In the Captains Cabin (Bregir)
Pieces Of A Puzzle (Ayrlego)
Arriving at Mooreton Bay (Bregir)
Dirk, Davy and Sergeant Gowan weren’t the only new crewman the Black Oak had taken on of late, and soon after boarding they were assigned various tasks and duties. It was not long before they turned up good intelligence on the privateer either. The crew were more than willing to talk of the rumoured Eslandolan treasure fleet they were going after and there was much speculation on how they would take prizes from the fleet. Dirk also discovered that on the way to Leopoldis the Oak had taken a Corlander merchantman and that deep in the hold approximately half a dozen Corlander prisoners were being kept in captivity. In Dirk’s mind, this fact, more than any other made the Oak a legitimate target for Captain Cooke and the Ironsides.
Further evidence was uncovered when a ship named Shareka arrived in the bay with supplies for the Oak. The captain of the Shareka, Corvus Rohgert, came aboard briefly with a load of cannonballs for the frigate. He disappeared into the Captain's cabin with the Captain of the Black Oak, Hendrick Janszoon and the quartermaster. The trio emerged after an hour or so and Rohgert returned to his vessel.
Of course the plan upon boarding the Oak had always been to conduct a quick reconnaissance, gather any information they could glean, and then sneak off as soon as possible. Unfortunately however that wasn’t quite how it worked out…
Janszoon, now fully re-crewed and resupplied, had decided to quietly slip out of Leopoldis that very night. With no chance to sneak ashore, Dirk and his companions had little choice but to put to sea with the privateer with the hope that the Ironsides would catch up with them before too long. The three meet on the upper decks to conduct a whispered conversation.
“Well a fine pickle we find ourselves in now isn’t it” declared Davy
“Indeed.” answered Dirk, “The plan was always going to be for Cooke and the Ironsides to intercept the Oak after she left Leopoldis… of course we were supposed to be aboard the Ironsides and not the Oak!”
“Aye well, when the Ironsides turns up we’ll swap sides I imagine” injected the Sergeant Gowan nonchalantly .
“Yes, and if we can free the prisoners in the hold it will bolster our force – hopefully we can give Cooke the advantage he needs.” continued Dirk.
"Some gossip you may be interested in Major, it appears that Rohgert bought the Captain some interesting news" said Davy. Apparently a portion of the greenback treasure will be disguised as cannonballs...."
“Oi, you three, back to work you lubbers” screamed the quartermaster, spying the trio talking. With that the three men went back to their tasking.
After three days sailing the Oak had spotted the sails of the treasure fleet on the horizon, but there was still no sign of the Ironsides. The next days were spent stalking the fleet from a distance. Janszoon was confident that a chance would arrive to pick off vessels one at a time. On the forth day cannon shot could be heard over the horizon, and it was assumed that the fleet had engaged other pirates somewhere to the north. The Oak’s chance came shortly thereafter. During a small squall that night, one of the fleet’s galleons became separated from the rest of the fleet and lagged behind. Janszoon took his chance and pounced, at full sail the Oak surged through the waves and gave chase.
Dirk and Davy observed the Galleon from the deck.
“Rather old fashioned looking” commented Dirk
“An older galleon” stated Davy. “The greenbacks have been using them to transport their wealth back to the mainland since men first sailed out here.”
“So the pirate’s confidence in taking her easily is well founded?” asked Dirk.
“Nay,” answered Davy, “Don’t be fooled by her gaudy colours and stubby old fashioned appearance, the greenbacks still use them for a reason – they are strong and extremely tough and well armed for a merchantman. Also her decks are higher than ours, which makes her less manoeuvrable, but also means we will be at a disadvantage when boarding.” Davy pondered the situation some more. “This crew we find ourselves part of is new and has been hastily thrown together. Most of the men have never worked together before, although there are a sprinkling of old salts through the crew and most have had individual experience at sea actions.”
“The notable expectation being me of course” quipped Dirk. Although an experienced army officer he had never fought on the high seas before.
“Aye, except for you and the good Sergeant, landlubbers you are” replied Davy.
“If we catch her it will be a close thing I predict. Her crew will be good and they know there will be no mercy from pirates – they’ll fight hard. I suspect that the Captain knows it too, that’s why he beefed up the crew in Leopoldis. The question I have for you Major Allcock, is what do we do in a boarding action”
Both men pondered that for a while.
