Monday, November 12, 2012

The Ghost Ship in a Bottle

Last month, Daniel made one of the coolest ship in a bottle ever and that inspired me to write a story. I've never written about pirates before, or even had a ship feature in any of my stories, so this was totally new to me. But it was fun doing the research.

So in that post, Daniel promised the story and I've finally finished it. There's still some more work that can be done, but I figured it was good enough for now. I'm totally open to any kind of feedback or critique. In total, this story is a little over 8100 words long. I figured you, the reader, wouldn't want to read all that in one sitting so I'm just going to post the first 2500 words. If you want more, you're going to have to leave a comment and ask nicely. :)

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May 10, 1750

Tonight has been a strange one. I don’t spend a lot of time writing about my days at work. They are all the same. Serve food and drink to grabby sailors. It’s not worth the price of the paper and ink. But I do like to write down the interesting stories I hear, and sailors always have a tale to tell, even if it is all lies. Instead of just writing the story I heard I shall write down everything about this night, it’s worth every drop of ink and every scrap of paper I have left. It is not every night you hear a true telling of a legend and then see it right before your eyes.

I will start by saying that the old woman has been coming to The Salty Dog every night for the past week. She comes in at about dinner time and takes the table closest to the fireplace. Wrapped in a bulky gray shawl, her white hair a mass of tangles around her face, she orders a mug of rum and a bowl of soup. She eats quickly and silently and once finished she moves from the table to the old rocking chair. The rocking chair used to be One-Hand Sam’s, the owner of The Salty Dog, grandmother’s and when she passed he placed it by the fire to have “a place for the weary to rest their bones”.

The old woman rocks there all night watching the other patrons. Nothing seems to bother her, even when a scuffle at a dice table turned into a full out brawl right beside her, she just kept rocking and smiling. She stays there until an hour before closing time. Then she stands and shuffles out the door without a word.

I’ve been watching her these last seven nights and tonight I decided I’d talk to her before she left. I made sure I was the first barmaid to her table. None of the other girls seemed to care because the old woman didn’t tip much.

“What can I get for ya, Grandmother?” I asked as I brushed some crumbs off the table.

She looked up at me and smiled, the winkles around her mouth and eyes deepening in her brown face. Most of her teeth were missing. “My usual, dear. Rum and soup.”

I smiled, nodded and headed towards the kitchen. As I passed the bar I asked Sam to pour a mug of rum for the old woman. He nodded and I pushed my way into the hot kitchen. It smelled of roasted pork and fresh baked bread. Weaving around a couple of the other barmaids I grabbed a bowl from the counter and ladled the thin chicken soup into it. As I came out of the kitchen I picked up the mug of rum from the end of the bar and made my way back to the fireplace. A few of the other regulars called to me as I walked across the room, but I ignored them. I was going to get this old woman’s story. Just as I have gotten all the other’s stories. 

I set the bowl and mug down in front of the old woman and asked if she needed anything else. She shook her head, a spoon full of soup already in her mouth. I let her be and attended to the other patrons but I kept an eye on her in case she needed anything. As soon as she had emptied both mug and bowl she stood and waddled over to the rocking chair.

I returned to her table to clean it and then paused next to her and asked, “Is there anything else I can get you, Grandmother? If you’re cold I can get you a blanket.”

She looked up, her jaw slack and eyes wide, and then she smiled and shook her head. “No thank you,” she said. She patted the gray shawl wrapped around her shoulders. “This keeps me warm enough.” Her voice was sweet, not the voice I expected to hear from such an old lady. Her  hair and her lined face made her look old, but her blue eyes were so bright and alive. I wondered if maybe she was younger than she appeared. I had known sailors to look much older than they were because they spent so much time in the open, salty sea air.

“Very well,” I said with my sweetest smile. “You just call to me if you need me. My name’s Sara.”

Grandmother nodded. “And you may call me Maya.”

