Amien, a small river town on the south bank of the Somme. As with any town on a river, it is a bit dirty and lacking in any type of luster or real sense of community or commerce. The inhabitants of such a small town merely existed as they scratched out their meager lives, hoping that one day they could either escape or find another way of life. The war and the rule of Napoleon was not helping matters for any of these poor people as well. No money, no commerce, barely any food. Water was drawn from the river for their needs, thankfully it came down from the mountains, and was relatively clean.
Amien was mostly made up of houses, crowded together on dirt streets, those streets too poor to have them cobbled. There was a general mercantile, the only one, which was very small, a butcher, a baker, and there was an old mill on the river, farther beyond the dock on the river, that was not used all that much anymore. Some ground what crops they could at the mill to use the grist for their own needs and for possible barter.
Because of the war and the rule of Napoleon and the constant demand of supply from the Army, taking whatever was at hand when they came through, was slowly killing the town even further, but none of the inhabitants really seemed to care, they were too tired. They had traded one tyrant for another, first Louis and all of the Louis’ before, taxing the inhabitants almost out of existence, then Napoleon, literally taking the food out of their mouths, without a care or a second thought, let alone a simple thank you.
Callum looked over the starboard bow as he stood at the bowsprit. Windsong slowly crept up on the town under Headsails only. Talon was at the wheel and was guiding her closer to the dock that was out in the river itself. Callum was gauging the distance before calling to strike the sails. Collingwood was in the center of the deck awaiting the order to be given from his Captain.
Callum watched the dock and was not paying any attention to the town whatsoever. He waited for the proper moment and finally it came. He raised his hand and then dropped it quickly without saying a word. Collingwood saw the motion and looked aloft and drew his hand across his throat in silence. Those that were aloft were also waiting for the sign and silently began to draw up the canvas seeing the signal from him.
Windsong began to slow even further as the wind was lost in the loose canvas. Callum took lines from the bow and tossed them over to the dock. He moved quickly and came to amidships and jumped from the deck to the dock. He ran toward the lines, taking them in his hands and lashed them to a piling leaving slack in them. He turned and ran quickly back down the dock toward the stern of Windsong, holding out his hand as lines were tossed from the stern by one of the crew at the aft quarter. He caught them and lashed them quickly around another piling and jumped back out of the way of the tension that took them, Windsong stopped and jarred herself with the sudden halting, though not much, enough to make everyone aboard feel it and the loss of motion.
Hands jumped to it and the gangplank was run out through the area of the destroyed rail, Callum took the end of the plank and guided it out and dropped it on the dock. He walked up it and returned to his vessel, crossing the deck to Collingwood.
“Abel, I will see the lady and her girls off. No one is to come aboard or to leave the ship. Is that understood?” Callum asked softly.
“Perfectly, sir.” Collingwood said, “Do you think there are Regulars about, sir?”
“It is quite possible. That is why no one is to leave, unless you have learned to speak French in the last hour.”
“No, sir.” Collingwood flashed a smile.
“I believe Mr. Talon has an understanding of French, but I don’t think he speaks it. As well, I don’t think any of the crew does either. I have no idea of the Marines of course, you may wish to ask them. So, keep your voices down if anyone from the town is near. If trouble happens, cast loose and get out of here. Do not give it a second thought.” Callum said as he put a hand to Collingwood’s upper arm.
“I will, sir.” Collingwood said and Callum gave him a nod and turned to go for the steps to go below. He went through the door, going by the galley, and reached his cabin door. He knocked once and opened the door. The girl, Marie, was standing there, her little girls were beside her at the table. Callum gave her a soft smile.
“Are you ready to go?” Callum asked softly.
“Good. I will escort you to your mother’s home, if that would be alright.”
“Monsieur, you have been so kind to us, I could not ask that of you. You have a ship to tend to,…”
“It would be my honor to see you and your girls are placed safely with your mother in her home. My ship is in good hands with my officers and crew. You and your girls are the focus for the time being.” Callum said, “Besides, you could not carry your bags and take the girls as well without difficulty.”
“As I said, you are very kind.”
“Not at all.” Callum said giving her a brief smile, he came to the edge of the table near the girls and looked at the older one, “Voudriez-vous avoir un tour sur mon dos?” He asked and flashed his eyes at her, with a warm grin. She looked at her mother and then back at Callum and nodded and gave a little grin herself. Callum smiled wide and turned around bending down on his haunches, she climbed up on his back, wrapping her legs around his waist as best she could and held on to his shoulders. He picked up both of the carpet bags and went to the open door of the cabin going out, Marie carried the littlest one and followed him out. They went by the galley, Carson saw them and walked out behind them, going up the steps to the deck.
The crew was gathered there, Collingwood in front of them all, Talon was coming around the short rail and came up next to Carson. Callum stopped for a moment as McGuffin stepped forward, coming through the group using his big hands to ease through them. The littlest one saw him coming and was reaching out for him as she squirmed in her mother’s arms. McGuffin stepped closer and reached out and took her and let her clutch him around his neck. He gently patted the little back that he held for a moment as Callum looked at him and he could have sworn that the large man was misting in his eyes a bit. McGuffin slowly pulled the little one away from him and handed her back to her mother. He stepped back into the midst of the crew. Callum was a bit wide eyed over the large man’s actions.
“Pardon me, Ma’am,” Collingwood said as he tipped his hand to his forehead to her, “on the behalf of myself and the crew, we wanted to say thank you for your assistance to us. Also, we will miss your presence onboard, yours and your girls.”
“Thank you, Monsieur. You have made me see things differently about the English. You have all been so kind to me and my children, I thank you.” Marie said as she looked at Collingwood and then at all of them assembled around her, “I wish you all luck.”
“Thank you, Ma’am.” Collingwood said and smiled briefly. Callum looked at Collingwood and gave him a nod, the girl still on his back as he carried the bags.
“Remember your orders, Abel. I should not be long.” Callum said.
“Aye, sir.” Collingwood said and nodded only once. Callum turned away, walking to the gangplank and went down, she followed him to the dock.
The walk through the dirt streets gave Callum time to look about. He spotted Regulars now and then, just a few, and they did not seem to pay any attention to either him or the girl. The people of this small poor town would give them glances as they approached and walked by but none said a word to them, which Callum thought as odd, unlike home in Birmingham where everyone either spoke or nodded, at least smiled, these people didn’t at all. The girl guided them along, giving only nods as to direction while they went along their way. They finally reached a row of houses, built upon each other, side by side. The construction seemed rather shabby and old to Callum as he looked it over. The girl opened the door and went in.
“MaMa,” She called out, “tu es la?”
“Marie?” A voice called back from another room. Callum set the bags down just inside the door and knelt down so the girl could slide off his back. He reached behind him and helped her put her feet on the floor. Callum stood as the older lady walked in where they were. Her eyes narrowed seeing him.
“Qu’est-ce que c’est?” She asked as Marie walked up to her.
“This is the Captain of a ship that brought us.” She said and the mother still had narrowed eyes as she stared at Callum.
“You are English.” The mother said without trace of an accent. Callum wondered for a moment how she knew as he wore civilian clothes.
“Yes, Madame, that is correct, and it would appear that so are you.” Callum said as he closed the door behind him.
“What are you doing here?” The older woman asked Callum.
“He brought us,…” Marie started to say but was cut off.
“I was asking him.” The older woman said, her tone was unmistakable.
“There was an incident where they were living. I could not in good conscience leave her and her children to possibly suffer as a result of our actions. She was asked if there was a place of safety that they could be brought to, hence why we are here.”
“I see. You wish to burden me as a result of your actions, sir?” The older woman asked.
“Not my intent, Madame, I assure you.” Callum said folding his arms over his chest, “Obviously you feel that it is a burden to you, and I apologize for that. The girl and her children were in a bit of difficulty. You are her mother, are you not?”
“Yes, I am.”
“And as such, she had thought she and her girls would be safe here with you.”
“You do not understand the situation here, sir. I cannot afford to feed them. There is nothing here in this town, not anymore. It has been picked clean by the Army, the needs of the Emperor as it were.” She said and flashed her eyes a bit.
“You have a husband, do you not?” Callum asked.
“Where is he?”
“He, with most of the men of the town, are out in the fields, working, tending crops.” She said with the same tone to her voice.
“I see.” Callum said, lowering his arms, “As I said, Madame, I did not wish to burden you.” Callum said as he reached into his pocket of his pants, he pulled out a small cloth bag and handed it toward the older woman, “I hope this will help some.” Callum said and she took it from him slowly, Marie stepped close to her mother as the small bag was opened. She poured a part of what was in the bag out in her other hand, both were wide eyed and then looked at Callum.
“This is English gold.” The older woman said.
“Yes.” Callum said.
“Monsieur, we cannot take this.” Marie said as she looked at Callum with wide eyes.
“Marie, I have taken your means of income from you with what we did last night to your home as you well know. This is all that I can give you in return for that.” Callum said.
“This will raise questions, sir.” The older woman said.
“Yes, I apologize for not being able to give you French coin, but as I had no means or way of knowing, that will have to do. Gold is gold.” Callum said with his own tone and the older woman looked at him and raised an eyebrow slightly at him, “I must be off now. I wish you the best, for both you and your girls.” Callum said to Marie. He turned and went to the door and put his hand on the knob. Marie came quickly in front of him still carrying the little one with one arm.
“Monsieur,…” She said softly.
“I thank you for all of your help to myself and my crew.”
“Please,…be safe.” She said in almost a whisper stepping up on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek. He smiled briefly at her and opened the door. He looked out into the dirt street as he stood in the doorway and then turned back to her and the little one she held.
