Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Scourge



The Scourge

left watching helplessly as the schooner drifted further and further away over the horizon. The chase, after so many days, was finally over, and The Scourge had lost.
“Blast it all!” Captain Blacktooth shouted, slamming his hook hand against the nearest wrought iron railing. His dark eyes, gray as a storm cloud, turned towards his helmsman who was looking beseechingly over at the ship's first mate, Pugsly. “That's the third ship this week that has escaped the clutches of The Scourge, Mr. Flint. I'm thinking that maybe its time we found ourselves a new helmsman, eh Pugsly? Maybe it's time for the old one to take a little swim.”
Mr. Flint again gave Pugsly another expectant look while the captain, his peg leg thumping against the inky-black deck, marched ominously toward him. Pugsly, looking uncertain and more than a little nervous, tried to avoid the panicked helmsman's eyes. Everywhere he looked, though, he saw the eyes of the crew looking back at him. Several were making “get on with it” gestures at him.
Clearing his throat and hooking his thumbs into his wide belt, Pugsly eased himself between the captain and the helmsman. “It isn't his fault, Captain.”
“Is that so, Pugsly?” Blacktooth said with a growl. His namesake, the dead and foul smelling incisor, was on full display. “And just who's fault is it, then? Who is the one responsible for letting our quarry get away, again and again? Who is the one to blame for the holds of The Scourge, the most feared pirate vessel to sail the seven seas, to stand empty?”
Pugsly cleared his throat again and looked up at the towering figure of his captain. “Its sorta..your fault...Sir.”
That venomous gaze shifted from the quivering helmsman and began to bore its way into Pugsly's eyes. “What did you just say to me?”
“Now just hear me out,” Pugsly said, holding his hands out in a placating manner. “Okay? So, me and the crew, we've been talking a bit. Nothing major, just chat. And we've been thinking that maybe...well...its just that...”
“Get on with it, Pugsly!”
“Its the ship, Sir. Its just a little too....how do I put it?....Piratey.”
Blacktooth looked confused. “ Beg pardon?”
“I'll be the first to admit, Captain,” Pugsly reassured. “when I first saw The Scourge slide into port, its ragged-looking masts blotting out the moonlight and its obsidian hull cutting through the water like a scimitar, I was damned impressed. I said to myself 'That's a damn impressive ship', I did. I knew I had to join its crew.”
“But,” Blacktooth muttered, crossing his arms.
“But...there are certain realities that have to be faced, Sir. Take those raggedy looking sails. I know that those strips of extra fabric are there to make it look like we're all tattered and battered while still maintaining integrity, but they get caught up in the lines and flap around all willy-nilly. Poor Figaro got one wrapped around his neck last week, just about hung him. Even on the best of days though, they create drag and slow us down.”
Blacktooth didn't look convinced. “They may create a little bit of drag, Pugsly, but not enough to really slow us down enough to let every ship that crosses our bow escape us.”
“That's true, Sir, but we also have about three dozen ravens perched up there.”
Blacktooth grinned, holding out his hand and hook as if framing a painting “That was my idea. When we touch off our cannons, they take flight and cloud the vessel in a storm of black wings. Scares the shit out of our prey.”
As if in answer, a small storm of bird feces rained down from the rigging, spattering across the deck and everyone standing on it.
“Yeah,” Pugsly muttered. “we're well aware of all the shit they kick up. But that's more drag. Not to mention that a quarter of our hold is filled with bird feed.”
“Pffft,” Blacktooth waved the statement away as if it were an annoying fly.
“Then there are the gargoyles, Captain.”
“What about them?” he asked, looking truly stunned. “You were with me when we took those. You helped me pry them from the roof of the monastery we ransacked. Those are trophies.”
“They weigh a ton. Each. And I'm not exaggerating. They each weigh one thousand pounds. That four thousand pounds of weight makes the front end of us ride too low in the water. It wouldn't be so bad if the hold had more than bird feed and dry ice in it.”
“We're not getting rid of the dry ice,” Blacktooth said petulantly, stomping his peg leg on the ground. “How else can we make it look all foggy when we roll into port?”
Pugsly rubbed his eyes and sighed. He dropped his voice so the crew wouldn't overhear him. “Have you ever taken a good look at your crew, Sir?”
“These scurvy dogs?” Blacktooth bellowed. “I see these ugly mugs so much I have nightmares about them.”
As the captain laughed, Pugsly leaned closer. “The scurvy part is right. Half of them are bleeding from the gums and the other half can barely get out of bed. Not to mention the injuries.”
“What injuries?”
“What injuries?” Pugsly pointed at the helmsman. “Maynard's got a wooden eye and is missing an ear. We have fourteen total lads and only nine arms, ten legs, eleven eyes, thirteen noses, and maybe a grand total of a hundred teeth. Those I haven't counted. You seem to be seeking out crew members who come partially disassembled.”
“What about Lawrence, did you count that...”
“Extra foot? Yes.”
Blacktooth turned and looked out to sea. If he didn't know better, Pugsly would swear his feelings were hurt.
“Anything else?” The captain asked, not facing his first mate or crew.
“Since you ask,” Pugsly said. “The deck and the hull are all painted black. This is fine at night and so forth, but during the day....I mean, it is the Caribbean. It gets godawful hot. It wouldn't be so bad if you didn't make us wear so much wool. Black wool greatcoats. Black wool breeches. Black boots and black gloves. The men who aren't riddled with scurvy are collapsing on the deck from heat exhaustion.”
“Well, now you're just complaining to complain,” Blacktooth snapped. “I don't suppose you have any solutions to these problems, do you?”
“Actually, the lads and I had a few suggestions to make.”
Blacktooth turned and regarded his crew, all fourteen of them looking at him expectantly and wearing, mostly toothless, wide grins.
“Let's hear them then.”

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