While Dirk was still silent Davy added,
“If things don’t go well for us we’ll never convince the greenbacks we are Corrie spies, they’ll execute us as pirates – if they even allow us to surrender… and even if the Oak gets away, the pirates here will know we didn’t fight and we will probably meet the same fate… or worse…”
Dirk look up. “Then we hope that we don’t catch her… but if we do….” This next part came hard for the usually law abiding Major. “… then I guess we fight as pirates and hope Cooke catches up with us soon.” There really wasn’t any other alternative.
Unfortunately for Dirk, a few hours later it seemed inevitable they would catch the smaller vessel. As the first cannon crashed out Dirk found himself crewing one of the cannons on the gun deck of the frigate. Thus Major Dirk Allcock, temporary military commander of the Corlander colony of Alicentia and Secretary of the Royal Society of Natural Philosophy reluctantly became a pirate.
The two ships exchanged fire for only a short time. Janszoon closed in on the galleon, who was revealed to have the name Alejandro de Vargas. The approach was made as fast as possible as to not overly damage his potential prize. A lucky cannon ball from the Oak knocked out the Alejandro’s rudder meaning the Oak was able to rapidly approach alongside for boarding. The men abandoned the cannons and Dirk found himself with Davy and Sergeant Gowan forming up with the aft attack party on the main deck. Small arms fire began to ring out as the Eslandolan Marines opened fire with their muskets. Sharp shooters from both ships masts began their own deadly duel. Sergeant Gowan, the best shot of the trio, joined in the shooting, and to the delight of the nearby pirates managed to hit a marine perched in the galleon’s main mast.
The first grappling hooks were thrown across from the Oak and men heaved the two ships closer together. It was now, with the two vessels locked in a deadly embrace that disaster struck for the pirates. Just as the men were about to surge forward and leap onto the galleon, a wave lifted her out of the water enough to give one of her forward guns a clear shot of the deck. The Eslandolans manning the gun had been waiting for just such an opportunity, and had charged the gun with a musket balls and metal scraps. The deadly grape shot crashed across the forecastle of the Oak, cutting down most of the waiting forward boarding party, including the ship’s Quartermaster. Before Dirk had time to fully comprehend this event, the ships crashed together with a terrifying crack of timber and Dirk stumbled and was pushed forward with the rest of the aft boarding party. He leaped up onto the deck of the galleon and had barely scrambled to his feet before being knocked back down by the body of the pirate before him. A group of Eslandolan marines, led by a Sergeant in an old fashioned breastplate, polished to a gleaming silver and carrying a wicked looking poleaxe. The marines charged. Dirk just had time to lift his pistol and dispatch one before the lines crashed together. Hastily discarding the pistol, his sword came up desperately to parry an attack from an Eslandolan sailor.
In those first minutes of the melee, the greater numbers of pirates began to slowly overcome the defenders. However this ended when a party of Eslandolan marines and sailors who were stationed forward to repel boarders rushed aft to join the battle. They were no longer required forward due to the fact the survivors of the Oak’s forward boarding party remained onboard the Oak. Now evenly matched, things were becoming desperate for the attacking pirates. Dirk found himself alongside his trusted Sergeant and the two fought together as they had many times on land. Dirk found himself facing the Marine Sergeant with the breastplate and poleaxe. He was able to somehow parry the first two crushing blows, but was completely off balance for the third. It was then a pistol ball struck the marine’s breast plate and deflected up, lodging in the man’s jaw. Dirk glanced behind to see Davy holding a smoking pistol. “Was saving that one” he commented laconically.
Eventually the Eslandolan defence collapsed due to the greater numbers of pirates and sheer ferocity of their attack. The survivors, including the trio of Corlanders, stood exhausted on the blood soaked deck. The casualties were enormous however, far greater than anticipated – almost half the Oak’s crew were dead or maimed to the point where they were useless. Not a single Eslandolan survived.
Night was fast approaching, and to make things worse it seems so was another squall. Desperate repairs began on both ships. Dirk could never recall much of what happened in the next few hours, the men feverishly worked in a state of trance to repair the ships in order to get underway. It was clear that they would need to return to a safe harbour with their prize before attempting another attack on the fleet. Janszoon was furious. Soon both ships were limping forward, a skeleton prize crew including Davy aboard the Alejandro. Dirk and Sergeant Gowan remained aboard the Oak.
Then as the last light was quickly fading on the western horizon, a cry from the lookout alerted the crew to sails on the southern horizon…
An extra shot