“I will.” He said softly and then looked at the older woman, “Madame.” He said and nodded briefly to her, then looked back at Marie, “As I said before, I pray there is a swift end to this war and your husband can return home to you and your girls.” He said and bent down and kissed her cheek gently. She leaned her head toward him a bit as he pulled back slowly her. He looked at the littlest one she held with one arm, balanced on her hip, he took the little hand in his fingers gently and bent forward and kissed the back of it, making the little one lay her head against her mother’s shoulder and she giggled a bit. He looked down and the older of the two girls that was standing close by her mother, Callum knelt in front of her, and gripped her dress with fingertips only and pulled on her a bit, making her smile and then she bit her bottom lip, Callum winked at her and smiled, she grinned a little for him and he leaned forward and kissed her forehead. He stood straight and walked out of the house and started down the dirt street, back the way that they had come. He did not look back.
While he walked, he scanned around him with only his eyes, the towns’ people were watching him a bit closer as he was alone now they all knew he was from the small ship at the dock, he came around some houses, the dock and Windsong tied to it were in sight. He could see Collingwood and some of the hands on deck, moving about, getting her ready to untie and pull away. He was not paying particular attention as the three French Regulars stepped out of a house, a sign over the door said in French that it was also a tavern. Callum saw the Regulars only out of the corner of his eye, as his focus was on Windsong and her crew.
“Vous la, arret.” A French soldier called out toward Callum’s back. Callum stopped walking hearing him and rolled his eyes without them seeing it. Windsong was just over a hundred yards away from him. Callum waited.
“L’avez-vous jamais vu avnat?” One soldier asked the others. They walked toward the back of Callum as he waited and then came around him.
“Qui etes-vous?” The first soldier asked Callum.
“Simplement un marin sur son chemin de nouveau a son bateau.” Callum said and shrugged his shoulders. The first soldier narrowed his eyes a bit.
“D’ou venez-vous?” He asked as he backed up a step from Callum.
“Un marin n’a aucune maison, seulement le sien bateau.” Callum said. The first soldier stepped to Callum’s left, the second stood in front of Callum and had a look on his face that told Callum that they had had a bit much to drink in the tavern, the third soldier moved a step away and came to Callum’s right.
“Essayes-vous d’etre drole?” The first soldier asked, he grinned slightly at Callum, “I think you are English, no?” He asked and Callum gave him a half glance.
“And if I was?” Callum asked.
“Then, Monsieur, I think you would need to come with us. You might be a spy, no?” The first soldier said.
“As I was saying, I have to get back to my ship.” Callum said, watching the other two as he was speaking English to the first, their eyes widened for a moment hearing him. Callum reached out quickly and grabbed the collar of the first soldier, catching him off guard, pulling him in, he kicked the second in front of him up into his groin, making him double over and drop, he bent his right arm and sent his elbow into the bridge of the nose of the third soldier hard, knocking him down to the dirt street and turned on the first he still held, smashing his balled fist into the face of the surprised soldier on the backswing. He hit him over and over, knocking him to the dirt street. Callum let him go and turned to the second soldier, who was trying to recover himself with a groan, Callum hit him with fist after fist using both hands, sending him to the dirt. Callum jumped to the third, as he was trying to get up, Callum was on him, pounding him over and over with his fists as well. Everything that happened was blur of motion, Callum pounding him into unconsciousness.
The first soldier propped up on one elbow and shook his head a bit and then got to his feet. He jumped on Callum’s back, wrapping his arms around Callum’s neck, Callum reached up over his head behind him, grabbing the back of the first soldier’s neck from behind, Callum throwing his hips into the soldier and flipped him over Callum’s shoulder, making him hit the dirt of the street. Callum stepped once toward him as the first soldier rolled to get up, Callum kicked him in the face with his boot and brought him back down to the dirt, unconscious and done.
“As I said,…I have a ship to catch.” Callum said as he was breathing hard as he looked down at the first soldier. He started running toward Windsong, seeing the crew and Collingwood there on deck as they had seen everything that had just happened, “Cast loose! Get her underway!” Callum yelled as he was running toward them. Men started moving quickly, the gangplank was being pulled back, lines were being cut loose and tossed over the side toward the dock, Callum was running as sails were dropped, the wheel cranked over and Windsong took the wind with the canvas. She was pulling away from the dock, Talon was cranking the wheel over to port in a hard turn and holding it there. Callum reached the dock and was coming as Windsong responded quickly, he kept running and as Windsong pulled away, Callum reached the edge of the dock and launched himself, diving for the deck, he sailed through the air over the damaged starboard rail, tucked, landed, and rolled, coming to his feet quickly, turning to see Collingwood with wide eyes, “Get us out of here!” He shouted and headed for the hatch and the gangway ladder, “Sergeant! Six men with muskets!” Callum shouted down into the hatch, he turned and headed quickly for the wheel, going by Collingwood again, “Abel, adjust sail as we come into the wind.”
“Aye, sir.” Collingwood said and looked aloft, “Standby to adjust sail!” Collingwood shouted and the men aloft moved going out on the cross lines, waiting for the headwinds to come as Windsong made the sharp port turn. Callum came up to the deck side of the short rail next to the steps in front of the wheel and stopped.
“Hold your turn, Darin.” Callum said as he held up a finger, he looked toward the bow seeing the turn happening, Windsong was coming around toward the middle of the river.
“She’s over as far as she’ll go, sir.” Talon answered as he held the wheel tight. Callum continued to watch the bow, seeing the Marines coming up on deck with McGuffin in a hurry.
“Take station at the port rail, Sergeant! Keep your men down!” Callum called out. McGuffin nodded and pointed, his men responded. Callum looked and saw Hawkins and Jennings coming toward him on a trot, “Throw the Driver over!”
“Aye, sir.” They said as they came around the short rail and reached for the lines on the Mizzen beyond the wheel. They untied and let the Mizzen span arm go, letting it take the wind and throw it over to the starboard, driving the turn even quicker now. Windsong jolted a bit with the taking of the wind with the Driver, the canvas of the Driver snapping to full billow.
“Ease your helm, Darin.” Callum said as he watched over the bow, the tilt to starboard made everyone stand fast and back lean against it. “Now, Mr. Collingwood, adjust sail!” Callum said as he looked aloft.
“Aye, sir! Adjust sail!” Collingwood called out as he looked aloft as well. The hands above loosened the cross arms and the sails turned at an slight angle and allowed the wind to fill them, Windsong leaned to port a bit now. They were on their way back down river toward the Avion.
“Driver to amidships!” Callum called out over his shoulder.
“Aye, sir!” Hawkins called back as he and Jennings pullied the lines with the small blocks bringing the arm back. They tied off.
“Sir!” Collingwood said as he pointed off the port rail. Callum looked over in that direction. French Regulars were coming out of the town and were running down pathways through the brush of the bank of the river, muskets in hand, trying to get ahead of Windsong.
“Sergeant, standby with your men!” Callum said, “Darin, keep us to the middle of the river.”
“Aye, sir.” Talon said as the first musket shot went off from the bank, it hit the Mainmast.
“Do what you can, Sergeant!” Callum called out, McGuffin nodded as he rose up.
“Alright, lads. Let’s show these French what marksmanship truly is. Pick your targets, on the ready now,” McGuffin said as he watched the Regulars on the bank. There were only a few, two others were running well ahead of Windsong, “Fire!” The volley from the six went off, the smoke was blown away with the wind, some of the French either grunted or screamed and fell, “Reload!” McGuffin said loudly. Callum watched the bank, only two were left standing, the other two ahead were out of sight in the brush and trees of the river bank.
“Damn it, they’ll get to the fortification and warn them about us.” Callum said.
“Take your marks!” McGuffin said, “On the ready,…fire!” The volley went off again and the two Regulars dropped before they could finish reloading.
“Keep your men at the ready, Sergeant.” Callum said as he came to the middle of the deck, McGuffin turned to face him.
“I beg your pardon, sir.”
“Yes, Sergeant?” Callum asked as he looked at the large man.
“Do you still wish to take the ship if there is no one aboard?”
“I would like to, Sergeant, I would love it actually, but I don’t think that will be possible now. Those two Regulars that ran ahead are probably calling out the alarm. We will more than likely have to contend with the Avion as we pass her now, and if we survive that, then we will have to deal with the fortification I’m afraid.” Callum said and raised an eyebrow.
“I see your point, sir.” McGuffin said and stiffened a bit.
“Believe me when I say, nothing would please me more than to sail up the Thames and deliver it while standing at the wheel of the Avion. We would all probably receive a knighthood from it, but in reality, I think we will be more than lucky if we just survive to see tomorrow.” Callum said and flashed his eyes a bit.
“I understand completely, sir.” McGuffin said and twitched his big whiskers once.
“Sir!” Patkin called down from aloft, Callum looked up, “Sail, sir.” Patkin said and was pointing toward the curve of the river.
“Is it the Avion?”
“It is, sir.”
“Is she dropping sails?”
“No, sir. I can see just the mast points, no canvas as of yet.” Patkin said.
“Very well, keep an eye out, and watch for more Regulars, that goes for all of you aloft.” Callum called out.
“Aye, sir.” They called down in reply.
“Rail guns are loaded and ready, sir.” Collingwood said as he came close to Callum and McGuffin.
“Thank you, Abel, but they will be of little use at this distance from the bank as we are in the middle of the river. No, the Sergeant’s men are of better range with their muskets.”
“Shall I have the rest of my company come up on deck, sir?” McGuffin asked.
“No, not yet, Sergeant. They will be out of the way and safer down there for the time being. Your half dozen will be more than sufficient for the task at hand, and have proved that already. My compliments to you and to them, Sergeant.” Callum smiled briefly.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Abel, if the Avion is manned, we will have to alter our course and slide right down her port side to stay under her guns. We will possibly need a diversion I am thinking.”
