Skin and Bones, Part Seven
8 July 1688
I tell you lad, those years with Ingrid were the best years of my life. We made a real name for ourselves among the pirates and criminals and other vermin of the Caribbean, a much-feared, almost mythical ship. They all knew we were coming for them, and were always ready to fight when we arrived. We lost good men along the way, picked up others. Ingrid and I, we stayed through it all, and every minute of it was better than the years since. Even at our worst, when we’d fight about something or an outing would go wrong and we’d be left tending our wounds, I knew how fortunate I was that it was her instead of anyone else. Maybe I thought it better than it really was, maybe I just didn’t see something. I’ve spent the last three hundred years wondering what I’d missed.
It would’ve never occurred to me that there’d been anything wrong, mind you, until the summer of 1688. We made port like usual, having just finished some work for the crown, when someone approached her at a tavern. I wasn’t there at the time, you know. She was off getting some things while I was dealing with the cargo we’d brought back with us. Something for a colony, I guess. I didn’t much concern myself with where things the crown sent were off to once they were away from my ship. Sometimes it was better that way, and you couldn’t rightly know whether a shipment was best left unknown until it was too late. So I assumed all of it was. But a few of my mates were at the tavern at the time, and they saw a man approach Ingrid and speak to her. She seemed angry, they said, then scared. She slapped him and stormed off, asking the crewmen there to take her back to our cabin. There was no more bother from him that night, but she was clearly bothered. I didn’t find out what had happened until the next day, but I knew something was wrong, and for the first time we went to bed that night with something pulling us apart.
She didn’t sing that night or the next morning.
She wouldn’t tell me what was happening, and when the men told me what they’d seen and I asked her about it, she tried to blow it off. I pushed, but she weren’t budging, so I went back to the two men and asked them to find out what they could about this man. Only one man returned, barely moving. Oh, he was cut up something terrible, and knew he’d only been allowed to live so he could tell me. It was a pirate captain, man named Lambert running the ship Heretic Wind, who’d shaken up Ingrid so bad. And when my men went looking for him, he made sure they knew what he thought of privateers. I couldn’t let that stand. I called together all my men who hadn’t vanished into a brothel or something by then, and we went hunting on land for the first time. Ingrid, she stayed behind on the ship, with a few trusted men to watch and keep appearances as though the ship was fully manned.
We found some of Lambert’s men and we gave them the same treatment they’d given ours. It was a bloody fight, and something in me took pleasure in it. Oh, I’d killed before, could hardly do our job without it, but this felt different. It felt right, in a way I didn’t even know I’d been missing. Killing for the crown was a job; killing for Ingrid, and for my men, that was a pleasure.
The bits of information we found led us on a hunt through the whole port, and we had probably four scuffles before we found ourselves back at the water, in sight of the Heretic Wind. We made our way forward, but only then noticed the ship was moving. They were leaving dock, and here we were on land! I sent the men to go get our ship while I made a dash for the Heretic. At least one of us needed to know where they were going. But as I approached, I heard the song. Well, I froze right there in my step when I heard it. There, on the Heretic Wind, was my Ingrid. She was standing on the deck, free as she’d ever stood on ours, and singing to the sea. And I knew that song. I’d heard it many times before. And I knew, if she was a-singing that song, there’d be no way we’d catch the ship out of port.
I screamed to her. I ran as far as the end of the dock, calling her name, but the ship was gone before I even got there. Just like that, Ingrid had up and left, and didn’t seem to be under the least bit of coercion. It was almost like she wanted to do it. I couldn’t believe it, I knew there had to be some foul play at work, but I didn’t know what it could be. I made for my own ship, I had to try and find her, I knew that. When I got to the ship, though, it was a grisly scene. Four men, the lot I’d left with Ingrid, were torn to pieces and scattered all over the deck. The sails were much the same; torn, even ravaged, like wild animals had been set loose on them. I could barely contain my rage. I knew, then, why they let one man return to the ship. They’d drawn us out, and while we was gone they’d killed my crew and hobbled my ship and taken her. They’d taken Ingrid.
I called all the men together and told them what had happened. And we, all of us, made an oath that very night that we would stop at nothing to find and burn the Heretic, whatever it took. I would have Lambert’s head on a pike before I went to my grave.
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