I think you may need a nice little teaser to grab you and pull you back in time to the Golden Age of Piracy!
How about a little light reading to get you started? Grappling hooks, pikes, swords and men who valued freedom and vengeance on the open ocean await! We give you Chapter One of Amber Wake – Gabriel Falling.
“Gabriel, there’s trouble brewing upstairs,” Miles Jacobs said, taking an empty chair at the corner table of the tavern. When I observed my Lieutenant’s set jaw and clenched teeth, I immediately appreciated the seriousness of his words. My eyes followed his to the steps at the opposite end of the tavern, passing over the crowded room of Royal Navy men and local seamen. There was only one nature of affairs to be found at the top of those stairs and it was never the prudent sort.
“Are any of our crew involved?”
“No, but Admiral Hawthorne is,” Miles answered.
The mention of the name of such a pious member of London society snapped my attention fully to the big Scotsman, Miles, and I leaned to his ear and asked, “Are you certain?”
“I’ll forgive my captain’s momentary lapse of sanity in questioning his First Lieutenant and lifelong friend,” Miles said with a raised brow. “But it would seem the Admiral’s lovely wife is engaged upstairs, and the Admiral has followed her here to capture her in the act of said engagement.” His expression of feigned insult slid quickly into a devilish smile that appeared to be bursting with anticipation.
The possibility of a deadly outcome in this situation began to hush the hall and anxious expectation rose thick in the atmosphere of the room. However absurd this situation was, it was beyond even Miles’ ability to indulge in the pleasure of being present for such a scene. The reality of an Admiral’s wife spending time in a room normally occupied by whores was as humorously awkward as any scenario either of us had witnessed of late.
“Perhaps we’d make better use of our time elsewhere,” Miles said as he stood. I rose to follow him, when the commotion on the stairs stopped us like an unseen wall. A young, dark haired man leapt down the stairs; his coat in one hand and his open shirt flapping in his wake as he fled the roars of the wrathful man close behind him. I easily identified the young man as Maddox Carbonale, a young lieutenant we’d only yesterday acquired from another ship. His assignment to my patrol galley came with a reputation that I’d been left to sort out—as well as his less than obedient temperament. I’d been repeatedly blessed of late with the Navy’s problem seamen and I hadn’t yet had the honor of a formal introduction with this obvious miscreant. According to my command, I was adept at handling hard heads. I knew better.
“Hold that bastard!” Admiral Hawthorne ordered. He made his way down the stairs one at a time, clutching at the railing for support. His face was puffed-up and as red as a drunken Irishman with an empty wages packet. He was sweating and panting as if he too were running for his life.
A group of Royal Navy men obeyed the admiral’s order without question and scrambled after the fleeing man. The object of their pursuit fought them, tossing each one off as they struggled repeatedly to seize him. However, it wasn’t long before several of them at last wrapped him up and wrestled the stealthy young man to the ground. Knowing my Lieutenant’s lust for a good scrap, my hand was pressed hard against Miles’ chest until at the conclusion of this spectacle, he turned to me and said, “I wasn’t going to hurt anyone much.”
“We need to determine the full nature of this incident before we unwisely jump into such a delicate situation. What decent woman would involve herself in such an indiscretion, unless it was of her own device?”
“I didn’t say who that ‘anyone’ I was going to hurt was,” Miles said from the corner of his mouth.
“Make your way around the other side with care,” I said, and he nodded and began an easy journey through the now vacant part of the tavern. Everyone still sober enough to stand was pressed closely together to see what would happen next. The stench of beer and body odor assaulted me as I moved roughly through the gathered mob.
“I am going to blast your balls off for this, boy,” Admiral Hawthorne slurred, spraying his words as he waved his pistol and moved closer to the fit young man. Now standing, he was secured tightly by the arms and shoulders, yet continued to twist and wrestle to free himself from the Admiral’s men. Admiral Hawthorn labored step by step towards the restrained target of his angst until he lost his footing and stumbled to the tavern floor.
Throughout his entire ordeal, the handsome young man neither spoke nor showed even a speck of fear. Even as one of the men snatched a handful of his unruly black hair and jerked his head back while two other sailors helped the Admiral to his feet.