“Abel, you saved all of our lives the other night by misfiring those two rockets into the Avion rather than into the sky. Do you think you could possibly do it again, if necessary?” Callum asked and gave a half-smile. Collingwood flashed a grin back at his Captain.
“I believe I could, sir, if Mr. Carson will allow me to borrow something from the galley.”
“What would you need to borrow from the galley?” Callum asked.
“He has a hollow tube that is used on a roasting spit, it rests in a corner near the stove. I could hold it, and run a firing stand of a rocket down it, pointing it wherever you’d like, sir, like the barrel of a gun as it were.”
“A pure stroke of genius, Abel. If it works and we survive this, I’ll make sure I recommend you for that knighthood.” Callum smiled and put a hand on his officer’s shoulder.
“Thank you, sir.” Collingwood beamed back, Callum winked at him.
“Off with you then.” Callum said, he turned to McGuffin as Collingwood walked quickly away, “Sergeant, do prepare your men below though, just in case we need them.”
“I already have taken that liberty, sir,…just in case.” McGuffin said and twitched his whiskers.
“Another knighthood recommendation I see.” Callum said and rolled his eyes. He turned and went to Talon at the wheel going around the short rail. “How is she handling, Darin?”
“She’s a little sluggish, sir, against this headwind.” Talon said as he nodded toward the sails.
“Stay sharp. Once we clear this bend and the Avion is in view we may have to slide in alongside her to stay under her guns to keep us from being blown apart.”
“Aye, sir.” Talon said and narrowed his eyes a bit.
Now they all waited, all eyes on deck were on the river ahead of them watching as the bend was coming closer to them. The hands aloft were scanning in all directions, keeping an eye out for French Regulars as well as any sign from the Avion. Her mast points were only visible above the trees on the bank. Callum looked aloft and saw the canvas was struggling to hold the wind, the cross arms were at their full swing and couldn’t go any more over. He knew the Driver was the only sail that was at full billow now. The going was slow, almost agonizing to them all.
The bend of the river was gradual, the going slow, the current was helping to carry them, but as they noted, the water was slow as well from no rains. Callum was watching Talon’s hand on the wheel, gripping it tightly, easing themselves and then gripping tightly again. Callum stepped closer to him.
“Deep breath, Darin, hold her steady, we’ll do fine.” Callum said softly.
“Aye, sir.” Talon said as he let out a bit of his held breath. Talon was trying his best to steady himself as Windsong came into the bend of the river, picking up a bit of wind now, the canvas filling more and fluttering slightly. “Sir.” Talon said.
“I see her, Darin.” Callum said. He moved behind Talon and came to his right, getting a better look.
“I wish we had Dover here, sir.” Talon said, “That would be a prime target for the taking, sir.”
“I don’t think Dover would do very well in the river, Darin. She would not have made that turn from the dock as fast I dare say. But, I agree, I wish had all of her cannon right about now.” Callum said. He slowly moved over to the remains of the starboard rail as he looked forward seeing the huge size of the Avion.
She was three times taller than Windsong with all of her decks, and her masts looked like they could reach for the stars, the Mainmast was the tallest, five sections in all with three platform tiers, rigging that spanned from section to section, reaching further skyward. Even in her dilapidated state, she was still a beautiful ship Callum thought to himself, her black hull was screaming out to be helped, but her lines were still sleek for a ship that large. In her day, she could probably fire all of her guns in a full broadside and you might not feel it in the deck. Now, in her present state, to fire her guns off would possible rattle everything aboard and even your teeth, Callum thought as he shook his head. He looked skyward, the Mizzenmast carried the pennant, long and flowing, the only thing that was flying on her, Callum went to turn but something caught his eye, movement on the upper deck near the stern. He gave it full attention and then he saw him. Could it be him, the madman they were hunting, Callum wondered. Thoughts ran through his mind so quickly, but he froze in place as they were seeing one another now, but still quite a bit away from each other, at least a half dozen boat lengths still.
The man put his hands on the rails of the upper deck and watched the approaching Windsong and waited, as if they were nothing out of the ordinary of them being there. Callum could see him clearer now as they drew even closer. He was a large man Callum could see, dark in complexion, long dark hair, and he seemed to be well dressed. He wore a black long coat, and Callum focused his eyes a bit more on him and saw that under the coat he wore a purple vest and a white ruffled shirt. His manner for the moment was calm and completely uncaring about their presence here. Callum knew that he could see them all very clearly from his position of height as he was at the same height of Callum’s men that were aloft.
They were more than three boat lengths away now and the man had not moved as of yet. Callum had thought to grab a musket and shoot him down where he stood, to kill him in cold blood, but he stopped himself from moving and just returned the look of the man.
Less than two boat lengths away now, Callum started moving himself, going forward slowly as he kept an eye on the man on the upper deck, their gaze upon each other was now locked. No one on Windsong approached Callum, they were just looking back and forth between the man and their Captain, waiting for what might be coming.
Less than one boat length away now and Callum saw the man above move, taking one hand away from the rail, pushing his long black coat back and placing his fist on his hip showing off his deep purple vest, tilting his head back just a bit, lifting his nose as it were, ever so slightly. Callum folded his arms over his chest in reply to him and his stance of arrogance. Callum could see no one else onboard moving about, but he knew there must be some of the crew with him at least. And then, another motion from the man, his other hand came off the rail and he pointed at Callum with only a finger and Callum glared back at him.
“I will see you perhaps later, English, yes?!” He called out, “And take your false flag down, it is an insult to me and to my country!”
“It’s him.” Callum said softly thinking he was still alone.
“He knows, sir, he knows who we are.” Collingwood said at Callum’s shoulder from behind him.
“Yes, it appears that way, Abel. And I think he might be worried about it.” Callum said.
“What makes you think that, sir?”
“He takes no action in broad daylight. He obviously has crew aboard, and with his lowest run of guns, he could turn us into matchwood easily. No,…he is worried. And he said ‘later’, which I would take to mean that it will be tonight and we will have him when he finds his courage.”
“Shall we strike the colors, sir?”
“No. Let’s continue to insult him, Abel.” Callum said and then half turned and looked at Collingwood, “And if any of the hands need to relieve themselves, they may do so on those colors in full sight of him while there’s time.” Callum said flatly and walked over toward McGuffin. McGuffin watched his Captain walk toward him, but also kept the man on the large ship in view as well.
“Uh,…sir?” McGuffin asked as he looked back and forth between the two.
“Something troubling you, Sergeant?”
“I am confused a bit I suppose, sir. You have turned your back to an enemy, sir.”
“Exactly, Sergeant. One, I trust that your men can shoot anything that might jeopardize me that would be aboard that ship. Two, I am adding insult to the man by ignoring him and his outburst. He is a coward, plain and simple. Had I been in his place, I would have already fired upon us and then lowered boats to take what was left. My thoughts now are to the fortification and what might be coming from them.” Callum said in a matter-of-fact tone.
“I see your point, sir.”
“You saw the fortification as well as did I. From what the girl said, there are not that many Regulars posted there. With the loss of those from your men and their fine sharpshooting, their numbers are decreased even more. Would you be up to a little shore excursion, Sergeant?” Callum asked.
“At your service, sir.” McGuffin said as he stiffened.
“Excellent. There should be enough powder stored there to destroy the installation and the earthen ramparts. We’ll spike the guns, take whatever Regulars as captive and turn them over to Captain Stewart aboard Triborne when we rendezvous with the squadron. We might have this finished by tonight, I dare say.”
“I hope it’s as easy as you say, sir.”
“We will sail around the fortification, there is a sandy shoal on their blindside beyond the bluff, we can beach Windsong there if we have to as our boat may not carry all of us. The shore party will include myself, you, and all of your Marines. And, Sergeant, you can tell them to wear their uniforms this time.” Callum said and gave him a bit of a smirk.
“Very good, sir.” McGuffin said and saluted. He left his men where they were and went to the hatch to go below. Callum smiled briefly and turned for Collingwood. Callum could see the Avion was behind them by about three boat lengths now. He came up next to Collingwood and looked over the stern at the large ship now in the distance. They both stared at it in silence for a long moment and then Callum looked at Collingwood.
“Abel, I was just speaking to the Sergeant about the fortification.”
“Yes, sir.” Collingwood looked at his Captain and knew that something was about to happen.
“We will come in close to stay under their guns, as they are eighteen pounders from the looks of them, and I do not want to take that chance. One lucky shot from them could sink us.”
“We will steer a course around them to their blindside, heading toward the squadron. We will draw close to shore and come up on that sandy shoal that is there. With the lack of Regulars posted there, the fortification should be easy enough to take.” Callum said and Collingwood went wide eyed, “There is probably more than enough powder stored there to destroy the fortification, we’ll spike the guns and capture what Regulars there are and turn them over to Triborne when we join them.”
“Are you sure this is wise, sir?” Collingwood asked.
“One less threat to English ships, Abel, as well as removing the supposed protection to the Avion, another insult to our madman.” Callum said flatly.
“Surely, sir, if you blow up the fortification, he’ll hear it and respond by coming. We’re no match for him, sir.” Collingwood said with an almost frantic look on his face.
“He will hear it, no doubt, but he will not come, not in the daylight, I’ll stake my reputation on it, as well as my life. No,…he will sit and wait until dark, his madness will be in a frenzy by then. His blanket of protection will be taken from him. I would give real money to see the look on his face when he hears it actually.”
“You sound so certain, sir.” Collingwood said and calmed himself a bit.
“What if he doesn’t come tonight, sir?”
“If he does not, we will wait him out until he does.” Callum said as he folded his arms.
“Pardon my asking, sir, but for how long?”
“As long as it takes, Abel. Our orders were quite clear about this, and he is the only reason that I am here. Once this is done for good with the mission completed, we can take the boy home or see him off when we return to England.” Callum said.
