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Started by Welsh Wench, December 23, 2008, 01:48:03 PM

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Captain Jack Wolfe

Petit Goave -- December, 1650

A sultry breeze blew steadily off the coast of Hispaniola, washing over the sleepy port town of Petit Goave and out into the harbour.  The ships anchored there bobbed gently, their masts slightly swaying like mangroves.  Among these was a fine weathered vessel of quiet majesty; the Neptune Rising.  Her captain, Rhys Morgan, sat in his cabin as he stared at a desk littered with maps, notes, and plotting instruments.  Lines of frustration creased his brow as he puzzled what their next destination.  Prizes had become few and far between lately, as merchants shifted their trade to other ports or out of the area entirely in response to the threat of one pirate who seemed to time his attacks with uncanny precision and effectiveness.  Rumour had it the pirate had supernatural assistance from a dark, mystical woman.  Rhys didn't believe the stories, but after nearly two months without a prize of value, he would have been happy for such an advisor. 
"I'll be damned if I'm left to raiding fishing boats for food," Rhys swore.  He poured another glass of rum and sipped it as he stared bitterly at the maps.  There had to be some place left to hunt...  but where?

A knock at the cabin door broke his concentration.
"I said no interruptions!" barked Rhys testily.
The door opened slightly, and the quartermaster, Dolan, poked his head in.
"Begging your pardon, but there's a man come aboard to see you.  Says it's mightily important.
"Whatever he has to say, he can say to you," Rhys answered.  "Keep him out of the crew's way, and send him off when he's through.  I have enough trouble."
Dolan's head disappeared, but the door remained open.  Rhys could hear voices, and after a few moments Dolan reappeared.  "He won't hear of it, Captain.  He claims to have vital information.  Says it's a matter of life and death."
Rhys exhaled through clenched teeth.  He had promised his men a solution to their predicament before the day was out in order to keep any of them from jumping ship.  And here was some damned fool with "information" that he was certain would only put him further behind.
"All right, damn it.  Show him in."  Rhys picked up his quill and hunched over his desk, pretending to be make notations in hope that by appearing too busy the visitor would leave faster.  He could hear the sound of a pair of boots on the deck in front of him, with an almost lackadaisical gait.  Without looking up, Rhys said in his most impatient and officious tone, "I'm a very busy man, a fact I hope you can appreciate.  So please, say your piece and be on your way..."
A casaba melon rolled across the table and stopped right under his gaze.
Rhys blinked in disbelief and looked up into the face of the man who had brought it.
His eyes hardened into a contemptuous glare.
"You," he growled.

"You were expecting Father Christmas?" smiled Jack Wolfe as he casually took the chair opposite Rhys.  "Captain Morgan.  Has a nice ring to it.  You should take out a patent.  And is that any way to greet an old friend?  I had hoped they at least taught you some manners at Cambridge.  Why so glum?"
Rhys sat back in his chair and looked at the man he had saved from certain death at the hands of jealous Spanish warlord a scant few years before.  He looked the almost the same, save for even longer hair held back from his face with a red head scarf and a close cropped goatee which served to give him a wild look.
"'Mad Jack' Wolfe, master of El Lobo del Mar.  Thanks to you, my crew haven't been able to take a prize worth the effort in months.  Apparently Oxford taught you the vice of greed very well."
"Nope.  Picked that one up all on my own, thank you," Jack smirked.  "That is the name of our game, yeah?  Greed?  Take all you can, and give nothing back?"
"What do you want, Jack?  If you came to gloat, then you've accomplished your mission."  Rhys picked up the melon and tossed it to Jack.  "You can take your remembrance and go.  I'm busy."
Jack put the melon back on Rhys' desk.  "I'm not here to gloat, Cambridge.  I'm here to help."
Rhys choked back an incredulous laugh.  "Help?  How?  You're not planning to retire already, are you?"
"Not on your life, mate," Jack replied coolly.  "I'm offering you a partnership."
Rhys stared at Jack for several seconds, unsure of what he had just heard.  "Come again?"
"You heard me right, Rhys.  I'm offering you a full partnership.  A lifeline of sorts.  The question is, are you willing...," he picked up the melon and looked at it for a moment, then tossed it without warning to Rhys,  "... to take it?"
Rhys caught the melon in both hands, still puzzled by Jack's mysterious arrival and even more unexpected business proposal.  He regarded the melon before placing on the table again.  "What's the catch?"
"No catch."
"Oh, come on, Oxford.  I didn't just fall off the turnip wagon.  You've got quite the reputation for heavy conditions on any deal you strike."
Jack smiled to himself.  "Yeah, I know.  I started the stories.  It's a sweet bit of leverage whenever I have to negotiate.  When they're expecting outrageous demands, it's easier to sneak in onerous ones."
"How perfectly underhanded of you!" chuckled Rhys, with a hint of admiration in his voice.  Jack's audacity never ceased to amaze him.  For that very reason, Rhys was still wary of what his old acquaintance had in store.
"It beats a career in politics.  This way is more honest, as an old friend once pointed out.  But I'm serious, Rhys.  No catch, no conditions."
"There have to be terms."
"What good business deal doesn't have terms?"
Rhys tapped the end of his quill on the desk.  "I'm dying to hear this."
"Still cautious.  I like that.  All right then, the terms."  Jack leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers in front of him as he looked Rhys in the eye.  "A division of labour.  There are too many prizes and not enough of me to take them.  We take certain territories, which will shift over time, and hunt them clean.  Whatever you take, you keep to share out as you will."
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Captain Jack Wolfe

Rhys thought for a moment, and laughed.  "I'm still waiting for the catch, Jack.  What is it?  A steep percentage after six months?  An annual lump sum payment?  My soul, perhaps?"
"Please!  What would I do with your soul?  I've no use for my own."  He shook his head.  "As I said, no catch.  No cut, no payments, no usury.  Simply a place for your men to ply their trade, and the information with which to do it."
"Information?  What information would that be?" asked Rhys, a little faster than he meant to.  Jack's offer was intriguing, to say the least.  But he needed to know everything before considering taking the offer.
"Where to cruise, who to hit, and when."
"Nobody has those kind of specifics.  It's impossible."
"I do."
"You really are mad."
"A great many would agree.  But it doesn't change the fact that I'm telling you the truth."
Rhys searched Jack's face, and found nothing but cool, rational composure.  For Jack to be talking like a madman, he certainly wasn't acting like one.  "I have to know where this information comes from."
Jack gave a sly smirk.  "The same source that told me where to find you.  You went to great lengths to let everyone know you were going north from Jamaica to Nassau.  But here you are, due east, hidden in the French port of Petit Goave."
"That doesn't mean a thing.  So someone recognised my ship sailing into port.  Tongues wag."
"You've been in port barely a day, Cambridge.  Word travels fast in the Caribbean, but not that fast."  Jack leaned forward.  "I sailed in from the east.  Directly here.  Because I knew this is where you'd be.  Just as I knew where those Spanish military payroll sloops would be, just as I knew where the new French governor of Montserrat's ship would be, etcetera, etcetera."
"And where does this intelligence come from?  Not even a network of spies could be so accurate."
Jack's gaze shifted to somewhere over Rhys' shoulder.  "I have an associate.  You might say she has special talents.  Special sight..."
"This is madness..."
"No, it's NOT!  Damn it, Rhys!  I'm offering you something rare here.  Something I wouldn't offer anyone else."
"Why me, then?  Why seek me out?"
Jack rolled his eyes.  "My God, you're thick for an educated man!  It's right in front of you.  Literally."
Rhys looked down at his desk.  "This?  It's a melon.  You hate these things as I recall."
"And if you hadn't yanked me off into a cartload of the damned things, I'd be a dead man."  He sighed heavily.  "I am trying to repay a debt.  You saved my arse when I was in trouble.  I want to do the same for you."

Rhys looked at Jack, and then back to the casaba.  He gave a slight scowl as he pondered Jack's offer, and idly spun the melon as he thought.
"You're asking me to take quite a leap of faith, Oxford.  Your success is practically legendary, to be sure.  You've all but eclipsed Will Harkness' reputation.  By the way, what ever happened to him?  He seemed to vanish about the same time you got your ship."
Jack gave a slight smile.  "He...  went on to bigger and better things."
"You didn't..."
"NO!  God, no!  I left Will on St. Eustatius.  He said something about seeing how the other half lives, whatever that means.  And that's the last I've seen of him."
"Maybe your paths will cross again one day."
"I'd like that.  As long as he's not bringing the hangman's noose with him, that is!"
The two men laughed together, but the thoughtful frown returned to Rhys' face.
"Who is this 'advisor' of yours?  And how reliable is she, really?" Rhys asked.
"You really can't take anything on faith, can you, Cambridge?"
"Not where you're concerned, Oxford."
They looked at each other for a long moment, before they laughed in unison, "Oxbridge!"
"Pour me some of that rum, and I'll tell you," said Jack.
"Now we're getting down to business," replied Rhys as he poured.  He handed the glass to Jack, then refilled his own.  "Tell me all about her."
Jack took a sip, and sighed.  "Her name is Bonita.  Ask her what her last name is six different times, and you'll get different answers.  The men have settled on 'le Mystère', since that about sums her up.  She is an Obeah priestess, among other things, and she is very, very good at what she does."
"That doesn't tell me much," replied Rhys sceptically.
"The proof is in the pudding, as they say.  Look at the success I've enjoyed.  You tell me how I can be in the right place at exactly the right time, every time.  Defies the odds, even reason itself, wouldn't you say?"
"You're incredibly lucky, I'll give you that."
"Luck, nothing," said Jack.  "All I did was take Bonita's word as gospel truth, and there were the ships.  Just as vulnerable, just as loaded with swag as she said they would be.  How in the world could any man be that bloody lucky?"
Rhys ran a finger around the rim of his glass.  "And what is to stop me from declining your offer and exposing your secret?"
"Pffft!  Easy!  You're honourable to a fault, Rhys Morgan.  You have no reason to expose me, nor anything to gain from it.  If anything, you're terribly intrigued.  Besides, I don't care if you did tell anyone.  They'd think you barking mad, and you know it.  Frankly, I have nothing to lose in this deal.  But you do, if you walk away."
"You seem to have all this figured out.  With the help of your Obeah friend, I suppose?"
"With the help of a solid Oxford education, which you were so tragically denied."  Jack shook his head.  "Rhys, I'm trying to help you.  I wouldn't have come here if I didn't know I could fix things.  All I'm asking for is the chance to prove I'm sincere."
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Captain Jack Wolfe

