Preview of The Devil’s Treasure Parts III and IV

tdtiiiiv

31 November 1717
Queen Anne’s Revenge

I have written of cruel acts committed by Charles Vane and called them barbaric. After today, I shall never again judge him so.

About ten o’clock this morning, my spyglass found the Great Allen, a French cargo ship, heavily gunned, sailing west with great speed.  She saw our fleet almost immediately; and, surprisingly, rather than try to run or surrender, she opened her cannon doors and her crew armed themselves with pistol and sword.

The Gray Lady and QAR moved into position on the Great Allen’s port and starboard sides.  Bonnet’s Revenge lagged behind. Whether this was due to Bonnet’s still inept command is unknown, but I suspect that he waited to see who had the upper hand before he ordered his ship to attack.

The QAR’s cannons fired first. The mortar shrieked as it flew from our cannons and then slammed into the Great Allen’s port side, tearing away the timber with a series of satisfying crunches.  Howard let loose the Gray Lady’s cannon but somehow managed to overshoot the French ship entirely and the cannon fell into the sea with great splashes and evil sounding hisses, very nearly striking the QAR!

The Great Allen then fired all of her cannons, port and starboard, striking both pirate ships neatly and effectively.  Showers of hot timber fell upon our deck and five of my crew fell in bloody heaps of torn limbs and entrails.

As we prepared to return fire, I was shocked to see ropes and hooks being aimed at the QAR.  They were going to board my ship? I bellowed orders to prepare for the boarding just as another volley of cannon thundered from the Great Allen and tore at our hull.

I filled my coat pockets with deadly grenades, strapped four pistols to my baldric, and patted the hilt of my cutlass as I watched in amazement while the Great Allen drew closer to my ship.

Howard fired again, this time successfully striking the French vessel’s hull.  The Great Allen groaned and lurched from the blows as she drew closer to the QAR.  I could see that her deck was full of armed men, eager to engage us, while her captain rallied them with his sword waving in the air.

They were upon us like lightning.  These were no mere merchant seamen either; they had either been trained well by their captain or had military training. They were precise with their pistols and deadly with their blades. The decks of the QAR and Great Allen were soon slick with blood.

The Gray Lady’s cannons finally crippled the French ship while Bonnet caught up to us and ordered his crew to join the fray.  Three quarters of an hour later, we had what was left of the French ship’s crew on their knees of the QAR’s deck.

 

I was exhausted, we all were, and the smell of blood, the acrid smoke of spent gunpowder, and the many streams of blood that covered the deck of my ship made me feel especially feral.  I had lost almost 20 men in the battle and the QAR had been hit hard. Her starboard hull was wickedly torn from the cannon fire. Even though the tough oak timbers had not given through to the lower decks, the wounds were ugly and deep.

I set Howard and the Gray Lady to pillaging the Great Allen while Bonnet and the Revenge patrolled nearby, acting as protector while we tended to our wounded and assessed the extent of the damage.  I had every intention of setting the captured crew to a safe shore, as was my usual practice, until their commander, Captain Taylor of Boston, began to spew his righteous condemnation of pirates and villains.

 

I was speaking to one of new crew members, (one of the rescued slaves from our acquisition of the QAR), a bright and strong fellow named Israel Hands, when one of Taylor’s crew burst forth with a cry for mercy. The fellow was begging for his life, hands clasped before him as if in prayer, and his fear of us, of me, had him babbling and crying like an infant.

‘For God’s sakes, have some courage, man!’  Taylor shouted at the poor chap. ‘They will meet their end! They will suffer for their sins at the end of a rope!!’

I strolled over to Taylor and gave him a good look.  He was a strong looking man, quite strapping in build and muscle, but his face was bristling with the shame of defeat.  Here he was on his knees, kneeling in blood, while his crew trembled in fear.

‘It won’t be my fate to swing from a rope today,’ I said.

Taylor spat on the deck near my boot, ‘It will happen, even to you Blackbeard. Your ship is impressive and indeed powerful, but so was Bellamy’s and where is the Whydah now? Ha! She rests on the ocean floor with the bones of him and his crew.

‘That was not by your or anyone else’s doing,’ I replied, ‘no ship’s cannon took her down.’

‘It was God’s victory,’ Taylor said, ‘even those who survived found nothing but the end of the rope.  Their carcasses are probably still rotting in the bay.’

I squinted my eyes at him as he became more incensed and his voice grew louder.

‘They believed, really believed, that their pirate clan would come and free them, can you imagine?!  Every day the preacher went to visit them, begging them to repent and make their peace with God, but they only cursed and laughed at him, warning him that the wrath of the pirates would soon rock Boston Harbor. They swore that Benjamin Hornigold, Charles Vane, and Blackbeard would sail into the bay and bring Boston to its knees. Yes!  They named you, Captain, or did I hear your crew call you Commodore?  Commodore Blackbeard. Ha! How insulting to the honest officers of the sea that you would dare to call yourself that!  Did you even think of those lads as they wasted away in the jail?  Did you feel any pang of guilt when word came that they were swinging in the bay?’

He finished his rant, breathing hard.  He coughed and then looked at me with those defiant, hate-filled eyes.

‘Perhaps I should show you what I think and feel about the hanging of pirates,’ I said.

For a moment, I saw fear flash in his dark eyes followed quickly by doubt.

I called Israel over to my side.  A tall brute of a man, the former slave almost matched my height and his face was no less cruel and hard.

‘I recently liberated this man from a French cargo ship, not so very different from yours, Captain Taylor.  I freed him from shackles that kept him knee deep in shit and piss as he waited to be sold at some market in the colonies, perhaps even Boston’s very own.  I take what I want from the sea, that is true, but I have yet to commit the sin of reducing a man to the condition of little better than swine or cattle.  You may not believe it, but I have never murdered a man or left one to die from starvation or thirst.  And for the record, Boston will face a retribution for what was done to Bellamy’s crew and others of our kind.’

Taylor swallowed hard and he looked away from me for just an instant.  But then he met my gaze again as a queer smile disfigured his hard face.

‘You would never dare,’ he said, challenging me.

‘Ah, but I would, and I shall start today,’ I replied.

 

I ordered Taylor be put into shackles and fastened to the forward mast of QAR.   I had him stripped completely and left in the hard Caribbean sun while we finished the salvage of the Great Allen.  The cargo of sugar, rum, and wood was put mostly onto the Gray Lady, andthen I ordered that she be set afire.  We broke barrels of oil upon her decks and then moved our ships well away before we fired the cannons at her again.  She burned hot, belching smoke in great clouds as she burned to the water line, where she bobbed like a blackened, diseased whale.

We sailed north with as much speed as we could. The smoke from the burning ship would surely have been seen and eventually her remains would be discovered, as I intended she would be.

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