted the quartermaster, thinking that the cook, just another of Teague's charities, like the men who understood not a word of English but treated him as if he was the Lord reincarnate, should be damn grateful to not have been sent on permanent shore leave, fighting vermin for scraps, eating them if the need for food and the lack of money became too great. Were he captain that would have been precisely what Risley's fate entailed. At least for the time being, the older fellow seemed to have gotten the hint to shut his trap, because he clunked over to a heavily laden shelf and plucked a bottle made of green glass from it. Dryden made off with his prize, uttering not another word.
Apprehensively, he wiggled the cork until he had freed it. Then, he hesitated, wondering if the risk was really worth it. Even a drop too much could kill him—and he really had no intentions of dying, not when his fortune was so close. Then again, it could all be lost if he chose the coward's route now. This is a necessary precaution, he thought, steeling himself. I cannot have Teague getting wise to me, for that would jeopardize everything I have worked towards. Maybe a day I will lose at most from sickness, but it will pay for itself a thousand times over when the Sea Serpent is mine. So thinking, he took a very ginger sip of the poison, just enough to moisten his tongue. He was able to swallow, though after several gagging misgivings, and with trembling hands wedged the stopper back into the mouth of the bottle.
The only thing left for him to do was wait until the toxin took effect.
…A sense of anxious anticipation filled him, like it always did before he moved in for the kill, his fingers drumming against the wheel. Would this time be the one, after all those years? Visions of the morning after the night that started it all still plagued him…he should have been able to do something, prevent it from happening…but he had failed. He gave himself a little shake, could not trouble himself with that at this particular moment, not when he needed to stay focused, lead his men into battle. There would be a fight, of that he was almost certain, they never wanted to give up without a fight. Spend their last miserable moments alive defending themselves. The conditions could not have been more perfect, the water was smooth as glass and the wind was on his side. The passengers on the ship he set his sights on had no idea they were being hunted, they had been for miles, ever since they left the safe haven land provided them with. So intent were they on their purpose that they remained woefully ignorant.
"All hands on deck!" he shouted to his men. "Make ready the guns." Nodding affirmatively, some disappeared below to the gun deck, while others crouched before the ones shackled on the main deck, while still more raced to the chase-guns at the stem, and proceeded to load up the cannons mounted at the forward-most part. "Hoist the colors!" he called to others who obligingly hurried up into the rigging, unfurling the terror-inspiring flag while also coaxing as much wind as possible into the sails. And finally, "Full speed ahead. She is ours for the taking!"
His ship cut swiftly through the water, veering headway towards their target, when she had previously been sailing parallel. For most, putting oneself in such a position, offering their typically-vulnerable bow to their foes on a golden platter, was a grave mistake, but he had not doubts about her ability to endure. She was nothing short of perfection, really, for almost no vessel in these waters, nor anywhere else in the world, could outmatch her ability to intercept enemy crafts, even if she did boast an impressive, heavy arsenal. His men, too, were all armed through the teeth, awaiting the moment they came within striking distance, though if the plan he had formulated in his militarized mind was a success—and he had every reason to believe that it would be—engaging in hand-to-hand combat would be wholly unnecessary.
By now, those on the other vessel had noticed their colors set against the sky and the entire crew was up in arms, trying desperately to act evasively, but their enemy was already bearing heavily down upon them. A cannonball, a bang, and a burst of smoke proceeded the attackers, crashing downwards into the hull of the targeted boat and splintering the wood upon impact. A second, bringing with it another one attached via chain, went careening on an up roll through the main mast, sending the men beneath it scattering like the cockroaches they were as it shattered.
Wealth be damned, there were going to be no survivors, this he decided already. He would find no prize on the smaller craft, gleaning only the satisfaction of ending the lives of those who deserved to die.
"Get her abreast the other! All hands ready about ship!" he roared. The crew hung on tightly as he and another two men threw all of their weight into maneuvering the wheel, so that with a sharp, jarring turn, the ship was broadsided, the row of cannons on her port side was now facing the guns of their victims as they drew close enough to do some real damage. He looked into the bleeding, grimly determined faces of those whom he was about to send into extinction. "Fire!"
The opposing commanding officer yelled something of that ilk as well and the air around them exploded with splintered wood and thick clouds of smoke. The noise was deafening, those in charge straining to make themselves heard, the pained screams and furious shouts of men on both sides. His ship shuddered from the impact of cannonballs pelting her but held steady. Those on the other craft stood not a fighting chance—though they shot in vain at them with every weapon they had—because his was easily the larger, could withstand a great deal of damage, and outgunned them by at least three to one. Furthermore, his men could fire off shots at double the rate of the mangy blokes opposite them.
