Part the One Hundred Seventieth: From Defending to Attacking
Hope watched Abigail ignore what happened to her master gunner, disregarding all possible danger. She stood at the edge of the quarterdeck, sword drawn, rallying her crew to prepare for the inevitable.
Prepare, but not accept!
“To aft!” she commanded, before she took the tiller and straightened the rudder. “To the quarterdeck! Up with the lot of you here!”
Every man with weapon in hand mounted the stairs as fast as they could. Hope moved Samuels to the starboard gunwale to keep him from being trampled. Charity nearly slashed them both with the blade in her hand in her eager ascent to the deck to be on the front line.
As surprised as the Gale had been to be fired upon, Jean Herbert’s ship found itself dumbfounded at their attempt to board. Unexpectedly, they found themselves athwart the stern, with the Gale at an advantage due to her height.
“Attention!” Jean Herbert yelled to his men. “Don’t let them mass!”
“No quarter!” Abigail commanded. “Give them no chance! Run them down!”
The crew’s anger did not need to be stoked much; even before the command to slaughter was issued, the fury each man projected could have burned the other ship to the water line. By the time Abigail blessed them for battle, they were ready to be unleashed upon their foes.
To Hope’s surprise, Samuels raised himself and moved towards the melee.
“Are you daft?” she asked him. “That way lies carnage!”
“Aye,” he replied, “and the closer I am to it, the more I can do to save someone from it. Every second it takes for me before I see a man to save his life is a second he comes closer to his demise.”
Hope could barely sigh at that argument before she decided to accompany him into the fray, to keep him from becoming a casualty.
Hope and Samuels were jostled behind the massed men for but a few seconds before they descended onto the other deck like a tidal wave. She then steadied the surgeon and followed the melee with him on her arm.
Already the decks of Jean Herbert’s ship were awash in blood. That was the only certainty as to the state of the battle, which was raging fiercely over the planking and hatches atop the other ship. Men who were in the rigging were just feeding into the fray, trying desperately to arm themselves as they climbed off the masts before the Gale’s crew cut them down.
What Hope could not see looking at the battle as a whole, she had to figure out by looking at individual clashes within it. Goor’s cutlass cleaved his opponents like a butcher working a pig carcass. Kelly was prevented from finishing off one man by the quick intervention of an adversary, and the two dueled. Owen found himself without a weapon when he took a slice across his hand; which spurred Osei to his aid.
When she spied Charity, she noticed she was outclassed, her knife no match for her enemy’s sword, but by keeping close to him he was prevented from swinging his blade fully to do her in. To Hope, the battle looked even.
At least it would have had another man not been behind her, preparing to cut her down…
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