“A Pirate’s Tale” – Excerpt

This is an excerpt from one of my ongoing novels. Comments and criticisms are much appreciated.

Moroccan Coast, 2 April 1695

One mild, clear evening in early April, just off the coast of Morocco, the sun was just beginning to set over the watery horizon. To almost anybody, it would have been beautiful. But Captain Robert Cropson and his arch-nemesis Captian James Bardsley, both pirates, were altogether preoccupied with the day’s events to notice.

In fact, two ships were locked in a fierce skirmish. Two bitter rivals, Bardsley and Cropson had been looking for every chance they could get to obliterate each other’s ships, steal possessions, and anything else they could get their grubby hands on. Considering they were both pirates, it was in their nature; they lived to steal, rob, cheat, and con chumps out of their “loot,” or so they called it.

Cropson was distinguished by his shorter-than-most blonde locks of hair that also had little hints of light brown added in; his beard was of a similar color groomed well enough, for a man of his occupation anyway. He was of average stature, just below six feet tall, and an authoritative appearance was about him. He was typically of a brighter disposition than most captains of pirate vessels, but could be commanding, if the situation deemed necessary.

At the moment he had been loading up his dual flintlock pistols at his large desk cluttered with maps, powder horns, cartridges, and other odds and ends, when his boatswain, Bracken reported in. “Cap’n, w’ve lost another of th’ crew.”

“Is ‘at so?”

“Aye, Cap’n,” he replied in his jolly, yet respectful way.

“Then git ye bloody behind up ‘ere before I make ye like ‘im!” Cropson ordered.

“Aye, Cap’n,” Bracken returned seriously, now ramrod straight. “Will do.”

As Cropson rushed up to the deck, there were sounds of cannonballs cracking and booming all across the ship.

On the other side of the battle, Captain James Bardsley ordered his men around on deck. Bardsley was a tall man, about six and a half feet in height, with a menacing presence. His long, unruly, knotted, black beard added to the pirate getup. In addition, he also had several long scars across his dirty face, gained from many years of piracy. Unlike Cropson, he was a gruff man with an irritable attitude at any given time.

Suddenly, a cannonball smashed into the aft mast of the Brigantine, ripping it in two. As the frightened sailors hurtled themselves out of its path, Bardsley ordered for the cannons to be fired, sending a volley directly into the enemy vessel. One blew a hole in the starboard side and sent a few men sprawling to the deck on Cropson’s schooner. Shots rang out from every direction and it seemed to Bardsley, just as he had suspected, that his crew was having a hard time coping with the constant bombardments.

Eventually, Robert Cropson made his way up to the deck. He mounted on one of the four swivel cannons and began to fire upon Bardsley’s crew. He saw a cannonball hit the mast of Bardsley’s ship, splitting it in half. A few seconds later, a projectile hit the hull of the starboard side. He was launched off his feet, and fell hard onto the floor. He ordered his men to move closer to Bardsley’s craft.

As they approached the ship, his men swung from ropes cascading down on to Bardsley’s men, slaughtering them in their descent.

“Argh!” Bardsley roared as he slammed his sword down onto the floor and watched as his crew was being cut down mercilessly.

He hobbled over to one of Cropson’s men and slashed at him with his cutlass. After a few parries, the man was subdued.

All around him, Bardsley’s men fell to the floor. Outraged, and yet surprised at his current status he erupted in a fit of rage running off to more of Cropson’s sailors, slashing and clashing on the way.

He came upon an obviously inexperienced swordsman and disabled him in one quick motion. Another built up the courage to face him, but nobody beats the captain in a duel. This man too, was cleaned out in a flash.

In the distance, he caught a glimpse of Cropson disarming one of his veteran swordsmen. In a fit of rage, he quickened his pace toward Cropson.

Midstride, he crashed into Bracken, Cropson’s deckhand. He threw a blow to the side. Bracken parried. Bracken slashed at his left leg. He blocked the foolish attempt, sliding up Bracken’s blade toward his chest. The lucky deckhand managed to angle his sword to avoid Bardsley’s sharp edge. This seemed to give Bracken a burst of adrenaline, which he used to throw a hard blow to the head. It was a fatal mistake. He hit the incoming blade with such force, that the vibration threw his attack off course. He still disabled Bracken, with his blow, but it was definitely not the desired effect.

Even so, he continued on, leaving Bracken to tend to his wound, he ran up to Cropson.

“’ou’ve avoided me so far, you bloody fool!” claimed Bardsley

“Let’s see ‘ow ye do wif a sword ye blubberknuckle ye!”

“A’right then, show me what you got up ‘ere!”

They exchanged a few beginner blows, and continued on. Around them their crews each engaged each other in heated battle. Cropson’s crew of 83 did not quite match Bardsley’s crew of 117, however, Cropson’s men were better trained in close combat, while Bardsley’s in longer range bombardments. Cropson had strategically organized this battle so that his crew would emerge victorious. As he was congratulating himself for this Bardsley suddenly exclaimed: “You’r’ not s’ bad!”

“Ye be not bad yeself!” Cropson shot back.

Cropson lunged at Bardsley’s thigh. Dodging, Bardsley struck at his archenemy’s right arm. Cropson blocked, and threw a blow to the hip. Missing, he returned just in time to ward off his assailant’s next swing. With ease, Bardsley was ahead of his nemesis, blocking and jabbing; he was prepared for anything his inferior might bring to the table.

Cropson was struggling to stay focused. He was obviously losing this duel, and his strength. Every vibration depleted his energy supply. He was just about ready to give up.

Bardsley was coming back strong. Cropson parried, but he lost his footing and fell to the deck. He was as good as dead.

Suddenly everything seemed to happen in slow motion. Bardsley raised his blade to decapitate him, but in mid slash, if he could call it that, Bracken appeared miraculously and put a deep cut into the back of Bardsley’s calf, causing him to stagger and fall to the floor. At that moment everything went black.

For all three of them.

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