Highlander: A Pirate's Life for Me!
(Note: this a Highlander Fable as was Stone of Scone)
Set somewhere in the Caribbean or thereabouts, sometime during the heyday of piracy.
Jack Watkins scrambled up the rigging surrounding the mizzenmast of the three-masted "Queen's Benevolence" and gazed out at the rolling ocean before him. He shielded his blue eyes from the tropical sun's glare and watched for anything that would break the clean surface that was the Atlantic Ocean. Jack swung slightly out from the shrouds... reveling in the feel of the sea spray and salt air. He was born to be a sailor! He'd always known it... even as a small boy he'd often run away from home only to be found at the docks wide-eyed and asking questions of all who'd take the time to answer him.
His mother had thrown up her hands in despair, and his father had whipped him again and again... but it had meant nothing to him. Jack belonged on the ocean. So at fourteen, he'd run away... shipping out on a merchant-man as a cabin boy. That was four years ago.
He had no interest in going home or even in seeing England again. He was home. "Whoooohooo!" he cried to the gulls circling the masts and waved one arm. There really could be no better life for a boy than sailing the oceans of the world!
His once brown hair was bleached blonde by the tropical sun and his tanned skin was as dark now as some of the natives of the islands they frequented. Cap'n Wallace was a privateer... licensed for piracy on the French and Spanish by the English crown. In his possession were the letters of marque giving them permission to raid, pillage, and plunder in the name of England! The "Queen's Benevolence" had successfully raided against both French and Spanish ships and settlements. And Jack was a part of it all!
Jack began to notice something small on the clean surface of the ocean. He shielded his eyes once more and focused on what he began to see was little more than a small open boat. He yelled to the crew below. First Mate Spriggs checked with the spyglass and motioned for a boat to put over to check it out.
Jack scampered down and took his place with the small crew, which would check on the boat. Since he'd seen it first... it was his right to first claim on any valuables in the boat... after Cap'n Wallace of course.
Behind him the Cap'n had come topside and was observing the crew's launching of the small open boat from the quarter-deck. Cap'n Wallace had long red hair, a long red beard, and tended to wear red and black clothing when he could find it. His ears were pierced with great gold hoops and he wore always at his waist... a great cutlass and two knives. Jack had often seen the Cap'n fight... and he was good... very good!
The open boat hit the water with a great splash and the crew scrambled down to load it and cast away from the "Queen" to row toward the small boat. Even if there were nothing of interest there... they'd have the excitement of the trip to break the monotony of daily life on the "Queen."
The boat bounced and skipped in the waves as the crew rowed with the great oars. Once, they had chased one of the great behemoths of the ocean that way. First Mate Spriggs called the beat. Finally they slowed and pulled alongside the tiny craft. Jack gaffed it and once it was secured... climbed aboard.
All he saw was a man lying face down in the water, which had collected in the boat's floor. This didn't look promising. He grasped the man's shoulder to turn him over. Even as he did so... the man suddenly gasped for air. His blue eyes bulged slightly out as he did so and his head of golden curls moved slightly in the breeze. Jack gasped and lost his footing... he'd truly thought the man dead. Behind him... some of the crew snickered.
The man looked around him and grinned pleasantly, "Water?" he croaked. But Jack thought that was a cover... he didn't look like it was water he needed.
For Hugh Fitzcairn... being picked up by a pirate crew was both fortuitous and an impediment. The impediment being that they might just as soon wring his scrawny neck and toss him back in the sea... minus a boat this time. Since he had never learned to swim... this was not an option he wished to settle for. So... it was with diffident courtesy he acquiesced to whatever they wanted.
Right now, that included letting the Captain handle and obviously confiscate Fitz's fine sword. This could prove most unlucky. The boy who'd pulled him out of the boat had claimed the right of salvage... and had insisted that they return to their vessel with Fitz. If he was worth anything... it was for the Captain to decide.
Unfortunately... as Fitz well knew... he was not worth anything. He did not have family connections who would pay a king's ransom or even a baker's ransom for his safe return... nor was he any kind of an official whose safe return to the nearest port would ensure the "Queen's Benevolence" crew a tidy sum. He was just Fitz... soldier of fortune... lover of beautiful ladies... and immortal. But that last bit he hoped to keep from them somehow. However... he was willing he said to be flexible. If this were a pirate ship... by God... then a pirate he would be!
The captain had laughed at that and then told the boy... Jack? was it?,,, to take the man in hand.
"And..." the captain had warned... leaning so closely to Fitz that the immortal could smell the sour mixture of grog and garlic on his breath, "if ye value your life and the boy's... see to it ye do as 'e says!"
With that, Jack had pulled Fitz out of the captain's quarters and down into the hold where the crew berthed. The captain kept Fitz's sword.
Below decks in the semi-darkness... Fitz nearly gagged at the smell of too many unwashed bodies and old sweat. And no one was even down here now but for him and the boy.
"You'll like it here Fitz... we ha' lots of fun and prey on the Spanish dogs or the French frogs or anyone else. There's no better life than that of a pirate!"
"Oh I quite agree young man," Fitz pumped one fist in an enthusiastic 'Hear! Hear!' and looked around carefully. "I see the accommodations are quite Spartan!"
"Spartan?" Jack shrugged, this one really had a funny way of saying bare and plain and not very comfortable. "Wha' that mean."
Fitz turned about, "Oh... simply... splendid... yes... very nice... couldn't be happier." The main thing was to go along with everything... keep his head attached to his body... and try to regain his sword so he could jump ship at the first opportunity. Or jump ship without the sword... he'd hate to lose that one... but a sword was only a sword... and his head was the only one he had. And it was his head he most wanted to keep. True... if he thought they'd only stab him and throw him overboard he'd survive... but he really didn't want to go back into the ocean. Besides, it was a long walk to the nearest land. "Now then young man... which is my... uh... hammock?"
Jack slung one out for the man, "'ere there. This'n was Bouncer's. He died recently. Ye can ha' his."
"Oh I do hope he didn't die of some plague." Fitz sniffed a bit at the dirty hammock.
"Nah... he was killed in our las' raid. Got careless. Let a Spaniard gut 'im"
"Right!" Fitz hopped into the hammock and settled in. It was actually more comfortable than he'd thought it might be. On his last ship... the one that had gone down in the storm... he'd been a paying passenger and had a berth. But this might be even better... at least it didn't seem too bad... he didn't feel nearly as seasick in this as he had in that bloody berth!