“Understood, sir.” Collingwood nodded.
“Now, let’s prepare for the fortification. Lay over the tack to give Darin better steering and control. Have the hands standby aloft, once we clear the river and into the bay we should have better wind and get the easterlies fully.”
“Aye, sir.” Collingwood said and Callum turned and went around the short rail and came next to Talon on the port side.
“Lay over with the tack, Darin, as we clear the mouth of the river.” Callum said, “Draw us in toward the fortification.”
“Aye, sir. You wish to go under their guns, sir?”
“Exactly. We may have shallow water, but with our draft, we should be alright.” Callum said and smiled briefly.
“As you say, sir.” Talon said and watched toward the bow. He could see the mouth of the river coming into view and the bay opening up beyond, the fortification was still out of sight from them. Callum looked aloft.
“Patkin!” Callum called up to him, cupping a hand to his mouth, “Anything?”
“No, sir!” Patkin called back from the small platform aloft.
“Can you see the fortification?!”
“Barely, sir! Just the top of the bluff, sir!”
“Alright, keep a weather eye!”
“Stay sharp, Darin.” Callum said, Talon nodded still watching over the bow. Callum went to the port rail and looked down over the side. The water was clear and he could see the sandy bottom, maybe six or seven feet down of water, they were about sixty yards off the bank, the brush was thick here, the trees were thinning out, and as he looked he saw it, a flash of blue in the midst of the green and his eyes went wide, he turned quickly, “All hands down!” He screamed as loud as he could as the shots rang out from the brush, the hands of Windsong dropped to the deck, one of the Marines cried out as he was struck by a musket ball, he spun and fell, “Marines! Return fire!” Callum yelled as he got to his feet and ran to the fallen young man, getting down next to him on his knees, pushing the musket away. Blood was coming from under his left arm. Callum ripped open the shirt as McGuffin came over from the hatch, Callum looked at the wound and then into the young man’s eyes, “It’s alright, it doesn’t look that bad.”
“Thank you, sir.” He said through clenched teeth. Callum looked up and saw Jennings coming toward him.
“Fetch Carson.” Callum said and Jennings nodded and turned away for the steps, “Well, it looks like you’re going to miss going ashore to take the fortification with us.” Callum said as he gathered cloth from the ripped shirt and pressed it to the wound.
“I’m sorry, sir.” He grunted.
“Nothing to be sorry about, lad. But, I’ll make sure we bring you back a souvenir.” Callum smiled briefly and gave him a wink. The young man smiled weakly back.
“I can take him, sir.” Carson said as he came next to Callum on his knees. The boy, Hans, came next to Caron with a bag and set it on the deck. He opened it and started to pull things out for Carson to tend to the wound. Callum rose and looked at the bank as he came to the port rail, he saw the small flash of blue in the brush.
“There.” He pointed toward it and a musket was raised from the Marine closest to him, a pause and then the musket went off and a scream was heard from the bank, “Nicely done.” Callum said as he watched the brush. The young Marine lowered the musket and started to reload.
“Sir, the fortification!” Patkin called out, Callum backed away from the rail and went around the Marines and stood beyond them. He could see it now off the port bow, getting clearer in view now. “They’re loading their guns, sir!” Patkin called down.
“Damn it.” Callum said as Collingwood was now at his side.
“What do we do, sir?”
“If we cut out and head away to the north, they’ll have us for sure. The only thing we can do is get underneath them and out of sight as quickly as possible.” Callum said and turned, looking up, “Patkin, can you tell, are they loading all of them?!”
“No, sir, they’re only loading the three closest to us, sir!”
“Why would they only load the three, I wonder?” Collingwood asked.
“They think they can take us with limited shots. They think we’re going to cut and run, heading north across the bay. We’ve got them, Abel.” Callum said as he went to the port rail and looked over into the water, it was getter deeper, he turned from the rail as the musket from the brush went off, the ball hit the rail he was standing at and splintered, hitting him, knocking him to the deck.
“Sir!” Collingwood yelled, “Marines! Return fire!” He leaped over to Callum and dropped to his knees, “Sir.” Collingwood said as he got down close to him.
“I’m alright, Abel.” Callum said softly and groaned a bit. Muskets fired from the Marines and a scream could be heard. Carson came over quickly and knelt down in front of Callum.
“Sir, let me have a look.” Carson said as he leaned down. He saw blood and wood in Callum’s dark shirt collar, “You have a few splinters, sir.”
“I’m alright, Carson.” Callum said as he started to move, he got to a sitting position, “Abel, have Darin turn us to port, get us closer to the fortification under their guns, the water is getting deeper. Have Dorfman take the wheel, Darin can keep an eye on the water depth.”
“Aye, sir.” Collingwood said and got to his feet, going quickly toward the wheel and Talon, as he called out for Dorfman.
“Let me get these splinters out, sir.” Carson said, “I’ll just get something from the bag, be back in a moment.” Callum nodded and felt the splinters and their sting. He got to his knees, his hands rested on his thighs. McGuffin came over to him.
“You alright, sir?”
“Yes, Sergeant, thank you, right as rain.” Callum said as he looked up a bit at the big man, “A bit dizzy, but I’ll be alright. How is your man?”
“The boy is looking after him. He seems to be doing well, sir.”
“Good. When we clear out away from the brush, take your men below and have them prepare for the landing. I want as few of us on deck as possible in case they fire on us.” Callum said and then shook his head a bit to clear the dizziness as Carson came back with a crude looking set of tweezers.
“Yes, sir.” McGuffin said. He watched for a moment as Carson started to remove the splinters, some of them seemed a bit large. McGuffin turned and went back to his Marines.
“Hold still, sir. Some of these are barbed it looks like, it might hurt a bit, I’m sorry.” Carson said as he grabbed one and started to pull, Callum grunted a bit.
“One of the little pleasures in life can be a small amount of pain, Carson.” Callum said softly.
“Something Captain Powers told me once when I was a midshipman.” Callum said as he was watching the fortification through the rail. The port turn was happening, they were drawing closer under the guns. Callum stayed silent as Carson was pulling out the splinters one by one, Callum wasn’t paying attention to it any longer. He watched as he could see the Regulars getting ready to fire, thirty yards away. Callum pulled away from Carson, pushing him down to the deck, “Hands down!” Callum screamed getting to his feet, turned, and headed aft as the cannon was touched off, Callum made a dive for the boy tending to the Marine, landing on them both covering them as the ball sailed over their heads, missing Windsong completely, Callum looked up and over toward the starboard side seeing the ball hit the water about three hundred yards away. He rolled off the boy and the Marine, looking back at the fortification, the Regulars were getting ready to fire the second cannon, trying to make adjustments to it, lowering it. Callum turned and looked aloft, seeing the easterlies now coming in, sweeping through the bay, the canvas wasn’t catching it fully.
“Adjust sail!” Callum called up, “Lively now! Dorfman, give us another point to port!”
“Sir, you really should let me,…” Carson said.
“Not now, Carson.” Callum said as he looked at for a moment, “We’ll finish after we get clear of this. Get this lad below and out of the way. Do what you can for him.”
“Aye, sir.” Carson said. He sighed and turned toward the Marine on the deck, helping to get him up and out of the way.
Callum looked over the rail at the water, it was clear and the bottom could be seen and the depth was very good. He looked over at Dorfman and pointed toward starboard once, and Dorfman rolled the wheel knowing what Callum wanted him to do, a point back to starboard now. Callum looked over at the fortification watching the Regulars finishing with the cannon, looking toward Windsong and touched it off.
“Hands down!” Callum called out, and everyone hit the deck. Callum looked through the rail, but there was no shot fired, the cannon did not go off, the powder misfired. Callum got to his feet and looked over the rail and then smiled a bit, “Misfire. It’s rusted over, I’ll wager. Leave it to the French.” Callum turned and looked aloft, the wind was there and the canvas billowed fully and Windsong was moving beyond the third cannon position now, as the Regulars were still checking the misfired cannon. “We’ve got them,…perfect.” Callum smacked the rail with his hand, turned and went to the short rail at the wheel, “Dorfman, bring us around that point, keep us close to the shoreline. Darin, keep an eye on the depth, watch for shoals, call out to Dorfman. Abel, keep an eye on the Regulars there and what they’re doing.”
“Aye, sir.” Collingwood said for all of them.
“I’ll be below for a few minutes with Carson.” Callum said, “Oh, and now you can strike those French colors and raise our own, if you please.” He smiled and winked once, turned and headed for the hatch and the gangway ladder.
He came down the ladder and started to pass through the Marines, all were dressed in their full uniforms now and Callum nodded to all of them as they snapped to attention for him. He went through them and headed aft, seeing the lamps were lit and Carson was working on the young Marine as he was sitting on a crate. Callum saw McGuffin was there, standing behind Carson and the boy, Hans.
“How’s he doing?” Callum asked.
“He needs some sewing, sir.” Carson said as he looked over his shoulder, “I’ve done it a few times.”
“Are you alright with doing it, Carson?” Callum asked.
“Yes, sir. It might be several hours before one of the surgeons can reach us, sir. I don’t see any other choice, sir.”
“Well,…do you need anything?” Callum asked.
“I’ll have the lad fetch some hot water from the galley. Would you like me to take the rest of those splinters out, sir?” Carson asked.
“If you please. I think I need to have a change of clothes before we go ashore.” Callum said as he looked at McGuffin for a moment and then back at Carson. Carson smiled and then looked at the boy and then asked him in Dutch to go to the galley and get the hot water. The boy nodded and headed away. Carson retrieved the crude tweezers and had Callum sit on the same crate as the Marine, “Sergeant, we should be rounding the point shortly. I see your men are fully dressed and ready as you said, all but you it seems.” Callum said.
