'The Assault on St. Elgida'
by Phineas Redux
Summary:— Joanna Clayton is Captain of her own pirate ship the 'Amazon', accompanied by her sweetheart Sandy Parker. Time, 171—and something. The Pirate Queen decides to raid and capture a fortressed island in the Caribbean Sea.
Note:— The island of St Elgida is fictional.
Disclaimer:— All characters are copyright ©2018 to the author. All characters in this story are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons living or dead, as well as being purely coincidental would also be absolutely mind-blowing.
Caution:— There is some swearing in this story; they are pitiless pirates, y'know.
"Gettin' a bit above yerself, ain't yer?"
"Wha'd'yer mean, half-pint?"
"Another crack like that, lover, an' yer collops'll feel the tickle o' my cutlass point."
"Oo-er, I'm scared."
"An' so yer should be." Sandy Parker, lately a gentlewoman, but not any more, sniggered as the women lay together in the wide bed of the large rear cabin on the barque Amazon, Joanna Clayton's very own pirate vessel. "I only refrains 'cause I loves yer so much."
"Thanks, I appreciates the sentiment."
Sandy, mollified by this submissive apology, and her lover's hand caressing a very delicate portion of her naked body, shuffled round under the sheet to get more comfortable, then took up the burden of her discourse once more.
"So, about this bloody island." She pursed critical lips, meantime trying not to react to Joanna's attentions, which were still going forward. "I-aah,—this island has a fortress on it, y'realise?"
"Only a small one, dear." Joanna attention was elsewhere. "D'ya like this?"
"Aaah, Jeesus,—." It seemed Sandy did. "—Graaah, enough, or I'll die."
"If ye insist, lover." Joanna suddenly slid across below the sheet, took an outer corner in her grasp, and flung it aside, revealing the naked forms of both women. "Time t'rise, anyway. A pirate ship doesn't run itself, y'know."
Sandy contented herself leaning on an elbow, watching her heartmate dressing. Joanna was a few inches taller than Sandy herself; Joanna being dark-haired and slightly brown-skinned, to Sandy's blonde hair and pale as snow skin. The Pirate Queen, was also well-formed with a full richly-curved figure that was the envy of all those other females who observed her; usually from a safe distance, they knowing her unstable character and reputation. Joanna's body and limbs were solidly muscled, a shade firmer and stronger than those of her paramour. The only negative aspect of either's physique, particularly noticeable by a passing stranger, would be Sandy's hands. These, she being at present in a state of nature, were on view for all, meaning only her lover, to see; and they were something of a sight. A year or so previous to the present time Sandy had been standing too close to a barrel of gunpowder which sudddenly took it into its head to explode. Sandy's hands were badly burnt, and from then on she had taken to wearing at all times whilst in public, a pair of soft chamois gauntlets.
"Anyway, like I said." Sandy, watching her partner struggling to pull a cotton shirt over her head, and trying not to laugh, again took up her earlier enquiry. "This island, St Elgida? Are ye truly set on taking it?"
"I am that." Joanna had finally subdued her clothes and was more or less fully dressed. "It has several thirty-two pounders behind its walls. There's a small harbour where frigates can anchor safely, and it commands the Strait of Aquin, between it and the coast of Hispaniola. Take it out and we'll lead a freer, safer life when we goes a'rovin'."
"Yeah, seems a likely plan." But Sandy was still not satisfied. "How about the military stationed there? Many, is there? An' how about tHe Governor of Hispaniola? He ain't goin' t'like it, one supposes."
"Around seventy, maybe as many as ninety men. An', yeah, the Governor won't take t'it at all; but bein' sh-t scared of bein' hit on the head one dark night in return fer his opposition, he'll bite the bullet an' let it pass. Hispaniola's too weakly garrisoned fer him t'mount a military strike against Tortuga, or re-garrison the fortress on St Elgida. Once we take it down it'll be gone fer ever." Joanna turned to take a last look at the nymph lying spread-eagled across her bed. "Wow, what a sight; stay like that till I comes back this evening."
"Idiot, who'd keep the ship in order if I did that?" Sandy laughed, slipping out of bed herself. "Brr, is it cold, or is it just me?"
"Maybe a trifle chilly, but when the sun rises it'll get hot in half a sand-glass, as ye knows full well." Joanna laughed contentedly, in her turn watching Sandy dress. "Come on, let's get down t'the galley before those apes've eaten all our breakfast fer us."
The quarter-deck bulwark, on the port side, was the usual position where the women took note of the activity on the vessel, and of the far horizon across the blue seas. Presently they were discussing the lay of the land around the island of St Elgida.
"The charts have it as lying half a league off the main coast of Hispaniola, a nice deep rock-free channel between." Sandy had all the geographical details to hand. "The deepest part of the channel, according t'the soundings, favours the island; so the thirty-two pounders there'll be able to cover any vessel passing through."
"Yeah, the island itself is a rocky outcrop, small steep cliffs rising from the waves to a height of around eighty feet or so, on the Hispaniola side. It's about two miles and a half long, and around a mile in width at its widest point; which happens to be that dividing the harbour on the south from the fortress on the north." Joanna had personal knowledge of the area. "I've sailed through the channel on various occasions; of an innocent nature, that is, so the vessel I was on wasn't bombarded. The island slopes down gradually on the southern side, away from the high cliffs where the fortress is placed. Easy enough t'make landfall anywhere along the southern coast, nice shallow beaches, with a few coves. Only the main harbour is blockaded by the military."
"A short curving stone jetty, with a twenty-four pounder emplacement at the point." Joanna shrugged, as if this was of little moment. "A barracks for about thirty soldiers on shore, no frigates or such."