"We gotta go now... time to be about our duties!" Jack pushed at him so that he fell with thump onto the floor of the hold.
"Right lad... to our duties... ships to plunder... beautiful ladies to adore... gold to obtain!"
"Naw... ye gonna do kitchen duty. With you 'ere... I'm moved up a notch... to cook's assistant. You're the scullery lad now."
And Jack led Fitz into the mess. And mess it was. The filthy cook took one look at Fitz, scratched his bum and tossed him a great paddle. "Go on deck and stir the slop for the crew's mess. Ya' can be in charge a ladlin' it out later. Jack me lad... now ya' can help me chop somethin' special fer the officer's mess."
Fitz took the paddle... thought better of using it on the cook and gratefully ascended the gangway once more into the fresh air. He took several lungfuls in and then made his wobbly way to the great kettle boiling over an open fire on the deck. He dipped the paddle in and began to stir. At least he was on deck once more. Then he got a whiff of the slop boiling in the pot. Fitz thought once more about re-visiting the quick death and overboard scenario... it was beginning to look inviting.
After three days... Fitz was pleasantly surprised that the hold no longer smelled so stale... nor the food so unappetizing... nor the captain's breath quite so foul. He was settling in.
Fitzcairn was determined to be pleasant, to be helpful, to play the part of fool... whatever it took to make these men drop their suspicions of him so he could successfully escape. Of course... as he'd learned to his chagrin... they had only recently been in Port Royal so they would be several more months at sea before docking once more. And there were no islands close by. No... this ship was zig-zagging its course along the Spanish Main hoping to find a galleon... loaded with gold.
Now the idea of stealing the gold he found quite attractive... and if it were the Spanish they robbed... then so much the better. He was a larcenous fellow at heart... just not a blood-thirsty one. That's what bothered him most... that he might have to be a little more deadly than normal just to get by. And he had discovered... he rather liked young Jack. The boy was an eager innocent in all this. He'd come to this ship in much the same way that Fitz had. Jack had been cabin boy on another ship and when Cap'n Wallace and the crew had liberated their gold... English gold though it was... they'd taken Jack with them.
"Good thing too," Jack told Fitz one night as they stood at the rail watching the behemoths spout water! "Life as a cabin boy is no' easy... they was no' a bit nice... these guys tho'... they're okay in my book.!"
Fitz wasn't so sure... but he said nothing. He desperately wanted a pipe and a smoke, but did not think one would be forthcoming anytime soon. He'd taken up the habit recently when in the colonies and found it rather relaxing.
"Odd," Fitz remarked to the boy, "Odd place for there to be lights..." He pointed off the starboard side.
"Lord's mercy... we found 'em." Jack cried for Mr. Spriggs and pointed at the lights. When the mate clapped Jack on the shoulder with a "Good Lad!" Jack corrected him, "'Twas Fitz who seen 'em first." The mate gave Fitzcairn a doubtful glance but nodded and called for the crew to make ready.
"Surely they don't mean to attack at night?" Fitz said curiously.
"Aye... we'll surprise 'em somethin' fierce!" Jack replied and joined the crew to help bring the "Queen" about for the attack. Knowing next to nothing about sailing... Fitz hopped to step out of the crew's way.
When they came in to attack the Spanish ship broadside, Mr. Spriggs handed Fitz a club, "See that ye use it well... maybe ye'll gi' a knife nex' time." He smiled wickedly and Fitz noted the gaping hole where teeth had once grown.
"Yes... use it well!" Fitz slapped the club into his other hand and smiled. Oh well... this could be fun! He just hoped he didn't end up dead and in the ocean.
When they grappled the galleon they swarmed over onto the unsuspecting ship. The Spanish lookout must have been either asleep at his post or taking a leak somewhere. The pirates were aboard and in control of the main deck in minutes. Then the crew came lately onto the deck and the real had-to-hand fighting began.
Fitz used his club much like he used his sword, and expertly dueled one sailor back up and over a hold... Then he swatted the man's head when he had an opening and had some degree of satisfaction when the sailor... who'd been armed with a crude cutlass... fell at his feet. Fitz leaned down and grabbed the sword... expertly testing its weight and balance. Then he turned to the next one... and then the next. Whenever he thought he could get hold of a better weapon... he did so.
Over his shoulder he saw that Captain Wallace was watching him intently. "Well..." Fitz thought, "Better put on a good show... but not too good a show. After all he did not want the captain to know how good he really was." About then, he slipped in something wet on the deck and went crashing down.
"I'm all right!" he said regaining his feet. No one was paying him too much attention. No one that is, but Captain Wallace who gave him a wink and a salute and then continued with his own battle.
Fitz spared an eye for young Jack who was dueling knife to knife with a Spaniard. Fitz moved in sympathy with Jack's moves... trying to help the boy somehow. But Jack was doing fine on his own. Soon his man was on the deck... along with the others.
"Grab the gold and scuttle the ship!" cried Captain Wallace. Most of the crew began loading the heavy chests onto the "Queen" while others turned to cutting the rigging and hacking holes in the sides... above the water line. They didn't really want her to sink with all hands so much as leave her behind slowed by repairs. Fitz, not knowing precisely what to do, stood about, urging them on to greater and faster deeds.
"Aw Fitz," Jack slapped one arm about the immortal, "if'n ye want some booty... ye gotta help carry it..."
And with that Fitz found himself pushed into the line helping to move the chests to the "Queen." And they were very heavy chests. Already he could see gold chains and fine rings bedecking a few of the men. "Yes..." he thought... "Perhaps this is the way to win a fortune!"
The next day... while slowly stirring the crew's slop in the great kettle... Fitz was relieved by the cook to wait attendance on the Captain... as was Jack.
All about the cabin were open chests of such loveliness... gold coins... religious artifacts... rare and precious gems... fine lace... lace?... pearls... and rings. Fitz smiled and bowed deeply to Captain Wallace.
"Yes my good Captain," he said, "you were pleased with my contributions to the success of your raid!" Fitz eagerly awaited his reward.
