Part the One Hundred Thirty Fifth: Swooping On Her Prey
Hope hated the waiting.
She wondered how the Gale, going under full sail, could take an eternity to close on her prey. Too many minutes went by, too many moments to allow the small doubts to latch onto her and drag her down. The fears of the fight started to bite into her again, the promise of pain threatening to leave her as stiff as a figurehead-
She walked down to the main deck where Collins was inspecting the touch holes on each gun, giving each one a small poke to ensure that the match could be inserted right before the engagement commenced.
“I need a rammer,” she said to him when he looked up.
“Oi?” he replied.
“One you’re not going to need in the fight.”
He gave her a look up and down, nodded and handed her a ramming pole without a head. “It’s a spare in case we lose one, so if we need it, ye’ll bring ’er back?”
Hope nodded before she took the pole and spent a moment to get a sense of the rhythm of the ship. She watched the men at work in the rigging and on the main deck, tried to feel their tempo as they pulled, heaved and lifted in their tasks.
She found their beat and worked with it to make in stronger: THUD… THUD… THUD… she hit the rammer pole against the decks, echoing the ship’s heartbeat.
THUD… THUD… THUD… To the beat, the gun crews readied the pieces and straightened their carriages true with the bulwark.
THUD… THUD… THUD… To the beat, the crew in the rigging pulled taut the sails to steady them to get the most speed they could from running beam reach.
THUD… THUD… THUD… To the beat, the gathered boarding party banished their distractions as they too picked up the rhythm, adding to the drum line with musket butts, axe handles, or their feet.
To Hope, the beat seemed to move the Gale through the water faster, bringing her closer to her prey. She went from being a fleck of white on the horizon to the east to two square-rigged masts with people scrambling in her rigging.
Hope couldn’t see her colors, but hoped that she was about to strike them as the Gale raised her red flag-
“Sail! Sail” cried Bosfelt.
She wondered for a second why he would call out a ship close enough for everyone to see…
“To the east!” he screamed. “Just coming over the horizon!”
Hope stopped drumming, and the ship seemed to stand still.
“Three masts!” Zoutman confirmed. “Closing fast on us!”
Sanders stood on the rail of the quarterdeck and spied the new ship with her glass. The look on her face warned Hope what was to come…
“Blazing sun on her mainsail!” Zoutman cried. “It’s the Casa!”
All content Copyright © 2009 James Ryan