"Jack, everything you've said borders on preposterous!  I need to think about this long and hard before I can hope to give you an answer.  You're asking me to risk my very future on your word."
"Then I'll tell you what," Jack said solemnly.  "Sail with me on one cruise.  I'll tell you where to strike, and you take the lead.  The Lobo will hang back, as support only, flying the colours of the ship you're going to take.  You'll know ahead of time your prey's weaknesses and cargo.  Whatever you take is yours.  Outside of that, I don't know any other way to convince you."
Rhys cocked his head.  "And why would you do this?  Why are you trying so very hard to convince me to come along with you?"
Jack looked down and took a deep breath.  "Rhys, I hate debt.  I owe you my life.  That's a pretty big debt.  You're in trouble, and I can make it right.  I'm asking you to let me do this for you.  As repayment.  No strings, no games.  We work together until you decide to break company.  I ask nothing in return, not even a stake in your smuggling operation between here and Wales."
"How do you know about that?" demanded Rhys.
"I told you.  Bonita is very good."
"I should say so..."
"And it took about fifteen minutes to verify it the last time I was in Jamaica.  The Morgan legacy is a very poorly kept secret."
Rhys could feel his face colour.  "That many people know?"
"Well, no, not that many.  I'd say fully half of Port Royal is still ignorant to your dealings."
With a chuckle, Rhys picked up his quill again and tapped it on the table.  "I have to admit, Jack, your offer is very intriguing."
"Then, say yes."
Rhys stared at Jack for several moments as he weighed the pros and cons.  Finally, he answered.
"Excellent!" exclaimed Jack as he jumped to his feet.  He produced a set of papers bound with a blood red ribbon and slapped them on the desk.  "Here is where we sail next.  As agreed, you sail lead with the Lobo as second.  Take both ships on your own.  If anything goes amiss, sound the bell and I'll be there to help.  But I doubt that will be necessary."
Rhys looked at the packet.  "All right.  When do we sail?"
"Tomorrow, at first light."
"No, that's not possible.  I'm waiting on supplies that won't be available for another two days."
Jack gave him a sly smile and motioned to starboard.  "Look out your window."
Rhys went to the window on that side and looked out.  To his amazement, a set of supply boats heavy with goods was headed toward the Neptune Rising.  He turned back in amazement.
"How... how did you know I would agree?"
"I told you, mate.  Bonita is very, very good."
Rhys turned back to the window, still in shock.  "I should say she is.  But you never mentioned this!  How much will I owe you for this courtesy?  Jack?"
He turned back to find Jack gone, and the casaba melon spinning in the middle of his desk.
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Welsh Wench

Beaumaris, Wales--Early summer, 1651

Rhys Morgan's hired coach pulled up in front of a massive grey stone manor. Turrets spindled up to the sky. He looked out the coach window and saw the wrought iron gate with the stone wall around it. Almost like a fortress, he thought.
As the coachman opened the door, Rhys gathered his coat and put his cavalier hat on his head.
"You sure you don't mind waiting?"
The coachman shook his head.
"I have nothing to do  way out here...may as well wait for you, Guv'nor."
Rhys pressed a few coins in his hand.
"I don't know how long I shall be. Not long though, provided my business goes smoothly with Lord Castlemaine."
The coachman tipped his hat. "I'll meander towards the kitchen. Unwritten law that there may be a scone or two in my future. Ta, Guv'nor."
Rhys laughed inwardly. 'Guv'nor....for a pirate? Or is that a privateer now?'
He walked up to stone steps and lifted the huge lion's head that was the doorknocker. The door was heavy English oak. 'Probably from a tree since Domesday....'

"This way, please."
The house servant led Rhys down a long hall with marbled floors and into an opulent study with a massive desk of mahogany.
"He shouldn't be but a few moments. Would you care for a brandy?"
Brandy sounded good to Rhys, seeing he had his fill of rum enough to last a lifetime. But Uncle Henry always told him, 'A captain is no better than his men. And you can lose the postion by a whim of the crew.'
So Rhys drank rum with his men.

"A brandy would be fine, thank you."
The servant poured him a snifter in a Murano glass. He bowed as he closed the doors, saying, "Lord Castlemaine will be in shortly."

Rhys looked around the library. Impressive but Rhys was used to a study like this. His childhood home was a manor on an estate. He strolled over to the books and picked one out. Leatherbound...well worn. Lord Castlemaine was a reader. Or his ancestors had been.
Above the fireplace mantel hung the portrait of a woman. No doubt  his wife, Rhys surmised.

She wore a dress of dove grey, her shoulders white and her face reflected her patrician upbringing. Her ebony hair was piled on top of her head. A handsome woman, Rhys thought. But something was warmth in her ice blue eyes. Almost as if she was looking down in disdain at all who disturbed the sanctuary of her home.
He walked over to the window and looked out to the vast grounds of the estate. The grounds were landscaped--and almost too  perfectly.  At once he had a longing for the sea, wishing the Neptune Rising wasn't in for repairs. It would be at least a month or two before she would be ready to sail again.

Rhys Morgan turned around to meet his 'landlord' of the smuggling operations.
There he stood.
Lord Madoc Castlemaine.

Lord Castlemaine stood about 6'2', broad of shoulder and slim. His raven black hair, without a trace of grey,  was in waves and his close-trimmed beard gave his face a sardonic look. Brown of eyes, his mouth was what could only be described as cruel. He carried himself with the air of what could only be described as breeding. Rhys judged him to be in his mid-to-late forties.

Rhys gave him a slight bow and removed his cavalier hat.
"Lord Castlemaine."
Madoc sat down and surveyed the young man in front of him. Rhys had the air of a man who spent a great deal of time in the sun and was all the better for it. He had a lightness to his manner that was incongruous with a man who made his living by the pre-emptively salvaging of goods destined for other ports. Of which they never arrived.
Rhys had dressed in one of his best frock coats, his breeches were impeccable and his boots had a high shine to them. The cavalier hat set his features off to the mirth with which Rhys approached life.

Lord Castlemaine leaned back and crossed his arms in front of him.
"So you are Henry Morgan's nephew. Have a seat."
Rhys sat down and nodded. "The operation is going smoothly and I have found new sources of revenue---"
Madoc waved him away with his hand. "I have no interest in what the operation is doing. The less I know, the better. Do you have the draft for the bank?"
Rhys reached into his pocket and said, "Yes, I have it right here---"
Madoc gave him a cold look. "Deposit it in the account. Cardiff. Henry gave you the instructions, did he not?"
"Yes, he did and--"
"Then do it."
Madoc stood up. Rhys did also.
"Make sure your crew clean up after themselves next time. I don't want to see any evidence the caves are being used."
"You won't, Lord Madoc. I'll see to it that the men are discreet."

He walked Rhys to the door. Rhys looked up at the portrait and said politely, "Your wife is a fine-looking woman, Lord Castlemaine."
"Beg your pardon?"
"She's deceased these three years."
The way Madoc said it, Rhys couldn't help but wonder what she was like. She had a haughty face and a face devoid of warmth.
A good match for him, Rhys thought.

Madoc opened the door. "I will expect another draft in six months."
"I shall have it."
With that, Madoc left the room. Rhys stood there, not quite knowing what to do.
'Nice doing business with you....bastard,' he said to himself.
He sighed, put his cavalier hat on his head and headed back towards the carriage.