Cap'n Wallace laughed, "Ye are a funny one... However... ye did well so we grants you one chest of that which is left." He gestured to the lace. "There are three of them like that... all the others are taken."
Fitz's face fell, "But... but... but Captain... I slew several opponents... I helped with the theft."
"Aye... and ye live to fight another day. Besides... ye also picked up a weapon fo' yourself I see. Nice Spanish sword. Ye done well." Fitz was dismissed.
"Lace," he said to Jack as the boy helped him carry the chest to the hold. "What shall I do with lace?"
"Sell it or gi' it to the ladies at Port Royal! They's verra fond o' lace and bric-a-brac. Course they likes the rings and pearls better. Picked up a couple o' them fer myself as my portion!"
"But I worked as hard as any man..." Fitz was put out... he'd desperately wanted some of that gold.
"Well... ye's low man 'ere Fitz... ye only gets to choose from wha's lef'. And evverthin' else was gone bu' the lace. Maybe nex' time somone'll leave ye a crumb. They's finally lef' me somthin'" and Jack grinned. He stroked the rope of pearls and nodded. "T'is the firs' time I got more than the leavin's. Ye go' to be higher in the crew to get the good stuff."
"Right," Fitz nodded. "The good stuff. And the Captain takes first choice." Fitz was thoughtful.
"Don' be thinkin' them thoughts Fitz... 'tis like to ge' ye killed." Jack slapped his friend on the back and headed back to the mess.
Fitz stared at the chest of lace and then shrugged..."Well... it's not all bad... at least I can impress a pretty lady... or two... or three... when we finally get to land." And with that he went back to stirring the slop.
By the time they made harbor in Port Royal... Fitz was well on his way to being one of the crew. He had two chests of lace... seven ropes of pearls... three ruby rings... and a pouch of gold doubloons. Not much... but he was making progress. He'd even allowed Jack to pierce his ear and place a great gold hoop in it. He'd donned an eye-patch he'd taken off a Spaniard... deciding it made him look dashing and dangerous... and he'd tied a piece of silk over his golden curls... to further the dashing look.
They'd plundered three ships... all Spanish... but what Fitz had discovered was that to get the crew to leave him... the low man... anything worthwhile in the booty... he had to save their lives... help them with their duties... or beat them at dice. And he was very good at dice. Of course... he couldn't be too good... no one liked anyone who was too good.
No matter... they were ashore and the ladies and good grog were waiting in the taverns! He stumbled some as he took his first steps on dry land. Jack laughed and hauled him to his feet. "'appens to us all mate... 'appens to us all... the first time." And Fitz linked arms with the young scamp and they went in search of female companionship.
At the sign of "The Red Conch Shell" Fitz and Jack took seats along the back wall and waited for grog. Fitz had found a purveyor of tobacco and had purchased a clay pipe and pouch of the fine weed. He put his feet up and was busy smiling at all the lasses as he puffed on his new pipe and feeling quite pleased with himself when the fine tingle of an immortal presence tickled his spine.
Carefully, without letting his expression change, he removed the pipe thoughtfully and slowly glanced around. His eyes fell on a black-haired woman at the bar busy wiping down the counter. She wrinkled her nose at him teasingly. Fitz quickly sat up and crossed his legs.
"Wha's the matter mate... ye see somone ye know?"
"No... absolutely not... I do not see anyone I have ever seen before or care to see again. Let's try another establishment."
"Naw... 'tis the bes' one mate. Whoever she is..." Jack grinned at his friends obvious discomfort, "Jus' offer 'er the lace... she'll be like putty in ye 'ands."
"Somehow I doubt it," But Fitz settled carefully back into his relaxed position once more. But he kept an eye on the immortal female. He really did not want any more dealings with her! Once had been quite enough.
A few moments later she came over with two flagons of fine ale. "Compliments of the establishment for two such fine gentlemen as yourselves." She winked one green eye at Fitz and then turned teasingly and sauntered off.
"I t'ink she likes ye Fitz!" Jack elbowed his friend with a knowing wink.
"Somehow I doubt it." Fitz said once more and sighed. She was playing games with him, no doubt about it. Then he looked around the tavern... were the others about? Over in a dark corner he thought he saw the bearded one. Drats! Must mean that dark-haired and rather dangerous one was lurking about too. Fitz really thought he'd better seek an alternate venue for his activities and excused himself.
Once out into the tropical night... he breathed a sigh of relief. No longer did he feel the presence of an immortal nearby. Perhaps they weren't after him. Perhaps it was as they had said the last time, "live and let live". That was another time he'd been low man on the crew and gotten the leavings of the theft. Still it had all been rather a good time right up until that rather nasty incident with the knife. He shuddered to think of all the ladies who would have gone un-pleasured if that knife had been a little more precise in its cut. He wandered down the cobbled street and sat on a wall over-looking the harbor.
Fitz re-lit his pipe and considered his next move. He was on land... he could reasonably disappear until the "Queen's Benevolence" left port... and then he could... what? With that bloody trio of immortals here it might not be a good idea to linger. Perhaps returning to the "Queen" was for the best. At least for now. And possibly... he would not be "low man" any longer. He'd overheard the Captain say they needed some new hands. Yes... a pirate's life was not so bad a thing... as long as one was not the lowest of the low.
Whistling contentedly... Fitz made his way to another tavern to try his luck.
Captain Wallace had seemed reasonably surprised when Fitz had reported back to the ship. After all... he'd rather expected the man to just vanish into the night. He smiled... "Maybe this one would turn into a rather good pirate." He watched as the man tripped on some piece of rope and landed flat on the deck. The man was up like a shot and gesturing that he was fine. Wallace shook his head with a another smile, "And then again... maybe not."
"Fitz," he yelled at the man. "Take these men below and get them stowed. They'll be scullery lad and cook's assistant this trip. You're moved up to swabbin' the decks."
"Excellent position, Captain, I shall endeavor to do my best." The man gestured imperiously to the three new men and led them away. Wallace chuckled, "Well he makes me laugh... and that's not a small gift!" He turned then to overseeing the stowing of the provisions and fresh water.
Jack's night had gone rather well and he was looking quite pleased with himself when he reported aboard. He was now minus the pearls and rings... but he had a wealth of experience in his possession. He was back-slapped by several of the men and told he was now officially mizzenmast lookout. He grinned. They knew how much he loved to be in the rigging. Why he could even cross the yards at a fairly fast clip when seas were rough. He loved life aboard ship and he was determined to rise in rank.
