Chapter 6. Eight Bells, Four Ales and Conversation
The small fleet of four ships rocked in the in harbor at twilight. The captains and first mates sat on a small meadow that overlooked the small fleet of predators below, the three-quarter moon illuminated the horizon. It would be a bright night. No stealth was possible from the east.
The smell from the cooking fire below wafted up on the breeze and distracted. On the sheltered side of a volcanic rockfall, between boulders half the size of their ships made a natural chimney.
The sailors used it as a kitchen, and the flow of the air dissipated smoke among the rocks and hills, masking their presence to any lookout on the water.
A short hike with the food in hand, the crews assembled stone and wood benches and tables that allowed them to see to all points of the compass to more than twenty-five miles.
Two women sat at either side of the red-headed Keegan who was clearly tense with the attentions of the two women pirates.
“I think I should sit on the other side of the table.” Causing even his father to laugh.
“Keegan, we need you to stay slower on the ship.” Conn said over the food brought up by the cook. A bottle of ale sat, the adults pouring and laughing while they ate the evening meal later than planned.
“Da’…” Keegan O’Danu started to complain.
“Dash,” Anna “God Wants” spoke softly. “you vasseau… boat… ship… is more rapide tha’ mienne.” Her French accent slightly enhanced by the copious ethanol in the new ale donated by her last visit on the Spanish Treasure fleet. Annemarie, once one of the Fille du Roi, sent to the Caribbean because she was disruptive in the King’s Court. Still, she did not have that small voice most people have when it came to speaking her mind.
“You must reduce the sails you set so we can keep up.” She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, setting his ears ablaze with heat.
Captain Delahaye laughed and talked with the muscular first-mate with dark-eyes, playing with her hair while he poured her more ale from his pitcher.
Dana looked at his brother with one eyebrow raised.
“What is going on with her?”
Keegan shook his head and looked at his father for guidance, the elder O’Danu laughed.
“That, my boys, is the age-old mating ritual.” Looking at their puzzled faces. Keegan looked alarmed when the sailor reached out and touched the bright-red hair of the pirate captain.
“She will kill him.
“Maybe.” Conn said with a crooked grin. “But not in the way you think. Come with me, let’s start talking about what our plans are from here. Leave those two be for now.”
“But… but…” Keegan still did not comprehend.
“That bruise on your shoulder?” Conn asked his son while they walked to the fire, around which the other captains sat in the hidden grove of trees and tall rocks.
“Yes?” Keegan said. It had mostly healed, Granuaille did not sock him so much after they were away from each other so long at sea. “It still hurts, but it is no longer the color of the midnight sky.”
Conn laughed at his young sons quandry of the attentions of a girl. Here was a young man that could sail around the world, but did not know the first thing about romance of the heart.
The three O’Danu’s sat in the circle with the other captains and officers.
“Where est Jacquotte?” Anna asked, then screamed. “Delahaye!”
“Oui?!” The answering voice echoed. “Je viens!”
Finally, when all eight sailors sat, with other crew sitting behind, paying rapt attention.
“The treasure fleet comes through in the next fortnight, they are punctual, but the ships from Campeche ran into difficulty with Morgan again.” Jacquotte winked. “So I predict that they will be on the far edge of the fortnight and sailing direct. They risk the storm season and will not waste time trying to hide during the day and sail only at night.”
“Even under full sail,” Keegan said, his red-hair glinting in the firelight. “We can catch them.”
“Est malavisé, em… unwise.” Anna shook her head. “They catch us in open daylight without surprise, the war-galleons will stand and fight. Big Spanish cannon are bad to face. We must catch them with their guns stowed and guard down.”
“We can catch them in the dark. In a fortnight, the moon will be on the wane.” Keegan said. “But still too bright, nightwatch will see anyone coming close.”
“Broken clouds would help.” Dana spoke up, then looked down when every eye turned towards him.
“We cannot depend on that.” Conn looked at Dana. “Weather is on thing that we can only take advantage of.”
“Da’.” Keegan said, defending his brother. “He knows.”
Jacquotte spoke up.
“We will speed up the chance to catch them on the first leg of the journey. Not far from where they depart, there is a small harbor, we can put ships there and in another harbor. When the war-galleon’s turn to fight the chasers, the treasure ship will run ahead.”
“Into the hunters.” Conn shook his head. “Is this how you always work?” The father asked the son.
“Often, Da’.” Keegan’s voice was soft. “We just followed.”
“I do not approve, we are here to retrieve your mother.” Conn looked around. “You said you would help us find his mother.”
“Monsieur O’Danu,” Anna looked at him evenly. “This est how our life est. We make the living from what we take, and the Empires we take from deserve no less.”
Few times in his life did Keegan O’Danu see his father truly frown. This being one of those times.
“We are on a mission to seek my mother.” Keegan said, in defense of his sire’s disappointment. “I will not be distracted with the hunt of a treasure ship. My Da’ has never taken a ship, he builds them.”
“And fine ships they are, too!” A voice behind Jacquotte sounded.
“We go to Port Royal first. No stopping until we get there after we leave here. You can gather crews and a fleet then.” Keegan spoke with his old edge. “My mother awaits, my father will seek to rescue her, but I won’t allow him in any combat.”
Jacquotte turned to Anna and pulled on her left earlobe and took a breath.
“The son protects the father. It is upside-down, the son is the warrior, the father is the peacemaker.” She looked Anna directly in the eye. “Père O’Danu est brebis among wolf.”
Shaking her head, the blond French Captain nearly wept.
“Monsieur O’Danu, you stay at Port Royal and get to know our friends. Mon Dash will come with us, we will bring your épouse back to Port Royal.”
This was the best news that Conn heard, but not the news he wanted to here.
Conn knew what they said. He was a sheep among wolves.