“Yes, sir. I’ll just go and prepare myself then.”
“Very good.” Callum said as Carson pulled out another barbed splinter. Callum winced a bit.
“There will be a bit of bleeding from these holes in you, sir, but not as bad as the last time I should think.” Carson said as he went after another one.
“Small favors, Carson, very small I must say.” Callum winced again from the pulling.
“Are you alright, sir?” The young Marine asked as he was shoulder to shoulder with Callum on the crate.
“Yes, quite alright, thank you. I’ve had much worse.”
“Indeed you have, sir.” Carson said as he looked at Callum and then pulled on the last one, taking it out and wiping it away on his pants, “There you are, sir, they’re all out. Now, I’ll just clean it up a bit.” Carson smiled.
“I think you might have missed your true calling, Carson. You have a much better manner than Dr. Crawford, I must say.” Callum said.
“I believe that the good doctor is somewhat tired of patching you back together, sir. He made mention of that before we left Portsmouth.” Carson said.
“Did he now?” Callum asked as he raised an eyebrow and tilted his head over a bit to let Carson wipe away the blood from the area, “What else did the good doctor have to say?”
“Only to keep a very close eye on you, sir, to not let something like this happen to you. I seem to have fallen a bit short in that regard. He will more than likely have something to say to me about it when he arrives, I imagine.” Carson said as the boy came back with the hot water in a wooden bucket.
“I wouldn’t worry too much over it, Carson. If he becomes too mouthy about it, I’ll simply have him thrown overboard.” Callum said as Carson dipped the cloth in the hot water and then wrung it out. Carson was wide eyed over what he heard. Callum chuckled and then Carson settled down a bit, knowing he was teasing. Carson finished cleaning up the blood on Callum’s neck.
“There you are, sir, good as new.”
“Thank you, Carson.” Callum said and stood rolling his head about a bit. He looked at the young Marine, “Sorry to have held you up, lad.”
“That’s quite alright, sir. I’m just glad that you’re alright, sir, I was a bit worried myself.”
“Thank you. I’ll bring back that souvenir like I said.” Callum said and winked at him.
“Thank you, sir.” The young Marine smiled at him. Callum walked away going back toward the Marines. He passed through them as they all stood at attention. He went up the gangway ladder and up on deck looking around, seeing the fortification over the port aft quarter. He turned and saw the open sea of The Channel as well as the shoreline they were following closely. He turned and went to the short rail.
“Wait until we are out of sight of them at the fortification and then find me some place to put to shore, Mr. Collingwood. We can beach her if it’s sandy enough.” Callum said, “I’ll be in my cabin having a change of clothes.”
“Very good, sir.” Collingwood said and tipped his hand. Callum went down the steps, going through the door, going by the galley and then reached the door to his cabin. He opened the door and turned up the lamp hanging from the beam in its center. He went to the trunk and opened the lid. He pulled out his white shirt along with his necktie and closed the lid back. He turned and went to the table, setting the shirt and tie down, pulling the length out of the dark one he wore out of his pants and then pulled it off. He looked at it in his hands.
“I’m sorry, my love, I seemed to have ruined another shirt that you gave me.” Callum said softly thinking of Dustin, “I’ll have to stop at that tailor you took me to and pick up some more before I return home to you.” He smiled softly and draped the shirt over the back of a chair next to him. He pulled the white one over his head, letting it drop over him. He tucked it in his Navy colored pants and picked up the necktie as there was knock on the door, “Enter.” The door opened and Talon was standing there, tipping his hand, “What is it, Darin?” Callum was wrapping the long tie around his neck under the collar of the shirt, making it stand up.
“Mr. Collingwood’s compliments, sir. There’s a large sandy beach with a shoal very close to us, but we are still in sight of the bluff of the fortification, sir.”
“Any sign of the Regulars?”
“No, sir. They might still be working on the gun that misfired.”
“My compliments to Mr. Collingwood, tell him that if he thinks it sound enough on this shoal and shallow enough to get from it to the beach, we can beach ourselves. Have him reduce sail and ease us in.”
“Aye, aye, sir.” Talon said as he watched Callum tie the tie and then fluff it. Talon tipped his hand and closed the door. Callum went to the peg on the bulkhead wall and pulled off his vest, slipping it on and started to button it. He could hear the shouts over his head, the orders being given, Callum finished the last button on the vest and turned, seeing his sword standing in the corner of the cabin, he went over to it and picked it up, he slid it through the holder in his belt and checked it, drawing the blade a bit from the scabbard and then slid it back in. He went over to the pegs on the bulkhead wall and took his tunic from the peg and slipped in on, pulling out his long tail and flipped it out over the collar. The tie was a bit uncomfortable against his neck where the splinters had been. He rolled his head a bit as he went to the door, leaving his hat hang on the last peg. He went out and headed for the deck, going through the door, closing it behind him and then up the steps.
His officers and the hands stiffened slightly seeing him in his uniform now, the brilliance of it from it being new. They had seen it before, yes, but now with this moment, the afternoon sun made the gold braid shine and radiate its brilliance even further, the epaulettes upon his shoulders signified rank and authority and gave more lend to Callum as being impressive. All hands tipped their hands to their Captain as he looked at the area that Talon had reported to him, Callum smiled softly at it and turned to look at the wheel, Collingwood standing there in his civilian clothes.
“A good choice for a landing, Mr. Collingwood, that will do quite nicely I should think.” Callum said and smiled briefly at him.
“Very good, sir.” Collingwood said, “Dorfman, lay her over and beach us on that shoal. Strike sail!”
“Aye, aye, sir.” The older man said and spun the wheel a bit. Windsong responded as Callum went to the hatch and looked down over the edge.
“Sergeant?” Callum called out into the hold. The big man appeared in full uniform.
“Sir.” He said in his graveled voice.
“Assemble your men on deck.”
“Very good, sir.” He snapped to attention as he looked up, he turned, “Orderly now, lads, up on deck and form up.” He stepped out of the way of the gangway ladder as the Marines came up, Callum turned as he felt the first roll of the hull against the sandy shoal, he continued aft as the next one came, jarring him a bit more. Windsong groaned slightly through the deck and came to a slow halt and listed to starboard a bit. Callum reached the short rail, putting his hands on it.
“Mr. Collingwood,” Callum said.
“Sir.” He answered, tipping his hand to his Captain.
“The ship is yours. The Sergeant and I will proceed with the Marines and take the fortification. Hold this position.”
“If trouble comes, the extra muskets are below in the locker the Sergeant set up. Arm all hands just in case. We should be back before dark, I hope. If not, the evening tide will lift you off this shoal, make for the squadron, join up with them and then return for us. Give Captain Tomlin my compliments and tell him to come with all speed.” Callum said.
“Aye, sir.” Collingwood said, knowing full well that Callum was giving him instruction of the worst case possibilities.
“But, in that also, ask Carson to outdo himself with a fine supper. I think we all deserve it after what we’ve been through up to now.” Callum said with a brief smile.
“I’ll see it done, sir.”
“Don’t let your guard down, Abel. We may be insight of the fortification, but, you never know.”
“Aye, sir.” Collingwood said, Callum nodded once toward him, Collingwood tipped his hand. Dorfman turned to the wheelhouse, opening the door, pulling out a loaded pistol, extra shot and a powder flask and turned back toward Callum, handing them out to him.
“Thank you, Dorfman.” Callum said as he took the pistol, tucking it in his belt, then the shot and powder, putting them in pockets of his new tunic. He turned and headed toward the assembling Marines, the small sea of red that was gathered and formed up on the deck near the hatch. McGuffin came up the gangway ladder and stepped in front of them all, staying rigid as Callum walked up to him.
“We are ready, sir.” McGuffin said.
“A very impressive looking group I must say, Sergeant. If I was a French Regular, I would turn and show my heels.” Callum said as he looked over the Marines.
“Thank you, sir.” McGuffin snapped a salute, Callum returned it loosely.
“Alright, let’s go over the side, you and I will take the lead, have your men follow us over in single file, once we reach the fortification, we’ll split up, I’ll take half over the bluff to come at them from the other side, you and your half will come in and we will trap them between us.” Callum said, “Hopefully with any luck, we’ll be back in time for supper.”
“Agreed, sir.” McGuffin said and snapped another salute, he turned on his heel to face to Marines, they all snapped to full attention, “You heard the orders, single file now, follow the lead of the Captain.”
Callum waded through the knee deep water between the shoal and the shore, McGuffin behind him, the Marines followed suit as well, in single file. Callum made his way up the beach to the dry sand, he was watching the bluff and saw no sign of any Regulars.
“It’s damned quiet don’t you think, Sergeant?” Callum asked as he looked about toward the fortification. There was a path that continued along toward the open earthen area.
“Too quiet, sir.”
“Alright, let’s move out. Keep your men as quiet as you can, no rattling of equipment if at all possible. I don’t want them to hear us coming in case they’re waiting” Callum said.
“Yes, sir.” McGuffin said in a low tone to the closest Marines, “Quietly now, follow the officer, keep a hand on your shoulder bags, no noise, pass the word.”
Callum set off on the well beaten wide path heading for the backside of the fortification, McGuffin turned and followed closely behind, the Marines started out as well, keeping pace. It was a few minutes of a walk to the backside of the fortification. Callum stopped, and crouched down just a few yards short of the earthen ramparts, McGuffin signaled the Marines to stop and crouch as well as he was next to Callum.
“Alright, Sergeant, I’ll head up and over the bluff. Give me a few minutes to reach the other side, I’ll fire a shot off to signal you. We can both come in at the same time and have them trapped between us.” Callum said in a low voice.