He was not interested in wealth or in making a name for himself or even in being his own captain. He just wanted to sail. He stowed his meager purchases in the hold and nodded to Fitz who seemed quite pleased to be a deck swabber. "The man is definitely a bit touched," Jack thought and then kicked off his shoes. Bare feet were what he needed above and up he went. There would be much to do even before the "Queen" left port. He'd have to check rigging and mend sails and check for holes and fraying and replace ropes. It was a hard job... but he got to be above in the clean air and salt spray.
A month later they were coming up on their next victim... a fast pinnace. Likely little gold and very capable of out-maneuvering the larger "Queen". Captain Wallace called for "all hands" and the crew was busy hauling rope and setting swivel guns. Fitz tried to make himself useful... but he was still all thumbs when it came to knowing what rope was what and where to stand.
But as they grappled the pinnace... he felt the tingle of an immortal aboard her and wished he had his own sword. He'd have to kill the man... but he didn't dare take the head... not out here. Not in plain sight. Damn! This could get complicated. Maybe the man would not be a fighter... maybe he'd stay down. Maybe... Fitz narrowed his eyes. He noticed the immortal staring at him across the narrowing gulf of water as the ships were slowly brought closer and closer. He smiled and saluted! At least this wouldn't get serious... he was quite certain his old friend Duncan MacLeod would not take his head... at least he hoped not. Now to make certain that MacLeod did not kill him on this little raid. He'd have a hard time explaining himself if he came back to life again... aboard either ship!
Fitz leaped to the pinnace and headed for MacLeod hoping they could talk a bit as they fought. He did like that young Scot... even though he was a Scot. Still... a decent enough chap! Fitz was swinging away with his cutlass until at last he and MacLeod were sword to sword. As they sparred about the deck, they conversed.
"Fitzcairn... what are you doing?"
"Trying to stay alive laddie and you?"
"Taking letters home to England... this is an English ship you bloody fool."
"Really, I hadn't noticed."
"Do you want to lose your head with this nonsense?"
"Oh relax and have some fun, dear boy."
"Fun... these men are killing the crew!"
"Nonsense... they're just putting them in their place. All we want is the gold."
"Gold? What gold? There's no bloody gold on this ship!"
"Of course there is... just because you don't know about it does not make it so!" Fitz leaped into the rigging, grabbed a rope and swang out and across the bow. He saluted young Jack and then returned to sparring with his friend.
"Fitzcairn... there is no gold on this ship... get that through that thick English head of yours! And what's with the eyepatch!"
"Makes me look dangerous!"
"Makes you look like a bloody fool!"
"The ladies love it!"
"Fitzcairn... stop thinking with your pants and use your head. I have to get these messages through to England. You are not helping matters."
"Sorry laddie... I'm only a deck swabber and must do as I'm told." With that he slashed deeply into his friend's side. MacLeod gave him a pained expression before he fell to the deck. Fitz carefully kicked his friend's body out of the way down the aft hold so no one would see him revive and returned to the fight.
The battle was soon over... but as MacLeod had said there was no gold. There was, however, good rum and some fresh limes. They stripped the pinnace of everything of value... sliced the sails and ropes, bashed holes in the sides and left. As they were sailing away, Fitz saw MacLeod stumble to the rail. He waved genially to his friend... hoping against hope that Duncan would forgive him... and turned to see what part of the slim booty would be his.
Captain Wallace took this occasion to return Fitz's sword. "You figh' well little man. I hope to see just how good ye are one day."
Fitz was delighted to have his own sword back. He hefted it lovingly and cut a path about the deck in glee. Then he saluted Captain Wallace and bowed graciously. "O my Captain... your generosity knows no bounds. I am forever in your debt."
Wallace laughed and slapped Spriggs on the back. "He makes me laugh! I rather think I like him!"
Spriggs nodded... but glared at the foolish man. Fitz gave him a salute as well and then replaced his beloved sword in its scabbard and buckled it about his waist. He held up the cutlass and gave it to Jack with a gracious bow. "A fine cutlass my lad... may it serve you well... at least better than that knife."
"Bu' I know 'ow to use a knife Fitz... I don' know nothin' abou' swords."
"Then I shall teach you lad... I know quite a bit. After our duties of course."
"O' course," Jack agreed and grinned. Fitz was turning in to a real friend.
And practice they did. Night after night... all about the deck. They were entertainment for the crew. Fitz with his skill with the sword was opening some eyes. And not all of them regarded him favorably. One, at least, eyed him darkly. "This fool," First Mate Spriggs thought, "is gettin' too big for his own britches."
Jack, in turn, tried to teach Fitz the rigging and the high climbing. Fitz could manage the low stuff... but the high stuff was a little terrifying to him. He'd never liked heights. But Jack insisted and Fitz knew if he fell... he'd just be thrown overboard. So he climbed and gained some measure of confidence on the spars and yardarms and some knowledge of the rigging. Jack began to improve with the cutlass. In fact... he was becoming quite good.
Three raids later... they were once more coming into Port Royal. This time, however, there was some trouble. The pinnace they had raided had limped back to Port Royal and reported them. They were now definitely persona non grata here. Captain Wallace avoided the big guns on the heights and turned sail for another port. They had worn out their welcome and neither the winking of the local officials at their activities nor the bribes would work any longer. "Too bad... the crew had rather liked Port Royal. In fact," thought Wallace, "they might find themselves being the pursued rather than the pursuer from here on out. Still it had been a good run!"
Fitz, too, had suddenly realized just how desperate their plight might soon be. He had no fears for himself... but he worried about the lad. He lit his precious pipe and swung in his hammock trying to figure out a way to get Jack safely off this ship and out of the life he so obviously loved. There was so much more to life than piracy. It made for an excellent fun time... but it could not be a basis for an entire mortal life. But the boy did love the sea. He thought long into the night... but nothing came to him.
They made port a week later in a shallow harbor at Port New Hope. This was a relatively small, pretty port off the main route, that catered to those not quite above board. The "Queen" would be able to be re-provisioned here... but it would cost more. It always did when a ship was on the run... everyone wanted his or her cut while the getting was good. Wallace nodded... he'd set back for this eventuality... now he had to figure out just how to retire with the wealth he had. He'd had no plans to remain in this life until his death... he wanted a fine plantation on one of the islands... a fat wife and many children. A banana plantation he had thought would be just suited to his temperament.
