The last uninvited ship that had sailed through the heads of the port where the Revenge and the Privateer were moored not only came through in daylight, not hiding a thing, but it was also a friendly ship. The same could not be said for the next ship that came.
It was under an evening sky, heavy cloud cover no moon and low visibility when the ship entered the heads. Had it not been for one eagle eye young pirate in the bay fishing, looking to catch and elusive shark that had been circling the bay for weeks the ship would not have been seen at all.
The young pirate wasted no time in returning to shore, the speed at which he returned ensuring his muscles burned and his arms ached. Climbing up onto the jetty the pains in his arm caused him to loose balance several times but none were enough to see him fall into the water. On the jetty he tried to run but the pangs of pain in his back where too much, instead he walked as fast as he could straight to the closest sentry on duty.
He could not climb the tower under his own steam, the high speed row to shore damaging more than he first realised, but he knew that he could not rest until the alarm was raised. As soon as Spike Dirtylocks heard the young pirate’s story he raised the alarm. Less than ten minutes later the entire crew, the Fair Maiden and the two Captains were standing on the jetty.
What the young pirate had seen may have been considered a myth by many and a mirage by others but not one pirate on that jetty was willing to risk the story being anything other than the truth.
“Tell me exactly wha’ ye saw.” The good pirate said addressing the young eager pirate who was now sitting, leaning against the jetty pylon trying to soothe the pain in his arms.
“She sailed through th’ heads, seemingly as free as th’ wind ‘n careless as t’ who’s port she was enterin’.” The young pirate rubbed his ribs and took a deep breath before continuing. “A ship as dark ‘n dark could be, thar be no light on board at all ‘n I could nah see a single soul on th’ decks.”
“’n wha’ be th’ single most feature that made ye cut loose ‘n return t’ shore wit’ such haste?” The Good Captain asked wanting to hear the words out of the young pirates mouth before he believed his own suspicions.
Every pirate on the jetty knew what the young pirate was describing but like the Good Captain they needed to hear it spoken before it became real.
“Black sails, me cap’n. Th’ ship had black sails.”
A collective gasp went up.
“Where be th’ ship now?” The Good Captain asked.
“Excellent job young pirate. Without yer eagle eye we could ‘ave been in more trouble than death! Ye be a credit t’ yer crew, now be off wit’ ye ‘n see th’ medic ‘n get yourself seen t’. Take as long as ye needs.”
There was no need to discuss the young pirates story, every pirate knew exactly what it meant. There was only one ship that sailed the oceans with black sails. One ship so dark that it appeared to be made from blood soaked timbers. And so stealthy that it arrived undetected. It was very rare the ship arrived only to be spotted before its first deadly strike.
Pirates who had survived the strike of the deadly black sailed Man-o-war were few and far between, often they were left to battle the treacherous seas, left to survive only to tell the tale, and tell it they did.
“It’s too late t’ flee when ye see those black sails at midnight,
Kiss yer ass goodbye ’cause ye’re dead by daylight”
The brief little ditty changed very little between retelling’s, how it was that the survivors all had such a similar ditty to tell as soon as they were plucked from the see is unknown but it’s the lack of changes that made it so real and so threatening.
Other more talkative survivors would tell of how those not lucky enough to be sent to the waters alive faced a painful death few could imagine. Some saying they were forced to watch as a crew of dead seaman showed no mercy with relentless attacks and torture.
There was other stories of pirates being taken to the brink of torture, forced to face their absolute darkest fear then killed where they stood while screaming in agony. Some would say the ringing in their ears of the dead crew mates would live on forever.
While there was always variations in the stories of how pirates were killed there was two things that always remained the same, the ditty they sung when they were first rescued and the final words spoken. “Nowhere for you run, by the time you see the black sails at midnight your fate is sealed.”
“Wha’ be our plan o’ attack Captain?” Captain Bildgepoole asked after the young pirate was dismissed with two other pirates to escort him to the infirmary.
“Black sails at midnight.” The Good Captain uttered more to himself that to anyone around him. “Thar be only one option.” He paused for a second, then in a louder and more assertive voice said. “We fight!”
The crew knew the importance of stealth, the importance of being quiet. Whoever or whatever manned that ship may have known they were there on the jetty, hidden by the two large ships. But even if they didn’t, they arrived in port for an attack and they expected the crew to be somewhere. What they didn’t expect was to be seen themselves.
“They obviously reckon they’ve sailed in here undetected. They obviously thinkin’ they ‘ave th’ element o’ surprise but th’ surprise be all ours. We know they be thar ‘n we do nah ‘ave t’ wait ’til midnight fer thar attack.”
When the Good Captain had chosen his port many moons ago he’d chosen it for several reasons, it’s size, it’s depth especially close in to shore, the access to the village and for his ability to protect himself within that port. The dark ship with the black sails may have been the scourge of the seas but the Good Captain’s port was as much their protector as the cannons that lined the hull of his ships.
Previous Pirate story here.