“As you say, sir. We’ll be ready and waiting.” McGuffin said quietly. Callum noticed that young Lauder was in the lead of the single file line, Callum nodded to him, turned and started up the bluff, Lauder rose and followed him up the sloping bank, the other Marines followed as well, McGuffin was counting them off to himself as the line continued up the bank on the path, stopping the line after half of them had gone up. Callum reached the top and looked over the grassy area of the bluff before proceeding further. There were no Regulars at all to be seen, he thought it odd that they would not post a lookout or guard at least. He went up and kept going, the Marines behind him as he went, staying in single file, all staying low just in case, Callum had his pistol out in hand, cocking it. A couple of more minutes and they reached the other side. Callum held up a hand to stop the Marines as he heard something. He waited and he heard it again, yes, there was talking going on. Callum turned and looked at Lauder.
“Do you hear them?” Callum whispered, Lauder listened and then nodded his head, “Wait here, I’ll have a look. Wait for my signal, then follow me.”
“Yes, sir.” Lauder whispered back. Callum moved toward the voices he heard and came up to the edge of the bluff. It dropped off a bit and then swept down. Callum leaned over the edge and looked down. He saw three Regulars below him, the three that had stopped him in Amien earlier. He could tell as they looked a little roughed up, bruised and battered. He smiled to himself seeing them, pulled back from the edge and stood. He pointed his cocked pistol down toward them and leaned out.
“Good afternoon, gentlemen.” He said very clearly. They spun their heads up and looked at him, their eyes going wide seeing him in uniform, muskets were in their hands, “We meet again. It just doesn’t seem to be your day, does it?” The third Regular that Callum had taken out in Amien moved to lift his musket, Callum fired his pistol, killing him instantly. He leaped off the bank toward the other two as they moved to lift their muskets, Callum hit the sweep of the bank near the bottom and used it to launch into them, tackling them both to the ground. Callum used his empty pistol and hit the first one in the head, stunning him senseless, the other he hit with his free left fist, pounding him twice, making the Regulars head roll over, keeping him on the ground as the Marines poured over the bank coming to Callum’s aid. The first Regular tried to get up, musket in hand as he cocked it, but Lauder was on him, smashing the butt of his musket into his face, killing him with the blow. Callum got to his feet.
“Follow me! Take them!” Callum said loudly as he drew his sword. Callum charged into the open timbered area where the long guns were. French Regulars went to charge back in defense, lifting their muskets but the Marines were quicker, firing their volley, some Regulars dropped to the dirt, dead. The roar from the screams from the Marines from the far side, made the Regulars that were left stop and look at what was coming from behind them, “Fix bayonets!” Callum called out. The Marines responded to the order, pulling bayonets as they kept moving forward, fixing them to the muzzle ends of their muskets and leveled at the Regulars. The one and only officer of the Regulars dropped his musket and held up his hands as he saw the great many red coated Marines closing in on him, the Regulars that survived the first volley, joined him in dropping their muskets. The Marines stopped as Callum held up his left hand, holding the empty pistol, “Gentlemen, the fortification is now ours!” Callum said loudly as the Marines crowded around the five surviving Regulars, pushing them back into the bluff at bayonet point.
“RAH!” They all called out at once, the Regulars jumped a bit with the roar from the Marines, their eyes were filled with fear.
“Sergeant.” Callum said as he sheathed his sword. McGuffin stepped forward.
“Sir.” McGuffin said with a snap and a salute.
“My compliments to you and your fine Marines, very well done.” Callum said.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Now, let’s see to the powder and to spiking these guns. We can stack out casks under some of these timbers as we did at La Rochelle, a powder fuse and we will touch it all off at the far end there where you came in.”
“Very good, sir.” McGuffin said. He turned and started to give orders as Callum finished loading his pistol, tucking it back in his belt. Callum looked over the condition of a couple of the guns. They were in very poor shape. There was rust evident on them and their workings. It was a wonder to Callum that the first gun even fired at all.
“Damned peculiar.” Callum said and then looked at the officer, a Lieutenant of the Regulars. Callum stepped forward to him, “Parlez-vous Anglais?” The officer nodded a couple of times slowly, “Good. How many men are in your command?”
“There are only twelve, beside myself, Capitaine.”
“Twelve? You are charged with the defense of the Avion and the river, are you not?” Callum asked, the officer only nodded, “These guns, where did they come from? They are from a ship aren’t they?” The officer did not answer him. Callum put his hand on his sword pommel, the Marines leaned closer with their bayonets, “I am not above killing you if you do not answer my questions, do you understand me?” Callum said with a snarl in his voice, the officer had even more fear in his eyes now.
“You spoke of La Rochelle, Capitaine. Were you the one that destroyed the fortress there?” The French officer asked.
“That’s right.” Callum said, his hand still on his sword.
“I will tell you what you want to know. The guns, these guns came from the Avion.” The officer said. McGuffin stepped close to Callum.
“Two years ago, Capitaine.”
“Admiral Battenou? He had them placed here?”
“The Admiral, he is not a well man, Capitaine.” The officer said shaking his head and lowered his eyes.
“Yes, we know, he has gone mad.” Callum said.
“No, Capitaine, the Admiral, his health is very poor, he is dying aboard the Avion.” The officer lifted his eyes and looked at Callum.
“What are you saying? He commands the Avion, does he not?”
“Not any longer, Capitaine.”
“Then who does?” Callum asked, the officer hesitated, Callum saw it and started to pull his sword, “Out with it! Who commands the Avion?!”
“His son, the Admiral’s son, Capitaine,…Andre Battenou.”
“Did he place these guns here?” Callum asked and the officer nodded, “He set up this fortification? Napoleon knows of it?” Callum asked and the officer nodded again, “He supports it as well?” Another nod, “Why?”
“An agreement, Capitaine, between them, a shared plan to start to starve England into submission. The Emperor has agreed to it, to hopefully give him the opportunity to invade England. Battenou wants to be there when it happens. It will make him rich beyond all others.”
“It doesn’t make sense.” Callum said and then he thought about it for a moment, and then he had a revelation. His suspicions were coming together all of a sudden, Callum looked at a bewildered McGuffin, “Of course. He gains favor with Napoleon, then can move all of the trade with whatever vessels he wishes and he controls all of Europe. Someone in England is working with him, that’s why he doesn’t take the cargos of the vessels he attacks. I was right all along.” Callum said, he looked back at the officer, “You say Admiral Battenou is aboard the Avion? Why?”
“He will not leave his ship, Capitaine. He has said over and over that he will die aboard her as he loves her that much.”
“And his son has command?”
“Oui.” The officer paused a moment, “You are right, Capitaine, he is quite insane.”
“He is the one we want in this, Sergeant.” Callum said as he leaned a bit toward McGuffin. He looked at the officer, “The Admiral, he agrees with this plan of his son’s?”
“He does not have a choice, Capitaine, he is not strong enough to try and stop him. The crew, they are all mercenaries, blood thirsty killers, most from prisons, murderers.”
“I don’t quite understand, sir.” McGuffin said. Callum narrowed his eyes a bit at the officer and then looked at McGuffin.
“Napoleon backs the Admiral’s son to get what he wants, the invasion of England. The son gets what he wants and could become the true economic power in all of Europe. If he succeeds in his plan, he could starve out entire countries, ours included by controlling shipping. He has to be stopped at all costs, Sergeant.” Callum said and looked back at the officer, “You know all of this to be true?” The officer nodded, “How?”
“I have met with him several times, Capitaine. He has even spoken of you and your small ship, your engagement with him but a few nights ago and then the English Man of War that he fought. He spoke of it to me only yesterday.”
“The damage that was done to the Avion, by our Man of War, how bad was it?”
“Bad enough, Capitaine. Battenou is very angry over it. He has said that he will see you killed because of it.”
“He can try. Too many have already died, that were complete innocents in this. He is insane.” Callum said and removed his hand from his sword, “If you knew who we were, why didn’t you fire upon us before we entered the river?”
“We saw that you had a girl with you and children. You were flying our flag. I had thought that he might be wrong about your ship. It was only when my men returned from the village up river that I knew for certain who you really were.” The officer said. Callum looked at McGuffin.
“Sergeant, get these men out of here, have them searched and kept under guard until we are ready to set off the charges.” Callum said.
“Yes, sir.” McGuffin said. He had a squad lead them out to the far end of the fortification as Callum walked away, looking the other guns over, all of them had rust and were neglected. Callum watched as the Marines continued to set powder kegs next to timbers of the fortification, stringing powder between them just in case. Callum watched as a few of the Marines were preparing the guns to be spiked, draping fuse they found out of the sparkers of each.
“I beg your pardon, sir.” One of the young Marines said to Callum.
“Yes, what is it?”
“There is not quite enough fuse, sir. It’s like they were never really resupplied at all, sir.” The young Marine said.
“Captain Carrington had mentioned that Hunter was here once, but the fortification did not fire upon them. I wonder.” Callum said as he rubbed his chin with the back of a finger in thought, “Do you what you can with what we have here. Hopefully the destruction of the fortification will bury those cannon we cannot spike.” Callum said.
“Yes, sir.” The young Marine said and tipped his hand to Callum. He turned away and returned to what he was doing with the other Marines.
“All of the kegs are set, sir. There is a grouping of them near the center as well, sir.” McGuffin said as he came up to Callum, “There is one cask left to use as a powder fuse.”
“Very good, Sergeant. Have your men pull back to the far side, leave a squad with me at the opening. Take the prisoners and lead them back to Windsong and get them aboard and secured. I’ll follow you in a few minutes.” Callum said as he looked at the big man. McGuffin saluted and turned away giving orders to his men. Callum went and looked at all the guns again, starting with the one that was closest toward the river. He saw the draped fuse hanging out of the strikers. Callum went over to a sparker and took it in his hand. He blew on it a few times and brought it up to a glow. He looked back at the far end of the fortification, seeing the Marines filing out going around the edge of the bluff that was overhead. Callum went to the Marines that were waiting for him.
