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Simon Batt, 29 Aug '12

James watched in horror. The grand ship, sporting the Jolly Roger on its grand sail, idled up beside his trade boat. There was nothing he could do, nothing feasible when so many cannons were being aimed at his ship’s side.

He felt a squeeze on his right hand. He looked down to see his son, a mat of blonde hair with angelic blue eyes, looking back up at him, tears brimming. James ran a hand over his hair. “Don’t worry, Alex. I won’t let them take you.” It was obvious that his uncertainty didn’t come through in his words, as the boy nodded and buried his face into James’ side.

“Yaharr!” As the pirate ship sailed alongside them, a grisly pirate with wild black hair and an equally-unkempt bushy beard came into view. “Prepare to be boarded! We be askin’ for yer precious goods.”

James clutched his son closer to his side. They could strip the ship of all the valuables it contained, but he’d still claim he’d have all the gold in the world as long as his beloved son made it out alive. As he watched the pirate ship come to a halt and the black-haired captain jump on board, he prepared to lie down and obey. As long as no-one got hurt.

“So sorry to be botherin’ ye.” The captain grinned as he itched a scratch under his eyepatch with his hook. “I be wonderin’ if this vessel be holding any sugar.”

Of course. Sugar was a lucrative trade on these parts. It’s natural for the pirates to be hunting for it around here. James repeated his goal in his mind as he gave the captain a polite nod. “Of course. You’re free to take as much sugar as this ship contains. Please, don’t harm my child.”

“Eh?” The captain had a look of genuine confusion. “Why’d you go and say that? Oh.” He put his good hand to his mouth, his eyes wide with realisation. “Oh, grief and goodness. I’ve forgotten I still be in me workin’ togs. Nay, nay, I not be plunderin’ yer ship. I just need a bag’o’so, cause we’re all out of it, see. Horrible stuff, tea without sugar.” He made a sound of disgust as if he ate a raw lemon. “Don’t wish such a curse on any man.”

“Oh.” James released his grip on his son. “Oh, well…I suppose we can do that. I’ll just ask Ben. Ben?” He called down the stairs that led into the vast underbelly where the cargo was stored. “Ben, can you check if we’ve got any sugar?”

“Aye aye.” A sound of shuffling came from below. “I’ll just be a tick.”

“Yes, please be hasty. We’re in dire need of it.”

“Aye aye.”

James faced the captain again. There was the odd creak and groan as the ship swayed on the waves, permeating the awkward silence that had fallen upon the two. The captain started looking around, taking in the small details of James’ ship. “This vessel not be bad,” he said, taking mercy upon James’ nerves. “Where’d ye get it?”

“Oh, I had this custom built at Dubloon Shipyards. I didn’t want to get into the market for standard cargo boats. None of them really had what I wanted.”

“I be hearin’ ye.” The captain’s eyes focused on a distant spot. “Ye look for one with good livin’ conditions, and it can barely hold a box’o’clothes in its hold. Ye look for one with good cargo space, ye be livin’ in a closet, lad. I take it ye got both of them sorted?”

“Oh yes. Good living for us three, plus enough room to do some serious trading. The builders also threw in an anchor for free.”

“Ye serious? That’s a fine deal, that. How much it set ye back by?”

“Hundred gold coins.”

“Ye be tricksing me.” James could see what looked like a hundred gold’s worth of dental work as the captain’s jaw dropped. “No ways you get a boat this good for a hundred.”

“I’m serious. Cuthbert and Way’s Marine Company. Good price for solid quality.”

“Well I never. And a free anchor, ye say? Gods almighty.” The captain shook his head in disbelief. “I needs to get myself over there, methinks. Take the lads down and have this old bird fixed up. Been goin’ two years without havin’ a touch-up. Gettin’ paranoid, meself. Gold just ain’t flowin’ like it used to.” He looked around the ship, shaking his head again. “Hundred coins. Well, blow me down. I take it this little one be yer pride and joy?” He walked over Alex, arms on hips. “Comin’ on to be a strong lad, isn’t he? Developin’ the muscles like a good seafarer should.”

“Th-thank you, sir,” said Alex, clutching harder on James’ hand.

“Say, kid.” The captain crouched down to Alex’s level. “Ye fancy a life o’piracy on the seas? Singing with yer mates, boardin’ ships, killin’ and lootin’ wherever ye be?”

“N-not particularly, sir.”

“Well good.” His voice became sober as he stood. “Rotten life it be. School makes ye think it’s all that, but truly, it ain't. Now I’ve gone and sunk me life into it. It’s me career now. Far too late to change.” The captain shrugged. “What can ye do, ye know? Life’s a sod and all that.”

“Excuse me, James.” A voice from behind cause James to turn. Alex was standing at the top of the stairs, poking his head out of the doorway. “I’ve looked all over, but I think we’re out of—oh goodness.”

“Don’t worry about the pirate, Alex. He’s our friend.”

“Right.” Alex nodded, eyeing the captain up. “Well, we’re all out. Sorry.”

“Ack. Blast and damn it.” The captain stomped a peg-leg on the deck. “Well, never ye mind. I suppose I shouldn’t have gotten me hopes up.” The captain crossed the deck, climbing back onto his own ship. “If ye truly all out, then ye best bet is Albatross Isle. Good prices there. Lads and I get our stock there. Good men, they be. Well, I’ll be seein’ you!” He gave a wave as the ships crew scrambled to get it sailing forwards again. “Best’o’luck with yer trade!”

James waved as they went by. He could definitely get used to this kind of plunder.