"All land-based soldiers, then?" Sandy wanting to get these details clear in her mind.
"Yep, say around ninety all told." Joanna nodded, going over the island's strength in her mind. "A Colonel in charge, with a Major under him and, oh, I don't know, maybe two or three Lieutenants."
Sandy scratched her chin thoughtfully, leaning out to spit over the side.
"How many o'these dam' thirty-two pounders are there? An' are they all pointed out over the Channel, or what?"
"—yeah, my spies." Joanna used her shoulder to administer a delicate admonitory thump to her paramour's arm. "I ain't gone in'ta this blind, y'realise, gal. I've made my plans, over some past few weeks—in secret, as it were."
"Dam' right, how come I didn't get noise nor smell o'the whole enterprise?" Sandy sounded displeased with her lack of inclusion.
"It started simply as, what d'yer call it, a theory, that's all." Joanna moved to caress spiky ego's. "Just a daydream, a castle in the air. Then, piece by piece, it drew together in'ta the brilliant plan o' campaign I'm tellin' ye about right now, darlin'."
"Not bloody before time, neither, by the sound o't." Sandy still needing some full-scale, tender attention. "To return t'these dam' thirty-two's, where're they aimed, generally speakin'."
Joanna paused to look around at the activity on board the barque, the Amazon, which was her very own property. Down on the main deck all sorts of seaman-like work was going forward, as the quartermaster Jake Thomson kept everyone in line—even pirates needing some discipline to carry on their daily lives. Up on the two square-rigged masts several other crewmen were attending to the mainsails and topsails, which were unfurled in the early morning breeze. Satisfied, she returned to the topic under discussion.
"The fortress is a small affair, all told." Joanna mused on the plan she kept in her memory. "Maybe one hundred feet in diameter and forty feet from ground to parapets. It's built on a sort'a three-sided plan on the faces t'wards the channel, but square walls on the other, landward side, where the main gate is. Several stone houses an' barracks inside."
"An' the guns?"
"Four thirty-two's facing the channel from the main side covering the water; two more on each of the angled west and east sides; the south side only has a couple o' eighteen pounders, child's play."
"Hmm, how high an' how strong is the southern entrance wall?"
"Nice point, Sandy." Joanna nodded her approval. "It stands twenty-five feet high, a parapet along the top where soldiers can fire their muskets, an' the eighteen's, in'course. The gate itself is simply a double wooden affair, planks on a criss-cross backing; a girl o' ten could kick it in."
"Grapnels and ropes'll be all that the men need t'scale that in seconds, I'm thinkin'." Sandy glanced at her partner, with a bright gleam in her eye. "Begins t'sound as if this crazy plan might not be so crazy, after all."
"I glories in yer approval, I'm sure."
The attack force heading for St Elgida, four days later, consisted of no less than three pirate ships; Joanna's barque Amazon; Captain Henry Kincaide's brig San Marino; and George Fellowes' brig The Happy Gannet. Between them the pirate force numbered around 350 men; some layabouts polluting the streets of Cayona, the only port-town of any worth in Tortuga, having been pressed into service as temporary pirates-in-waiting to make up the numbers, as it were.
Kincaide and Fellowes had been brought into the plan as a result of Joanna's expertise at telling a tall tale, full of sound and fury—this time signifying something much more than nothing, Kincaide and Fellowes both dearly loving a fight, whatever the reason.
The idea was for Kincaide to lay-off the small harbour on the south side of the island, bombarding the jetty, barracks, and gun emplacement; thereby putting the fear of God into the substantially Godless garrison; while Joanna put her own forces ashore at a cove some way to the west. Her men would then head to the harbour, attacking it from the inland virtually undefended side when Kincaide opened up with his guns. At the same time Fellowes, cutting along through the Channel on the other side of the island, would set-to bombarding the fortress, he having no less than three thirty-two's to a broadside of his own, lucky man.
It wasn't Joanna's plan to bombard the fortress into submission by cannon-fire from the sea, though; or by an imbecilic attempt to scale the eighty-foot vertical cliffs: no, she meant to subdue the harbour garrison, march to the fortress from the south, and mount an attack on its less defended entrance, whilst those inside were otherwise occupied defending themselves against Fellowes' sea attack. If all went well, she had told the assembled Captains in the cabin of the Amazon the day before, it shouldn't take more than four to five hours for the harbour, the barracks, and the fortress to fall, allowing the pirates' to achieve a commanding success.
George Fellowes, a heavily bearded thickset man in his middle fifties, had been enjoying life as a pirate for the best part of his entire career; having begun as a powder-monkey on Henry Morgan's crew, indeed being with the great pirate on the Oxford in 1669 when it's powder magazine accidentally blew up; he, Fellowes, and Morgan being among the survivors.
Presently he was engaged in standing-off the entrance to the Channel between St Elgida and the mainland of Hispaniola, awaiting his chance and the exact time to attack the fortress high on the clifftop.
"Kimberley? Kimberley, where the de'el are ye? Oh, aye." Fellowes being originally from Scotland. "Will ye jist be checkin' that fancy watch o'yourn, t'be sure o'the exact time?"
"Fifteen minutes to the hour o' eleven o' clock." Kimberley was himself English, but didn't let this affect his trust and belief in his Captain. "I'm thinkin' it's about time we was makin' a shift, eh?"
"Aiblins, aiblins." Fellowes never making a snap decision if he could avoid doing so. "I fancy we'll gie the chiels a sight longer, chust t'set them at ease, as it were. Plenty o' time yet."
The men stood on the quarter-deck of the large brig, under the shadow of the spanker, watching their chance to open proceedings.
"Are you gon'na sweep right in, below their guns, Captain?" Kimberley always having a fine idea of his own safety, though no coward, either.