He felt certain that he could make Spriggs captain, and turn the "Queen" over to him... Most of the crew would follow him... but Spriggs was not that good a sailor and Wallace did not wish for all his crew to end up swinging from the gallows or blowing up bubbles from Davy Jones' locker. Some of them deserved no better than that... but a few he wished to see safely into new lives. Wallace needed a plan... and he needed someone to help him. But just who could he trust? Certainly not Spriggs!
He watched Fitzcairn gleefully swabbing the deck. Could the fool be the one he needed? Wallace watched the whistling man as he moved from one end of the deck to the other. When he was finished, Fitz dumped the dirty water over the side and, noticing that Wallace was eyeing him, saluted his captain and with a smile then turned to stow his bucket and mop until he needed them once more. Wallace then glanced skyward at young Watkins. Fitz and the boy were close... perhaps he had the leverage he needed to get everything into place. He'd just need to visit the subject with the man very carefully. Wallace smiled. Suddenly his plan began to come into focus! He didn't have it all worked out yet... but he would.
Fitz was just finishing his duties a few days later when First Mate Spriggs collected him for a te'te e' te'te with Captain Wallace. Jack's presence was also required. When they entered the captain's cabin... Fitz put forth his best effort and bowed graciously to Captain Wallace. The Captain sniggered and waved Spriggs back to the main deck.
Spriggs narrowed his eyes and almost said something. He had thought he should be in on whatever this conversation was about. But he held his tongue and left the cabin... carefully closing the cabin door behind him.
Captain Wallace offered Fitz a seat, which he took gratefully. Fitz pulled out his pipe and motioned as if to say "may I smoke?" and the Captain nodded. Fitzcairn leaned back in the wooden chair letting his short legs stretch out, and concentrated on filling and lighting his pipe.
Wallace turned to Jack and with a grin said, "Jack, me lad, what I must discuss wit' our friend here must no' have witnesses. Go stand without the door and make certain no one tries to listen."
The sound of someone scampering away from the door at those words caused all three men to gaze at the shut door. Then Jack saluted with an "Aye... aye Cap'n!" and left the cabin... closing the door solidly behind him.
Wallace poured two brandies from his private stock and offered one to Fitz who took it with a "My thanks my Captain!" He toasted Wallace and then sipped appreciatively at the fine liquor. It had been too long since he'd last tasted such sweet nectar. Then he set the glass down and eyed Wallace evenly. "And to what do I owe this special treat?"
"We needs to talk abou' the current situation with the English government," Wallace said in a low voice.
"Of course we do... that raid on their ship was not a wise move on our part."
"Chalk it up to bad luck and foolish decisions." Wallace shook his head. "Anyways... I am weary of this business and wish to retire..." he smiled at Fitz. "And I rather think so would you... now wha' would ye want... to be certain we can both get out of this wit' our heads still attached to our shoulders and at least a day's wages in our pocket."
"Well there is the boy..." Fitz nodded toward the door.
"Aye... I'd figured that... 'e knows 'is way abou' the ship and could be truly helpful. 'Specially as ye know nothin' 'bout sailin' ships. But can 'e be trusted?"
"Well... this isn't really a mutiny... since you are the Captain... more like a change of venue..." Fitz thought for a moment... puffing on his pipe. "I think we can trust him... we really need to be certain he leaves piracy behind, though."
"And fo' you? What wealth would ye settle for?"
"Oh... a chest of gold... or two... or three... whatever you think appropriate..." Fitz smiled. Yes larceny was definitely a part of his soul!
Wallace poured some more brandy and leaned toward the immortal... "Wha' say we pu' our heads together and try to figure this out..." Fitz nodded his agreement and accepted the refilled glass of brandy with a another toast to the grand benevolence of Captain Wallace!
It had taken three months to get everything into place. In the meantime... the raids on French and Spanish vessels continued... the booty was collected and distributed as always... Fitz still getting his small share at near the bottom of the heap... and he, Jack and the Captain made certain small trips off the "Queen" to talk... to prepare... and to arouse the suspicion of the others.
Finally, the great day of the change of "venue" arrived! The "Queen" was properly moored in a sheltered bay on the south side of a small and very deserted island. The crew were taking their ease... some were diving from the railings into the clear water... most had stretched themselves out on the deck to nap in the warm tropical sun... while a few had gone ashore in the small boat to see what sort of foodstuffs they might find. All was in readiness.
Fitz swabbed the deck. Even in down time... it was absolutely necessary for the deck to be spotless. He angrily pushed that bloody mop about the deck... swabbing at each and every one of the spots left by the crew in their walks across his nice clean deck! He'd been at this too long... and was grumbling that he was getting entirely fed up with his current job!
First Mate Spriggs grinned in delight! Already he suspected that the Cap'n was getting ready to leave the "Queen"... and when he did so... the ship would have a new captain... Cap'n Spriggs! One of his first decisions would be to drop this idiot off at some deserted island to starve to death... or maybe just toss him into Davy Jones' locker! The crew would follow Cap'n Spriggs... and any who did not would walk the plank... he dreamed of the moment when he would sail the "Queen" once more into Port Royal and take the town and all its wealth for himself! Cap'n Wallace was entirely too reticent about that... seemed to worry that the "Queen" would not be up to facing the long cannons of the fort above Port Royal. Well what was a life of piracy without a little risk? He sharpened his knife, and regarded Fitz with eager anticipation.
Jack wasn't exactly certain what was going on with Fitz and the Cap'n. They usually kept him on watch when they had their little talks. When they'd landed at this island... they'd simply indicated that he should follow their lead... whatever happened... there would be something truly grand in it for him! Trouble was... all Jack really wanted was to be underway once more and to feel the wind in his hair and smell the salt in the sea spray... he truly was a "son of the sea!" He stretched out in the upper rigging and regarded Fitz's swabbin' when all about him were relaxin'. That must be the sign for Jack to be ready to do his part.
