Part the Twenty Fifth: Hope Goes On the Account
Hope gulped hard as she concluded reading the articles of the Raging Gale as she read on:
IX. No man shall strike another on board. All men’s quarrels are to be ended on shore, at knife, sword or pistol as agreed upon.
X. Any man defrauding another man to the Value of a Piece of Eight shall suffer what Punishment the Captain and Majority of the Company shall think fit.
XI. No man to talk of breaking with the Articles till each had shared the equivalent of a thousand doubloons. If in order to this, any man should lose a limb, or become a cripple in their service, he shall have the equivalent of one hundred doubloons, out of the public stock, and for lesser hurts, proportionate amount, and shall stay with the Company until such time as shall be fit and right.
“And this bit on,” asked Hope, “how many injured have been covered by this?”
“A few, lass,” said Sanders. “We’ve kept those with us who were willing and able, though the sea be rough on which to find ye health back.”
By now, Hope no longer had the shock she’d been in before when she started reading the articles and fully understood what would become of her as a pirate. She re-read the whole of the Articles and with steeled nerves spoke:
“I so commit to this.”
“Then ye be making an oath of it,” said Captain Sanders as she made a motion to Osei and headed for the bow of the Raging Gale. “Come along.”
Hope followed the captain; by the time they both arrived, the swivel cannon was set up in its mounting, its barrel facing inward.
“Press yer chest against the mouth of the barrel,” said Sanders, “and repeat after me: I do so swear…”
Hope pressed herself against the mobile gun, the grit on the rim from the firings of the piece feeling like sand between her breasts, and responded, “I do so swear…”
“That I be faithful to the Articles of this company and abide by them…”
Hope repeated these words; she wasn’t sure if she was saying them, too distracted by a nagging resistance she felt inside her, but the captain continued.
“And that I shall live by them or be at the mercy of my crew.”
And with that Hope finished the recitation. Without thinking, she bent her head forward and kissed the barrel of the swivel gun.
There was a loud laugh as she raised her head, with the crew looking on in amusement.
“You mean… I wasn’t required to do that?” Hope stammered out.
“Nay,” said Captain Sanders, “but it be such a good gesture, I say we add it to the oath from now on.” And with that she came forward and kissed the barrel of the gun.
The laughter started to die after Sanders did that, and as Osei kissed the swivel gun an air of reverence overcame the crew. The sea seemed to be calmed as every other member of the crew took his turn to kiss the swivel gun.
“Aye,” said Captain Sanders, “ye be on the account for only so little, and already ye’ve added much to this company.”
Hope felt a faint smile start to come to her lips despite herself…
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