Pirate Festival > Port of Call

PRELUDE TO EL LOBO DEL MAR

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Captain Jack Wolfe:
Honour stood on the quarterdeck, continuing to stare at the English command ship as if she could will them to release her husband back to her.  It had been nearly two hours since Jack was taken aboard the other ship.  She could only imagine what Jack must be going through, and she tried hard not to.  Instead, she focused on a prayer.  A prayer that he would be back soon and they'd soon be on their way homeward.  Also, she thought of little Zara sleeping peacefully in her crib, oblivious to the drama playing out with her father...

A gentle hand on her shoulder startled Honour out of her thoughts.

“Oh!  For goodness sake, Duckie, you scared me half to death!”
“I spoke your name three times, my dear,” said the doctor.  “You were too lost in thought to notice.”
“I'm sorry.  I was... preoccupied.”
“Of course you were.  Anyone in their right mind would be.”  Duckie paused a moment as he looked off at the English ships.  “Josiah stopped by to tell me what happened with the Navy lieutenant.  Damned infuriation, their timing.”
“The fates themselves seem determined to keep Jack and me from any sort of peaceful, happy life,” she said softly.  “I'm beginning to wonder if it really is too much to ask for?”
Duckie sighed as he continued looking at the warships.  He couldn't help but hear the undercurrent of despair in her voice.
“I can't think of anyone more deserving of a quiet, peaceful life than you, Jack, and Zara,” he said, trying his best to reassure her.  “With as much as you've gone through, the struggles, the obstacles....  No, Honour.  Something good has to come out of this.  You deserve that 'happily ever after' you've been dreaming of.”
“Then why does it feel like everything is slipping away?” Honour asked, her voice cracking as she blinked back tears.
Duckie turned toward her.  “Is it now?  Is it really?”
Honour gave him a puzzled look.
“All we know is that an impolite, ambitious young man in a uniform came to fetch Jack to talk with his superior.  Yes?”
“Yes, but he threatened to arrest Jack...”
“Did he?”
“No.  Jack agreed to go peacefully.”
“The man Josiah described to me was self-important, imperious, and arrogant.  If he actually had the authority to arrest Jack, to humiliate him in front of his wife and crew, do you think he would have hesitated?”
Honour thought about Duckie's words, then shook her head.  “No, I think he would have jumped at the chance.”
“Well, then,” smiled Duckie.  “Things aren't so bleak after all, eh?”
“But what about the commander?” she asked.
Duckie took her hand and clasped it in his.  “Honour, Jack Wolfe is the most infuriatingly lucky man I've ever known.  Defying the odds is what he does best.  You've seen it yourself.  You've helped him beat the odds more than once.  And when he found you again, it was through...”
“A twist of fate,” Honour said, and she began to smile.  “More of his dumb luck.”
“I know why you worry so about losing him,” he said gently.  “But when you think about it, our Jack is not an easy man to get rid of.”
Honour's eyes went wide at his remark, and she couldn't help but burst out laughing.
“No, he really isn't!” she giggled, and for a few moments she was able to relax.  “You really believe everything will be all right?”
“Yes, but what I believe isn't important.  Do you believe everything will work out right?”
Honour looked out at the command ship once more.  “Yes,” she said with quiet confidence.  “I know it will.  Jack is coming back to us.  He just has to.  I won't accept anything less.”