“You men fall back around the corner. I’ll set off the fuses for the guns that were spiked.” Callum said.
“I can do that for you, sir.” Lauder said as he stepped close to Callum.
“It will require a bit of running to stay ahead before the guns start blowing up.” Callum said, “I have a bit more experience with it, Mr. Lauder, I assure you.”
“It would be my honor to do this for you, sir.” Lauder said as he put his hand on the sparker that Callum held.
“Very well,…if you insist, Mr. Lauder.” Callum said raising an eyebrow, “Make it fast. Do not hesitate, it will get you killed. Farthest one first and touch them off as you are running by each.”
“Yes, sir.” Lauder said.
“Let’s set the powder fuse for the kegs, the rest of you, stay out of the way. Wait for us here.” Callum said. Lauder handed his musket to one of his fellows. Callum handed him the sparker then took the small cask of powder. They went back inside the earthen fortification. Callum reached the first keg that was set at a timber. He opened the small keg that he had and began to pour out the powder in a trail back toward the far side, Lauder waited at the first spiked cannon. He watched as Callum poured the trail keg to keg. Each keg placed at a timber had been opened to catch spark which would add to the fuse and the ignition. Callum poured until he reached the last keg and poured a bit more beyond it toward the opening to touch it off. He set the keg down and looked back in Lauder’s direction, “At the ready now, Mr. Lauder, do not hesitate, if you miss one, keep going, do not stop!” Callum called back to him.
“Yes, sir!” Lauder said. Callum nodded at him. Lauder blew on the sparker and it glowed. He took a deep breath and grit his teeth, he let out the breath and started off, touching the first fuse and moved quickly, running as he went touching them off one by one, Callum watched as he went, reaching all nine that were fused and then kept running with the sparker still in hand.
“Hurry!” Callum yelled. Lauder had just about reached Callum as the first cannon exploded, then the next, the force of the explosions were deafening, the wind created and the shock wave of each under the timbered opening caused some of the powder kegs to go off as well, Lauder was launched into the air, as Callum was pushed back it as well, the two collided together in the air and hit the dirt into the opening, landing and rolling a bit as more explosions were going off. Dirt and dust were billowing out over them. Lauder was still as he and Callum were entangled in the dirt. The Marine squad came over to them, barely being able to see them both with the dust but could hear them coughing a bit. They found them and helped get them to their feet. Callum wiped the back of one hand over his eyes to push the dirt away from them. He waited a moment as the wind from the easterlies pushed away the smoke and dust from the explosions.
“You alright, Mr. Lauder?” Callum asked without looking at him.
“Yes, sir.” He said softly and coughed once. He looked where Callum was looking as well. The smoke and dust cleared and the destruction was nearly done. Callum looked back at the Lauder and the Marines.
“Hand me the sparker, I’ll touch off the powder and finish it off.” Callum said as he held out a hand. One of the Marines picked up the sparker and handed it over to Callum, “Everyone, get clear. Head down the path toward the beach, I’ll be right behind you.” Callum said. The Marines took Lauder, using their hands to guide their dusty comrade and started down the path. Callum turned and headed back into the open fortification.
Some of the timbers were still in place, the kegs of powder were still there. Callum looked toward the far end seeing that some of the cannon and the timbers were buried by the collapse of the bluff above. He wanted it all destroyed, every last bit of it. He blew on the sparker as he reached the end of the powder fuse, it trailed off to the first keg there a few feet away. He blew on the sparker again and then lowered it touching it off in a puff of smoke, he dropped the sparker, turned and ran as he could hear the puffing of the powder. He cleared the opening as the sparking reached the first keg and it exploded. He kept going down the path hearing the next keg exploding. The Marines had stopped, turned and looked back as Callum was coming toward them, he waved at them to keep going, they turned and started to move as the next keg went off, the bluff was collapsing, dust and smoke was rising into the air and being taken by the wind. The Marines were moving quickly and Callum caught up to them and then stopped, turned and looked back. The last explosion was large, a few kegs toward the center of the fortification that had been stacked together. The force of the explosion sent a shock wave through the air, the bluff erupted, Callum turned and bent down a bit. He waited a moment and then rose and looked back and the difference now to the bluff, a change in the landscape now made a small smile creep across his lips.
“Nothing to protect you now.” He said softly. He turned and followed the squad of Marines toward their landing point. Windsong was there waiting for him.
“Welcome aboard, sir.” Collingwood said as he held out a hand toward Callum as he came up over the port rail.
“Thank you, Mr. Collingwood.” Callum said and now saw his 1st in full uniform, “I see that you dressed for the occasion.”
“I thought it was high time, sir.” Collingwood said and gave him a nod.
“Quite right.” Callum said and looked back toward what was left of the bluff.
“Congratulations, sir, nicely done.” Collingwood said as he looked with Callum.
“Thank you. But, it was our brave young Mr. Lauder here that saw it through actually.” Callum said and turned away from the rail. He looked over at the Marines. He saw the dusty young Lauder there with his fellows, they were patting him on the back as they were gathered about him. Callum stepped forward and reached out a hand. Lauder swallowed hard and took it, “I will remember who to call on the next time we take a fortification, Mr. Lauder. That was quite impressive the way you ran.”
“Thank you, sir.” He said and then cleared his throat.
“You should probably get something to clear the dust out of your throat.” Callum said and took his hand back.
“I will, sir, thank you.” Lauder said. McGuffin stepped close to him.
“Sergeant, where are the prisoners?” Callum asked.
“Below, sir.” McGuffin said as he stiffened a bit.
“Very good. Keep them under constant watch. There may be only five of them, but I would hate to have them try and get their bravery back and do something about it.” Callum said.
“I have them under guard with a full squad, sir.”
“Excellent, Sergeant, thank you.” Callum said, and then looked at Collingwood, “Mr. Collingwood, the afternoon is slipping away from us, the tide should be with our favor very soon. Set all plain sail and we can make for the squadron as soon as we are free of this shoal.”
“Aye, aye, sir.” Collingwood said and tipped his hand. He stepped away and started to call out orders. Hands jumped to it and the canvas started to drop. Callum looked back at Lauder.
“It would seem that we are both in need of a good cleaning, Mr. Lauder. I’ll see Carson about some water being brought for you to wash the dust off you as well as for myself.” Callum said and had a bit of a smirk on his face, “Sergeant, I really don’t think one of your men should be on deck in such a bit of a sorry state, it’s a rather poor reflection on the regal status of the Royal Marine uniform, wouldn’t you agree?”
“I do, sir. I might have to put him on report for his state of dress, sir.” McGuffin said as he looked the young man up and down then twitched his big whiskers.
“Yes, I would endorse that as well, Sergeant.” Callum said and smirked even more. He turned away as some of the Marines were chuckling, patting Lauder on the back again, who was wide eyed and then blushed a bit being teased so much. Callum went toward the steps to go below. He went down and opened the door, closing it behind him, seeing Carson in the galley, who stopped what he was doing and came toward Callum.
“Are you alright, sir?” Carson asked with a worried look seeing all the dirt and dust.
“Yes, I am fine, Carson. Might I trouble you for some warm water to wash up with?” Callum asked.
“I’ll bring it right away, sir.” Carson said and nodded. Callum went on to his cabin and opened the door. He slipped off his dirty new tunic and hung it on a peg, then unbuttoned his vest, and exhaled a bit, scratching his scars that were under his shirt. Carson came in with a bucket and set it on the table. He reached up and turned up the lamp as they both felt Windsong shift a bit.
“I think we are starting to pull off the shoal.” Callum said as he watched the lamp swing a bit. He reached up and put a hand to it, stopping the motion for a moment and then another jolt came, long and brought a deep groan from the wood of the hull underneath them. “How is that young Marine that you had to sew, Carson?”
“He is doing well, sir. Hans is looking after him.” Carson said as he pulled a large cloth off his shoulder and set it on the table next to the bucket. Callum was pulling out his shirt from his pants and lifted it up over his head, draping it over the back of the chair. “Do you have another shirt, sir?”
“I believe I have one left, yes, Carson.” Callum said as he bent over the bucket and dipped his hands in it, lifting water out of it and putting it to his face. Carson went over to the trunk and lifted the lid. He looked inside and then looked at Callum, who had his back to him and was continuing to wash, Carson looked back into the trunk. He moved things around a bit and then found another white shirt. He pulled it out, closed the lid and came back to the table, as Callum was finishing up. He picked up the cloth and dried himself with it.
“Here you are, sir.” Carson said as he draped the shirt over another chair at the table.
“Thank you, Carson.” Callum said as he put the cloth down, “I was going to say to you, that I was most impressed with your nephew a short time ago. He shows great promise.”
“Indeed, sir, very kind of you to say. He has two very good examples to take from.” Carson said, Callum looked at him as he held the large cloth, “I was referring to you and the Sergeant, sir. He has great stock in you both, sir.”
“I see.” Callum said and set the cloth down, “I wasn’t aware of that.”
“Oh yes, sir, he speaks of you both constantly to me, sir. A bit of hero worship, I suppose.”
“Well, if he continues to do what he is doing already, he will have quite a career in the Marines. He reminds of someone else with his daring.” Callum said as he pulled the shirt over his head.
“Who is that, sir?”
“Lieutenant Holt. They share the same resolve it seems.” Callum said as he pulled his long tail out of the shirt. He started to tuck it into his pants.
“I am afraid I really don’t know the Lieutenant all that well, sir. He stayed with Captain Anders for the most part aboard Dover and then was rather busy until he was wounded as he was.” Carson said.
