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Prior builds: In the Captains Cabin (Bregir) Pieces Of A Puzzle (Ayrlego) Balls of Steel (Elostirion) Traitor at the Livery (Silentwolf) Arriving at Mooreton Bay (Bregir) Undercover for the Final Piece (Bregir) Plundering the Treasure Fleet (Ayrlego) The glass was falling, and fast, and large specks of grey cloud were forming an impenetrable heavenly roof, while the waves were growing taller by the minute. The Ironsides were on a chase, running under reefed courses alone through the swell. Only hours ago, the look-out had reported the flash of guns reflected in the heavy clouds, and short thereafter the thunder of the great guns had reached the deck, and since then. A hushed silence and tension had fallen over the crew. This would not be an easy battle, not in this storm, and not against this enemy. Only a few days since, Cooke had looked on in horror as the Black Oak had departed with Allcock and his consorts on board. Their plan had been simple: Allcock should have left the Oak under the cover of night after acquiring the "smoking gun" - the evidence to legitimise pre-emptive action against the privateer. Returning to the Ironsides, they would then have taken up station to intercept the Oak before she were to catch her prey. But as ever, the plan had only worked until the first encounter with the enemy, and he had had to improvise. Rushing back to the Ironsides in Mooreton Bay, he had taken on as many volunteers from Major Allcock's Light Company as could be accommodated aboard, and set sail to intercept the Oak. And they had been rushing on just this side of recklessness ever since, the timbers moaning and the rigging singing from the stress. "Deck ahoy" the look-out shouted through the cacophony of sounds, "Sails spotted, just off the starboard bow. Two ships, apparently damaged." Cooke, with a firm hold on a stay, trained his spyglass towards the enemy, and as they reached the top of a swell, his mark, clear and true. "An extra ration of grog to that man - AFTER the battle." he replied, before barking out a number of orders, putting the Ironsides about, setting her on a course towards firmly gaining the weather gauge of the enemy. "…and shake out another reef in the fore and main course. They shall not escape us now!" he added with a confidence he did not feel. In fact, he had little doubt of catching up, as the Ironsides had proven a very stiff ship, well-suited for harsh weather, and the crew would have their fight. However, he knew as well as the crew that the odds were now very different. It was clear that the privateer had taken its prize, and this meant he now had two enemies to deal with. But would this prove to be two undermanned, heavily damaged cripples, or two battle-readied warships? Cooke had seen the Oak close by, no doubt more than a match for the Ironsides, and he knew enough of the Eslandian Treasure Ships not to disregard the formidable power of the prize galleon. A plan was forming in Cooke's mind, which always seemed to take on a life on its own in these situations. He expected the Eslandians to have put up a ferocious fight, and therefore assumed at least some damage on both ships and crew, but more importantly, he expected the pirate crew to be in a state of disorganisation. With a prize just taken, some would be drunk, and all would be exhausted from repairs, as well as spread out across the two vessels. He reckoned he had three things at his advantage: The element of surprise, the sharpshooters of Allcock's light brigade, and the heavy, short range carronades. Armed with 24 pounder carronades and with a crew trained to near perfection by their former commander, the Ironsides could release a hellfire of heavy steel, if only she could get close enough. Cooke's mind lingered for a second thankfully on Ferguson, who, during the voyage to New Terra, had drilled the crew to near perfection at the great guns. He would rush down between them, fighting both broadsides, forcing them to a swift surrender. Two things worried him, though. First, if the privateers were ready for him, his command on the Ironsides might be ended prematurely, as would many lives under his command. Second, there was the risk of maiming or killing prisoners on board the two vessels, or Allcock and his men. But this was a risk he had to take. If only the privateers would give some sign as to the level of damage and fighting ability. If only…. "They flee, Captain!" hailed the lookout. Cooke smiled. "Beat to quarters! And let's show those ruffians a measure of Corrish justice!" Considering their current positions, battle would be inevitable… __________________________________ A few words on the Ironsides: She is a small razee galleon of considerable age, cut down in '04 to improve her characteristics. She is armed with four long 12 pounder chasers, two fore and two aft, and a broadside of eight 24 pounder carronades on the gundeck. Further, she carries a number of 18 pounder carronades on the upper deck, currently two per broadside. Alongside the scantlings of a much heavier vessel, she is a very effective brawler, able to take on heavier opponents if she can get to close quarters. However, her rather outdated rig makes her somewhat sluggish in light airs. While Cooke had the pleasure of a spacious cabin in the Athena, he must now content himself with a bulkhead aft, enclosing the aft part of the gundeck, allowing him to sling his hammock between the chasers and broadside carronades. Before being cut down, the Ironsides would have had a spacious cabin above deck, but in the name of true Corlander utilitarianism, this had to be sacrificed. ______________ Thanks for looking! We hope you have enjoyed our little story (even if you are Eslandian). For now, this is the final entry, but perhaps time will show the outcome of the battle? ;) C&C welcome as always.