Captain Wallace came on deck and slowly eyed the position of all the players. Excellent! All was in readiness. He wore his best red coat and black silk scarf! At his waist were the great cutlass and the two knives... Upon his head was the three-cornered hat with the bird of paradise plummage that he usually only wore for special occasions. He smiled and stretched his shoulders in anticipation. Then he stepped deliberately into Fitz's path and growled when the man's mop swabbed over the captain's best black shoes... the ones with the great silver buckles.
"Ye bloody idiot! Jus' look wha' ye have done!"
"Me!" Fitz replied in indignation, "You've messed up my nice clean deck!"
"Your deck? Whose ship is this?" Wallace growled with intensity. About them the crew sat up to take notice.
"I have had enough of you and your airs! Look at you... dressed to the nines and never a bit of work do you do"
"I'm the Cap'n... I get to hav' bloody airs!" With that Wallace drew his cutlass. Several men scrambled out of the way, eager not to be the ones who might get injured in what was likely to be a battle royal. Spriggs grinned.
Fitz tossed the mop away and drew his own sword, "Come then... I've been waiting too long for this. I've put up with just about enough of you!" And the fight was on!
Back and forth... lunge... parry... riposte... lunge... backstep... and their swords clanged as they moved all about the deck. Up over the forehold they fought. Swishing their swords and sweeping the crew from their places until most were gathered in a group near the aft hold. The few on shore called to one another and launched the small boat to return to the "Queen". The swimmers climbed aboard the "Queen" or into the small boat as it passed. And the fight raged on.
Wallace seemed to have the upper hand one moment... Fitz the next. Anytime someone thought about getting involved... they seemed to end up knocked out on the deck... hit by a swinging sword or a flailing arm from one of the two opponents. The remainder seemed to get the message... watch but no interference... this battle had been building... these two were out for each other's heads!
Fitz swung out on the rigging and back onto the deck... he regained the high ground and Cap'n Wallace gave way before Fitz's onslaught. Then Fitz tripped over the mop!
Immediately Captain Wallace advanced... Fitz bravely put up a brave defense and regained his feet! Fitz ducked around behind the captain and once more they lunged... parried... riposted... and made their way across the deck. First they fought in one direction... then in another.
Finally all the crew seemed to have returned to the ship. They joined in the betting pool now going on as to which of the two combatants would emerge victorious! The small boat... now empty... rocked gently in the water. Jack began to climb down the rigging... awaiting his part of this fight. Spriggs turned slightly to call out his bet... his eyes left the combatants for only a moment.
Like lightning... Fitz's sword found its mark in the captain's side. Blood spurted forth! Captain Wallace dropped his cutlass and fell against the railing only to be knocked into the water by Jack's descending form. Fitz stood victorious... striking a small pose of delight and satisfaction. The crew, ran to the side to see the captain's dead form sinking slowly into the briny deep water. His precious hat floated on the surface.
"Ye bloody fool," yelled Spriggs, "ye killed the Cap'n!" Spriggs brandished his own knife and picked up Wallace's cutlass. "Do ye know wha' ye ha' done! I don' ha' the exac' position o' the island o' our buried treasure!" Around him the crew grumbled and agreed. As a single entity they approached the immortal.
"Ahh... but gentlemen... I do! He took me into his confidence about that." Fitz said with satisfaction. "I have the exact coordinates of that little island right here..." he pointed to his head with a smile.
"Bu' ye know nothin' of sailin', " Spriggs sputtered. "'ow can ye know where to go?"
"Ahh lads... I just need to keep the coordinates to myself... but allow someone to help sail the ship... Jack my lad... you know what needs to be done!"
"Oh aye Cap'n Fitz, I does!" and Jack grinned... he'd cast a brief glance over his shoulder to be certain that Cap'n Wallace was holding on to the small boat and was well hidden from the crew... whose attention was focused on their new captain.
"First Mate Spriggs!" yelled Captain Fitzcairn... "Make ready to sail... the boy will steer and I'll give him the latitude and longitude once we are away from here. We're off to reclaim our gold and Captain Wallace's share as well!" Fitz began to walk about the deck preening himself in satisfaction as the crew immediately began to haul anchor and to get under way... the small boat in the water forgotten.
Within minutes... the "Queen's Benevolence" was underway. Her sails were full out as she caught the wind and made fast time away from the small and not quite so very deserted island. Behind them... Wallace clung to the side of the small boat... and grinned. His part was done. He and his hidden treasure would now find their own way to safety.
Once ashore... Wallace divested himself of his pirate clothes... tossing aside the small squib that had been filled with the blood that had spurted everywhere. He cut his long red hair and shaved his beard. Pulling out the spectacles that none of the crew had ever seen him wear... he glanced into a small mirror. "Yes!" he thought with satisfaction, "No one in Port Royal will ever know that I was once Captain Wallace!" He had to admit... Fitz had certainly known his stuff about the need for Wallace to thoroughly change his appearance. And the man's sword skills had been a work of art. Now if only the rest of the plan went as well. Wallace shrugged... well he was a banana plantation owner now... not a pirate... his interests lay elsewhere.
Fitz's face glowed with self-satisfaction. He put his feet up on Captain Wallace's desk and puffed contentedly on his pipe. Jack was at the helm steering and the "Queen" was making great time in circles and zig-zagging along the Spanish main.
The crew had yet to realize they were as yet going nowhere. Spriggs, however, might be beginning to wonder about their course. Without landmarks of any sort... it was hard to tell exactly where they were. Probably only Jack knew exactly where they were... but Fitz knew where they would eventually need to be. It just needed to take a few days so that the men would be completely lost!
He reached over and poured himself another brandy... sipping with great appreciation at the fine spirits. A pipe!... a fine drink!... all he lacked now was female companionship... Too bad none of the ships they had robbed had contained a female he could have rescued! But... even Wallace had impressed on Fitz the dangers of having a woman aboard.
"They's bad luck! Men fights over 'em. They forge' themselves when one's abou'. Don' take none aboard... no matter wha'." Wallace had warned.
Ahh well... at least he had pipe and brandy and soon.... soon there would be gold! Enough gold to last even an immortal lifetime if he was careful. He just had to be patient!
There was a knock at the cabin door.
"Enter my lad!" Fitz called out cheerfully.
