Part the Twenty First: A Victory Arises From a Tragedy
“I was as exposed as a female slave being exhibited in the market,” Sanders recalled. “Me secret was out, and I was in a perilous place. My crew would not have had anything more to do with me now that they knew, and even Edwin could not save me from them. Worse still, the Spaniards would have abused me as a captured pirate, and done even more terrible things to me for being a woman.
“It seemed the world had stopped while all these men shared upon me shame. I felt helpless for the first time in me life, awaiting all sorts of horrors and indignities. I remember feeling very cold and looking for something to wrap myself in.
“But Providence has a way of surprising you, for the first ones to act out of the shock were some Spanish musketeers. They ignored me long enough to regain their senses and fired, and with their volleys they shot both Captain Dyck and Edwin dead.”
Sanders allowed a moment of silence at the mention. By now Hope, who had been listening intently to the tale, could see nothing else in the cabin but the captain’s face in the light of the candle.
“And in that moment, when it seemed especially dark, I just grabbed for it like a drowning man does driftwood. I bent quickly, swept up Captain Dyck’s sword, and gave a cry, followed by the command ‘No quarter, take ‘em all or ye die today!’ And I kept screaming as I raised the sword and charged over the deck to the galleon.
“And the crew realized that no matter what I had been, how I’d got there, that I was right, their lives depended on us winning the battle. They followed me over the deck, and in me first command I was leading a boarding with my breasts out in the open. I feared discovery a lot less then than I feared death after prison and abuse.
“And we won the day, and the galleon was ours. But we needed a new captain, now that Captain Dyck was among the dead. And to me surprise, who should put me forth as captain but Osei, me being the only one aboard the ship for whom he was never less than a man, but no more a surprise than the crew coming to vote for me.”
“All of them?” asked Hope.
“Most. Those that didn’t, we gave a fair share of the booty seized before the attack and set them at port. It was a rough go at first being a ship captained by a woman, and there’s still some out there that refuse to accept it, but we’ve done well with this venture. At first we were not welcome by others, but our successes have given us respect, and me a chance to command a fine crew. I can even go into Tortuga and Port Royal now without having to hide me sex.”
“Just the scabbard, lass. The blade was not right for me, and I wanted something lighter and sturdier to use.”
Hope felt a giggle come up, and despite herself it came out of her, followed by a laugh.
“And what be that for?” asked Sanders.
“Your- your name. I get it now. Abigail Sanders…”
“And yer point being?”
“The ship; it’s not really the Raging Gale. It’s actually the Raging Gail!”
Captain Sanders said nothing, but gave Hope a conspiratorial smile…
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