"And dish our own gunnery? Nah, we'll take the shallow water, nearer t'the mainland, so's we have a line t'fire up at 'em on their dam' cliff eyrie."
"It'll give 'em the chance o' shootin' back, wi' their own dam' thirty-two's?"
"And good luck to 'em, sez I." Fellowes laughed, nastily. "I knows the general level of gunnery t'be expected from such a footlin' fortalice. And it won't be much, tak my word fer't. They hain't enough balls or powder t'go blasting away at misty nothings, out across the Channel, fer practice. Which also means their gun-crews'll have as much idea and capability o' firing the monsters fer real as a group o' six year olds', ha-ha. Nah, I fancy there'll be little t'fear o'the return fire from that direction, Kimberley."
Time moving on, and the ship edging ever nearer the channel entrance Fellowes finally thought it expedient to get to work.
"Where's yon powder-monkey? Right, Ben, get ye down t'the lower gundeck." He took one last glance at the seas and the cast of the wind, then made his decision. "Let Haines know, down there, he can fire at the fort when the feeling takes him—the westward double battery to start. On ye go, laddie."
David Haines, thirty-five years old and an expert gunner, being a runner from the British Royal Navy himself, crouched to the side of Old Harry, his pet thirty-two pounder, staring through the gunport across the intervening sea to the grey cliff with its darker fortress sitting atop it.
"Hoskins, take in another ratchet, that's fine. Hold off till I gives the word; I wants ter get the first shot on the up-roll. Wait—wait—wait—fire."
The enormous blast from the barrel of the mighty thirty-two pounder—for those who don't know already, meaning the weight of the cannon-ball fired was thirty-two pounds avoirdupois—sent a huge cloud of thick greyish-white gunpowder smoke billowing out from the side of the brig. The great gun itself jerked back on its cradle a good three feet to the rear, only the immensely strong restraining rope cables attached to it stopping it from racing wholly across the gun-deck. The seven men and boys serving the gun having made sure, as Hoskins laid the smouldering match to the touch-hole, they had vacated the immediate area round the weapon. The colossal noise engendered swiftly making it perfectly clear why most gunners of any experience were deaf to one degree or another.
The billowing smoke cleared in the breeze just in time for Haines to mark the flight of the ball. To his expert eye it flew as a small black dot in the blue sky, seemingly rising high over the topmost crest of the high cliff, before descending in a smooth arc; then part of the top edge of the fort's parapet, near one of the gun-ports, disappeared in a grey blast of debris as the ball hit home with immense force.
"Direct hit, dam'me."
Up on the quarter-deck Fellowes was equally pleased.
"Dam'me, right on the nose. Fancy I may well give Haines a double-share." He continued gazing at the parapet of the fort, outlined in silhouette against the clear sky through his spyglass. "Seems t'have played Ol' Harry with the edge o' one o' they gun-ports. Wi' any sort'a luck it may have settled the hash a'ready o' one o' they guns,—ha-ha."
Joanna stood on the gently sloping sandy beach in the small cove, watching her longboats bring ashore the last of the landing-party; each man with his musket as well as two pistols and either sword, cutlass, or sabre; not to mention a wide variety of knives, depending on each man's taste therein: this being a piratical enterprise which meant business. Out in open water the Amazon lay at anchor, for all the world like a harmless merchantman stopping to renew its water-casks.
"That everyone, now?"
"Yeah, that's the last boat." Sandy, traipsing through the loose sand, reached her partner and smiled broadly. "We're all here, an' ready."
"Right, lets get movin'; we have around forty minutes, if all goes ter plan. Right, lets go."
Captain Henry Kincaide, standing on the quarter-deck of his brig San Marino, eyed the distant coastline and harbour of St Elgida with less than a loving glance.
"Nasty lookin' little hole; be glad t'raze it t'the ground." He spoke to his lieutenant, Marcus Vernon. "That piddlin' piece on the breakwater don't look big enough t'cause a bruise, even if'n it's ball hit me in the f-ckin' face."
"Aye, sir, one broadside from our twenty-fours' ought'a send it, an' most o'the jetty, t'Kingdom Come, an' no mistake." Vernon brooded over the distant target with an evil gleam flickering in his black eye, he being a murderous son-of-a-b-tch pirate of the darkest dye. "Then we sends in a few supplementary broadsides, ter do fer those barracks an' what-all; ties up alongside the jetty, further in'ta the harbour, jumps ashore, and commences t'make free wi' the populace. It's gon'na be a nice day, t'day."
Kincaide continued examining the still quiet unsuspecting harbour some way off; trying not to look too obviously sideways at his lieutenant; wondering just when, one of these days, it would be wise to knock the psychopathic moron on the head with a belaying-pin, tie a twenty-four pound shot to his ankles, and consign him, somewhere far out in the ocean, to the briny deeps; just, you know, to continue to feel sure o' lying safe in bed o' nights.
"So that's the western entrance?" Sandy made a rude noise between her lips, as she and Joanna gazed at the environs of the small community. "No defensive walls; no entrenchments; no military presence; f-ck all, in fact. We can jest walk in at our convenience."
"Saves us a bit o' bother, yeah." Joanna was secretly relieved, she having supposed there would at least be a defended stone wall with armed parapet. "There ye go, though. They're so obviously sure o' theirselves they haven't given the proper defensive consideration t'their surroundings at all—bunch o' amateurs, in fact."
"Makes ye embarrassed t'assault the place at all." Sandy laughed, as she turned to check the host of eager leering pirates to her rear. "Beneath our dignity, as it were."
"I'll suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous Fortune, all the same." Joanna smiled grimly, action being so close. "Everyone ready? You sure o' yerself, lover?"