The cook's junior assistant entered with his tray of food... choice roast mystery meat... boiled roots and sliced limes... and not one single bowl of slop. Fitz smiled with appreciation. He was quite tired of slop! He waved at the lad to leave the tray... "and if there is any left... see to it that First Mate Spriggs gets a full portion." He needed to watch that one... but he wished to leave this ship without having to stage his own death... it would be safer for Jack if he could. And thinking of Jack... Fitz began once more to consider what might be necessary to get the lad off the ship and out of harm's way. And just what he might need to tell him.
The "Queen" successfully attacked two additional ships in the next few weeks. Neither contained too much booty... as yet, they had no real need to reclaim their hidden wealth... but the crew were beginning to eye their new Captain with suspicion. If he were lying about knowing where their treasure were hidden... then they might as well be done with him.
Fitz surveyed his gallant pirate crew from the quarter-deck and smiled at each man who met his eyes. He was feeling less and less sure of himself... and he still had no idea exactly how to get both himself and Jack off the ship safely.
Fitzcairn looked up at the mainmast lookout.
"French brigantine to starboard!"
"Excellent!" cried Fitz, and ordered the crew to make ready. All about him the men went through their preparations as the "Queen" sailed swiftly after the smaller French ship. Finally, the priates had successfully grappled the French vessel and were swarming aboard. The fighting was in earnest.
Fitz swung over on a rope and almost fell as the sence of another immortal hit him just as he landed on the French ship. "Damn!" he thought, "Not another one!" He began fighting his way to the quarterdeck so that he could get a good look around him to locate his immortal opponent.
Fitzcairn grinned as his eyes fell on a lovely dark-haired immortal crouching ever so bewitchingly on the deck. Amanda! She could be the answer he so desperately needed! Swiftly Fitz leaped over the rail of the quarterdeck, regained his balance, and fought his way to Amanda's side.
"Lovely lady," he bowed, then leaned close to her, "Help me Amanda!"
"Fitzcairn, you fool," she whispered back to him, "what do you think you are doing!"
"I'm the pirate captain... I need some help!" He swept one arm about her waist and kissed her. She bit his lip. Fitz spat blood and winked. "Swoon for me Amanda... we need to talk."
"I do not swoon, you fool."
"Please,Amanda! I'm desperate!"
"Oh all right!" Amanda swooned.
Fitz picked her up and draped her across one of his shoulders... nearly staggering at the weight. "Carry on my lads... I shan't be but a moment!" Fitz carried Amanda into the French captain's cabin and locked the door behind them.
When Amanda had regained her feet she punched Fitz in the nose! "That's for kissing me!"
Behind them they heard footsteps as someone came close to the cabin's door. Fitz motioned to Amanda to make noise.
Amanda backed against the door, kicking it and slapping her hands against the wood and crying out with a loud voice, "Ooh... ooh... oooh!"
Fitz for his part began repeating, "Yes my lady... yes my lady... yes my lady!"
They heard the sounds of retreating footsteps.
"This had better be good Fitzcairn." Snarled Amanda in a whisper.
"Please, Amanda, hear me out." Fitz began to explain his situation.
"Just let them kill you and throw you overboard!" Amanda retorted. Then hearing footsteps near the door once more, she again started to hit the door and cry, "Ooh... ooh... ooh!"
Fitz once more repeated, "Yes my lady!" The footsteps receded once more. "It's not that easy. I can't swim!"
"Then land at an island!"
"Yes... I have one in mind... but even if I let them kill me there is still Jack."
"A mortal friend. I wish to get him off the ship safely." Once more they went into their "Ooohs" and "Yes, my lady's" when noise was once more heard outside the cabin door.
"What's in this for me?" Amanda demanded.
"I'll have three chests of gold... well two... the boy gets one."
"How big a chest?"
Fitz glanced about the cabin. He saw a sea chest and pointed at it. Amanda's eyes widened. "That big?' she whispered. Again she began to hit the door and cry aloud. Once more they were left in peace.
She grabbed Fitz's shirt and pulled him close. "I want one chest!"
"Done! Now how do I manage this?" His eyes widened and he shook his head as Amanda told him. Well... he had thought of that but it seemed fraught with peril. Nonetheless... she explained to him that it was likely the only way.
"And... Fitzcairn... the next time I see you I'd best be receiving a chest of gold or you'll be minus a head."
"Absolutely, my Lady."
Amanda kneed him in the groin sharply. "I am NOT your lady!"
"Yes Amanda!" Fitz managed to get out. Once more the sounds of footsteps were heard outside the door and once more Amanda began to pound against the door and moan loudly.
Shortly afterwards a satisfied-looking Fitzcairn walked out onto the deck. He pulled at his captain's coat's lapels and adjusted his eye-patch. "Is the ship scuttled?" he asked Mr. Spriggs.
"Aye Cap'n Fitz, she is!"
"Have we the gold?"
"Aye Cap'n and a good haul it is."
"Excellent... return to the "Queen" let's make sail!
"Wha' abou' the lady?" asked Spriggs.
"Oh... she's sleeping the sleep of the truly satisfied." Fitz said and swung across to the "Queen." He regained the quarterdeck with a stumble and gave new coordinates to Jack. "Make sail my lads... we go to reclaim our treasure!"
Jack nodded and swung the wheel about. From where Fitz stood... he saw Amanda climb slowly to the French ship's deck and stand with her hands on her hips looking at him with a warning in her eyes. "The gold or your head!" those eyes seemed to say.
Fitz nodded at her with a smile but he was already thinking. "I really must try not to deal with immortal females anymore... they are so very unpredictable." Now mortal females... ah yes... those he could manage... admittedly not well sometimes... but he could manage.
A few weeks later, the "Queen's Benevolence" weighed anchor in a sheltered cove of a small island. The crew gazed about them and nodded their heads. This was the place! Already they recognized the landmarks... the cliff face that suggested a cow... the three palm trees in a row... the great red rock on the beach. They were here! At last they could retrieve their treasure and sail away... many hoping to make new lives for themselves... others to continue the life they led.
Mr. Spriggs grinned. Once they had the gold... he could easily slit the captain's throat and sail away. He might need Jack to know just exactly where they were... and to teach him to read the sextant. But at last, he'd be rid of that fool, Cap'n Fitz!
Jack turned the wheel over to another man and went below to let Fitz know they'd arrived. He found him carefully adjusting his eyepatch and gazing in a mirror at his reflection.