The rest of the night passed as they all do. I waited on more tables than I could remember. And the whole time, Maya sat in the chair and rocked. She watched the other patrons with interest but she never spoke to anyone, and no one took any interest in her.

At around three in the morning the tavern began to empty. I offered to stay late and help with the closing. Sam was helping one of the local drunkards stand.

“Sara, I’m going to help Billy here home. I’ll lock the door on my way out and I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

“Okay,” I called over my shoulder as a swept the floor.

As soon as I heard the lock catch I walked over to Maya. “We’re closing now. Do you need help getting home?”

“No dear. But can I sit here a little longer?”

I smiled. “Of course. We can leave together if you like.”

She returned the smile. “Thank you, Sara. You’ve been so kind to me tonight, how about I entertain you with a story while you finish up your work?”

“I’d like that.” I continued to sweep near her as she started her story, but as the tale progressed I found my self being drawn in and it wasn’t long before I was sitting at her feet like a child.

Here is the story she told, as best as I can remember her telling of it.
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You’ve heard the legends of the Ghost Ship that plies the waters in these parts of course. Everyone speaks of the silent ship full of ghost that is made out of mist and moonlight and attacks the ships of pirates, leaving only one survivor to pass the tale.

What no one knows is how that ship and her crew became the Ghost Ship. Well I will give you one telling of the tale. It is a sad story, but one that needs to be passed on.

There once was a man named Joseph Walker who captained the ship Hades Hound as a privateer. He was the best privateer in the area. Hades Hound was small and fast, a pretty little 12 gun, one mast sloop that carried 113 tons . She was the terror of the Spanish and the French. Captain Walker roamed the Caribbean freely and helped to protect his home in Port Royal.

Life was good and sweet for Captain Walker. He had a lady in Port Royal that he was planning to marry for she was carrying his child in her belly. He was just waiting to have enough money to buy them a little home. Once he had a house he could settle Lilly and the baby there, where they would be safe and comfortable and he would continue his work as a privateer.

But everything changed in one day. It was cold and rainy. Winter was coming in and Captain Walker knew this would be the last of the pickings for this season. He had just attacked and gained the spoils from a fat Spanish galleon and was eager to get his share. He figured after this payment he would have enough to marry his girl and buy a small house.

It was a long walk from the docks and up into the nicer parts of town where his investor, Mr. Banks lived. In his hand he had a reckoning of all the treasure that was sitting in the hold of Hades Hound. With the cut he’d get from this haul combined with one more like it, all of Captain Walker’s dreams would come true. He whistled as he walked up the cobble stone streets.

Walker was escorted into Mr. Banks office and stood waiting in front of his desk as Mr. Banks finished reading over a stack of papers. Mr. Banks was a fat man who spent most of his time sitting at a desk and looking at his account books. When he finally lifted his small eyes, made smaller by his red puffy cheeks, from the papers and saw Captain Walker, he grunted and held out his hand for the list of spoils.

Walker handed it over and watched in silence as Mr. Banks marked some of the items in particular he wanted. He handed the paper back to Walker and said, “Have those items and my cut of the gold delivered to my warehouse, as usual.”

“Of course, Mr. Banks,” Walker replied with a nod. “Now as to my next voyage…”

“There won’t be another one.” Mr. Banks said, his gaze already back down at his account books.

“Excuse me, sir?”

“I said, ‘There won’t be another one.’ I’m taking the ship back.”

“You’re taking Hades Hound from me? Why?”

“I’ve decided to put my investments else where.”

“You can’t take her,” Walker said as he stepped forward and leaned upon the desk. “She’s my ship.”

“No, Captain, she’s mine. I bought her, I own her. I merely hired you to captain her.”

“I’ll buy her from you.”

Mr. Banks laughed. “You don’t have that much money, I know it. Besides, she’s not for sale.”

“Mr. Banks, please, I’ll give you anything I have. I—”

Mr. Banks cut him off. “Hades Hound is mine and she is not for sale. You will take your cut of this haul, pay the crew and then dismiss them. Good luck in your future endeavors, Mister Walker and good day.”