Captain Jack Wolfe:
Thomas shook his head in disbelief.  “If it were anyone else telling me these fantastical things, I'd think them mad.”
“Which part?” asked Jack.  “The maze island, the books, the stone faces?  I know it's hard to believe, but every last bit of it is true.”
“That Honour took you back, and you're a father of a little girl.  The island adventure is peanuts in comparison.  Even the voodoo woman can't hold a candle, pardon the pun.”
“When did you get so cheeky?” said Jack.  He picked up the brandy bottle to pour them each another drink, but only a dribble came out.  “Bad news, Admiral!  We sank this one too!”
“Not to worry,” laughed Thomas.  He reached into a cabinet behind his desk and produced another bottle of rum.  “Plenty more where that came from.”
“I know what you mean, though, about Honour,” said Jack while he waited for his brother to finish pouring.  “Her coming back into my life was the best thing that ever happened.  Well, almost the best thing.  Zara's the best thing.”
“Mum would have loved her name.  But the offspring of you and the woman who could gentle you...”
“Thank you very much for not saying 'tamed'.“
“Don't mention it.  You'll be domesticated soon enough.”
“You had to remind me.”
“You're welcome.  Anyway, I'll bet a month's wages she'll be a handful.”
“Are you kidding?  She already is,” Jack laughed.  “Just ask the ship's cat.  And the quartermaster.”
“Off to an early start.  Not unlike her father.”
“I was never that bad.”
“Oh, weren't you?  I'm sure Prissy would beg to differ.”
“What did I know?” protested Jack.  “I was four.  I was trying to make her tail longer.”
“Terrier's aren't supposed to have long tails.  Poor thing ran around with hers curled up like a corkscrew the rest of her days!” laughed Thomas.
“Da was furious; I remember that.   I stuck to stretching the truth rather than dog's tails after that.  Safer for everyone.”
“You were excellent at it, too.”
“Still am.  It's served me well over the years.”

Thomas took another drink, then reached for the first parchment he'd read Jack.  He looked at it a moment and smiled, then pushed it across the desk.
“What's this?” asked Jack.
“That warrant I told you about.  I thought that while we're on the subject, you'd like to know just how long I've been holding onto this scrap of paper.”
Jack picked it up and read the date in the upper left margin.  He looked at his brother in surprise.
“A year and a half?”
Thomas nodded.
“Then you had this when we met last year in Madeira!”
“And I would have told you about it.  If you hadn't drunk me under the table, that is.  When I had my men look for you the next morning, you were already out to sea.”
“I hate long goodbyes.”
“Rubbish.  You suspected.”
Jack gave a noncommittal shrug.  “You were asking an awful lot of questions.”
“I had to see if the charges were true.  And you didn't disappoint.  Hell, you practically bragged!”
“Of course I bragged!  A lot of work went into all that.”  He swirled his glass, then set it down on the desk.  “Would you have arrested me?”
“Do you think I had a choice in the matter?”
“No.  That's why I drank you under the table.”

Thomas gave Jack an exasperated look, then began to laugh.  “Well, I'm glad you did.  The last thing I wanted was to haul off my own brother in irons.”
“Awkward for you, bloody miserable for me.  Not only am I grateful now for the pardon, but I'm grateful that you were such a lightweight back then.  I owe you.”
“Yes, you do. There's only one thing I ask as repayment.”
“What's that?”
“That you abide by the provisions of the pardon.  That the pirate Mad Jack Wolfe is laid to rest, never to be seen again.”
Jack smiled and raised his glass.  “Done!”
Thomas clinked his glass against Jack's, and the two men downed their drinks.
“I still owe you, too,” said Thomas.
“You do?  For what?”
“For drinking me under the table in Madeira.  It took me months to live that down with my men.”
Jack smiled and picked up the bottle.  “This is a celebration, I reckon.  Care for a rematch?” he asked as he held the mouth of the bottle over Thomas' glass.
“Pour,” said Thomas.  “And keep pouring.  I'm winning this time.”

Captain Jack Wolfe:
But the old one, she is still awake, when something else was said
You can say what you want, you silly old fool, there's a man in my daughter's bed
No rest, no peace could the old one get till she got up to see
But her foot gave a shot to the chamber pot, and into the creel fell she
Into the creel fell she...

