Part the One Hundred Eightieth: The Gale Goes for Another Prize
Nothing seemed amiss to Hope as the Gale swooped down on the merchant vessel she sighted after the storm.
The ship did try and maneuver to port, to try and get to beam reach with the winds that drove the Gail atop her, but that was to be expected; the King Charles had tried much the same thing when Hope started her sojourn, which felt like years ago.
“Ready with chain!” Abigail commanded as she edged the Gale to starboard, cutting to intercept the merchant.
There was a moment of worry as Hope noticed the guns were not readied as quickly as they had been before. The loss of Collins became obvious as the men who loaded them seemed to take longer without their old master gunner to give directions and keep them to a cadence.
The surprising spurring on Charity gave the gunners moved the men forward. While some of them did not seem happy to have the powder monkey egg them on, the end result was that the guns’ carriages were rolled up faster than Hope thought that they might be.
“Ready to fire on mark!” Abigail commanded, leaning over the quarterdeck rail briefly before resuming the tiller.
The full advantage of the wind with her, the Gale turned to port as she crossed the merchant’s bow, putting her to board port of her prize.
“FIRE!” Abigail screamed, a call carried down the line by Osei, Campbell and Charity; no one took offense at her doing so, though they had already fired their pieces by the time she relayed the command.
The loss of Collins made itself apparent as the chain shot left their guns at different times. The pieces firing forward bounced off the hull, going off on the down roll and thus hitting below the deck line.
Nonetheless, five of the seven shots found targets either in the rig or on deck. Hope didn’t wince that much as one of the rounds briefly wrapped itself around the head of a sailor on the merchant, taking it off before causing more carnage on deck. The confusion and terror were enough of a distraction to allow the Gale to sail past her three port guns unchallenged.
She continued past her, heading south, close port at beam to the wind. Her crew watched the merchant struggle from the damage suffered, loose canvas in the rigging and body parts on the decks.
“Ready for grape!” Abigail commanded. Osei and Campbell relayed the command, while Charity ran for the hold to relay more powder to the pieces.
The Gale went wide to port, at the end of the turn was close starboard at beam to the wind, heading north towards the merchant.
“Ready your blades!” Osei commanded to the men assembling for the boarding party as the Gale closed on her prey. Hope mounted the steps for the quarterdeck, feeling the best place for her was not in their way as they readied.
She was not prepared, however, for what happened next…
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