The next two days passed fairly quick. Captain Tucker made an announcement to the crew on our first morning at sea, informing them of our recent engagement and that I would be the mistress of the Esmeralda. He made it clear that any man who was not okay with the new arrangements was free to leave and any man who paid any disrespect to his future wife would be dismissed. I had a feeling that the underlying meanings for each choice was death.
The majority of the men seemed genuinely happy for their Captain. While there were still some men who were weary of the presence of a woman on board, they were likely too scared to reveal their true feelings for fear of being cast overboard in the open sea. I studied the men from afar to gauge their reactions, there was one in particular who I could see was uneasy towards me.
I remember meeting him, an African man in his late thirties named Kwasi who was brought over on a slave ship, he escaped when the ship was shipwrecked by a storm. Lekan had told me that he was raised in a family of medicine men who were known to practice black magic. I could see the amount of respect that Lekan held for Kwasi. But he seemed very weary of me, he was always studying me closely. I felt like he knew all my secrets just by looking into my eyes. All I could do was hope he wouldn’t reveal any secrets he might know to the other men.
To celebrate our engagement, the crew proceeded to get fairly drunk both day and night those couple of days. Their happy drunk moods helped to lighten the tension of a woman being on board. There were times that I felt sort of helpless. The crew, as well as Captain Tucker, were busy most of the time with keeping the ship tidy and sailing smoothly. I wanted to help, to learn how to sail the Esmeralda that was now my home. It was clear, however, that my heavy dress and big skirts would prevent me from doing that type of physical work.
Phineas kept his promise and took time to teach me some fighting techniques. He gave me a few weapons to choose from. I was drawn to a matching pair of blades, they curved slightly and were rather light to hold. I picked one up in each hand and knew they were my weapon of choice.
Phineas raised an eyebrow at me when he saw my choice of weapon, “Those seem to suit you. Welding dual blades can be comparable to a dance, there is a lot of footwork involved. You will need to get close to your opponent to strike them.”
I had always been light on my feet and was an adequate dancer. Dancing was the only good part about going to balls back in London. While dancing I didn’t have to talk, I could just move with the music and let the night fade by in peace.
We practiced on deck in the late afternoon, a few of the men had gathered to watch the show. I pushed my shy feelings away and went into my lesson without any hesitation. These men were my living companions, they were my fiancé’s crew, and would be my crew soon as well. I wanted them to view me as a leader and an equal. I didn’t want them to think I was some useless woman who would need to be protected all the time.
I did as best as I could to follow the steps instructed by Captain Tucker, but my dress kept getting in the way. I was starting to get frustrated with the heavy fabric. Phineas used my skirts to his advantage, as I went to take a step back to block his next blow, he stepped on the hem of my skirt and prevented my movement.
I yelled in frustration, “Blast this bloody dress!”, then I yelled at Phineas, “And damn you to Hell, you bloody bastard. You did that on purpose!”
The crew went silent and stared at me wide eyed, clearly, they were not used to hearing a lady speak with such rough language. Phineas, however, couldn’t contain his laughter. He was hunched over from laughing so hard. The crew started to pick up on the laughter, and suddenly I was laughing along with them.
Phineas pulled me into him and said, “I think we will need to find you more suitable ensembles for your new practices as a pirate, don’t you think?”
A brilliant thought came into my mind, “Do you have any sewing materials on board? I could make something out of the dresses you brought on board for me.” I was very skilled with a needle, most of my free time spent on my father’s ships and at home was spent with a needle and thread.
Phineas nodded, “I shall have the materials sent to our cabin.”, he bent down and planted a light kiss on my lips then spoke into my ear, “Your dress is getting in the way of many things at the moment.”, he took my hand and started to lead me towards our cabin, “Come, lets free you from it.”
Phineas and I had been inseparable, glued to each other at all times. He made a point to leave kisses on my lips or neck frequently throughout the day, teasing me with his seductive touch. His eyes were always on me, as mine were mostly on him. Sometimes the desire became too strong, and he would lead me to our cabin and take his time to make love to me. I never objected, I was constantly craving his touch.
Later that evening as I was rummaging through my dresses and things to adjust my wardrobe, when I suddenly heard a cannon fire. It was loud, but it sounded as if it came from a short distance away. It was from another ship! I few moments later I heard another cannon, this one was louder, closer this time. Phineas had been out on the deck for the last hour.
Someone came to the outside of the cabin door and knocked, “Miss Jatau, Miss Cora, please arm yourself. We goin into battle.”, It was Lekan.
I jumped up and found my daggers, then I posted myself next to the door. And looked though the small window opening out on the main deck. Suddenly the ship started to rumble with the force of cannons firing. My heart started pumping, this was the first battle I had ever been in. I had heard cannons fire as a means of communication between ships, but never had I heard them fired for battle.
Cannons started erupting from the other ship, and I could hear the explosions of the Esmeralda being wounded by the blasts. I was praying that her damage was minimal and in return would bring down her opponent. I could hear commands being called out by Phineas and being relayed around the rest of the ship by the crew. I started to see the other ship coming closer into view beside us. They were preparing to board us, or perhaps it was the other way around? I could not see much from my small window. I did not even know who we were fighting, I couldn’t see their colors. Were they pirates too? Or someone else, like the Royal Navy?
I started to hear shots of gunfire and the metal clash of swords. I heard a familiar voice yell out, “Lekan, protect Cora.”, I heard a response a little closer, “Aye, Captain.”