"Heave-to," the captain bellowed, remaining where he stood at the helm, but holding his arm up to shield his face from the rain of debris and squinting. "Get herout of range and abaft the beam!" At once the skilled helmsmen at his side sprang into action to slow his craft to a halt, and maneuvered her so that she was somewhere between being beside and behind the exposed stern. Before the head of the smaller vessel could capitalize on being the lead and achieve her maximum speed, which would likely ensure their escape, the guns were already reloaded and they raked fire upon her. The cannonballs tore through the length of her. A well-placed shot ignited the gunpowder store and the entire thing was engulfed in a blaze.
Watching the burning vessel collapse in on itself and sink slowly beneath the waves that toyed with the broken bodies floating among the wreckage, the victor felt no sense of triumph, only anger, the same anger he had harbored for years. Still he had not succeeded, his greatest foe continued to draw breath, and the most infuriating part of it all was that he knew in his gut that the man whose life he desperately sought to destroy was close by. They would be in the Caribbean around this time, he thought, glowering as he recalled his informant's words at their last meeting, but then again it could easily have been a bluff; he had proven himself useless thus far.
Retrospectively, he never should have made a deal with the other man, especially with the steep price he requested in exchange for his cooperation, but he grudgingly admitted that he needed his assistance.
He no longer knew how his rival thought, maybe he never had, despite once thinking the pair of them inseparable. Rival and informant, though, appeared to have a rather cozy relationship and a small part of him was just petty enough to experience the faintest hint of jealousy, which was utterly ridiculous. Snarling, he reflected that he should have killed the snitch when the moment first presented itself and then proceeded to hunt his adversary down like he had with done so many others, even if it took all the longer to find him. Unfortunately, when it came to his childhood friend, his need for instant gratification was as prevalent as it was when they had been boys.
"Damn it all to Hell," growled Lord Henry Clavell, the glow from the smoldering skeleton of the other boat flickering across his face, his eyes, making him look almost mad, "that should have been you in that inferno, Jim. Where the devil are you?"
…Miles away, in a different part of the Atlantic Ocean, Captain Teague sat up in the rigging, the light Caribbean breeze teasing his skin. His shirt he had used to tie the wheel in place, going straight towards the undisturbed horizon, before he made his climb. He took a deep breath of the air, the warmer air, which never ceased to leave him rejuvenated. He was feeling for the first time in almost two months as though he had at last emerged from his a liquor-induced stupor. It remained to be seen what had triggered it, maybe something in general about the Caribbean, or the prospects that awaited, or even the horrific day when his second-in-command had fallen ill, but whatever it was, his wits were returning to him and glad he was for it.
Venturing into these dangerous parts when he was obviously not himself was almost the equivalent of bringing a butter (or carving, like Topper had done, which coaxed the slightest of amused smiles from him) knife to a gunfight. A gunfight with highly skilled marksmen. Even without the threat of hurricanes looming this early in the season, they were still sailing into some of the most treacherous waters in all the world, full to overflowing with ships just waiting to be taken, yes, but also packed with competitors that were not to be underestimated (if history was any indicator) and with them pirate hunters.
Maybe even the most accomplished of them all, his sworn enemy.
At any rate, it was about damn time he was coming around. Forty long days he had been reduced to a miserable shell of a man as he fought a losing battle with his ever-increasing lust for Topper and the distressing limitations his various injuries put upon him. He had always relied too heavily on his strength and taken the solidity of his mind for granted, and having had both of his greatest assets depleted was perhaps the most terrifying sensation he had ever known. Still it remained, not as debilitating as it had once been, especially since his wounds had mostly healed.
The state of his head, though, remained much more fragile.
As if the fear crushing down upon him was not enough to cope with without the assistance of rum, there was forever the niggling concern that since that God-awful moment when he not only sprained his ankle, but sported a massive erection for all his men to witness, he had lost a great deal of the respect he once effortlessly commanded. His need to insure that he continued to be taken seriously then prompted him to dole out much harsher punishments and now he worried he might be thought a tyrant.
Lord, did he need to change his tune, shake the self-doubt that had burrowed itself into his very bones. What if it never went away and he was doomed to lead the remainder of his life as a nervous wreck?
Would he be fit to call himself a captain? Effectively lead and protect his men?