The brothers burst into drunken laughter as they sang the last line.  Jack managed to get down another swallow of rum, and Thomas was ready to refill the glass the moment it hit the tabletop.
“Do you remember when Granddad Ian taught us that silly little song?” asked Jack.
“Of course I do!” said Thomas.  “It was the first time we'd ever tasted alcohol!  Remember when Mum came down to the mill house and found the three of us there, blind drunk and singing?”
Jack laughed and nodded.  “I'd never seen her so cross with anyone, much less her own father!  At least she was more angry with him than with us.  Though not by much.”
“Granddad Ian had a talent for getting in trouble.”
“That's what I admired most about him.”
Thomas began laughing again.  “Da was no help to her mood, was he?”
“He tried so hard to act all angry and disappointed with us!  We stood there giggling like fools.  But I thought Mum would take the rolling pin to his head after he started laughing too!”
“She never let him live that down, either,” chuckled Thomas.  He finished his glass and poured another.  “Come on, you!  Get to drinking!  I'll not have you do all the talking whilst I drink.  That's what got me in trouble last time.”
Jack picked up his glass.  “Ah, you've got me sussed!  Damn!  I'm no match for the admiral.”
“Bloody right, and don't you forget it!”

A crisp knock came at the door, and Thomas rolled his eyes.
“All right, what is it?” he shouted.
The door opened, and a man on officer's dress stepped smartly into the cabin.
“Here to report the change of watch, sah!”
“Yes, yes, very good, Master Griffin,” said Thomas dismissively.  “Oh, Master Griffin, this is my brother, Captain Jack Wolfe.  Jack, this is Griffin, my boatswain.”
“Cheers, mate,” slurred Jack.
Griffin gave a polite nod.  “How do, sah.  Can I get the admiral anything?”
“No, no, Griff.  We're good here.  You're dismissed.”
Griffin gave a quick salute, turned on his heel, and left the cabin.

“Nice of them to tell you when the watch changes,” said Jack.  Suddenly, his expression changed.  “Wait a minute!  He said the watch changed?”
“Yeah, what of it?”
“Bloody hell!” Jack cried.  “We've been at this at least four hours??  Honour must be beside herself with worry!  We've got to get back to El Lobo!”
“Wait, what do you mean, we?”
“I'm not doing all the explanation on this one, brother mine.  If I have to face the music, so do you.  Besides, it will get you aboard my ship, and we'll have dinner there.  One big happy family.  If Honour is still talking to me after this.”
Thomas shrugged.  “It's only fair, I suppose.  Now quit panicking.  We'll finish our drinks first.”
“Thomas, did you hold any hope to make a good impression when you met Honour?”
“Of course I do!  She's part of the family now, such as it is.”
“Well, you're starting from a deficit,” said Jack.
“Hold on now, you're as much to blame as I am!”
“She'll be angriest with me, but you're the older brother and should have known better.  Don't bother sorting her reasons, she comes from a family of sisters that watch out for one another.  We'd best put down the shovels and start climbing out of this hole.”
“Mum would have liked her.  She's got your number, this one,” laughed Thomas.
“Moreover, she's got my heart.  That's why damage control matters.  Let's go.”

Jack tried to stand, but dizziness overtook him and he plopped back into his chair.
“Oof, my head!  I guess I'm out of practice.”
“If you hadn't told me about Honour and Zara before we started drinking, I'd say you were trying to weasel out of the contest.  But I suppose you're right, we shouldn't keep her waiting.”  Thomas gave his brother a wary look.  “She'll be that upset with us?  Really?”
“Thomas, think about it.  She believes her husband has been taken into custody by the Royal... sorry, Commonwealth's navy, probably to get hauled off to prison in England, and nothing has happened in over four hours to show her any different.  While she's been worrying, we've been reminiscing and drinking far past our fill.  Do you think she'll be terribly happy seeing us in this shape?  A Spanish armada would be far more forgiving, and rightly so.”
Jack and Thomas traded worried looks for a few moments as Thomas thought about what his brother had said.  Simultaneously, the two men grabbed their glasses and downed the contents in only a couple gulps.
“There, just the courage I needed,” said Thomas.  He sat up straight, tugged on his waistcoat to smooth the wrinkles, and unceremoniously slid from his chair onto the deck.
“Merde,” sighed Jack as he looked under the desk at his soused brother, who lay there giggling.  “Round two goes to me.  Now let's get you up and sorted.  They won't let me off this ship without your say so, and I'm not facing Honour without you as an alibi.”
“You mean a scapegoat,” said Thomas, his statement punctuated with a hiccup.
“Fine, split hairs if you must.”
“Jack?”
“Yes?”
“I lost again, didn't I?”
“Yes.  But not by much.  Can you stand?”
“Maybe.  Are you going to help me if I try?”
“Of course!  Give me your hand.”