"Ready an' willin', Jo, as ever."
A loud boom from the distant sea interrupted the conversation at this point. Immediately on the sound came a terrific crash as the balls from Kincaide's broadside hit the gun emplacement at the far end of the jetty fair and square, sending the whole enterprise into the air in a cloud of debris, dust, fragments of rock, and smoke.
"Oh well, here goes, then." Joanna turned to her men and raised an arm in the air, pistol barrel pointing to the sky. "Shoot everyone ye see, exceptin' women. Head fer the barracks and harbour, so's we can join up with Kincaide's men there. Right, charge."
Fellowes, meanwhile, was experiencing some slight difficulty, as the next four shots from his thirty-twos' had failed to cause any further visible damage of any worth to the fortress on the clifftop.
"Something wrong with my f-ckin' guns, t'day." He shook his head in despair, then rallied. "Ben? Where in Christendom's that laddie this time? Oh, Ben, get ye doon below an' forbye tell Haines t'shake a leg, if it's no trouble at all tae him."
The young powder-monkey, as disappointed with results as his Captain, raced to the hatchway and disappeared, Fellowes returning to his contemplation of the dark ominous cliff and the fort on its peak. Distraction occurred here, however, when a fountain of water rose into the air just off his port quarter, seeming to reach the height of the spanker yardarm tip before falling back; the spray splashing Fellowes and his quarter-deck with copious amounts of dark green sea.
"Jeesus Chr-st, they're gettin' the range a'ready, dam' ingrates."
His own lower gundeck broadside roared out, as if in direct answer to the fort's unkindly action. This time Fellowes was able to follow the run of two of the thirty-two pounder balls, watching as they and their companions produced a devastating impact all along the parapet of the main battery and its twin side sisters. The fort was lost in an enveloping cloud of dust and debris, like a heavy storm; then there came an enormous explosion as one of the guns' powder reserves went up. The explosion must have set off at least one other reserve, as the blast seemed to increase as it formed, sending a huge dark cloud a couple of hundred feet into the air in a vast mushroom. Then the blast hit the San Marino, sending it over on its beam-ends before recovering to toss in the water like a chip of wood a child had thrown into a pond.
Fellowes, providentially holding onto a backstay for dear life, stared around at his rocking decks, then up at the remains of the fort, still hidden by billowing black clouds.
"F-ck me, what next. Oh sh-t. Everyone down—; all-sorts, and bloody rocks comin' in. Watch yer bloody heads."
Taking his own advice at face value Fellowes darted to the centre of the quarter-deck where a long wooden-sided skylight rose a couple of feet from the deck and crouched down in its lee. Not an instant before time, because the deck all round suddenly seemed to explode and crash to fragments as splinters flew in the air in all directions; rocky pieces of the former fort scything into the planks like hail in a thunderstorm, accompanied by larger jagged bits of raw bedrock from the cliff itself. Then all became quiet once more.
Fellowes staggered to his feet again feeling, for the first time in his life, a trifle seasick. Then he cast around for his lieutenant.
"Kimberley? Kimberley. Where the de'el ar—oh, sh-t."
Kimberley was lying not far off on the shattered deck, crouched in a heap under the starboard bulwark, completely dead. Fellowes could tell this at a glance because the man's brains had been beaten out by a particularly large and ragged piece of St Elgida bedrock, now sitting on the deck near a scuttle, having done its duty. Kimberley's brains, meantime, having splashed across the deck in a sticky grey mess.
"Oh, G-dd-m it." Fellowes was having a bad morning.
The San Marino, under Kincaide's direction, swept close in to the small harbour, showing its port side to the community, gunports open.
"Fire on the up-swing." Kincaide, on his cluttered quarterdeck, watching carefully as the broad sweep of the various buildings came into view. "Now."
The concerted blast from the row of twenty-four pounders obscured the town from the decks of the pirate craft; then, as the smoke cleared, Kincaide could see the results of his attack. One of the two-storey barracks, facing the beach, had collapsed entirely along its frontage, several of the interior rooms being exposed to view amongst the rubble.
"That's done fer 'em, nicely." He turned to his lieutenant with a broad grin. "Take the ship into the harbour, Vernon. We'll tie up at the undamaged wharf further in. Get the men ready to attack the garrison, what there is left o' such. We'll be goin' ashore in five minutes."
True to his prediction five minutes later Kincaide stood at the head of his miscellaneous band, heading up the wharfside and into the small group of barracks and civilian houses which made up the village of St Elgida. Meeting no opposition on the way it was only a short while later till he hove up in the centre of the community, surrounded by buildings which had felt the worst of his earlier three or four broadsides. Here, finally, there were a group of defenders lying in wait.
A sudden fusillade of musket shots rang out, white puffs of smoke immediately giving away the positions of the defenders amongst the piles of still smoking rubble littering the narrow street. A few of Kincaide's men, in the vanguard, fell cursing as balls hit them; then the rest of the pirates, seeing their prey, did what pirates did best. Around twenty men ran forward in a concerted attack screaming wildly, waving cutlasses and their own muskets in the air as they advanced on their enemy. Seconds later they made contact; there was a short, brutal give and take of musket-shots and thrusting swords; screams rang out from both sides, the pirates in anger, the defenders in fear as they saw Death raging towards them. A cloud of dust, several muskets firing, causing more fog and throat-catching fumes; then a certain stillness as the pirates stood back to survey their handiwork.
A number of dust-covered bodies lay amongst the stones and rubble along the street, only two seeming to be pirate victims. Of any survivors in the defenders' ranks there appeared to be no visible sign, as a quarternaster walked across to Kincaide to report.