Part of him, he was pained to admit, was inclined to think not. Maybe the very best thing he could do for his crew would be to resign, thus allowing Dryden, who had thankfully made a full recovery, to take over. Yet that solution did not suit him either, for reasons that had nothing to do with surrendering his beloved ship to someone else. If need be, he would be able to swallow his pride and hand her over, but he simply did not feel as if his would-be successor was ready to shoulder the responsibility. Granted, while he was in his haze, Dryden had handled everything phenomenally…
…right up until he had not.
The pressure as of late, stemming from doing his own job—which in itself was demanding as Teague would certainly know, having done it himself but always enjoyed it—as well as acting as captain for much too long, seemed to have gotten to him, particularly when he took his vexation out by laying strips upon the hide of a most unfortunate sailor. Teague blamed himself for this, naturally, seeing as it was at his command that the pugnacious troublemaker had been flogged, when he might have ordinarily chosen more benign forms of punishment. Thankfully, Topper, whose confidence had reached all new heights as of late, had been close by at the time and was able to staunch the bleeding…
His brows knitted together at the thought of the physician's apprentice, for reasons that had nothing to do with lusting after him. The boy had seemed somewhat out of sorts for the last few days, truly dispirited. While Teague vividly remembered the terror and uncertainty Topper felt when he was first starting his new position, he had taken to it naturally and a zealous determination lit his eyes. Anyone who watched him at work could tell he ardently enjoyed what it was he did. All of a sudden, the spark was gone and he seemed to be actively avoiding all medical duties. Was he doubting his abilities after it had been he who had administered the arsenic, of all things, to Dryden?
Ordinarily it would have been Dryden's job to assuage a disgruntled sailor, but he immediately decided against it. For one thing, Dryden seemed to harbor ill feelings for the boy practically poisoning him, and for another, he had been too reliant upon the quartermaster as of late, and felt that he could always lighten his workload by handling things himself, helping Topper bolster his confidence or coercing him back into it. Everyone made mistakes in their craft when they were novices, that was to be expected, and Dryden had lived at any rate. For his second-in-command having had a brush with death, Teague wondered why he was being so uncharacteristically tolerant of an accident that could have taken a fatal turn.
Then again, that might have been because he badly wanted to have two surgeons on hand, though the other did not necessarily have to be Topper, whom he viewed as a sort of placeholder until he could procure a different one; he was still painfully attracted to the boy and continued to wake with his name upon his lips, which largely undermined his interest in keeping him aboard. And yet, ironically, having a second surgeon—and yes, for the moment, that meant the youth—gave him a little piece of mind when he was in an otherwise tumultuous state, knowing that the survival rates of his men doubly increased. Maybe the lad just needed to be supervised a little longer, his propensity for medicine leading everyone to believe that he was more adept than he in fact was. Just another mistake on my behalf, he thought grimly, permitting a novice surgeon to be turned loose.
The mistake had been costly in more than one way however.
There would be no ridding himself of Topper now, he knew, especially when he had started to become cautiously hopeful that Dryden would take him off his hands. After all, for what other reasons could the quartermaster and fledging physician have for sharing a great many private conversations behind his back? (Yes, he had noticed, even if he was more concerned with keeping himself from falling apart at the seams than interrupting the beginnings of an arrangement that seemed most beneficial for everyone). Well he knew of Dryden's itch to attain his own craft, and Teague assumed, having done much the same when Captain Barre promised him a ship, that without even being in possession of a tangible one yet, his second-in-command was already trying to build himself a crew. A critical, but often largely overlooked, member was a surgeon, hence why he was attempting to recruit Topper.
At least that was the most logical explanation he could think of— and there had been many, though the rest remained decidedly baffling—for his most and least trusted men forging relations. Up until Topper made his propensity for medicine known, he was very much unwelcome, perceived by the captain to be an unskilled waste of space. So he could climb a mast, anyone with four working limbs might have been able to do the same if they put enough effort into it. The boy then took an enormous step even further backwards when he tried to sneak off in the dead of night, adding cowardice to his repertoire of undesirable characteristics. And yet something seemed to draw Dryden to him, even before there was any value in doing so.
That was the only piece of the puzzle he could not place.
Dryden was more sociable than he, could converse more easily unless he had consumed an enormous amount of liquor, so he might have approached the lad on a whim. Compassion for the poor, mindlessly frightened youngster might also have motivated him to make an overture, which seemed senseless to Teague, who would do nothing if there was no good reason behind it. This would be a fine chance to test to see whose approach worked better, who, therefore might be better suited to captain the Sea Serpent. Rather than coddling Topper, like his greatest protectors had proceeded to do since his arrival, he was going to appeal to his sense of reason to shove him back into practicing medicine.
Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a sailor that turned out to be Topper, perched on a boom on the opposite mast and decided that it was as good a time as any to speak with him…strange to think that he was trying to speak with him after everything…after he realized how much power Topper's eyes alone held over him…how he would swear that the maddeningly attractive boy had figured it out, that he might even have been encouraging it, though he was certain that that was just the work of his naturally suspicious mind…then there were the times when he would wake from a vivid dream to swear he knew just what the younger man tasted like, felt like.
He experienced such sensations so clearly that Topper might as well have scrambled from his bed moments before he opened his eyes, and prayed with all his heart that he had not done something in his haze that would have permitted him to know such a thing.
He shook it off, determined to keep his control. I am simply looking for excuses to avoid him because I do not trust myself, he thought savagely. Two months he had not taken a woman to bed and the frustration of it was beginning to get the better of him, to the point where he feared he might make an exception because of how much Topper minded him of one. All it would take was the slightest lapse of judgment, a little too much liquor. A coward's way out, really. He set his jaw resolutely. The last thing my men need is weakling guiding them into these parts, so…I simply have to endure.
Giving a deep sigh, he stood and caught hold of a loose rope intended just for the purpose of moving about in the rigging and jumped down from his perch to gain some momentum. He felt a stomach-dropping, yet thrilling, jolt as he initially fell, but then his line caught and sent him sailing over to the ladder, twisting his fingers into the twine upon impact. Then he climbed deftly up it.
To his surprise, a little ways above him, Topper appeared to be much the diligent student he once was, poring over one of the surgeon's books, flipping frantically through and staring at the pages so intently that one might get the impression that he hoped the print would leap from the paper and stick instead to his brain. (And he felt the need to do that way up in the air, when he could do that on the ground, why?) It would look as though the jaded young man had again found his muse, so there was no sense in his speaking to him, but then again, he had already committed to it. Reading, pleasurable as it could be, was not equivalent to putting the words into practice, which was what he needed done.
Teague stopped his climb just a hair below him and lightly cleared his throat to get the youth's attention. At once, his muscles tensed and he started, the hefty book almost slipping out of his hands. He managed to catch it, but only just.
"I would have let it fall if I were you," remarked Teague sardonically, not mentioning that if the book had fallen, it would have crushed the skull of anyone who had the misfortune of being directly in its path. "Seeing as how you have appeared to have lost any interest in medicine, it hardly seems as though you would need it. Not that I blame you at all, why I was tempted to rethink my career entirely when a small mistake set me back. "
Topper's eyes were daggers. "I have already told you that it was not I who administered him arsenic," he shot back with unexpected ferocity. "One does not have to be the King's physician to understand that it is a highly poisonous substance."
"You mean to suggest that he drank it on his own accord?" Teague scoffed, wishing that Topper would simply accept ownership of his mistake so that they could move forward.
"Yes," the fledgling surgeon responded vehemently. "The truth is often far more difficult to accept than the most outlandish of lies, but I swear on my honor that it was by no influence of mine that the toxin was consumed."
"And why, pray tell, would he do something like that?" challenged Teague, who knew Dryden far better than Topper fancied himself to. That simply was not something he would do; his interest in self-preservation, particularly after the hurricane, was far too great…
Jane knew exactly why Dryden had done what the captain perceived to be so unthinkable, to make him believe her unfit to be a surgeon. She had not thought him mad enough to deliberately harm himself as a means of achieving his goal, but he had proven her terribly, terribly wrong. If he was willing to ingest poison, he would have no qualm in slaughtering Tom. Fearing that she had suddenly shepherded Teague, who was waiting expectantly for some riveting rationale, too closely towards the truth, she realized that she needed to employ a distraction.
"It is not so wholly different from liquor," she countered pointedly, when in actuality she wanted to shout Dryden's plot, or what she knew of it anyway, to the entire world, scream at Teague for being so dense, for letting the quartermaster get away with so much behind his back. "He wanted a day to himself and used poison to achieve it. If I recall, you have been abandoning your post whenever the impulse struck, properly persuaded by rum." Watching his face flush in shame—not even able to deny what he had done—gave her great satisfaction, his response though, gave her even more.
"Well, in your short time aboard, it appears that you have grown a spine," he commented with a wry smirk, all the while trying to pretend as though color had not come flooding into his visage. "No longer having larger men fight your battles."
