Skin and Bones, Part Nine
4 November 1694
We had laid a trap for the Heretic. We knew full well by now that we couldn’t catch the ship, not in open water, but they seemed interested in very specific marks. My first mate Hendricks, God rest his soul, he figured it out, you know. Just came into my cabin one day and tells me, he says, “I know how to get the Heretic,” and you know I sat right up and told him to get to it, then. So he does. See, Hendricks was a clever one, and he’d sat down and wrote down everything we’d known about the ship, and he noticed that all the times we knew where the Heretic was or had been, had these stories around it. He said he was pretty sure it weren’t just Ingrid they were after, but anything they could find with magic. You know, when we started out, none of us had even really thought magic was that real. There’s the sensible stuff, like luck, but now here we were setting a trap for some kind of magic collector to reclaim my weather-controlling wife. It seemed so natural at the time, but now I think about it and it really wasn’t, was it? Ah, you don’t know, do you? What’s normal to snakes and demons ain’t what’s normal to a man.
Where was I. So Hendricks says, you know, he tells me that if we told a good story about some dark item, we might draw them into a trap. And we had just the place. There was this cove, see, and no one really ever went there. We’d only found it by accident, but we kept going back because no one was really watching it and it was easy to hide and get some fresh water. We were sure we knew that cove better than anybody by then, so we could lure them there and be hiding ready to strike. Block them in, start firing, take what was ours when the smoke cleared. It was about the best plan I’d ever heard. So we found ourselves a couple volunteers, people who’d started to get homesick but were scared of saying so, but you can tell, you know? You can see it in the eyes when a man’s had enough of the sea. They didn’t want to make me mad.
So what I did was, we took the ship close to port, and I called everyone on deck. And so I tell them all, I says, “Look, Mr. Hendricks has found himself some information about this old staff, right, some witch-doctor’d lost that maybe could give us an edge on the cursed Heretic. But look,” I says, “it’s a mighty bad time ahead of us, we gotta go back to that cove, you know the one, and we gotta go inland a bit and the thing’s protected by some dark magics or another, and I know you all agreed to the hunt but this is new, so if anyone’s wanting to stay behind, you know, you can take one of the boats and go now. But,” I says, “you best keep this quiet, we don’t want no extra trouble when we get there,” because these guys, these people we knew wanted to go, we knew they had got some ideas about things. And they weren’t too happy with us. So about four men took the offer, and we all wished them well and let them take the ship, and watched them make it to shore safe before we were off. Let them really think they’d got one over on us, Hendricks said. So we did.
Well sure thing, we’d only been hiding out at the cove for four days before along comes the Heretic Wind. And you know, they think they need to go ashore, so we let them into the cove in peace and send a party to land, you know, wait a little time for the boys they sent ashore to get good and far from the water, and then we come cutting around these rocks, a man on every cannon, and I yell out “Lambert, you devil-weaned bastard!” No offense, Benedict, you know, I was mad, and I says, “I’ll have my wife back yet!” and we opened fire. We did a real number on that ship, let me tell you. By the time they turned to fire back, we’d put enough holes in them that I knew any God-fearing sailor would’ve already been ready to give in. But the Heretic earned her name, you know, and they weren’t going to Hell without a fight. So they start firing back and try to make a break for it, like they thought they could really slip right past us. They had the wind, of course, and took to speed faster than anything I’d ever seen, but we were in a good position. They couldn’t get past us without ramming us, and we were ready for that. We’d put some good solid bracing on that side of the ship, and had hooks at the ready. Soon as they hit, well that wood screamed, and my men threw those hooks, and out we both went into the deeper water, carried by the wind in a song.
So now we’re close enough to look each other in the eyes, me and Lambert, and I raised my pistol and I shot him soon as I knew I could. Put a hole right in his stomach. Mind, I was aiming for his heart, but hell, I’d take his slow death long as I gave it to him. So he stumbles back, and my cannons unloaded another volley right into their side, and I think everyone there knew the Heretic was good as dead. But Lambert wasn’t done. While I reloaded my gun and walked forward, ready to jump right on that sinking ship to get Ingrid, and I was calling out to her, I could see her take a step toward me. Then she stopped dead in her tracks as Lambert hissed out a command. I couldn’t hear it, but I saw tears start to roll down those perfect cheeks, and he yelled as I yelled, and she closed her eyes, and began to sing a dark tune. I could hear the sorrow in her voice, but before anything I could do about it, the sky turned dark, and a lightning bolt shattered my mast.
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