Sunday, July 29, 2007



Black Ethel strode across the deck, searching for the captain. Lizzie cowered behind the window of the cabin as the pirate queen passed, her purple plume bouncing and her two swords gleaming.

“Cuwse you, Ethel!” Bellamy roared as he ran from the prow toward her. “You will not have my ship!”

Black Ethel planted her boots firmly and laughed good and loud. “I take what I want, Bellamy. And I want your cargo and maybe a few of your men.”

“You will nevew escape my cwew!” Bellamy shouted, waving aloft his own heavy sword. A few of his men, who weren’t busy battling the other pirates, did likewise. Shouts of great audacity arose and Alice, who had joined Lizzie at the window, felt her heart strengthen with the sight of so many courageous men. Surely, they would be saved from the pirates’ predations.

“I have no need to escape. Not before I have purloined your ship from stem to stern. Bring them on, Bellamy. My lads will dispatch with your scalawags. But you,” she smiled an evil smile, “You are mine!”

And with that the two crews fell to in earnest once more, swords clanging and the occasional pistol ringing out. Bellamy and Black Ethel came together amidships, well within view of the cabin’s window. Black Ethel struck with both swords at once, scissoring Bellamy between their blades. He parried one then the other with his own sword, rapidly batting it between her two. One of his more quick-witted crew shouted a word of encouragement and tossed his own sword to the captain. For his pains he was at once attacked by a pair of pirates, one with a large club, the other with a razor-sharp rapier. In vain he sought to halt the downward thrust of the club with his small knife. The rapier’s blade bit into his arm and scarlet bloomed from the gaping wound.

“Hardly sporting,” Lizzie muttered under her breath.

Alice was speechless with indignation. Had pirates no morals at all?

Their attention flew back to Bellamy and the pirate queen, just as the captain declared, “Wevenge, deaw lady, wevenge shall be mine tonight!” He darted forward with the second blade, thrusting toward the vulnerable side of the pirate. She was too quick, however, blocking his sword with her two, throwing the blade up and making Bellamy regroup for another attack.

“You’re going to have to be faster than that,” she shouted, a grin still widening her too red mouth. Lizzie could see a fine white scar crossing the woman’s cheek and disappearing into her raven hair. She did not draw Alice’s attention to that detail, for fear that she might swoon right away. Imagine the rough life the pirate queen must lead, to be in such danger, to suffer such injuries. Lizzie did not wish to admit that the idea was simply soppy with thrills. To be completely independent! To never again be thrust into uncomfortable clothes and uncomfortable situations, to never again smile politely at the endless line of tedious people that were most of her relations, to no longer be the poor orphan with no marriage prospects—but suddenly she remembered, blushed at her lapse and touched the letter still secreted away in her sleeve. There was much to live for. They must triumph against the pirate queen!

Bellamy thrust again and Black Ethel neatly dodged his blow, spinning around lightly and parrying back with her left hand, holding the right in reserve, waiting for her opportunity. “Don’t tell me you’re running out of steam already, Bellamy! The fight has only just begun.”

True enough, Bellamy was looking a bit overwhelmed, but her taunting reinvigorated his flagging spirits. “Nevew! I shall defend the Demetew with all my heawt and skill. Take that!” and he launched a renewed attack of such vigor that he fought the pirate queen back to the railings.

Suddenly a bright light seemed to burst all around the fighting pair. Lizzie ducked and clunked heads with Alice. Smoke seemed to be everywhere until the night breeze wafted through the clanking night.

“Look,” cried Lizzie, grabbing Alice’s arm. “Over there!”

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