Jack took hold of Thomas' hand and helped the admiral to his feet.
“Now no fair dropping me,” slurred Thomas.
“I promise, I won't drop you.  Now, one foot in front of the other... that's it!  I'll grab your justacorps.  Well done!  Almost to the door...  let me open it so we can both get out.”
Jack took his hand off Thomas to open the cabin door.  The moment the door swung open, Thomas collapsed in a heap, face down on the deck.
“LIAR!” he yelled.
“I'm sorry, I didn't mean to let you fall!  Are you all right?” asked Jack.
“God, this deck needs a good scrubbing.”
Jack looked heavenward and shook his head.  “A navy officer who can’t hold his rum.  This is going to be harder than I thought.”

Welsh Wench:
Meanwhile, aboard El Lob del Mar...

Honour finished off the last bit of brandy in her glass, and wiped a tear from her eye as she set the glass down.
“Feeling a little better?” asked Duckie.
Honour sniffled.  “Yes, a bit.  I feel so foolish for crying like that up on deck.  I should be stronger.”
“Nonsense,” said Duckie.  “This is a stressful situation.  No one is expecting you to sit on your emotions.  Stoicism is overrated.”
“May I have some more brandy, please?”
Duckie poured another half glass for her, and she took a sip.
“It was so sweet of Eli, offering to watch after Zara for a bit,” she continued.  “I never knew he came from such a large family.”
“He's really is a good lad, even for a Catholic,” he said with a chuckle.  Honour had to  hold back laughing until she could swallow her brandy.  “And he's worked hard to redeem himself in Jack's eyes.”
“Very hard,” she agreed.  “I know Jack hasn't said anything, but he really does think the world of Eli.  So does Briggs.”
“In his own gruff way, of course.  But it does my heart good to see it.”  Duckie looked on as Honour finished her glass.
“Do go easy, my dear,” he admonished.
Honour picked up the decanter and refilled her glass.  “Oh, I'm fine.  Please don't worry.  It just tastes so good, and it's helping calm my nerves.  Remember, I've been able to drink Jack under the table more than once.”
“Yes, before you had Zara.  Things change...”
“I promise to be careful, Duckie.  You worry so!”

Duckie started to say something else, but reconsidered.  Honour was probably right, he thought.  Perhaps he was being overly sensitive because of Rose.  And Jack wasn't the only man she'd been able to out-drink in her day.  In retrospect, even Rose wouldn't stand a chance.  He smiled, and refilled his own glass.
“I'd be less than a gentleman if I let you drink alone,” he said.
“The company is welcome,” she said.  “Duckie, do you really think everything will be all right?  I mean, nearly six hours and no word...  No idea whether or not Jack is safe...”
“Now, now, Honour.  Don't get yourself worked up again.  Keep in mind, there is one thing above all else the Navy is ruthlessly efficient at.”
She hesitated for a moment, then with a hint of worry in her voice asked, “And that is?”
“Protocol.”
Honour giggled at the joke, appreciative of his attempt to help allay her fears.  Smiling, she had another sip.
“If it's not signed, notarised, delegated, and properly saluted,” he continued, “they won't act on it.  I think that's what most attracted Jack to piracy.  The almost Utopian lack of paperwork.”
“Dreams of wealth had little to do with it?” she joked.
“It certainly didn't hurt.  Nor did his success.  As happy as he was a a pirate, I can tell you he's much happier now.”  Duckie raised his glass.  “Testament to the positive things the love of a good woman can bring.”