"That's done fer the lot o' them, sir." The man, short and sturdy, sweat running in rivulets down his dirty face, nodded happily. "Only a small group, hardly call 'em fighters at all, sir. No problem."
"Ha, well done." Kincaide stood four-square looking around at the carnage caused by his former broadsides and the late hand to hand fighting. "Hallo, what's this?"
From further along the street could be heard the noise of pistol and musket shots, accompanied by the ever-recognisable ululation of pirates having fun; then a crowd of assorted men came running round a far corner some fifty yards off.
"Ha, dam'me if it ain't Captain Clayton." Kincaide nodded, well pleased to see his commander, herself, also having a so obviously successful day. "Things seem t'be goin' fairly well, let's hope it keeps up. Hey, ma'am."
Joanna and Sandy had entered the town without opposition, what soldiers there were apparently having headed for the harbour area; those not trapped in their falling barracks, that is. But at a street intersection she had come across a small group of defenders ready, either through plain courage or more likely open fear, to stand-fast, at least for a time. They were, unhappily, no match for a wailing roaring crowd of blood-thirsty pirates, on the look-out for a good fight, some very nasty chances to kill their opponents in ever more entertaining ways, and to grab whatever loot happened to present itself. In short, after a rapid attack by the pirates, overwhelming the defence in seconds, there was nothing much left but bodies and sticky patches in the dust of the road where you might slip and strain your ankle if not careful.
Having disposed of this slight nuisance Joanna advanced further along the battered street; recognising a tall man in the far distance, heading a seething band of excited pirates, and waving a hand in greeting.
"So, Kincaide, ye played merry hell with the jetty gun-emplacement, an' most o' the barracks? Nice shootin'."
"Thank you, ma'am." Kincaide smiled broadly, as of a job well done, on approaching his compatriots. "My gunners are, if I say so myself, pretty well trained an' efficient. Delighted t'have been o' help. What next?"
Sandy had, meanwhile, walked to the other side of the demolished road to consult with two quartermasters there, heads together in converse, representing each band of pirates. After consulting these she returned to Joanna to report.
"Seems the opposition's been over-powered completely." She grinned widely, a streak of blood running down her left cheek glistening in the sunshine. "A lot o' the soldiers were still in those two barrack-buildings when Kincaide here put paid t'them. The remainder, not over forty or so, gave no trouble, either to Kincaide's men nor ours, Jo."
"Very nice; very nice, indeed." Joanna surveyed the ruins of the small village with contentment. "A few barrels o' gunpowder strategically placed here an' there, an' the whole place can easily be reduced t'nothing. Then we can head out, across the island, t'the fort on the other side."
"Wonder how Fellowes is gettin' on, engagin' the fort's thirty-two's?" Sandy mused on this, as she tried to wipe the worst of the blood streak from her face. "Owch."
"Y'wounded there, lover?"
"Nah, Jo." Sandy grinned again, shaking her head. "Jest a scratch; y'recalls when we passed that building, aways-back, that fell on our heads as near as dammit? A victim o' our friend Kincaide, here's, excellent gunnery?"
"Surely does." Joanna nodded at the recollection. "Dam' nearly buried us."
"Well, one o' the stones gave me a glancing blow; nothing t'worry yersel' about, jest a scratch." Sandy turned to more interesting things. "We headin' off t'relieve Fellowes by attacking the fort right now?"
Joanna took another glance around, at the general mayhem and catastrophe which had been the small harbour barracks and village.
"Nuthin' much left t'do here." She nodded, reassured. "Kincaide, if ye set some o' yer men t'blowin' up the remainin' buildings, you an' the rest o' us can head on t'the fort—agreed?"
"Surely, ma'am, surely." Kincaide smiled, with no element of kindness toward Humanity visible whatever. "My gunners have already brought some ready-primed barrels of powder ashore; half an hour an' we'll no doubt hear the blast as we advance towards the fort, yonder."
"Well, let's get to it." Joanna gave her partner one last close look. "Sure yer alright, baby?"
"I'm fine, lady." Sandy grinned, completely at ease. "Come on, race ye t'the fort; the loser ante's up wi' a bottle o' rum."
"Hope's ye has it ready an' waitin' back on the Amazon? I'm feelin' thirsty right now."
Half an hour later, on the far side of the island, approaching over steadily rising ground the high sea-cliffs which formed the whole of that coastline, Joanna and Sandy were amazed to see, well in the distance as they headed that way, a towering column of black smoke hanging in the air over what they took to be the fort's position.
"What in hell's happened here, lover?" Sandy was walking ahead of the combined column of Joanna's and Kincaide's men, alongside her paramour. "Fellowes doesn't have a mortar on board, does he?"
"Not that I noticed, the last time I was on the Happy Gannet." Joanna shook her own head in disbelief, as they came close enough to see for the first time the high stone abutments of the fort in the distance; or, at least, their remains. "F-ck me, the whole place's gone up; an' by the looks o' yon, most o' it's still in the process o' comin' back down."
A few minutes more saw them arrive at their destination, but without any necessity of fighting; all that was needed being the quiet mopping up of a few staggering survivors, capable of little resistance; most of the majority of the visible remnants of the fort's garrison sitting or lying on the ground round about, clearly hors de combat from all sorts of shrapnel, blast, or burn wounds.
The heavy dark pall still hung overhead, like a menacing cloud trying to make its mind up whether to rain on the broken troops or call it a day. At ground level the sheets of smoke had cleared in the breeze to reveal to the newly-arrived pirate horde a shocking state of affairs. The inland wall of the fort, supposed to have been twenty feet high, made of thick stone blocks, with a wide entrance protected by thick oak doors, was reduced to a head high line of crushed smoking rubble. Inside the walls the barracks and other buildings could be seen to be in little less ruinous condition. Of what appeared to be about six long two-storied buildings, only one retained its upper floor and partial roof; the others all being roofless, some even wall-less on one side or the other.