A low rolling groan flowed through the crowd as Admiral Hawthorne appeared to be making good on his threat. He raised his pistol, and pointed it in the general direction of the man’s groin, scattering the gawking mob. It appeared almost everyone feared the chance of being caught by a misdirected shot from the shaky hand of the maddened Admiral.
“Hold, Admiral,” I said stepping forward, which hushed the nattering crowd.
Hawthorne turned toward me with a squint. “Captain Wallace? This is none of your concern. It would serve you well to remain clear of the matter.” He turned to take aim again and I held back my retort in regards to my own welfare. However, having no interest in bloodshed, I spoke anyway. “Sir, the young man is unarmed and being held against his will. There has been no trial. This will not go well sir, not even for you.” As I spoke, I spied Miles still carefully moving throughout the crowd, until he was directly behind one of the Admiral’s men who was holding tightly onto the young man.
Admiral Hawthorn took two tottering steps and his rotund body was pressed hard against mine as he barked up at me. “You dare to presume how my actions will be received, boy?”
“Just offering a bit of direction in a storm, Admiral. To murder a man in this manner, will surely bring grave consequences, sir. There is no honor or dignity in murdering a restrained and unarmed man.” The stench of hard liquor on his hot breath seared my nostrils as he blew his words at me, causing me to lean back and away from his face. The room fell silent as every man now stood quietly awaiting the admiral’s rebuttal which did not come. Then, I watched as all eyes and ears turned to the stairs and the delicate footsteps descending them. To say the Lady Hawthorne was brave would be a great understatement. To say she was beautiful would be pointless.
“Agatha, I told you to stay—”
“Be quiet, Jeremiah,” the young Agatha Hawthorne said to her husband. “Ordering me around as if I were one of your crew has never worked for you nor will it, ever.” She said and turned her gaze to the handsome dark haired prisoner, who’d ceased his relentless efforts to free himself as their eyes met.
“Agatha—” The Admiral said in an attempt to draw her attention—as well as his embarrassment, away from the young man’s bright green eyes but she didn’t waver.
“Maddox, I do hope we meet again. If not, I doubt I will find another lover that has your appetites.” She twirled a long loose curl with the fingers of her left hand and slid the fingernails of her right, down over the flesh of his exposed chest. She turned gracefully away from him at the shoulders, gazing back one last time before finally cutting a path through the crowd as she walked away. Her expensive scent followed her through the musky tavern, until her dazzling blue eyes acknowledged my presence. “Captain Wallace,” she said and nodded.
Everyone watched as she drifted care free from the tavern, leaving lustful thoughts and in her wake—revenge.
“Die, you wife thieving scum,” Hawthorne growled as he lunged forward.
“No, Admiral!” I shouted, grabbing his arm as his gun discharged into the floor. At the same time, Maddox made his most daring move yet at escape. He kicked up with both feet in the air. Taking his captors unawares, he leveraged his body weight to pull them down on top of him, causing them to let go and creating a havoc of scattering sailors and gawkers.
“The lothario has killed the Admiral!” I looked to the source of that cry and across the room was the First Lieutenant of Admiral Hawthorne, ever present and ever protective. He was pale as moonlight and trembling like the last leaf in autumn.
I glanced at Miles and nodded to Maddox. Miles nodded in return.
“Admiral Hawthorne,” I said, still holding onto his arm but now, I was completely bearing his weight. I looked at him in horror to find a dagger had somehow been buried deeply in his chest during the chaos. My assumption was the dagger had been meant for Maddox.
“Help me sit, Gabriel,” the Admiral groaned as he lowered himself into a chair and I held tightly onto him to keep him from falling. “Pull it out. I don’t want to die stuck like some wild boar on a hunt.”
The Admiral’s shirt and waistcoat were already saturated in blood. I knew from experience that removing the blade would cause a red river to spring forth but the choice of a quick death was his to make.
“Grab his shoulders,” I called to Miles as the others gathered around. “Someone hold his legs. On three.” My chest tightened and pushed every breath in me outward like a gale. Then, I counted.
The wet sucking sound as his flesh reluctantly released the blade, caused some of the men to retch and groan. Admiral Hawthorne’s blanched white face was now glazed over with perspiration. Over his ragged breaths, he murmured, “My nightmares . . . have always been, of dying by stabbing but I never thought…it would be over some society arranged marriage, young piece of . . .”
The Admiral slumped in his chair and was gone.