"Indeed. You have proven yourself to be less of a threat than I once perceived you."
"Even so, this is still my ship, and I said that I would only keep you aboard if you were useful to me," he reminded her. She recalled too vividly that the threat had once been something along the lines of permitting her to live only so long as she remained industrious. By now she knew that death by his hand was not something she need worry about. "If you do not wish to be marooned on the most desolate spit of land in the Caribbean, either you find something that makes you even more valuable, or you return to your given duties."
Jane felt as though their dialogue had returned to its starting point, leaving her as helpless and frustrated as before. She dearly wanted to be able to resume her duties without having to live in fear of repercussions, but there would be no returning to that way of life unless she was willing to do some serious gabbing, and that meant she would have to reveal to the captain that his trusted second-in-command had forbidden her from practicing medicine. That, in turn, meant that Teague would demand an additional explanation and even if she gave it, she ran the risk of Dryden being believed over herself, much like what was occurring now, and it was Tom who would pay the ultimate price regardless.
For now, she needed to keep stalling, so she returned to her roots, guiding his attention in the direction she wanted. In this case, it was fully onto herself and she was fortunate that it was through little subtleties and minute changes in intonation that she was able to draw him in.
"How would you like me to be of use?" she asked, looking down at him with a coy tilt of her head. The captain seemed to have been expecting another biting retort and, up until she spoke, looked ready for any further confrontation. That was the nature of their relationship, was it not? He went instantly from being on the offense to rendered so stupefied that he almost tipped off the rope ladder. It swung crazily for a moment before he was able to regain his usually exceptional balance…
"How…how would I like you to be of use?" Teague echoed, twisting his hand into the rope to ensure that he not take a tumble. He longed to say something clever to counteract that sudden surge of idiocy that overcame him, but he was fighting a losing battle. In response to Topper's perfectly innocent inquiry, his brain was rapidly—too rapidly—growing foggy as thoughts of precisely how the boy could be of use to him clouded it, his blood running towards a place that needed it far more, or so thought his body. Not this again, not when he was finally starting to feel like himself. What if that had only been made possible because he had been actively been avoiding the lad? "You know what I want of you," he blurted much too loudly for his liking, instantly fearing that his demeanor had just betrayed his sinful and repugnant intentions.
If anyone, especially the object of his fantasies, ever found out…
Well, it was likely a far enough fall from this height to kill himself…
Topper looked at him and he blinked as if trying to comprehend what it was he had just heard. He looked at Topper, praying that he remained ignorant. A small part of him remained attuned to his surroundings however. Wait a moment, did someone just say something about land ahead? At last able to tear his eyes away from the spellbinding gold, he squinted out at the horizon and saw a stripe of white sand and vegetation. Oh, thank the Lord. That was his cue to leave. "If you will excuse me," he concluded, hoping he sounded a least somewhat more like a dignified captain, "I need to go ship the land."
He shimmied quickly back down the ladder, though he kept throwing upward glances at Topper all the while. The boy's beauty made him incapable of not doing so. Miraculously, he only miscalculated where to put his feet twice, before finally finding the solidity of the main deck. 'Ship the land?' he groaned inwardly, dragging his silver-laden fingers back through his hair and staring pensively up at the tiny speck that had become the lad who was leading him to ruin. Bloody hell, but two months ago I would have considered myself a clever man. What he would have liked to do then was retreat to his quarters and knock his head repeatedly against the wall until either sense or unconsciousness came, but some fifty-pairs of eyes latched expectantly onto him upon his descent.
Such is my second challenge of returning fully to my duties. This challenge he welcomed; a multitude of men he could handle, one attractive boy he stood not a , he was still reeling from their encounter, though mercifully bore no evidence of it—a couple of false steps did not an erotic effect have. As far as any of them know, though, I am back in absolute control, of my ship, and of my mind. He took a deep breath so that he would be better able to project his voice.
"Look alive, you swabs," he barked. "I fully expect to make land before the day is through and seeing as this is something we have done time and time again, I imagine that the lot of you know what it is that has to be done. Get to it!" The sounds of their voices forming a collective, "Aye, Cap'n!" was to Teague like a composer hearing his piece in symphony for the first time. He had not lived up to the standards they held him to for two months now and knew it, but his men's unwavering willingness to follow his commands moved him more than he ever would let on. When they dispersed, he strode across the deck with a renewed purposefulness, weaving in between them as needed, to take the stairs leading up to the wheel two at a time.