Passing inside unopposed, Joanna and Sandy carefully crossed the piles of loose crumbling rubble to the far sea-wall where the thirty-two pounders were located. Here there was an even worse mess than anywhere else in the wholesale destruction. On her left hand Joanna could see the barrel of one of the guns sticking vertically into the air from its bed of debris; of the other, supposedly six, guns no trace could be seen at all amongst the carnage.
Advancing with careful steps Joanna and Sandy made their slow way to a point where they could safely view the open waters of the channel intervening between St Elgida and the coast of Hispaniola. There, eighty feet or so below and some way out in the channel, sat the Happy Gannet, looking like a toy with no visible damage to its fabric.
"Fellowes sure as hell performed his duty, an' no mistake." Sandy whistled gently as she turned from one side to the other, examining her surroundings. "Don't know what he did, but he did it comprehensively."
"Must'a been the guns' powder stores." Joanna shrugged as the women stood together. "Only explanation; must'a been a lucky shot o' Fellowes'."
"Well, what d'we do now, sister?"
"I meant t'spend some time razing this place t'the ground." Joanna turned in a circle, surveying the extent of the catastrophe. "But there ain't nuthin' in that line left t'do."
"They must'a had a dam' lot o' powder close at hand up here fer the guns?" Sandy too shrugged, contemplating the end result. "Looks like Carthage, after the Romans had done their worst."
"Huh, yeah." Joanna smiled coldly. "Well, all we can do is leave the survivors t'fend fer themselves, an' return t'the harbour, what's left o' it by now."
As if to echo her words the women stood still as a loud booming, as of a running broadside, rolled in dull waves through the dusty atmosphere from the far side of the island.
"That must be Kincaide's gunners havin' fun with their powder charges." Sandy raised an eyebrow in contemplation of the sounds. "Reckon there won't be much of a village left, by the time we get's back there, Jo."
"Reckon yer right, darlin'." Joanna gave the whole scene of catastrophic destruction surrounding them one last glance. "Come on, let's get out'ta here. An' try not t'break an ankle on the way, either. I don't wan'na nurse ye fer weeks in yer bunk."
"Oh, thanks a lot fer that over-arching mark o' respect." Sandy nonetheless reached out to hold her lover's wrist as they negotiated the loose rubble everywhere underfoot. "I ain't lettin' ye get away with that libel, gal; I'll think o' a great reply on our way back t'the Amazon, jest gim'me time, lady."
On their arrival back in the ruins of the coastal barracks Joanna, Sandy, and Kincaide had a surprise; given them by a smiling quartermaster-gunner of Kincaide's.
"Cap'n Kincaide, sir."
"Aye, Robbins, ye've got a report, I'm thinkin'?"
"First-off, sir, the blowin' up o' the surrounding buildings has gone like a piece o' cake." Robbins nodded to himself, well satisfied with a job well done. "Nuthin' left o' this place but rubble an' loose bricks, as ye can very well see, sor."
And indeed, where a few hours ago a large relatively wide-spread community lay, now was only a sea of debris and rubble; stretching in piles, almost mountains in places, in every direction; there was not a single building remaining in St Elgida in one piece, nor anywhere near such.
"Aye, ye've been mighty comprehensive, I'll give ye that." Kincaide himself being impressed with the all-inclusive nature of his gunners' efforts. "Ye're an expert wi' the black powder, an' no mistake."
"And seconds, sor," Robbins smiling with pleasure at this compliment. "we found a person, amongst the few walking wounded, o' some note, I believe'."
There was a pause, only the sounds of nearby pirates strolling around in groups telling lies to each other about how well they had each done breaking the silence; Kincaide and the women standing awaiting Robbins revelations.
"Have ye suddenly been struck dumb, by the panoramic success o' yer vision o' what ye've achieved, or d'ye have somethin' else to caress our ears with, Robbins?" Kincaide having his humurous side. "Get on wi' it."
"The Governor, sor." Robbins nodded, much satisfied with the result of this news on his listeners. "One, Colonel James Ballarat, supposed t'be the chappie in charge o'the late fort on the other side o' the island—but apparently holdin' civilian authority, too. Anyways, he's here an' whole, more or less. Jest a bang on the head from some unidentified missile or piece o' flyin' debris. But wholly compos mentis, all the same, sor."
"Well, well, ain't that jest the bee's knees?" Joanna smiling widely at this pleasant bulletin. "What say we hie him aboard the Amazon an' have a friendly chat, all together round a table?"
"Seems reasonable." From Kincaide.
"Works fer me, lover." From Sandy, who had her mind on other things. "So, who coughs up the bottle o'rum. You know, the one ye were talkin' all high an' mighty about some time since. Me, or you? Fancy it's you, myself."
The rear cabin of the barque Amazon, Joanna's personal pirate ship, was wide and well-lit by stern windows. The large oak table running along its centre offering more than enough room for the comfort of its present occupants. These, including Joanna and Sandy, consisting of Captain Kincaide and the captured Governor of St Elgida, Colonel James Ballarat. The latter sporting a head wrapped in wide linen bandages, courtesy of Joanna's ships' medical attendant.
"My Doctor tells me yer head'll recover within a coupl'a days, Colonel." Joanna sat, Sandy by her side, grasping a goblet of dark rum, as were her partner and other two guests. "Suppose ye might refer to it as a war wound, eh?"