The coachman sat on the grass enjoying an apple he had plucked from Lord Castlemaine's tree.
"Done already, Guv'nor?"
As he took his seat in the coach, Rhys turned to the coachman and asked, "Might I ask, is Lord Castlemaine married?"
"Not now. Heard he is in the market, as it were. Wife died a few years back. Tragic, it was."
"Really. What happened?"
The coachman picked up his whip and took his place on the buckboard.
"Fell down the stairs one night. Broke her neck."
"That is tragic!"
The coachman's face turned stony. "Aye. For all but Lord Castlemaine."
"What do you mean?"
He lightly switched the horses. "Upon the death of Lady Castlemaine, Lord Madoc Castlemaine inherited for himself four hundred acres of grassland between the forest on the edge of the property all the way to Lord Conaway's."
Rhys sat there and pondered, "You don't say."
"Aye, I just did, didn't I? But you didn't hear it from me."
Rhys murmured, 'Bastard...'
"Nothing. To the docks, please."
"Sure thing, Guv'nor."
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Captain Jack Wolfe

A Tavern on the Island of Tortuga-- Summer, 1651

First mate and quartermaster of El Lobo del Mar Josiah Briggs gave the tavern wench a wink as he took the two tankards from her tray.  He looked around the crowded room with a somewhat perturbed expression on his face as he worked his way back to his table, trying hard not to spill any ale while he jostled his way through the throng.  He gave an exasperated sigh when he reached the table, and sat the mugs down before taking his seat.
"I swear, Jack, I never seen times as bad as what's befallen us now," Josiah complained.  "Nary a bit of prey in sight, and what we do take ain't worth the powder to blow it up with.  How in the name of all what's holy did things dry up so fast?  We had the run of the sea, takin' whatever ship we wanted, when we wanted it.  Now, nothin'."
Jack took a deep drink from his mug.  "Just as Bonita foretold, my old friend."
"Ye know damn well I don't believe in her spells and whatnot.  All that witch woman does..."  Briggs dropped his voice and looked around furtively before continuing in hushed tones.  "All she manages to do is unnerve the hell out of me."
"Why, Josiah!  I never knew you found her so attractive," said Jack with a smirk.
Briggs' face began to flush.  "Ye know that ain't so!  Besides, I prefer redheads."
"Just pulling your leg, mate.  Everyone knows your taste for ginger," Jack laughed.  "I admit, Bonita's ways are a bit, well, unorthodox, but she hasn't been wrong yet."
"Ye call it unorthodox, I call it scary."
"Be that as it may, I trust her.  A month ago, she predicted that the French would arrive en masse with privateers and completely disrupt shipping in this area.  What happened?  The French crowded in here and New Providence to prosecute their grudge against Spain, clogged the ports, and we can't hope to get the prices for prizes or goods we're used to.  I swear, if one more French ship detains us to 'check our commission', I'll hand them over to the Spanish myself."
"Why didn't ye say ye knew this was comin'?  Though I should have known, the cavalier way ye've been takin' all this adversity."
Jack shrugged.  "You said you didn't believe in Bonita's abilities.  Didn't want to bother you with a lot of trifling nonsense that just happened to be spot on yet again."
Briggs rolled his eyes.  "And ye intend to rub my face in it, don't ye?"
"Every chance I get," grinned Jack.

The truth was, Briggs did believe in Bonita's divination skills.  She had provided Jack with flawless information on what targets to hit and when they would be most vulnerable.  Her readings helped fuel Jack's meteoric rise in the ranks of pirates over the past two years.  But the quartermaster couldn't help but wonder what might happen should Jack anger her.  Rumours and speculation about the true extent of her powers circulated in whispers among the crew.  How much danger would they all be in?
"Well, like ye've always said, peace is bad for business.  Especially ours.  Hang Cromwell and his Roundheads for inflictin' these poppin' jays on us!  Them and their damned treaties," fumed Briggs.  "It's a good thing Rhys left for Wales when he did.  I like him.  He's a good lad, and a better businessman.  Why did he go back, anyways?"
"He has a smuggling run between here and Wales.  Beaumaris, I think.  You remember that port from our time on the Laura Anne, don't you?"
"Yeah, vaguely.  I remember it was chilly, but the company was warm."
"That's right, I recall that redhead.  Robbed you blind the next morning if memory serves..."
"Anyway, we were talkin' about Rhys," interrupted Briggs.
"Right," chuckled Jack.  "He said something about a transaction he had to take care of personally.  That's it."
"Did he say when he expected to be back?"
"No.  But I'm guessing before the end of Fall.  He'll up against the winter squalls if he waits any later."
"He's avoided the indignity of bein' a pirate with no prey, I'll give him that," grumbled Briggs.
It was Jack's turn to roll his eyes.  "I hope you don't intend to cry in your ale all night."

"Bein' a realist ain't what I call cryin'," Briggs retorted.  "So, what's left for us to do?  I can't see ye turnin' gentleman farmer after all these years on the account.  I hear tell the Portuguese are offerin' commissions for little of nothin'.  Are we to turn privateer, too?"
Jack gave Briggs a sour look and offered his mug.  "Here.  Wash your mouth out with this.  How long have we known each other, Josiah?"
Briggs thought for a moment.  "I reckon about twelve years, give or take.  Why?"
"Then I'm even more shocked that you were able to ask me that question with a straight face," chided Jack.  "Absolutely not.  Out of the question.  I will never turn privateer.  Everyone else can sell out, but not me."
"I don't figure you as bein' much for starvin' either, Jack.  You must have somethin' stirred up in that schemin' head of yours, or another prediction from yer pet witch.  Otherwise we wouldn't be having this talk."
"Should I tell Bonita you have a new nickname for her?"
Briggs began to go pale.  "All right, that was uncalled for.  I shouldn't have said it."
Jack motioned around them.  "It's a full room, my friend.  Lots of ears, and lots of lips to spread what they hear."  He held a finger straight up in the air.  "Bonita has a nasty temper.  Unfortunate things can happen."  Jack slowly curled his finger over until it was pointed at the table top, then waggled it.
Briggs' eyes grew wide in horror.  After a few seconds, Jack burst into laughter.
"Just having some fun with you, Josiah!  I know you don't like Bonita, and she feels the same about you.  If you haven't had a problem yet, I'd say you're safe."
The quartermaster nervously took a sip of ale.  "You were sayin', about our plans?"

"Sorry I rattled you so, Josiah," Jack chuckled.  "All right, to the future.  I hear tell that Barbados is relenting to pressure from England to become a colony.  Most likely it will be official early next year.  They've appointed an interim governor with strong ties, so he's almost guaranteed to stay on once Barbados is made England's latest jewel.  Said governor will be under enormous pressure to succeed.  What is the biggest problem facing any governor, provisional or not?"
"Ah!" smiled Briggs.  "Supplies!  If there were to be a flood of goods for his people to buy on the cheap, the happier they'll be, and the better he'll look in England's eyes."
"Precisely.  And we are the altruistic and enterprising lot that can give them those goods at the right price."  A sly grin spread across Jack's face.  "Of course, we'll need the cooperation of one provisional governor."
"Oh, of course.  Of course!" chimed Briggs, taking on the air of a stuffy merchant.
"We'll have to be sure to do this right.  I'm in no mood to prop up a second governor a year from now.  I want him squarely in my pocket and keep him there."
"I take it Bonita's 'seen' this plan as workin'?" asked Briggs.
"Put it this way, my friend.  She has seen us commanding the entire stretch between Barbados and Trinidad."
Briggs blinked.  "I'm startin' to take a shine to her visions."
"I don't think the good people of Barbados will mind that their goods were made in Spain or The Netherlands."
"People ain't real picky when the price is right, I've seen.  But that puts us right on the doorstep of the Spanish Main.  What are the odds yer old friend Mendoza is hangin' about round there?  Word was he's left Cuba for a better appointment, whatever that means."
Jack had a bit more ale.  "He's probably still the laughing stock of the Spanish Royal Court.  I'm not worried about him and his crusade."
"They did nearly strung him up over our raids. You know he'll never stop blamin' you for that bit of mischief".
"Let him blame.  He's of no consequence to us.  I'm sure Mercedes is keeping him tied in knots, if she has a fresh hunting ground."
Briggs raised his mug.  "We're sailin' to Barbados, then?"
Jack banged his mug against his friend's.
"To Barbados, and new fortunes!"
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Welsh Wench

Wales--Spring, 1652

Rhiannon sat there on the bluff with her writing journal. Gazing out to the horizon, she could see the ships with their tall sails as they appeared to kiss the heavens. She sighed deeply and looked over at Muir, her dearest companion. He was stretched out in the sunshine, his eyes half-closed.
"Someday, Muir. Someday we shall be out of here."
He raised his head and she pet his ears. "Well....we'll just have to be a little more patient, won't we?"
He licked her hand and she laughed. "I don't know how...but we will!"
She returned to the journal, licked the tip of the wax pencil, and scratched a few words down on paper.

A sudden shadow fell across her paper and she quickly covered the words with her hands and turned sharply. The sun was shining in her eyes and she shielded her eyes, jumping up quickly. Muir instantly sprang into action, standing by his mistress's side, growling.
A voice said, "A thousand pardons, lass. I didn't mean to startle you."
He stepped away from the bright sunshine into the shade.
Her finger touched her lips as she thought deeply. Muir sat quietly but his tail thumped in a wary recognition.
The face had grown more mature. He had an air of confidence but there was something...something there that reminded her of another time.

She said excitedly, "I can't believe it. I know you!  We met before. You--you're Rhys Morgan!"
He looked at her quizzically. "We've met?"
She smiled broadly.  "I see you got a new frock coat."
She glanced down and said, "Same boots but they are alot scuffier. I wonder if I would still look real piratey."
She reached over and took his cavalier hat off his head and perched it on her own.