He would fail them, jeopardize them, no longer…
What started as a fine morning for Dryden, who finally felt his strength returning to him after consuming the poison, had wound up taking a dismal turn. From the helm (which he had found abandoned, with only a shirt tied to the wheel to keep the ship on her course—an act that spoke volumes about the captain's character), he witnessed the men gather around Teague, heard the thundering reception he received, and then watched him sprint up the stairs to join him. His innards churned with fury at the sight of him, and was barely able to keep his face from reflecting his disgust.
"I am glad to see you up and about again, Dryden," Teague greeted, sounding genuinely relieved. "You still look pale, but other than that, rather well." He stooped to retrieve his shirt and shrugged it on, as if finding it crumpled on the ground was nothing out of the ordinary; for a moment, the quartermaster's mask slipped completely and he looked upon him with sheer loathing, but as soon as the captain's head reemerged, he hastened to make his expression one of utmost neutrality. Somehow he did not think he had done it as masterfully as he might have hoped, for his nerves were stretched to their very limits as he thought of all that he still had yet to do—and what would happen if he failed. Already he felt hopelessly behind schedule.
"As do you, Captain," he replied, much more out of obligation than sincerity. Compared to the perpetually overwhelmed state he had become accustomed to seeing Teague in, the drunkard had not looked so sound in weeks, though it was naught but an obstacle to him. He absolutely hated knowing that the fire within the commanding officer had been reignited, especially when, with the assistance of a particular young woman, it was supposed to have been snuffed out forever.
He decided that he and Miss Topper were going to need to have a nice long chat, assuming he did not catch Tom alone first.
Author's Note: Wow, it's been a little while since I've updated either of my stories, and I'm not entirely sure how that happened. No wait, yes I am. I began to get crippling writer's block not all that long ago-and on top of that, I got off an anti-anxiety/depression pill that I was taking for a couple years for a bunch of personal reasons, which made me sort of apathetic to...everything, and even harder for me to find the motivation to read. Thankfully now though I'm back to fully functioning. So let's move onto this (shorter) chapter.
We've now seen the full extent of Dryden's full colors, but entirely what his overall plan is for when he thinks he's going to become the captain; that will probably come up the next chapter. I'm enjoying writing the contrasting roles of Dryden, more of a "classic" pirate, out for all he can get, and Teague, who is more of a "gentleman" pirate-I have no idea why I love him as much as I do, but I do...so much. This is also the reintroduction of the infamous pirate hunter, Henry Clavell, a ghost of Teague's past, as well as my first attempt at a battle scene. I probably butchered the use of the naval terms in the process (which could take a lifetime to learn), but I felt like it made it a little more authentic. For convenience sake, I also tried to what was happening in understandable terms.
Complimentary glossary, loosely used by me: (Miss this?)
All hands on deck: basically, the way of telling everyone to get to their positions
chase-guns: cannon situated at the bow of a ship, used during pursuit.
stem: the front-most part of the ship
an up roll: what I understand to be a tactic where they fire at the mast, destroy their means of maneuvering
abreast: side-by-side, by the side of
all hands ready about deck: I'm interpreting this as "hang on". "Ready about" actually tells the men to prepare for "tacking", which I've gathered is a change in the direction
broadsided: having an entire row of cannons on the side of a ship facing their opponent
heave-to: in my mind, turning the wheel to stop the ship, rather than using the sails
abaft the beam: towards the rear somewhere between beside and behind the ship
raked fire: essentially sending cannons through the ship via the bow or stern, the most vulnerable parts of a ship of that era
boom: long spar extending from a mast to hold or extend the foot of a sail
As always, I want to thank you, my wonderful readers, those who have been with the story since the beginning and those who recently found it. I'd like to thank everyone who either followed or favorited it-and there was a lot of that within the last few months and I couldn't be more grateful. I also want to thank my reviewers: Death's Champion and narwhalsrock.
And finally, a fun fact for you: I've been trying to decide what kind of ship the Sea Serpent is for a while and I liked the look of the Black Pearl from POTC, so I looked up what kind of ship(s) it was modeled after. Turns out, the Pearl is supposed to be a hybrid of a galleon (a slow-moving Spanish cargo ship) and an East Indiaman (which were "the largest merchant ships regularly built during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, generally measuring between 1100 and 1400 tons.") While the result is the visually-appealing Black Pearl, the supposedly "nigh uncatchable ship" wouldn't live up to its reputation in reality!
I wish everyone well, and, until next time.