"Hardly, madam." Colonel Ballarat was of that class of Englishman who held their social position dear; sometimes dearer than life. "Hardly call it war, being surreptitiously attacked by a band o' low pirate scum."
A pause ensued after this remark. Joanna contemplating, with bright blue eyes, the distressed man; Sandy remaining apparently unmoved by this description of herself; Kincaide going slightly redder in the face than before, but keeping an admirable control in the circumstances.
"Aye, well," Joanna feeling it obligatory to take up the burden of the conversation once more. "personalities aside, ye've lately lost the very raison d'être fer yer present existence an' authority, I'm afraid, Colonel Ballarat."
"So it would seem, madam, so it would seem." Colonel Ballarat drowned his sorrow at this unhappy turn to his day by drinking deep from his goblet. "Well, what's t'be done? What are your plans, for St Elgida, the township, and me? Ransoms, I expect."
"Nothing so mercenary, Colonel." Sandy taking her fair place in the converse. "We don't give a dam' about ransoms; who is there of worth to ransom on this pile o'rock? Beggin' yer own presence, o' course."
"Anyways, what we intends," Sandy, primed in detail beforehand by her lover, carried on regardless. "is fer you to remain on the island for the coming few days, till help arrives from Hispaniola. That happenin' as a result of us informing the authorities there that St Elgida, as a fortification, doesn't exist anymore."
"No need t'let it get ye down, Colonel." Joanna couldn't help twisting the knife, she being of that sort of nature when opportunity offered. "Your fort's been comprehensively reduced to the bedrock from which it came; yer thirty-two pounders are all scrap, those ye'll ever be able t'recover—I've a fancy several went over the cliff into, what, fifteen fathom?"
"As fer the coastal village an' barracks o' St Elgida," Kincaide thinking it time to add his pennyworth. "my ship's guns have reduced it, in the best possible sense o' the term, to its component parts, an' no mistake. That includes the harbour, wharves, and especially the jetty an' gun emplacement. O' the latter o' which not a bloody trace remains—unless ye fancy divin' fer the twenty-four pounder lyin' somewhere out there beyond the harbour mouth, in who knows what depth o' blue water. Wouldn't bother, myself."
"So all ye have t'tell the authorities, when they arrive from the Governor of Hispaniola," Sandy returned to the fray with a grin, which fell on the Colonel like a red-hot firebrand. "is that there's no fort remainin' on the island, now; nor any chance o' its ever being rebuilt. That the barracks an' jetty an' its defences are history; an' that, on your own account, please sir, may I have another job—ha-ha."
"G-dd-m scum." Ballarat, losing control entirely and giving vent to his feelings, flung his goblet across the cabin with a resounding clang as the silver vessel hit the ship's side. "If it were up to me I'd see the lot of ye—aye, includin' you two women, I won't call ye ladies—hangin' at your own yardarms in Port-au-Prince harbour, with the city populace lookin' on an' cheering the while; dam' ye all."
"Dam' fool." From Kincaide, more amused than else.
"Oo-er." In quivering tones from Sandy, which simply served to make Ballarat turn a deeper shade of puce.
"Time t'kick ye back ashore, Colonel." Joanna shrugged off-handedly, being no whit put out by the man's attitude or words. "Ye can cope as ye will fer the few days till rescue appears over the horizon; t'won't be all that long, I'm feelin'. Then ye're free to do as you please, I'm sure."
"Rrrrh." A last furious roar of disgust from the former, now deposed, Officer-in-Charge of St Elgida.
Letter from the Right Honourable Mr Davis Tierney, Governor of Hispaniola, to Their Worthy Lords of the Admiralty, Admiralty Arch, London, The United Kingdom of Great Britain, 22nd April, 171-and something.
Sirs, You will have read my previous report on the predations attendant on the attack by Pirates on the island of St Elgida, off Hispaniola, and My Lord the King's Army fortification thereon.
Having only a mere token Naval Force in situ at present, My Lords, I here humbly petition the Admiralty to send reinforcements amounting to at least a full fleet of frigates; sufficient, in fact, to overwhelm by main force of arms the remaining rascals, rapscallions, buccaneers, and outright Pirates presently living on the island of Tortuga, and at various other locales.
May I present to Your Excellencies the names of the most depredatory of the said Pirates now infesting the waters of the Caribbean Sea and the general region of the Spanish Main. Captain James Kincaide, Captain George Fellowes, Captain Kiever Johnson, of Massachussetts, Captain Joanna Clayton, demon spawn of the even more vicious Captain John Clayton; and, to close, a woman by name Sandy Parker, nee Mirabelle Flockington (The Hon.), younger daughter of Viscount Hennington; who, if our information is correct, I must sadly note to Your Lordships, co-habits in a most unnatural manner with the former named Captain, Joanna Clayton.
If I may impose somewhat on Your Excellencies without due impoliteness, I cannot emphasise enough the outright viciousness of those Pirates here-in named. Any one of whom would happily murder their mothers, or sell their Grandparents into slavery without a second thought, for a mere handful of pieces-of-eight. The late actions against St Elgida amply reflecting my overall impressions of the situation and, if I may use such a loose term in the circumstances, the moral nature of those responsible for these late outrages.
The harbour, barracks, and indeed civilian houses which formerly made up the coastal town of St Elgida, have been comprehensively destroyed far beyond hope of reconstruction; the Fort on the North Cliffs, formerly commanding the waters of the Aguin Channel, has been utterly wiped off the face of the earth, along with its mighty armament of thirty-two pounders. The destruction of this infrastructure, if I may in such a tragedy so term it, of the island as a whole and its Army presence, power, and authority as a functioning and unifying part of the island, being so immensely widespread and panoramic in its overall consequences, I have no choice but to inform Your Excellencies that the island of St Elgida, as a footing for any military presence henceforward, must be abandoned wholesale and completely. The reputed cost of any level of replacement or adequate reconstruction, my Accountants inform me, being so astronomical that I fear if I placed the figure before Your Lordships in this despatch it would only serve to cause great distress. Your Servant, Sirs, Daniel Tierney, Governor of Hispaniola.