Comprehension began to dawn on him. He grinned, "Now I remember! You were the little girl who stole my uncle's skiff when you took an unexpected dip into the sea! You and your dog! I should have at least recognized him!"
Rhiannon feigned a hurtful expression, "Well, that isn't very flattering! You would remember the dog but not the girl?"
He laughed, "Man's best friend, you know."
Muir came over to Rhys and gently put his muzzle into the man's hand. He pet him and said to the lass, "It's been a while since I rescued you, Miss.....? I'm sorry. I forgot your name."
"Miss Conaway."
"Ah, yes! Miss Conaway, nun in training!"
She closed her book with a definitive clap and said frostily, "I thought I made it clear that day that I was NOT a nun. I would never be a nun."
He bowed deeply. "I should feel for a young woman like you to take the veil would be a disservice to mankind. No, Miss Conaway, beautiful hair like yours should not be hidden under a wimple."
She looked out to the sea and murmured, "The first chance I get, Muir and I are out of here."

He motioned to the grass and asked, "May I?"
She nodded and he sat on the grass and patted the spot next to him. She tucked her skirts under her legs.
"I thought pirates never left the docks but here you are on the bluff. May I inquire what brings you up here?"
He laughed and said, "We DO like to lose our sea legs, you know. Land under our feet is a refreshing change."
"And what have you there?"
He withdrew a few sheets of paper and a stick of drawing charcoal. "I like to sketch. Does that surprise you?"
She said, "As a matter of fact, it does. From all the stories I heard as a child, all pirates did was plunder and drink rum. You are disillusioning me, sir!"
Rhys looked up at the sun and then back to her face. "This is fantastic light. It would be a shame to waste the opportunity."
"I don't understand..."
"Wait! Don't move! I need a model!"

She sat there for a half hour and when he was done, he handed her the sketch. It was a portrait of her looking towards the sea.
"This is wonderful! No one has ever done a portrait of me before!" she exclaimed.
Rhys put the charcoal in his pocket. She tried to hand it back to him but he shook his head. "No, that is for you."
She smiled radiantly at him and held it close to her heart. "No one has ever given me something so personal before. I shall cherish this forever!"

He laughed and then stood up. "I need to get back to my ship."
Rhys held out his hand and helped her up. She dusted off the back of her skirt and said, "I'd say Mother Superior has figured out where I am. We have finally come to a meeting of the minds. She lets me go and my father continues as the abbey's benefactor and--what did you say? YOUR ship?"
He grinned proudly and said, "Aye. My ship. My uncle Henry went on to bigger and better things."
"He didn't---"
"Oh, hell no! He's still alive. What I meant was that met up with a few friends and over a bottle of rum, they decided to form an organization of pi--privateers. We had taken a French frigate and Henry decided it was more fitting to his station to have a larger ship. Along with a new hat and lots of feathers. Dandy that he is!"

Her eyes glowed with a newfound fascination for the young man. "So--you are officially a pirate captain!"
He smiled and said, "That's a given fact.  Say, would you like the grand tour, Miss Conaway?"
"Oooh, I would love it! But Muir would have to go with us. I never leave him behind."
"By all means, he is invited! After all, if it wasn't for him, you wouldn't have taken a swim in the briny deep and I may not have had the privilege of rescuing you."
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Rhys and Rhiannon walked down to where the skiff was tied up.
"Is that the same one?"
Rhys chuckled, "It so happens that one met with an unfortunate encounter with a shark. Bit it clean in two. This one is a bit more sturdy. May I?"
He held his hand out and she took it as he helped her into the skiff. Muir jumped in of his own accord.
Rhiannon sternly admonished, "Muir, you will SIT and not move."
He looked at her with baleful eyes and Rhys burst out laughing.
"I guess he won't be moving."
He picked up the oars and began rowing towards the Neptune Rising.

As they neared the ship, Rhys called out, "Dolan! Throw the ladder over!"
A rope ladder appeared and Rhys helped Rhiannon up and over the gunwale, then reached down for Muir.
Dolan did a double take. Rhys Morgan? Bringing a woman to the ship? He looked closer and relaxed. She was naught but a young girl. And with a dog even.
"Dolan? This is Miss Conaway and the esteemed pooch Muir."
Dolan touched his fingers to the brim of his tricorn and grinned. "Pleased t' meet ya, lass!"
She gave him a warm smile. "It is wonderful to get a tour of a real pirate ship, Mr. Dolan."
Rhys took her by the arm and said, "I'll take over now, Dolan."
The quartermaster grinned and said, "Aye, Captain."

Watching Rhys and Rhiannon head towards the different parts of the ship, Dolan saw the pride that Rhys had pointing out the various features of the brigantine.
"Wot ye make o' it, Dolan?" Carson the master gunner asked.
Dolan looked at the pair thoughtfully and then laughed. "Nothing, Carson. Ye know the cap'n. He always throws the little ones back. This be no exception."
Carson frowned, "Aye. If ye say so. Yet  he ne'er brought one in fer th' grand tour before."
Dolan took a pipe out and lit it.  "She just be a slip of a girl. The dog be the chaperone!"
They both laughed and resumed their work.
"And this is the captain's quarters."
He opened the door to the room. It was small but a bit messy. A comfortable looking bed was pushed up against the bulkhead, the covers rumpled. The desk was covered with maps and charts, a quill was stuck in its inkwell. Rhiannon looked at the charts. She picked up one.
"What is this? It doesn't look like one of the sea with islands."
He looked over her shoulder. Suddenly she was aware of how close he was and how nice he smelled. A combination of the sea and leather.
He pointed to what looked like a circle with dots and lines radiating from the the center, bisecting each other.
"This is a map of the stars. See this over here?" He pointed to three stars in a row
She proudly said, "That is Orion's Belt. The stars are Rigel, Bellatrix and Betelgeuse."
He looked at her with amazement.
"Very good! And do you know what this cluster of stars is?"
She shook her head.
"That is the Pleiades or Seven Sisters. I was studying to be an astronomy cartographer at Cambridge."
She looked at him with a look of admiration.
"Cambridge! Rhys Morgan, you just may be the smartest pirate I have ever met!"

Within a half hour, Rhys and Rhiannon emerged from his cabin. Dolan raised his eyebrow and behind Rhiannon's back, Rhys drew his finger across his throat and the quartermaster could hardly contain his mirth.
"Dolan, I'll be back as soon as I take Miss Conaway back to her---where do I take you back to? It's getting late."
She laughed, "The bluff will be fine. Mr Dolan, it was a pleasure to meet you."
He nodded. "As it were fer me too, young miss."
Rhys couldn't help but hear the emphasis Dolan put on 'young miss'.
He helped her over the gunwale to the ladder along with her dog.
Before he threw his leg over the rail, he whispered, "Don't be thinking I am getting ideas, Dolan. She's pretty but young."
Dolan grinned and gave his captain a two finger salute.
'Ne'er brought one on board, Captain. Ne'er in all the times I have known ye.' he said to himself.


As Rhys helped her from the skiff, she gave him a smile.
"I had a wonderful afternoon, Captain Morgan. Thank you for the portrait!"
"Please. Call me Rhys.  Will you be back here soon?"
She smiled and said, "I am usually here every Saturday. Perhaps I shall see you again?"
Rhys took her hand and kissed it. He replied, "I would dare say you can count on it, Miss Conaway."
Rhiannon's face blushed as she curtseyed. "It was a pleasure. The ship was beautiful--all that I hoped and knew it could be. And now I must get back before Mother Superior sends her snoopiest novitiate out here to look for me."
He removed his cavalier hat and swept into a bow.
"Till we meet again, Miss Conaway."
As she walked off, she looked over her shoulder and with a wink, she said, "Please. Call me Rhiannon."
And with that she disappeared down the stone path.

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Captain Jack Wolfe

Barbados--Autumn, 1651

Jack impatiently paced the long grand foyer of the governor's mansion. The stuffy butler had made it clear that the governor was 'unaccustomed to receiving visitors without a proper appointment.' But an exception to that rule was easily purchased with a few Spanish escudos. What they didn't buy, apparently, was expedience. The otherwise infuriating delay gave Jack a chance to learn a little more about the England's newest representative in the Caribbean beyond what he'd found out after a few rounds at the tavern the previous night.

Symbols of the Commonwealth were strategically placed throughout the space, ensuring  visitors were constantly reminded of the relatively new order of things.  Governor Christopher Culley was determined to transform this far flung outpost into a right proper colony of England, starting with his own residence.  If it weren't for the the steamy morning and scent of tropical flowers, one would think they were in London.  Jack was becoming thoroughly tired of of having to look at the gaudy, inescapable seals of state.  He had inherited a strong dislike of the Roundheads from his father, a talented shipwright and staunch Royalist. Normally, he couldn't be bothered with politics. Politicians were to be bought or gotten around, simple as that. Bored with pacing, Jack stopped in front of the seals and began picking at its gilding. Just as he thought. Nothing but worthless wood underneath.  With any luck, Governor Culley would be equally lacking in substance.