"We's 'ere Fitz... I means Cap'n Fitz.!"
"Yes... yes... good lad." Fitz through him a smile. "Remember Jack... when Mr. Spriggs kills me... as he surely will... don't let them dismember me and offer to stay behind... don't leave with them or you too may end up dead."
"I don' understand Fitz... if 'e kills ye... how will ye get the treasure? Why should I stays wi' your corpse? It don' make no sens a 'tal."
"I know lad... but remember Cap'n Wallace..." Fitz winked at the young man.
"Just do as I say... we'll be fine." Fitz hoped he sounded positive... but he was worried. It all hinged on whether Jack would do as he asked and remain behind rather than sail away.
An hour later, a small party came ashore on the white sand beach. Mr. Spriggs stood next to the huge red rock and eyeballed the line to the three palm trees. Then he turned and lined up the cow faced cliff. "That's it... now thirteen steps to the cliff... thirty steps to the palms... one hop... one skip... one jump... now straight ahead one hundred and thirty-seven paces to the treasure." As first mate... Mr. Spriggs had been told by Cap'n Wallace exactly where the gold was buried... just not where to find the island." When the crew arrived at the spot... they began to dig.
Fitz stood to one side... puffing on his pipe. Jack stood beside him looking nervous.
The crew began to uncover their chests of gold and jewelry. They opened them... beaming at their wealth... then began to remove the chests and cart them back to the boats to take to the "Queen." Suddenly Mr. Spriggs began counting chests... "One... two... three... seven... eight... thirteen... wait a minute... there should be twenty-nine chests of gold and treasure." He glared at Fitz. "Where's Cap'n Wallace's share?"
"I'm certain I have no idea!" replied Fitz innocently. "You knew where they were buried... I didn't."
"Ye bloody fool... tell me wha' ye done wit' the gold." Spriggs drew his cutlass. Jack moved back and to one side... but he was clearly uneasy.
Fitz spread his hands wide. "If anyone has made off with chests of gold... I'd say it was you." Then he drew his own sword and struck a pose. Now came the dangerous part. He could easily defeat Spriggs or kill him... it was allowing the man to kill him that was dicy. Still it was better than being hung in chains in Port Royal.
Spriggs attacked. Fitz fended off his cutlass easily then looked bored as the man re-doubled his efforts. Finally, Fitz allowed him to make one fatal slash and down he went... dead.
Spriggs turned and faced the rest of the crew... "Cap'n Wallace musta tricked us all... 'e got 'ere first and stole the gold."
Jack spoke up, "Well it was 'is portion... and 'e lef' us ours!" The crew agreed. They had their part of the treasure... time to go.
Spriggs turned back and raised his cutlass to slash at Fitz once more. Jack's cutlass met his. "Leave 'im be... 'e's dead. Just go on back to the ship now Mr. Spriggs." The crew agreed... they'd seen enough killing this day. If too many others died... there wouldn't be enough hands to sail the ship. And they wanted to make Port New Hope and separate before some English ship of the line found them and blasted them out of the water. Many wanted to vanish before that could happen. Spriggs' shoulders sagged and then he shrugged his agreement. He motioned to Jack to follow... but the boy shook his head. "Ye on your own Mr. Spriggs... I stay to bury Cap'n Fitz."
"Ye'll be marooned lad. Come wit' us."
Jack shook his head. "Ye'll likely kill me soons as we ge' to where ye know yer way to Port Good Hope. I'll take my chances 'ere. There's food and fresh water aplenty 'ere. I'll just wai' i' out." He swung his cutlass menacingly as if to warn anyone who would try to drag him away.
The others nodded and left. Spriggs shrugged and climbed into the last overloaded boat and made for the "Queen's Benevolence". He spared Jack one wide wave and then turned to face the beauty of his own ship... he was Cap'n Spriggs at last.
Jack sadly watched the "Queen" sail from the cove and stood solemnly beside Fitz's body. He'd checked his friend... but he was truly dead. No pretense! Evidently the little man's plan had backfired. Now Jack gazed longingly after the "Queen". Perhaps he should have gone anyway.
Just then Fitz gave a long gasp for air and sat up.
"Fitz! You's alive!" Jack exclaimed as he collapsed with wonder onto the sand.
"Yes, dear boy, still alive."
"But... but... but you was dead. I checked."
"Yes... I was dead... but Jack... I don't stay dead. I have this habit of coming back," Fitzcairn explained to the wide-eyed young man. He pulled out his pipe and filled it. Striking his flint he lit the pipe and drew in a long satisfying breath. Then he sat beside the boy and tried to explain the concept of immortality to the lad.
Afterwards, they hiked over to the north side of the island where the small skiff lay at anchor, already loaded with three chests of the finest gold doubloons and jewels. "Ahh... here's to the benevolence of Captain Wallace... an honest man and a true friend!" proclaimed the immortal.
"Aye!" agreed Jack. "I should 'ave enough to live on 'til I finds me a new ship to sail on."
"About that lad," Fitz laughed as the two hauled anchor and set the sails... be certain it's a merchant-man next time!"
"Aye, aye Cap'n Fitz." Jack saluted as he steered for Port Royal.
The "Queen's Benevolence" was never seen again. Some say she still sails around and around in the Caribbean searching for her next port of call. After all... no one aboard could read the sextant or the maps.
Lester Wallace became a successful purveyor of bananas. He died a fat and happy old man in his bed surrounded by his fat wife, his ten children and twenty-three grandchildren. No one ever knew the source of his wealth.
Fitzcairn met up with Amanda in France and paid her one chest of gold with which she bought a small Italian villa. His own he lost in sinking into the stock of the East India Trading Company which filed for bankruptcy four months after his investment.
Jack Watkins lived cautiously on his chest of gold in Port Royal until a tall dark-haired man using the name of Doctor Adams approached him. Adams made mention of a certain "hard-to-kill" pirate using the name Fitz. When Jack nodded cautiously... Adams showed the lad a strange symbol and invited him to join a secret organization that kept watch on such people who were hard to kill. Jack became a Watcher assigned to various immortals who sailed between the Old World and the New and back again. He lived to a happy old age, and while he never saw his friend again... he added entries into the Chronicles of several immortals. And... he sailed ships until the end of his days.