“Christian Holt is a very remarkable man. He has shown me great courage and resolve several times as he has been with me for quite some time since we returned home. The stories I could tell you of him, Carson.” Callum smiled at the thought of him for a moment, “We might have need of him before this is over with.”
“I mean no disrespect to the Sergeant. In fact, I admire him greatly and am fortunate to have him with us in this, but Lt. Holt is of a different sort. Did you know that he is actually the tenth Earl of Cambridge?” Callum asked.
“No, sir. I did not know that.”
“Neither did I until after Thomas spirited him away from his home in a rescue attempt.” Callum said letting his voice trail off, going into thought.
“Captain Tomlin, sir? He spirited the Lieutenant away?” Carson asked seeing the look on Callum’s face, “You’ll have to tell me about that, sir.”
“Yes, perhaps I will.” Callum said slowly going into thought, “A rescue attempt.”
“Sir?” Carson asked Callum.
“Of course, a rescue attempt.” Callum said and then looked at Carson, “Carson, a true wonder you are.” Callum smiled at him and pat his shoulder, going for the door and throwing it open, he went to the door of the steps throwing it open and went up the steps quickly. Collingwood and Talon were watching over the bow, the crew tipped their hands as Callum went by them as they worked, Collingwood and Talon turned and saw Callum charging toward them, they tipped their hands as he reached them, “Both of you with me. Amos! You have the deck.”
“Aye, sir.” Amos said. Callum went to the hatch and went down, Collingwood and Talon followed. They reached the deck below. Callum saw McGuffin there with his Marines.
“Sergeant, where are the prisoners?”
“Forward, sir. Is there a problem?”
“Come with us, Sergeant.” Callum said and went forward in through the squad that was guarding the Regulars. Callum stood in front and looked down at the sitting officer, “I need to speak with you.”
“Certainement, Capitaine.” The officer said as he looked up.
“Admiral Battenou, what is wrong with him?”
“His ailment. You said he was in poor health, what is wrong with him?”
“His heart, mon Capitaine, his heart is very weak.”
“Is there a doctor onboard the Avion?”
“No, there is not. One comes from time to time from Calais to see the Admiral. I know that doctor, he is quite good.”
“Is Admiral Battenou being held against his will?” Callum asked, “You said something about him wanting to die onboard his own ship. Is there something more?” Callum asked and the officer hesitated, looking down at the deck, “There is, what is it?” Callum asked and folded his arms over his chest, “I told you that I was not above killing you. If I were to throw you overboard from where we are right now, you’ll drown before you even see the shore. Now out with it.” Callum growled, “Tell me everything.” The officer lifted his head and looked at Callum.
“Battenou is being kept aboard the Avion. His son, Andre, wants to keep him there with him. He thinks that it is good fortune to have the Admiral with him, that nothing can touch him. The Admiral and his reputation protects him or so he thinks. I told you he was insane, Capitaine, you know this to be true. If the Admiral were to die or to be taken from the Avion, the son would be destroyed for certain with his loss.”
“Have you seen Admiral Battenou?” Callum asked.
“Only yesterday. I was on the Avion when they returned to dock. I spoke with the Admiral myself. He was very upset over the damage caused by your other ship. He and Andre argued about it. The Admiral kept telling him that he had the upper hand and should have kept firing and sink the English ship. Andre became very angry and locked his father away in the main cabin. It was a sad sight, mon Capitaine. I left shortly after that.” The officer said, Callum turned and looked at his officers who were wide eyed.
“Gentlemen?” Callum asked.
“Sir,…are you thinking that we should rescue Admiral Battenou?” Collingwood asked.
“I would say so, Mr. Collingwood. The Avion can be taken, and taken easily with her condition. It appears to me that the Admiral is an innocent in this.”
“Sir,…respectfully, how can you be certain of that?” Collingwood asked.
“You’re right, I can’t be certain of that, at least not yet. But, if the Admiral is being held against his will, if he is not a part in this, but only as a figurehead, the man deserves to be helped. We were taught his tactics at school. His accomplishments rival that of Lord Nelson. If, he is an innocent in this, we need to help him.”
“But, sir, a French Admiral, we’re at war with,…”
“Believe me, Abel, I am well aware who we are at war with, but this is Admiral Battenou.” Callum said.
“Please, Monsieur,…” The officer said as he rose to his feet looking at Collingwood, “I would give my life to help save the Admiral from this insanity that he is trapped in.”
“And it appears to me, sir, that you had that opportunity possibly multiple times and yet you did nothing. Now, you wish us to do your dirty work for you.” Collingwood said. He folded his arms and looked at Callum, “I beg your pardon, sir, but, I must point out that this would be folly to pursue a rescue of the Admiral. Once we engage the Avion, sir, we could then try and spirit him away.”
“I agree with Mr. Collingwood, sir.” Talon said, “The number of the crew of the Avion, sir. It would take most of us from Dover, Triborne, and Hunter. The losses might be considerable just to save one man, sir, in a rescue. And if this son of his feels that the Admiral is that valuable, then,…”
“Valid points, gentlemen, to be sure.” Callum said, and gave a brief smile, “I appreciate your thoughts on this, that’s why I ask. I will not pursue that course of action, unless something else presents itself.” Callum nodded to them. They both eased a bit. Callum looked at the officer, “When we reach our squadron, I will have you and your men taken to Triborne, our largest ship and placed in custody there with Captain Stewart. We should reach them in about an hour or so.”
“Dear God, Quintan, you can’t be serious.” Tomlin said, his eyes flashed as he listened to everything that Callum told him and the other Captains, Stewart and Carrington. Most of the other officers were gathered together on the upper deck, the Poop Deck of Triborne.
“It makes sense, Thomas, finally it all makes sense.”
“If I may,” Stewart said, Callum turned and looked at him, “you had made mention of this before, Callum, someone in England that was helping in this. Who do you think it is really?”
“As I said before, it is a merchant, a freighting company, or someone that owns one at least. The information that this officer has relayed to me fits perfectly with that, wouldn’t you agree?”
“I suppose.” Stewart said as he was thinking.
“They are not just words that fit the facts, Alistair. Think back, we sight a sail, it disappears from us, and then the very next night we are attacked by the Avion, in the dark, no moon. That sail we sighted could only be a merchant. No,…there is great planning in this, gentlemen, a conspiracy concocted by a madman, yes, but his madness has given him a clarity with his plan. As I said when I first heard this, if he succeeds, he could become the true economic power in Europe. And with that, he could starve out entire nations, whomever he chose. Life held by the whim of a madman. It’s a terrifying thought.” Callum said and then shook his head, “The one thing that eluded me in all of this was the Avion, and now it makes complete sense to me. His father, Admiral Battenou, a man of great respect and legend is beyond reproach. We, as a navy feared him greatly, and not just because of his ship. It was said that he could bring the wind with the wave of an arm, to call for it when he needed it. My officers gave me their opinions as we were coming to meet you. I agreed with their assessments, the loss of life would be too great to try and rescue one man only. But, when we engage the Avion, if we can save him, I feel that we must.” Callum said.
“Are you running for Parliament?” Tomlin asked and Callum lifted an eyebrow at him, “The man is a French Admiral, we’re at war with the French. He might be a hero to his countrymen, but think for a moment. If we were to rescue him, Quintan, take him from this madness as you call it, what would you do with him? Take him to England, or simply set him ashore somewhere in France? His life has been that ship. You said that this officer you captured told you that the Admiral wanted to die on the ship. I say, we give him that chance. Let him die a sailors death, Quintan, let him die on the Avion.”
“That might be considered murder, Thomas.” Callum said softly.
“Think of it this way, Quintan, where would you rather die, on a foreign shore somewhere or on Dover?” Tomlin asked. All of the officers about them just stared at the building tension between Callum and Tomlin. The air grew heavy about them as Callum narrowed his eyes a bit at his friend and then a slight smile began to creep across his lips.
“You know how I feel about it, Thomas, and you know what my choice would be.” Callum said and he eased himself a bit, “You’re right in this. The man made his choice. I concede to the majority.”
“We should set sail soon.” Stewart said, “If you think he will be coming tonight, how would you like to proceed?”
“Single file. We will be ahead of you all by two miles at least to begin with. We will draw him out and then you come in.” Callum said, “We can cut across his bow and force him to turn to chase us. Remember, he wants me in this, to see me destroyed. Thomas, you can bring Dover in at the Avion’s stern, disable her rudder, Alistair, you can run in alongside her. If we can take her, fine, but as I think he will fight to the last man, being cornered as such with everything that we have done so far, Alistair, give her a full broadside. I don’t think it will take much to sink her in her condition.”
“Sad really.” Stewart said, “Truly a great ship in her day, and now,...”
“Yes, if only you had seen her in the daylight as we did. It was very sad to see.” Callum said.
“What of the frigate?” Tomlin asked.
“With Hunter’s damage and temporary repairs being made,…Captain Carrington, I would ask that you hold back in reserve, keep the frigate with you. If for some reason, they are able to get the best of us, you are the fallback position in this. We can use the frigate as a fire ship. The coal oil is still aboard the frigate, it can be spread out and ignited. One barrel can be lashed to the bowsprit. We can ram the Avion with it, the coal oil barrel can be spread over the hull of the Avion on impact and then ignited. Comments, gentlemen?” Callum asked. No one said anything, “Alright, let’s set to it then. Windsong will take the lead. We will sail into the bay and send up a rocket to let him know we are there and waiting for him.”
“You’re going to taunt him?” Tomlin asked.
“Yes.” Callum said, “He told me earlier this afternoon he would see me ‘later’. I’ll give him a calling card to let him know I’m there.”
“You are mad.” Tomlin said and shook his head.
“No,…I just want to go home, Thomas, and in one piece.” Callum said softly.
“Amen.” Talon said. Everyone looked at him, Callum winked at him and gave him a soft smile.