The sound of someone loudly clearing their throat caught his attention. He turned to find the stuffy butler standing just outside the doorway of the governor's office.
"Governor Culley will see you now," the butler announced.
Jack briskly traversed the length of the hall and brushed past the manservant.  "About bloody time," he grumbled.

Culley's chambers were opulent for those of an interim governor.  This man clearly intended to stay in office, and thought himself sufficiently well connected to do so.  Two large portraits, one of Culley and another of Oliver Cromwell, consumed one of the walls. Symbols of state and station were so garishly displayed that one might guess Culley was either wildly egotistical or putting on airs. Jack was betting on the latter.
"Governor Culley! Thank you for seeing me on such short notice.  I'm Captain Jack Wolfe..."
His voice trailed off when he realised the door hadn't been closed behind him. There stood the butler in the doorway, staring off into space.
"Pssst! Oi! You there!" Jack said in a hushed voice.
"I beg your pardon, sir. Is there something you require?" asked the butler.
"Yes," replied Jack. "Privacy. Shoo! Go... buttle something."
The butler gave him a sour look and closed the door. Jack turned his attention back to the governor.
"Herndon has been with my family for over twenty-five years, Captain Wolfe. Do show him some respect," said Culley.
"Twenty-five years, you say? And he still manages to get out of bed each morning and do it all again. Admirable. As I was saying, I'm captain of the ship El Lobo del Mar."
"Welcome to Barbados, Captain. And what may this future colony of England do for you?"
Jack smiled. "We'll get to that in a bit. What I'd like to talk about is what I can do for your colony."
"Really?" Culley asked with surprise. "Are you offering the services of your ship and crew for the colony's protection?"
"Oh, slow down there, mate," Jack laughed. "Nothing quite so honourable. You have a veritable flood of colonists coming in every month. That must put quite a strain on your warehouses, eh? And those new folk, they must be upset over the prices."
"It's true, the supply ships are rarely in step with the colony vessels.  That is an economic reality every colony faces.  Exactly what is it you're getting at, Captain Wolfe?"
"Right to the point.  I like that," said Jack.  "You have supply chain problems, and I have inventory that can be, one might say, difficult to move."
"This port is not open pirates, Captain. We're done here," Culley declared.
"Such a harsh word, 'pirate'.  And we've only just met."
"And what would you call yourself?"
"'Visionary entrepreneur' has a nice sound to it."
"Even so, I cannot condone illegal activities in my jurisdiction."
"They're only illegal if you see them as such, Governor."
"The answer is still no, sir.  Please leave."
Jack cocked an eyebrow. "Suit yourself, Governor. I'm sure your principles will keep you warm when they call you back to England because of all the colonist's complaints. Ta."
He walked to the door and began to turn the handle.
"Just a moment, Captain," Culley said quickly.  Jack smiled to himself and turned back to face the governor. "Perhaps I was... rash, not to listen to your proposal."
"A wise man knows when to consider previously unexplored options.  Here's what I envision.  I bring in goods to your markets for a fair price, and in payment for the courtesy, you'll receive ten percent of the proceeds, and the pick of the luxury items as they're available."

Culley mulled Jack's words over for a bit.
"You're asking me to take a bribe to allow you to sell stolen goods in my colony."
"I'm offering to shore up your supply houses to supplement to your normal shipments. You'll receive a percentage as your fee for legally condemning our salvaged goods for sale.  It's all perfectly legal, in that light."
Governor Culley leaned back in his chair and folded his hands across his chest.
"You make a most compelling business offer, Captain Wolfe."
"I was going for irresistible, but compelling works."
"I like to know just who is using my port and why, so I had my people do some listening in the taverns.  Your name kept popping up.  I made a few inquiries.  You have quite the reputation throughout the entire Caribbean."
"And a dubious one, no doubt," Jack offered with a disarming smile.
Culley chuckled, but held his air of authority. "You have a gift for understatement, Captain. If I were mad enough to consider this partnership, what assurances do I have that you'll honour any agreement we might make?"
"As dubious as my reputation may be, Governor, I understand the need for discretion. We have no written contract, so there is little that might be traced back to either of us. This is a gamble for me as well, as your reputation has no doubt been sanitized by your Roundhead friends.  That's what my sources have found, at any rate."
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Captain Jack Wolfe

Culley shifted uneasily in his seat.  Indeed, he had been a miserable failure as a politician, but had gained critical alliances when he threw in with Cromwell's political machine.
"Go on," said Culley.
"I've arranged for a good faith gesture to arrive at your personal residence late this night.  I promise that it will be done swiftly and unnoticed.  If anything goes awry, you can deny any knowledge and we part company.  Otherwise, I'll do what I do best, and you can polish your medals and sharpen your smile whilst you collect your percentage.  Everyone benefits."
"Don't you think that a bit presumptuous?  What if I say no?"
"Forgive me for getting ahead of myself, Governor.  I am, above all, an optimist.  I would be terribly disappointed if you were to decline, of course.  But I am a good sport.  If that is your choice, I'll leave your residence and go about my business, and never speak a word of our conversation.  Though the merchants may sleep a little less easily over their shipments..."
Jack extended his hand. "So I ask you, Governor Culley; deal, or no deal?"
The governor weighed the options in his mind, including the thinly veiled threat against commerce in his waters.  He stood and shook the pirate's hand.
"We have a contract, Captain Wolfe.  Your goods are welcome here at equitable prices, and your prompt payment of all 'fees' will ensure a long and happy business relationship, as well as your continued enjoyment of the protection of my garrison and patrols."
Culley wasn't above making veiled threats, either.
"A pleasure doing business with you, Governor," Jack beamed.

He strolled out of the Governor's chamber and was met by Briggs at the foyer.
"Well, how'd it go?  Are we in?" Briggs asked enthusiastically and a little too loud.
Jack grabbed him by the shirt collar and, without breaking smile nor stride, hustled the quartermaster past the stony-faced butler and out of the governor's residence.
"Your subtlety could use a bit of work, Josiah."
"Damn subtlety.  What'd the stuffed shirt say?"
Jack patted the front of his frock coat.  "Guess what I have in my pocket, old friend?"
"It ain't jinglin', so my guess would be a governor?"
The two men laughed heartily.  "Nice and snug in there, he is," chuckled Jack.  "Just as Bonita predicted.  But I need him to really enjoy being there.
"What have ye got in mind?  A few luxuries?"
"No, just one."  Jack began walking down the street.  "We need to stop and visit Madame Renee."
Briggs' eyes lit up.  "I could use a bit of celebratin', after all this good news..."
"Not for you!" Jack laughed.  "We need to arrange for the good governor's gift."
"Do ye think she'll go along with it?"
"Of course she will.  I'm a stakeholder in her business.  In the minority, but I can bargain the difference.  One of her girls in the governor's bed is the governor in her pocket, as well.  Besides, if it wasn't for me, she'd still be wiping tables and scrubbing floors at that tavern in Falmouth."
"Aye, she's come a long way since those days at the Dog and Doublet."
"Better name, too.  No one would give a second thought to a madame named Pip Woolston from Cornwall."
"She's an exotic one, for such a plain name.  And her new one, Madame Renee de Bertrand, it suits her.  She even looks French..." said Briggs dreamily.
"Steady, Josiah.  Keep your blood in one place, eh?  Tomorrow, I need to go ahead with the purchase of those three warehouses."
Briggs snapped out of his reverie.  "The ones on St. Michael Row?  Consider it done, Jack."
"Good.  You know what?  I'm beginning to like Barbados."
"Just as long as ye don't become married to her."
"You know, Bonita said something very similar..."
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Welsh Wench

Wales---Late summer, 1652

The summer sun shone through the trees on the two girls sitting on the boulders by the stream. Their feet dangled in the cool water as they idly chatted.
"He sounds like a wonderful man but honestly, you are courting disaster, you know. If the Mother Superior finds out about it, she will send you packing so fast your head will swim!"
"Don't worry. It is all very innocent. We just meet on the bluffs. We sit and talk for hours. Athena, the extent of that man's knowledge knows no bounds! I've never met anyone as fascinating as him."
Athena looked askance at her.
"A month you have been meeting him. So, tell me the truth--how does he kiss?"
Rhiannon blushed and shrugged. "I couldn't say. He's been a perfect gentleman."
Athena looked at her friend with doubt on her face.
"Either you are lying--to me or to yourself--or he's got a passel of problems. Rhiannon, he's a pirate! They plunder and pillage and do a whole lot more than that! IF you know what I mean."
Rhiannon lifted her feet out of the cool water and dried them off with her skirt.
"He will be leaving in another month. And I shall miss him enormously. Unless I decide to stow away on his ship."
Athena looked incredulously at her friend. "Stow away? Now I know you have gone around the bend! You wouldn't last a week on a pirate ship. They would throw you overboard so fast your head would spin. Females are considered bad luck. And no pirate would take the chance of incurring the sea's wrath. Besides, your dog would be a dead giveaway!"