So, I was just expected to stay here like some locked up damsel? Rage suddenly started to rise inside of me. I wanted to fight for what was mine just like everyone else out there was. Without any hesitation I flung the door open and stormed out into the battle on deck. I could see that our opponents were indeed pirates, their dirty ripped up clothing were a dead giveaway.
One of the crew was in front of me, in combat with one of the enemy pirates. His opponent saw me and said, “Oy, there is some treasure on this ship I see. Hand ov’r the wench and I’ll let ye live lad.”
The enemy pirate had not seen the weapons in my hands. He fought in a way that somehow maneuvered himself right in front of me, his back towards me. I took the opportunity and brought both of my daggers into his sides, under the ribs like Phineas taught me. I pulled my blades out and the pirate fell to the floor.
The man from my crew looked at me wide eyed. I took the moment to look down at my hands, holding the now blood-stained daggers. I had just killed someone with these hands. Shock began to take over my body and I felt momentarily lost. But I was woken from my daze by a low bellow coming from the planks connecting the ships.
“Captain Tucker! Where are ye, ya bastard! Oy, where are ye Tucker?”, said an older pirate. He was tall, but round. His beard was long with streaks of grey lining his once black hair. He wore a patch over his right eye and his face looked like it was made from worn out leather, no doubt from a life spent on the unforgiving sea.
I gained my courage back when I realized that this man wanted nothing more but the death of my beloved. He had vowed to protect me, but I knew that if it came to it, I would do everything in my power to protect him too. A couple men came at me and were surprised to watch me bring my daggers towards their flesh. I used their surprise to my advantage and stabbed one in the belly. When I turned towards the other man I found that he was already laying on the floor, Lekan standing over the dead body.
Lekan looked at me and smiled, “You learn quick, Jatau.”
I smiled back and went back towards the fighting. More enemy pirates had boarded the Emeralda, but our crew was doing a very good job of defending her, they had been trained well. A short fat man tried to grab my arm, instead I let my dagger slice through the inside of his hand.
He stumbled back and called out, “Curse you, you wicked whore! I will make you pay for that!”, he gained his footing and came at me with his sword. I took a step back and his blade missed my body but caught the top of my skirts. He pulled the blade down and my skirts were split in half down the front. I only had under garments and stockings on beneath. Despite slight exposure, I was suddenly able to move a little more freely. I dodged the next swing of his sword and spun around, kneeling down and forcing my daggers up into his ribs.
The fat man fell, presenting right in front of me, the man who was calling to fight Phineas earlier. He saw me and smiled, “Well, what do we ’ave here?”, I stood up to hold my ground but was pulled backwards and behind a tall familiar figure. Phineas had placed himself between me and the man.
“Oy, Captain Tucker, I ’ave been looking for ye.”, the man spoke.
“Well, here I am Captain Daniels.”, Phineas replied coolly, “What do you want?”
I knew that man must have been the captain of the enemy pirate ship. He held himself with authority. The fighting between the pirates ceased for the moment to hear what the two pirate Captains were talking about.
“Ye know what I want, Tucker. Tell me where yer loot is.”, Captain Daniels commanded.
Phineas stood his ground, “And why would I do that?”
Captain Daniels walked closer, “Because, I think you value your life and the life of these here scallywags you call a crew.”, he motioned to the men around him, “Tell me where ye keep yer loot,”, his eyes traveled over me, “and give me the feisty wench, and I jus might let you and yer crew live.”
I could feel Phineas tense as Captain Daniels threatened me. I could feel the heat from his body getting warmer from the rage building up in his body. I could feel some type of power building up inside of him.
“If you knew what was best for you, you would not disrespect my intended, Captain.”, Phineas said with a hiss in his tone.
Captain Daniels let out a bellowing laugh, “Yer intended? You? The great Captain P Tucker, is engaged? Ha, tis a great joke! Must be! Or the wench has herself a magic cunt.”, he said as he licked his lips.
Phineas was about to snap; his blood was boiling. I placed a hand on his shoulder and he instantly began to ease his tension under my touch. He was able to think clearly again, but his anger still won the battle inside of him. He took my hand from his shoulder and brought it to his lips, quickly looking in my eyes before he dropped my hand and turned towards Captain Daniels.
“I warned you Daniels, do not disrespect my Kraljica.”, he was too quick for Captain Daniels, and he struck his hand sending his sword to the floor. A moment later he had Captain Daniels by the throat. He carried him, with great ease, to the edge of the ship. Captain Daniels must have seen the devils rage in Phineas’ eyes, for he started to beg and plead for him to spare his life.
But Captain P Tucker was not to be trifled with, especially when it came to the woman he loved. Phineas brought his sword under Captain Daniels’ throat and slashed a deep slice to his throat, then he tossed him overboard. Everyone was speechless, myself included. Yeah, we were fighting in a battle and killing men, but Phineas just killed Captain Daniels in front of his own men without a second thought. It was quite brutal, even for pirates.
Phineas looked around to the men, every single man looked at him with admiration and fear, “Now,”, he said to the enemy pirate crew, “I trust you have someone among your crew who would be suitable to Captain your vessel. Let this be a warning to you men, do not dare to penetrate my ship, or my lady ever again. Anyone who does so,”, he looked around to each and every man including his own crew, “will suffer the consequences.”
Without a second thought, the enemy pirates boarded their ship and made their leave. Captain Tucker assessed the damage done to the Esmeralda from battle. It was not bad, and repairs were quickly under way. Once the crew was set upon their tasks of repairing and replenishing the ship, Phineas brought me to our cabin to check me for any injuries.