Letter from Their Lordships of the British Admiralty, Admiralty Arch, London, the United Kingdom of Great Britain, 4th May, 171- and something, to Davis Tierney, Governor of Hispaniola in His Majesty's West Indies.
Sir, we, Our Lordships of the Admiralty, having read your former referments discussing the matter of St Elgida, the Pirates of the Region, and the necessity and wish on your part to introduce a stronger Naval Force within the said Region for the purpose of chasing and bringing to Justice those criminals named in your last of the 22nd March, we, Our Lordships of the Admiralty, hereby make this disposition in the matter.
First, Who are these two women referred to in your last missive? Women Pirates, and of so high a commanding level? And you say this Joanna Clayton was the prime instigator in the tragedy occurring on St Elgida? We, Our Lords of the Admiralty, find this hard to believe. Further information on this matter is awaited from you as a matter of urgency.
Second, Having other, very strong, commitments at present, in various parts of the world we, Our Lordships of the Admiralty, hereby consign and propound that a fleet of frigates, three twenty-fours and one thirty-six, under the Command of Captain Josiah Tomlinson, be sent to Port-au-Prince, Hispaniola, without fail within the next three months. He to act independently of the civilian authority of Hispaniola; reporting to you, Davis Tierney, Governor; but taking Orders only from Ourselves, The Worthy Lordships of the Admiralty, Admiralty Arch, London, The United Kingdom of Great Britain.
Third, His Excellency the British Ambassador to His Majesty the King's West Indies requires us to signify to yourself and no other, that His Excellency gives you a full Year from the date of this despatch; after which, significant failure to effect any reasonable and visible sign of improvement in the situation will result in replacement. Your Servants, sir, Our Worthy Lordships of the Admiralty, Admiralty Arch, London, The United Kingdom of Great Britain.
"What d'ye think we ought t'do next, dear?"
This from Sandy, as she and her paramour leaned lazily over the port quarter-deck bulwark of the barque Amazon, sailing comfortably across a bright blue calm sea somewhere equidistant between Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.
"That little affair on St Elgida ticklin' your nerves to greater things, eh?" Joanna would have her laugh of a morning.
"Idiot." Sandy merely giving a grunt which might have signified anything, or nothing. "It was certainly entertaining while it lasted, I gives yer that, lover. But y'can't say it exactly filled our pockets with silver or gold, now can ye. Speak true now, dear."
"It was never meant t'produce results along those lines." Joanna affected a disgusted snort. "If ye recalls the whole detail o'the plan I outlined t'everybody down below in our cabin, that time a month gone, the whiles I was still puttin' it all together."
"Yeah, yeah, no doubt." Sandy shuffled about, where she leant nonchalantly on the bulwark rail, then appeared to somewhat lose the thread of her discourse. "Goin' t'sea like this is all very well. Nice blue water, blue sky, delicate breezes, delightful companions to accompany ye of an evenin' when the Moon comes up over a silver sea."
Here she paused to regard the mass of seamen going about their business on the main-deck, and high overhead on the two square-rigged masts. Each and every one a hardened Pirate, of low moral worth, vicious nature, and a tendency to shop their companions to the Authorities at the drop of a hat, and the mere hinted proferment of an adequate number of pieces-of-eight in recompense,—for most of these ingrates in fact, it had to be admitted, not for all that many number of the latter coin, neither.
"Scrub that last, Jo, I'm losing my mind, must be the heat." Sandy sniggered to herself. "What say ye go forrard, maybe t'the port fore-deck cathead, an' give the men a rousing lecture on the moral nature o'Humanity, or somethin'—the whiles I, here, slips my riggin' off, back t'the bare skin, an' dives in the briny fer a nice cool swim? Eh? Eh? Come on, gal, make yer lover happy, is it so much ter ask o'yer, lover? Lovely Lady? Warden o'my Heart? Gaoler o'my Soul? Come on, what's one nude swim between lovers, darlin'?"
Joanna turned to look squarely at her partner, just to remark if any other signs of sunstroke were apparent; but finding such shockingly obvious by their absolute absence, she had no other choice but to assume the worst.
"Ye're jokin', o'course?" Joanna often finding her paramour's humourous side more than a little difficult to comprehend, when it flamed to the fore. "The day that I distracts the crew o'this Piratical Craft from their Just and True Duties—ye'll have heard fer yerself, woman, I'm talkin' in Capitals here, so's emphasising the importance of what I'm sayin',—will be, will be—er, oh sh-t, I've lost the track o'my thinkin'. What the hell was I meanin' t'say, young 'un?"
Sandy, turning to grasp her partner round her waist, had the answer.
"Only that you don't know why I loves yer so strongly; this Love only bein' overborne by the Love yer feels yerself, fer me. Is that any-wise close t'what ye wanted t'tell me, darlin'?"
"It'll do, baby, it'll do, thanks."
"Well, seein' I read yer mind so well, it's only right I gets a proper an' just reward in consequence o' my un-equalled sagacity, then. Ain't that right, Gorgeous Lady?"
"An' what would that be, fer instance, darlin' o'my heart?" Joanna snuggling close to the warm body of her slim companion.
And Sandy had the requisite answer to this age-old question, ready to hand.
A tender never-ending heart-felt kiss being its own satisfactory answer,—in any language.
Another 'Captain Clayton, Pirate', story will follow shortly.