Athena was one of a rare breed of gypsy. Her family had stayed in one place in Wales. Her mother was the midwife and local herbalist that all came to for cures and remedies. Her father was renown throughout the countryside for his vast knowledge of horses. Many a Welsh farmer sought Gideon out if his horse was sick. It was said that if Gideon couldn't cure it, it couldn't be cured.
Meeting one day long ago when they both had ventured into the woods to pick blackberries, they discovered they were the same age. Even though cultures apart, the two struck up a fast friendship as girls the tender age of seven were apt to do. They met frequently to pick their berries and wildflowers. She found Athena to be fascinating with her knowledge of herbs and potions. She jingled when she walked. Her many gold and silver bracelets and colorful headscarves were the envy of her. Rhiannon would look down at her plain grey dress the sisters made her wear and sigh. Oh, to dress like Athena in many colours and silks! What a contrast the two girls were as they grew towards womanhood! Athena with her beautiful dark brown eyes and curling dark hair, Rhiannon with her long light blonde hair and blue-green eyes. Fpr ten years they had been best friends, realizing even though they were from different worlds, they really were not so different.

" are meeting him again today?"
"Yes. He said he had a surprised for me so I have to look my best."
'A surprise, huh?" Athena was dubious."What kind of surprise?"
"Athena, if I knew it wouldn't be a...ah! Right where I left it!"

She pulled a cloth bag from behind the log and shook some fabric out. Rhiannon held up a dress of butter yellow for Athena to admire.
"Oooh, I love it! And how did you procure THIS dress, may I ask?"
Rhiannon unbuttoned the dress from the abbey and stepped out of it.
"My sister Megan was here to see me last week and she slipped a package to me while the Mother Superior was tending to some abbey matters. Megan just got married last year, you know. Daffyd Llewellyn of Bancroft Hall. I've never seen Megan so radiant. They just had a baby in May. Anyways, Megan told me she was tired of seeing me in drab grey and I deserved a new dress it is!"
She pulled it over her head and shimmied into it. When it was situated, Rhiannon drew the lacings tight, stuffing and fluffing herself.
Athena's dark eyebrows furrowed over her beautiful dark eyes. "I still say you are courting disaster! I really would hate to lose you, Rhiannon. You have been my best friend."
Rhiannon said, "Well, Mother Superior WON'T find out, will she? me with tighten the laces just once more. I need to look positively smashing for Rhys!"

Rhiannon pinched her cheeks and bit her lips to redden them. Athena shook her head and said, "You Welsh girls! Why not use berries? Here..."
She picked up a raspberry and crushed it. "A little here...some here...NOW! Go meet the young pirate that has captured your heart and tell me all about the surprise next week!"
She hugged her friend and said, "That I shall! Anon, Athena!"
She turned and waved goodbye. Athena watched her go and murmured in Romani, "God help you, my friend."
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Rhiannon sat on the grass of the bluffs, waiting for him to show. She inhaled deeply the heady smells of a late summer afternoon. All of a sudden, a pair of hands covered her eyes. She gave a sharp intake of breath when a low, gentle voice whispered, "Guess who!"
He took his hands away and she turned to peer into a face she was beginning to realize that she loved.

He laughed and said, "Rhiannon, we have been meeting here for two months now.  I would have been disappointed if you had said another. So...where is Muir?"
She laughed and said, "He was busy gnawing on a bone and so I decided to leave him back at the abbey. Sister Mary Margaret--or is it Margaret Mary? I forget--said he could keep her company."
He held something behind his back.
" that the surprise you have for me?"
He nodded and said, "Close your eyes and hold out your hands."
She did as he told but she couldn't help the smile on her face.

"Oh! OH! How wonderful!"
In her hands were a pair of beautiful black calfskin boots. He grinned, "I take it you like them?"
"I love them!"
She already had her shoes off and was pulling the boots on.
He sat next to her and said, "They are from the finest bootmaker in London."
Rhiannon stood up and put her foot out to admire them, her eyes shining.
He laughed and said, "What was it you asked me once? 'Do I look real---piratey?' Was that the word?"
She smiled, "You remembered?"
"Miss Conaway, even at the age of ten you were hard to forget!"
She hugged him and said, "I shall never take them off!"

He offered his arm to her which she willingly took. "Let's take a walk along the shore."
She smiled happily at him and said, "You know how I love the sea."
He looked down. "I highly recommend that you put those boots back in the bag. They aren't waterproofed yet."

As they walked, Rhiannon stopped occasionally to pick up a few shells, her bare feet feeling the warmth of the sand between her toes.  Rhys' eyes scanned the skies. Dark clouds were building.
"Looks like we may be in for a storm.  Are you ready to head back to the bluffs?"
She said reluctantly, "I suppose it would be the wise thing to do."

They headed back in silence. Rhys looked up at the sky again.  "Winds out of the west, we are getting that storm. That's what we get for taking the shoreline."
She said, "Think we can outrun it?"
"We can try."

As they walked briskly back, Rhys finally said, "I don't think this is going to work."
The raindrops started coming down. Lightly at first but heavier. The thunder began and flashes of lightning played out. He shouted over the rumbling, "The caves along the coast--let's take shelter."
He grabbed her hand and led the way as they ran across the sands and into a cave that was deep enough to provide shelter.
"I don't think I have ever been so wet in my life!" she said as she shook the water off her hands and wrung her hair out.
Rhys laughed, "Except for the time you took the dip in the brine when the skiff overturned."
"You will never let me live that down, will you?"
He looked at her and said, "No. Because if not for that, I never would have met that charming little lass."
She peered outside and said, "It only seems to be coming down heavier."
He sat down and took his boots off. "Oh bother! These may never be the same. She sat next to him. "Think the storm will let up?"
"Who can say?"
"Where are we?'
"Cliffs and caves along this coast that has been a drop-off point for smuggling operations."
"How do you know that?"
He just shrugged. "I just know."
"I think this land belongs to Lord Madoc Castlemaine."
"How do you know?"
"His land joins my father's along the shore up to where that rock juts out by the bluff."
"Wait a minute. You are Lord Conaway's daughter?"
She nodded, looking at him quizzically. "You didn't know?"
Rhys shook his head. "I never connected it with the manor over there. I presumed you were..."
His voice trailed off.  Rhiannon said softly, "A homeless waif the sisters took in?"
"I just didn't think...."
"It's alright, Rhys. I do get to go home around Michaelmas for a few days."
"Did you ever...explore...the lands and caves of your father's?"
She shook her head and he breathed a quick sigh of relief.

He took off his shirt and held it up. "I hope this dries out soon."
She looked down at her yellow dress. "And this was a brand new dress, too!"
Rhys pushed her hair back out of her eyes and said, "It was very fetching on you."
She felt a blush on her cheeks. It always felt like that when Rhys complimented her.
But this was somehow different. She could feel a heat rising in her face.
He asked softly, "How old are you really, Rhiannon?"
She replied, "I turned sixteen in April."
A voice in the back of his mind whispered, 'Are you insane, Rhys Morgan?'

He reached up and caressed her cheek. She closed her eyes at the softness of his touch. When she opened her eyes, she saw a look in Rhys' eyes that she had never seen before. Tenderness, yes.
But something else.
A spark that could lead to a flame. And that would lead to an inferno Rhiannon had no desire to put out.
She gently touched his hand and brought it down to her bodice lacings.
"Rhiannon.....are you sure?"
She put her arms around his neck and whispered, "Yes, Rhys. I am sure."

That afternoon, as the storm raged outside the cave, they ceased to be pirate and lass but became man and woman.

Rhys changed her life and there was no going back.
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Captain Jack Wolfe

Cruising Off Barbados – Early Autumn, 1651

A sultry tropical wind carried El Lobo along that morning as they hunted the heavily travelled waters between Barbados and Tobago.  Jack drank in the clear sea air as the sunlight warmed his face.  He yawned and stretched, then sleepily climbed the steps to the "holy ground" of the quarterdeck.  Briggs, ever the early riser, was conning the helm in his captain's stead whilst enjoying a cup of what he referred to as "fortified" coffee.
"Good morning, Josiah," said Jack.  "How's the coffee?"
"Terrible as usual, 'til ye sets it to rights," the quartermaster replied, tapping the binnacle with the toe of his shoe.  In addition to the ship's compass and various navigational instruments, it housed a rather large bottle of rum.  Oddly enough, neither man could recall ever seeing it full, though they were the only two to partake of it.
"One of these days we'll press a decent cook, I swear."  Jack looked out over the main deck of his ship, when his eyes were drawn to the figure of a woman who was undeniably the most enigmatic member of his crew.  No small feat in a world where keeping one's past a secret was the norm.  He leaned against the railing as the willowy, dusky-skinned woman sat down on the deck near the ship's waist, facing the bow.  The rest of the crew were used to her presence and early morning rituals, but they kept a respectable distance nonetheless.
"I'd be a fool to venture a guess as to what she's up to today," Briggs muttered.  "Here. Have some coffee whilst ye take in the show." He handed Jack a large cup which, to Jack's surprise, contained straight rum.
"Just the way I like my morning cup; untainted by coffee.  There's a good man," he said approvingly.  "Now, let's have a closer look at dear Bonita's latest undertaking."

