Part the One Hundred Eighty Sixth: Engaged and Alit
The darkness around the Gale as she made her way amongst the galleons of the Little Plate Fleet felt enrobing to Hope, audibly as well as visually.
The dark shapes of the ships seemed to block light and sound, muffling the waves not only on their hulls, but the Gale’s as well. The only sensation Hope received was from her heart, beating faster and faster.
An impatient beating, waiting for things to start-
Abigail made a slight nudge to the tiller, and the Gale slipped to starboard.
As the mainmast of the lead galleon became a sharp outline against the sky, muffled voices arose from her deck, followed by cries of “Qué ese allá afuera?” as the Gale and galleon passed amidship to each other.
“Stand ready to return fire,” Abigail called out, “and I mean return; we be going for the straggler.”
Hope heard from the lead galleon as they passed her a lone loud voice crying, “Está Abigail el Bermeja! Abigail, Abigail!”
A large fire leapt from the quarterdeck of the galleon they passed like celebratory fireworks. Before Hope’s eyes fully adjusted to the sudden burst of light, the other ships in the flotilla lit their own signal braziers on deck.
After her eyes adjusted, she could see the sails and quarterdecks of all the ships around them. The definition of each vessel made them seem smaller to her, though the light of the signal fires made the detailed working of their sterns look magnificent. In the flickering light, their finely crafted carvings seem to move on their own.
“That one,” Abigail said aloud to no one as she put herself into the tiller again, setting her on course to cut off the last ship in the flotilla. “Ready to fire to starboard!” she called out as the Gale righted herself.
While the other ships attempted to scatter, the last one kept steady. Hope wasn’t sure if the galleon was trying to outrun the Gale, trying to ram through her, or just didn’t have a plan.
“FIRE!” Abigail commanded just as the bow of the Gale passed in front of her prey’s prow.
The round shot left their guns haphazardly, another sign of Collins’ absence, but still found their marks on the foremast and hull. The crash of the sails on deck was followed by a flare as the force of the shot knocked over her signal fire.
The Spaniards Hope could see in the glow from the fire on deck were many, and most were armed. The ones not actively fighting the fire were girding themselves for the coming boarding.
Hope girded herself too, feeling that this would be a momentous struggle…
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