Walker tried to argue more, but he was escorted out of the building and tossed into the street but a couple of Mr. Banks hired body guards. Cursing, he picked him self up and dusted off his clothes. He strode back down to the docks, unaware that the dark anger in his face made people hurry to stay out of his path.

A black rage was slowly building with in his belly. Mr. Banks had been his investor for nearly two years, the crew was mostly filled with the men Walker first hired. Hades Hound was Walker’s home, his way of life. He could not imagine being without it.

Despair began to mix with the rage. How was he going to find work now? The seasons were changing and it was coming to the time when there were fewer ships going back and forth between the Old World and the New. No one would be looking to hire a captain and crew for at least three months and by then Walker would have a baby to care for.

With his head hanging, Captain Walker made his way to the brothel where his lady lived. He found her in her room lying in bed, heavy with child, she only had a couple months to go before she was delivered. She listened silently as Walker told her what happened with Mr. Banks.

“I am sorry, Lilly. It’s going to be a while yet before I can properly marry you and buy us that little house you wanted,” Walker said, tears in his blue gray eyes.

Lilly sighed and sat up on her elbow. “Don’t worry about it,” she said. “I’ve decided not to marry you.”

Walker’s jaw dropped. “What? Why not?”

“I’ve decided to go home to my mother. I’ve written to her and she says she’ll let me come home, even in my condition.” She paused and stared at his face. Shaking her head, she continued, “There’s nothing for me here Joseph.”

“There’s me. We can still get married and you can live with me. I know it’s small, and it’ll be crowded once the baby comes, but we can still be together. I can still take care of you.”

Lilly shook her golden head. “It isn’t enough. I came to Port Royal to find me a rich man, a privateer like you who could give me better than what I had. I didn’t mean to have a baby so soon but there’s no helping that now. And since you are no longer going to be rich, I have no need of you.”

Walker was stunned into silence. He stared at his pretty Lilly and the black rage filled him. Breathing hard, he shook his head to clear the blackness from the edges of his vision.

Lilly’s face softened. “I’m sorry Joseph. I do care about you. But I have to think about what is best for me and my baby.”

“Your baby? That is my baby too!” he shouted.

“You don’t know that,” she shouted back. When he didn’t respond she continued, “I’m a whore, Joseph. Did you truly think you were the only man that has shared this bed with me?”

The blackness was creeping into his vision again. If he let it get to the center of his eyes he knew something bad would happen. Without another word he turned on his heel and slammed the door behind him. He strode down the street and went back to Hades Hound.

The crew was busy unloading their haul but they all stopped and stared as their captain stormed aboard and went into his cabin in the stern. The first mate was the first to break the uneasy silence, his voice cracking like a whip. “Get back to work, dogs!”

Within his quarters was Charlie, a black slave who Captain Walker had saved from drowning while the Hades Hound was attacking the ship Charlie had been working on. No one else seemed to care about the slave’s fate, but Walker took pity on the desperate man and leaped into the water to save him. After that, Charlie had sworn to serve him until death because of the life debt he now felt he owed to Captain Walker.

Charlie saw the rage on his master’s face and was quick to pour him a glass of rum. Captain Walker ignored the glass and reached around to grab the bottle.

“Somethin’ the matter, Cap’n?”

With a growling rumble and between swigs from the bottle, Walker told Charlie about his day. Charlie’s face fell at the news of the loss of the ship and then he winced at the Captain’s tale about Lilly.

“So right now,” Walker concluded, his voice already slurred, “I’d like to sit here alone and get as drunk as possible.”

Charlie nodded. “Very well, Captain.”

He left the Captain there and did not see him again until morning. Charlie didn’t tell the rest of the crew anything, even when pressed, he kept silent. It was not his place to tell these men that they were out of a job or to air the Captain’s personal pains.

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So as I said, I'd love to hear your thoughts. And if you really like it and want to read the rest, ask nicely. :D

Thanks for reading!