Bonita le Mystère – the last name was give her by the crew, since she had never revealed her real last name, if she had one– was seated, her waist-length dreadlocks spilling onto the deck around her.  She had encircled herself with a ring of salt, as those who were wont to magical ceremonies would tend to protect themselves.  As Jack approached, he noticed a small canvas sack beside her, along with a formidable looking bronze knife.  He started to speak, but his words evaporated when the sack seemed to move on it's own.
"Careful where you step, Jack," she admonished in her thick Creole accent.  "Do not break Bonita's circle wit' you clumsy feet.  You wish for answers, den ask de questions, as always."
Jack took a gulp of rum and cleared his throat, then slowly stepped around in front of her.  Unlike Briggs, he wasn't distrustful or suspicious of Bonita and her Obeah religious practices.  Far from it.  In the two years they'd known one another, she had become his closest confidant and advisor.  So close, in fact, that rumours persisted that she was much more than Jack's 'good luck charm'.  But there were aspects of her abilities his rational mind couldn't explain, so he never failed to show what he hoped was appropriate respect.
"The circle of salt, I understand," Jack said.  "But I haven't quite sussed out the blade or that..."  Something in the canvas sack jumped and squeaked.  "... that wriggly bag of yours."
Bonita laughed quietly as she loosened the string holding the sack shut.  "A mystery revealed, just for you," she said, and thrust her hand into the mouth of the bag.  After a few moments, she produced a small lizard about eight inches long from its snout to the tip of its tail.  She quickly grabbed the bag's string with her teeth and pulled it snug.

"A gecko!" said Jack.  "I'd recognise those annoying little beasties anywhere.  Always getting into and behind things they oughtn't.  So, how does this aggrandized salamander fit in?"
She looked up at him with her dark eyes and smiled.  "A simple question deserve a simple answer," she said.  With that, she pinned the gecko against the deck and lopped it's head off with the knife.  The body wriggled for a few seconds, then fell still.  She set the carcass aside and tossed the head overboard.
Jack stared at Bonita for several seconds, completely astonished.  "I suppose I should have seen that coming," he said.
"De bodies Bonita use to make many t'ings.  Medicines, tonics..."
"Potions and talismans?" he mused.  "And their wee heads don't count for much?"
"Many t'ings," she repeated slowly.  "De heads, dey only make silly noises."

"Speaking of the heads that make silly noises," Jack said, "you're certain that Governor Culley will keep his end of the agreement?"
"De meeting went jus' as Bonita said that it would, yes?" she asked.
"Yes, nearly word for word," he said, dodging another airborne gecko head.  Soon he found himself held by her gaze.
"An' de gift?  Culley found her pleasant company, yes?"
"Enthusiastically so, according to Renee."
"Him know de answer, yet dis bring Jack Wolfe no peace to him troubled mind," she sighed.  Her blade flashed again in the sunlight.
"Occupational hazard, darling.  Worry is part of the job.  All I'm asking is for you to read the cards for me again.  Just to be sure, yeah?"
Bonita quickly finished off the last lizard and stuffed their carcasses into the sack.  She stood and swept away the salt circle with her bare feet, then turned back to face Jack.  She stepped close to him, and whispered huskily in his ear.  
"Your quarters, after sunset."
She looked at Jack with an odd tilt of her head, her piercing dark eyes searching his.  After a few moments, she turned and went below.

What he didn't tell her was that, despite her sight, despite her assurances, he couldn't shake the feeling that things wouldn't go as planned this time.
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Welsh Wench

Wales---Autumn, 1651

Rhiannon slipped outside in the early morning mist. She had taken a bottle from  Mother Superior's secret stash of her best claret and two goblets. She wrapped her cloak around her and hid the bottle underneath. As always, she hurried down the path. Rhys was waiting for her in the cave. Her eyes lit up when she saw him. He had a candle lit and stuck in an upturned shell. She laughed and produced the claret. Rhys poured them each a glass.
"I must say, you are full of surprises, Rhiannon."
She put her arms around him, being careful not to spill the wine. "No, my darling. Just a woman in love."
He gently disentangled her arms and held her hands at her wrists.  "Rhiannon, I have to go leave in two days time."
"The Neptune Rising is ready to sail. I have to make one more run but I shall be back for you."
Rhiannon lifted her head up. "Take me with you, Rhys! Please! I can't bear to be apart from you another day! I am so afraid Mother Superior is starting to suspect things are not as they should be.  I think I am being followed. Mother Superior isn't above having one of her lackeys--commonly known as a novitiate--do her spying for her."
He slipped her chemise down and kissed her shoulder. "Now, how would that be, a fine upstanding lass as yourself running off with a pirate? I swear, I will quit this life and come back respectable and shall ask for your hand proper. And then go back to Cambridge to finish my abandoned course of studies as an astronomy cartographer."
Rhiannon looked deeply into his eyes. "My father will never---NEVER!--give his consent, Rhys. You are a pirate! Your kind has left their booty in his caves and used them for smuggling. I have a bad feeling he knows about the booty stored there. He tries to ignore it because he fears repercussions. But he hates you all the same."
"I'll only be gone a couple months. I'll be back no later than December. I have to go to Barbados. There is an operation going on down there. I have a partner. And he is getting it started in Castara. I have to deliver the news to him that I am quitting the life and becoming a respectable member of society."
"Can't you just send him a letter?"
Rhys shook his head. "He's not the kind of man you send a letter to tell bad news to. I know him. He will try to talk me out of it but we need to square it all away. Papers need to be signed. I'm giving up my share of the company. It needs to be done according to the Code."
"What code?"
Rhys spread the blankets out on the floor of the cave. "It's more like Jack's own code. And I owe it to him. I can't really explain."
She pouted, "I don't think I like this Jack person. He's taking you away from me."
Rhys laughed as he took the ribbon out of her hair. "This it is fortunate that the two of you shall never meet!"


She laid her head on Rhys' chest, listening to his heart beat. He gently caressed her back.
"Rhys, I thought of a way for you to let me know you are back."
"How, love?"
"My friend Athena."
"The gysy girl I met last week?"
Rhiannon nodded. "She lives about a mile from St Brigid's. Her father stops regularly to check on the horses. At least once a week. Athena sometimes comes with him and supplies the sacramental wine from her mother's vineyard. How else do you think I knew about Mother Superior's proclivity for red wine? Anyways, Athena lives in that stone cottage over by the edge of the woods."
"The one with the pink roses growing up the side?"
"That's the one. I can't slip away during the week to the bluffs. And you certainly can't come into the convent. But Athena can. She can get word to me and I can be packed and ready to leave by nightfall."
"It sounds plausible. Will she do it?"
"Athena has been telling me for years I need to get away from this place. And she knows I love you. So, yes, she will do it. Get word to Athena and she can get word to me."

He stroked the hair back from her face and told her, "I have something for  you. Close your eyes, love."
She did and Rhys slipped a ring on her finger. He said, "It has been in my family for generations. Solid gold. Supposedly belonged to Owain Gruffydd. King of Wales in the time of Henry the Second. Of whom I am descended. Owain, not Henry."
Rhiannon's eyes shone as he slipped it on to her finger. She kissed him gently.
"I shall wear it forever."
Rhys laughed, "It is what I call a promise ring. Look inside. What does it say?"
She took it off her finger and said, "The writing is so tiny.. it says, 'wa--wait--wait for me."
Rhys said, "I had it inscribed. It is a symbol that I will come back to you. I promise, Rhiannon, I will come back for you."
She said softly, "You always kept your word to me, Rhys. And you will. You will come back."

It was growing late in the day. Rhys stood up and reached for his breeches. Rhiannon tried to be brave.
"This is it, isn't it, Rhys?"
He said, "Yes. I am leaving at daybreak. I have to check the supplies. I swear, I shall be back no later than the end of December."
Tears were beginning to spill down Rhiannon's cheeks. "Rhys, why can't you take me with you?"
"We've been over this, Rhiannon. I have a few things to straighten out. It's not like I can just bring you aboard the ship. The men are expecting to do a bit of privateering on our way back to the Caribbean."
Rhys reached into his sketch box and pulled out a paper. He handed it to Rhiannon.
"Here. I sketched Muir and you sitting on the cliffs."
She looked at it through her tears. "Oh, Rhys! Look at the details! You are a world class artist!"
Rhys said modestly, 'It wasn't hard. The subjects were fascinating!"

He put his shirt on and reached for his boots. Rhiannon turned her head so he wouldn't see the misery on her face.
He sat next to her and cupped her face in his hands. "Don't cry, my love. I shall be back. And we have a wonderful life ahead of us! Be brave. And keep this close to your heart. The knowledge that I love you."
She closed her eyes, the tears on her lashes and threatening to spill over. Her mouth trembled but she bravely nodded and barely whispered, "I know."

Rhys walked to the entrance of the cave and looked back just once at her with a face that reflected his love for her. He couldn't bear it any longer and squared his shoulders and walked out of the cave.
Rhiannon pressed her face into the blankets and cried as if her heart were breaking in two.

