Last Port of Call

The Governor’s gaze was frosty as a whitecap on a wild southerly, and just as inviting. He leaned across the table, the reek of soil and fire hanging off his finery.

“So, Miss Wheaton… ”

“Captain Wheaton.” The response was automatic. She wrinkled her nose against the claustrophobic smell, wishing for salt air.

“Er, yes, you have claimed that title, but it’s hardly legitimate. Much like your profession.”

“That would be my alleged profession.”

His eyes got colder still. “Please, Captain Wheaton, we caught you red-handed! A ship, laden with pilfered silks, and a chest of stolen doubloons.”

“Who is this ‘we’ you refer to, Governor? I didn’t see you on the docks! And your agents ‘caught’ a ship devoid of a crew!”

“It makes no matter if you deny it, Captain, we both know the Ranunculus is your vessel, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about. Let me be blunt with you a moment.”

“If you were speaking in subtleties before, I’m a little afraid.”

“Stow your sass, Captain, I’m offering you a chance. The reality is that you’re a girl playing dress up – a two-bit pirate at best – and I’m after bigger fish. I’m prepared to offer you a deal.”

“A deal.” The voice was flat, but managed to twist the two words into something obscene, writhing into the air.

The Governor ignored her tone and continued, “Yes, and I’m sure you’ll find it to your benefit.”

“I don’t trade in lives.”

“Don’t be naive, Captain: every bolt of fabric you steal claims lives, whether directly or not.”

“I said trade. Hypothetically speaking, there’s a difference between forcing a few underwriters to do their jobs and selling out a friend.”

“Just hear me out, Captain – nobody said anything about friends.”

“Who are you after, then?”

“The Dread Pirate Smith.”

Her mouth twisted into a genuine smile, followed by a long chuckle. “The Dread Pirate, huh? I didn’t think a Governor would place much stock in fairytales.”

“Oh, Smith is no phantom, Captain. We’ve captured two ships operating under his orders already. And your own vessel was charting the same course as both of them.”

“My alleged vessel. So you’re saying I’m here due to coincidence? Here I thought it was a free ocean.”

“Not quite. We managed to get the crews to talk, but they were too addled to give up anything beside the name. They’re all scared, Captain, and more scared of Smith than of our, er,  persuasion.”

“How unfortunate for you.”

“I hadn’t finished, Captain. If you give up any information you have on Smith, I’ll spare you and your crew. We’ll confiscate the fabrics and gold, of course, but will give you leave to take your ship and go.”

“And a letter of marque.”

“Excuse me?”

“I’ll also require a letter of marque if you want me to go against Smith. And we keep a hundred of the coins.”

“Just like that? Fifty coins and the letter, then.”

“Seventy, agreed. You’d best make yourself comfortable, and call in your secretary. I’ll tell you all I know, but it’s a sordid tale, full of murder and mutiny, and best kept far from the ears of babes…”

“Cap’n? Tits on a tortoise, we thought you were lost! It’s been hours.”

“Have some faith in your Captain, Threep; I’ve been spinning yarns with our Governor.”

Our Guv’nor? Then you did it, Ma’am?”

“I did indeep. A shiny new letter for our next shipment, and leave to depart.”

“So he bought the story?”

“Better, yet – he bought information on the Dread Pirate Smith.”

“Cap’n! You’re bolder ‘n boiled brass, you are!”

“Thank you, Threep. Assemble the crew and prepare to set sail. We’re ready to start the second phase.”

“What awaits us, ma’am?”

“Destiny, Threep, destiny and death, same as ever. But first we sail to rally the ships.”

“But what if the Dread Pirate is after us, Cap’n?” He shook in a parody of fear, eyes alight with laughter.

“I won’t be after you if you do your damn jobs!” She winked at the old sailor, “But stow the Dread Pirate talk for now, Threep, the Governor approaches to bid us farewell!”


This piece was written for Nika Harper’s Wordplay #9. The challenge was piracy, with the prompts “deception” and “chasing shadows.”