Blood spurted into the air and rained down upon me freshly caulked deck. It was to be that kind of day. The sort of day where cutlasses flash in the sun and cannons boom in your ears. For too long we’d been playfully raiding the ships that left the port of Scuppenthorpe-on-Sea and had grown negligent of our security. As we lay in wait for yet another boat-ful o’ jewellery and fancy bread Admiral Kneehorn’s fleet snuck upon us from behind a used whale.
They quite spoiled me morning with their aggressive pre-coffee behaviour. Kneehorn was still smarting from the last slappin’ we gave him when we’d come across his flagship in dry dock for a barnacle-shaving. We’d been quick to bare our rears and waggle ’em fiercely. We followed that up with a volley of grape shot. Little harm was done but the affront had festered in his breast.
Three ships were all he’d sent for us. Calling ’em a fleet’s pushing the term somewhat but “a gaggle o’ boats” sounds less impressive. We were outnumbered and we lost a few moments debating the odds (not bad we reckoned). On our side was wit, skill and underhandedness (I’m never sure when to end such a term).
We punted ourselves past them and into a convenient fog bank as The Gilded Helmet, Kneehorn’s second favourite ship opened fire with her port cannons. They shredded the fog and smashed through the banisters young Fingerpickle’d spent hours painting. I’m sure it was the disappointment rather than the foot-long splinters that brought tears to his eyes.
Our surprising manoeuvre bought us precious seconds to wrap ourselves in the ocean’s claggy murk. If ye lack the experience o’ battle enfogged ye would likely prang the vessel on some rocky spit or the fangs of a terrifyin’ sea beastie. Twas precisely those dangers we sought for we were outnumbered, hungover and underhanded.
Kneehorn’s balls dogged us through the twists of mist. Gouts of fire ignited the wisps and the odd crewman as they struck home. It looked like me infamous ill luck was failing me – tis a sad day when ye cannot count on a Spiny Sea Badger to rise up and devastate ye dreams. The Gilded Helmet and her sister ship, Her Lady’s Loins were growing painfully close, each deft bob over the waves narrowed the gap between us.
At last we could weave no longer and the Loins dove into the sea’s groove and slapped smartly against The Grim Bastard‘s flank. The rattle and thunk of grappling hooks came next. Curse their cunning – they were too neighbourly to fire upon for the shatterin’ cannon blows’d shake us to pieces.
I bellowed for me men to draw arms. Pistolled and sworded we had but seconds before we were boarded. Me hook was in constant use deflectin’ blades and gougin’ eyes. The soldiers piled into a man barricade of swords, daggers and wood with nails in it, shots punchin’ men off their feet. Metal hacked into flesh like a maddened butcher, but there were no pies for sharks are happy to eat us raw. Mind ye, the flames that burst from careless gun play and powder caches toasted more than one crewman. Tis not known if the sharks disdained their meal or if they merely enjoyed it less.
Twas Mick who rolled out our special cannon Mr Boom from his hidden nest. He was always packed with incendiary joy and he did not disappoint, layin’ a swathe of explosive pitch across Her Lady’s Loins. The conflagration cut off Kneehorn’s men from retreat and we cut ’em down as they choked in her nethersome smoke.
We cut loose the blazing vessel so she could swing out into the path of Kneehorn’s remaining boatly brace. With the smoke enhancing the foggy blur we rammed- almost intentionally into the Gilded Helmet, causing her to tip wildly oceanwards. It seemed for a moment as if she might recover her balance, but then I heard a cry from above – the sound of a Scotsman with wind in his kilt. Gaargh, twas Hamish McMuffin lendin’ his unenviable bulk to the bobbing craft. He swung across on a straining rope, his rolls of flab billowing like sails. His momentum flung him into the main mast which accepted him like a reed taking an elephant in the face. The Gilded Helmet sank beneath the waves.
We reeled in Hamish, a task for three men and an ox. Sadly we lacked the beast so it took half a dozen. All men who should have been in the riggin’ to spin us windwards and away from our final foe: The Cutty Mutt. Aye, she was looking reluctant to engage us, havin’ watched her sister ships succumb to our superior wit, swordsmanship and obesity. And yet she could hardly return to Kneehorn with her mast betwixt her legs. Nervously she veered away from the bubbles that marked the Helmet’s passing. We snarled and snapped at her safe on the deck o’ The Grim Bastard, taunting ’em with our words and manly revelations. Twas clear we’d raised their ire for the ship turned sharply as if she’d pulled a hard-anchor to trick us.
The Mutt curved towards us and yet continued her turn. Perhaps they’d pinned themselves into an anchored spiral. Twas as she sped by that we noted the soldiers screaming. And then we saw the vast pulsating tentacles with an uncommonly feathery grip on the mast that stretched across the deck and the crushed figures and down, muscular into the sea which frothed about the comb and beaky face of a beast most hideous. The ship roared by us and the monster Cocktapus Rex hauled it screeching and crunching beneath the waves.
Gaargh, I’ve long feared the chimerical brute whose origins I’ve heard spill from the lips of mutilated story-spinners into their ninth mug of ale. Aye, the mutant spawn of a cockerel swept out to sea and consumed by a pregnant octopus whose egg laying was violated by a deviant sea lizard. The result was Cocktapus Rex – feared for its hideousness, rage and hunger.
We offered our gratitude to the creature for its timely meal but we were keen to remain off his dessert menu. We hauled at rope and sail to swiftly capture what wind we could. We drifted at a disappointing and nail-gnawing pace from the foaming waters. Just before we re-entered the fog it raised its brightly combed head from the red-stained sea and cried its terrible cock-a-doodle of victory.
Our plan on making land was to spread the tale of how neatly Kneehorn’s miniature fleet was defeated, thus humiliating the admiral further and earnin’ us winks and pints from amorous and easily impressed bar wenches. Aye, we anticipated a triumphal return. Twas disappointing to emerge from the cloudy banks and be faced with a vengeful armada of Kneehorn’s ships. Gaargh, I feared we’d exhausted our reserves of bravery and fortune yet we fled into the fogginess nonetheless!