Honour blushed a little.  “Duckie, you're such a kind and gentle man.  You always know just what to say and how to sayoit.  How is it you're not married?”
A melancholy smile came over his face, and her breath caught for a moment.
“I'm sorry!” she said quickly.  “That wasn't my place to ask.”
“No, that's quite all right,” he said softly.  “Heaven knows you've told me, shall we say, uncomfortable things about your past.  Quid pro quo is only appropriate.  But you'll forgive me if I have a bit more brandy first.”
Honour took his glass and refilled it, and topped hers off as well.  She still felt embarrassed about asking him such a personal question.  But she couldn't help being intrigued.
Duckie took a long sip, then gave a heavy sigh. “Emily.  Emily Parker.  She was the love of my life.  We met my last year at university, at a Christmas party.  I courted her three years before managing to work up enough nerve to ask her to marry me.”  He chuckled and shook his head.”
“And... what did she say?”
“I'll never forget.  She said, “Please pardon my French, Drake Gander, but it's about damned time!'  You can imagine my shock.  I'd never heard her swear before!”
Honour laughed appreciatively.  “But she said yes?”
“Oh yes!” laughed Duckie.  “I'm surprised she didn't drag me off to the magistrate's that night.”
“Well, it's been known to happen!” giggled Honour.
“I would have done it, too,” said Duckie wistfully.  “I was so in love with her.”  He paused to take a drink.
“You still are,” thought Honour.  The tone of his voice said it all.  Her heart went out to him.  Though lessened now, it was a pain she knew too well.
“Anyway, our parents made sure we had the requisite big church wedding.  Six months later, I was made the offer of starting a practice in the burgeoning colony of Barbados.  The opportunity was good and the money even better.  It was to be our big adventure, building our life together in the New World.  So we made the journey, I started my practice, and we got a little flat that would be our first home.  But it didn't turn out the way we'd hoped.”

Honour's brow furrowed with concern.  “What happened?  What went wrong?”
Duckie sighed again and took another drink of brandy.  “Emily became homesick.  Terribly so.  She was depressed and miserable, and I was under contract to practice in Barbados for at minimum of two years.  If I broke the contract, I would have been thrown in gaol for up to five years.  So my choice was lose Emily, or lose Emily and my freedom.  I stayed on in Barbados, and Emily went back home to England.  Two months later, I received a divorce decree.”
“I'm so sorry, Duckie.  That had to have been awful!”
“It was!”  He looked into his glass as he swirled the amber liquid around.  “So like any proper Englishman, I crawled into a bottle and vowed never to come out.  We're very good at slowly destroying ourselves.”
“You're here now, though.  And this is the first I've heard to speak of her.  What changed?”
Duckie laughed and pointed up.  “That husband of yours.  That's what happened.  Him, and another gentleman you knew.”
Honour's face began to go pale.  “No...”
“Yes, Honour.  None other than Rhys Morgan.”
As she sat there speechless, Duckie refilled his glass.
“Did Jack ever tell you about what happened between him and that devil, Colonel Mendoza?”
Honour shook her head.  “Not really, and I didn't press.  Briggs told me Jack had been held captive and tortured.  Rhys told me a little more, but he made it sound like he helped in a simple jailbreak.  But I knew there had to be more to it than that.”
“Then let me tell you a story, my dear, of some incredibly heroic men lead by the brave Welshman, Rhys Morgan.  Amazing people, you Welsh.  Never underestimate a Celt, I say!  Now here's what really happened...”

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