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Captain Jack Wolfe

St. Lawrence, Barbados – Early Winter, 1651

El Lobo del Mar was back in port after an incredibly successful ten day cruise.  Seven prizes of various types and wealth taken, including an overripe French merchantman that had wandered off course en route to Martinique after a sudden squall disabled her rudder.  Jack had ordered his crew to repair the French ship, and invited their captain, quartermaster, and other senior officers over to El Lobo for a celebration in their honour.  In gratitude for their salvation, the Frenchmen brought several gifts, including bottles of absinthe, which Jack was all too happy to share with them.  The party rolled well into the evening, the liquor flowing freely until the French contingent had passed out.  The following morning, they found themselves prisoners of the infamous pirate, Mad Jack Wolfe.  Once the French ship was repaired and "lightened of her burden, so as to speed her way homeward," as Jack recorded in his journal, the prisoners were released to their ship and sent on their way unharmed.

But the sweetest prize taken on this cruise, the one Jack was most proud of, carried no silks or luxuries.  Not even that much wine to speak of.  It carried gold.  Box after box of Spanish gold coins.  The military payroll for the garrisons under command of one Colonel Diego Mendoza y Castille.  Half a year's salaries for 2,500 underpaid and unhappy men, already well overdue, had fallen into the eager hands of pirates.  And it all happened as Bonita had foreseen.

"Are you certain?" Jack asked the night of her revelation about the approaching Spanish vessel.  "It's his?  Not that I care one way or the other, but it would be so much sweeter!"
Bonita looked at Jack as she scooped up the tools of her trade.  "De bones not lie, but him know dis to be true."
"I know," he said with a gratified smile.  "You're never wrong.  I simply cannot believe my luck at times."
"Some t'ings are luck.  Ot'ers are somet'ing different."
"Different, as in...?"
"Some t'ings are destiny."
Jack picked up the bottle of rum that sat at one end of the table and laughed.
"There are a lot of things I believe in, Bonita."  He took a long drink from the bottle and handed it to her.  "Destiny isn't one of them."
"De great Jack Wolfe, him make him own way in de world?  Everyt'ing bend to him will?"
"Not everything.  Just the important bits," he smiled.  "Though I couldn't make it happen without you.  To be able to peer into the inner machinations of the Universe and see how things move together...  I am envious of you at times."
"Dere are t'ings dat even Bonita cannot see, Jack.  An' some t'ings we should never see."
"Really?  There are actually things even you can't see?"  He folded his arms and leaned against the table with a look of insatiable curiosity.  "Like what?  Do tell!"
Bonita took another healthy swig of rum and passed the bottle back.
"Like Jack Wolfe himself."
"What?" he asked, dumbfounded.
She shook her head.  "Him stay always hidden from Bonita, just out of sight.  Him, and dey who are closest to him."  Bonita caressed his face gently.  "Which is why Bonita keep him close, all de time."
"I never knew.  How come you've never told me this before?"
"Him never ask," she said with a smile that he was sure concealed more, but gave no hint as to what or how to ask for it.  That was always Bonita's way.

Now, every last real taken from the Spanish vessel was being spent like water in every tavern, brothel, and back alley in St. Lawrence by Jack and his crew.  One tavern in particular, the Elephant, was the noisiest of them all.  This was the favourite haunt of the El Lobo crew, and they had been partying almost nonstop for the past three days since returning to port.  Suddenly, a pistol shot rang out, and every head in the tavern turned to see where it came from.  When they saw who fired the shot, a raucous cheer went up almost immediately.  There, standing on a table in the middle of the common room was Jack, the still smoking pistol held above his head.  He was grinning, his eyes wild and full of drunkenly gleeful mischief.
"How are we doin' tonight, gentlemen?" he asked loudly.
Another loud cheer went up.
"Still got plenty of money?"
This time the cheer was nowhere as loud, and punctuated with laughter.
"What are ya, pirates, or bankers?" he chided.  "Spend it up, boys!  There's more to be had out there, and we're gonna take it all!"
The men cheered louder than ever, and the women showed renewed interest in them without hesitation.
"Two days!  Hold on, hold on!" Jack shouted over the din.  "Two days, we set sail again.  So don't go getting' yourselves killed, or worse, married!!"
One cheeky tar in front of Jack's table comically took off his cap and went down on one knee before the doxy he'd been chatting up.  Jack gave the display a mock look of disapproval, and poured his ale over the man's head.  The whole tavern erupted in laughter.
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Captain Jack Wolfe

"Saved him in the nick of time, I did!" proclaimed Jack, and he hopped down from his makeshift stage.  He grabbed another ale from the tray of a passing barmaid and gave her a wink as he laid down too many coins in payment.  She gave him a smile that fell somewhere between gratitude and amorous interest before going on her way.
Jack sat back down and surveyed the tavern, smiling at his men as they continued their revels.  He was on his own that night, which was unusual.  Normally Briggs would be at his side, but the quartermaster had drunk far too much the night before and was in no mood or condition to be drinking again so soon.  Jack took a long drink from his mug and stretched lazily.
"God, it's good to be me!" he said aloud to no one in particular.  He was rewarded with the sensation of a woman's slender hands on his shoulders.
"I can think of so many ways it could be even better to be you," she said in his ear huskily, with a heavy Spanish accent and a voice like velvet that made all the nerves down his spine tingle with electricity.
Jack's eyes grew wide when the mystery woman slid into the seat beside him.  He stared for a moment, unable to believe his eyes.
"Mercedes?  Is that you?"
The raven-haired beauty gave an amused smile and shook her head.  "No, señor.  My name is Rebeca.  But I could be Mercedes, if that's what you want.  And who are you, besides a man who is very happy with life?"
"Jack.  Captain Jack Wolfe.  No, Rebeca suits you just fine.  It's that you're the spitting image of someone I knew a very long time ago."
Indeed, Rebeca looked remarkably like Mercedes Mendoza, the noble woman Jack had a one-night tryst with in Havana a few years before.  The same jet black hair, the same dusky complexion, the same hauntingly lovely eyes.  At least that's what the abundance of alcohol in Jack's belly had tried to convince him.  He shook his head and laughed.  Of course it wasn't Mercedes.  Lighting doesn't strike twice.
"This Mercedes, she was a lover of yours?" Rebeca asked as she toyed with her hair.
"For a night.  You might say she deepened my appreciation for Latin women."
She tilted her head and smiled knowingly.  "Such romances are best, I think.  Fewer complications, more variety."
"I like the way you think, Rebeca."
"I hope you are interested in more than my mind, Jack."
He found himself becoming lost in her smouldering eyes.  "Oh, most certainly.  I can see you're a woman with a lot to offer."
"And I'm guessing you are a man with a lot to give," she said, running her finger up and down his forearm.
"Shall we go upstairs to your and find out?"
Rebeca shook her head.  "I do not have a room here.  But if you are willing, you may follow me back to my room at the Red Bulldog.  It is only a couple streets over.  And the bed is very large."
Jack smiled in anticipation and kissed her hand.  "The night air will do me good.  Please, lead the way!"

Jack and Rebeca left the tavern together and began walking down the street.  She held onto Jack's arm, partly to steady the very drunk man.  The sounds of the tavern died as they turned the corner.  Once they reached the middle of the next block, Rebeca began looking around them, as if searching for someone.
"Who are you looking for?" Jack slurred.  "There's nobody out but us!  I think they're resting up for church tomorrow, that's what I think.  Is today Saturday, or Wednesday?"
"All this talk of church, and we have not even sinned yet!" she laughed.  "Here, we can save time if we take this alley."
"Oh, I like the sound of that!" said Jack.  "It's a good thing I'm with you.  Alleys can be dangerous places, especially for beautiful women like yourself."
"I am very good at taking care of myself."
"I'm sure you are, darling.  But I can't help but wonder how you'll take care of me?" he laughed.
"You're about to find out, my friend," she said, her voice unexpectedly grave.

The alleys that ran between the buildings of St. Lawrence were like a second set of streets, allowing deliveries to be made behind each house and business.  For convenience, there intersecting alleys that allowed carts to easily reach their destination without having to go to the end of a block or wait for another cart to move.  Rebeca stopped at one of these intersections, their surrounding illuminated only by pale moonlight.  Jack took a more couple drunken steps, then turned to look at her quizzically.
"Why'd you stop?" he asked.  "You're not lost, are you?"
"I am sorry, Jack," said Rebeca, her voice filled with regret.  "I actually liked you."  She backed away from him and into the shadows. "¡Éste es el hombre que Mendoza quiere!" she said loudly before turning to run back down the way they came.
Jack stood there for a moment, confused, trying to parse out what Rebeca had said.
"Wait!" he called to her.  "What do you mean, I'm the one Mendoza wants....?"  His voice trailed off as the realisation set in.  "Mendoza?  Oh, no... no, no, NO!  You set me up!!"
Jack began looking around wildly, and it seemed as if the very shadows themselves were stirring to life and moving toward him.  His heart pounded in his ears like the drums of war.  He tried desperately to figure out just how many men there were and where they were coming from, and he began moving backwards away from the intersection.  The heavy fog of alcohol made it hard for him to think.  There had to be a way out.  There was always a way out...

Two large hands grabbed him by the shoulders from behind and spun him headlong into the wall.  Jack's head rebounded off the bricks, and he saw stars for a moment.  He grabbed for his pistol and drew it.  If he could get off one shot, one lucky shot, maybe it could buy him enough time to get away, or at least stay alive a little while longer.  Gritting his teeth, he spun around and raised his pistol.  A heavy fist slammed into his jaw, and Jack Wolfe's world faded into sickening blackness.
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus