Voyage Home

9

Callum and Collingwood came to the bow through the hands that were there and looked over the side. Callum saw Camden, the ships carpenter from Dover, spreading pitch with a broad brush into the seams of the new overlapping planks of the hull that he had installed.

“Camden?” Callum asked. Camden looked up and nodded.

“Just a few minutes, sir. It needs to be sealed inside as well, sir.”

“Whatever you think, Camden.” Callum gave him that smile of reassurance and a nod, he looked over at Amos, “Have some of the hands report to Mr. Talon at the aft section, Amos, the rest can standby here. When Camden is finished, we’ll pull the anchor back from Dover and then untie from Triborne, the Marines can help.”

“Aye, aye, sir.” Amos said and tipped his hand toward Callum, “Hawkins, Jennings, Rafkin, Brewer, go aft and report to Mr. Talon, standby until the word is given.”

“Aye.” They all said and headed away. Amos looked back at Callum, who was still looking over the side. Amos looked over as well.

“She’ll be as good as new, sir.” Amos said.

“I hope so, Amos. She’s gotten us this far and has seen more than she needed to. Hopefully her good name will hold out and hold her together a bit longer.” Callum said quietly.

“All finished, sir.” Camden said as he looked up.

“Excellent, Camden, thank you. Now, come aboard and we can have you go below and seal her on the inside as well.” Callum said and reached down with a hand. Camden put the broad brush down and took the Captain’s hand firmly as Callum held him and pulled, bringing Camden up on deck, “Welcome aboard, Camden.” Callum smiled and took his hand back.

“Thank you, sir.” Camden smiled and nodded then tipped his hand. Hands patted Camden on the back in appreciation from his former shipmates. Camden looked at all of them and they all started shaking hands quickly. The supplies were passed up, Camden was shown below and the supplies were carried for him. He went forward and saw by lamplight the new hull section that he had built. He took the brush and the keg was hefted and poured a bit on the bristles. Camden rolled the brush to get it all and then set to it, sealing the edges of the new planks, over and over the pitch was poured for him, soon the new area was coated and completely done. Camden stepped back and looked it over carefully and nodded. He and the couple of hands went back up on deck.

“All set, sir.” Camden said. The keg and the brush were sent over the side into the waiting gig. Callum reached out a hand to his former ships carpenter, Camden looked down at it for a moment and then wiped his own hand on his shirt and then took Callum’s hand, looking him in the eye.

“On behalf of the crew of Windsong, we thank you, Camden, for a most excellent job in preserving us.” Callum said and then pat his shoulder with his other hand. Camden swallowed hard.

“You’re very welcome, sir, it was my pleasure.” Camden said as he looked at his former Captain.

“Give Captain Tomlin my deepest thanks for the use of your services, as well as my respects.” Callum said.

“I will, sir.” Camden said and lowered his hand from Callum’s. Callum pat his shoulder once again as Camden went over the side and down into the gig. All hands and Callum watched as the gig pushed off and oars were set, the gig pulled away from Windsong and set off for Dover. Callum smiled briefly and then looked at Collingwood.

“Abel, do you think you could organize the return of our anchor?” Callum asked.

“Not as well as you could, sir, but I will have it done.” Collinwood said and gave Callum a nod.

“Then it is up to you, Mr. Collingwood.” Callum said and started to walk away, looking over the leaning port side and saw a boat coming, a longboat with officers aboard at the tiller. Callum watched as he could hear Collingwood calling over to Dover to haul up the anchors and then give orders for their hands to get ready.

“I’ll be damned.” Callum said softly as he went to midsection of Windsong’s deck, watching the boat pulling closer to them. Callum turned his head a bit over his shoulder, “Mr. Collingwood, it appears that we are going to have more company aboard. Lend me one of the hands if you please.”

“Aye, sir.” Collingwood said and Dorfman came to Callum’s side.

“Sir?”

“Standby to receive that boat, Dorfman, I’ll give you a hand.” Callum said as he went down with the lean to the port rail that was near the waterline. Dorfman went to the aft end and waited for a moment as the longboat shipped oars and was steered over to the rail. Dorfman caught the line from the aft end of the longboat, Callum took the bow, tying off on the rail. He stood and looked into the boat.

“Captain Renner,…this is unexpected.” Callum said as he came toward the midsection of the longboat. Renner stood up from his bench seat at the tiller. Renner took off his hat and tucked it under his arm.

“Captain Callum, might I come aboard, sir?”

“As you can see, Captain Renner, we are a little preoccupied with repairs at the moment. Is there something that I can do for you, Captain?” Callum asked and was doing his very best to as polite as possible, what he really wanted to do was swamp the longboat and have Renner swim back to his own ship.

“I can see that, sir.” Renner said as he looked about at Windsong, “Captain Callum, I have come to offer my most profound apologies to you, sir.”

“I see.” Callum said as he crossed his arms over his chest and looked down at the older round man, “Captain Renner, perhaps you should withdraw, sir. We can have this discussion at another time. I am a little distracted at the moment as you can plainly see. I will be with Captain Stewart this evening aboard Triborne, along with my officers.”

“I shall be there as well, Captain. I have already spoken with Captain Stewart before we pulled for you.” Renner said.

“I see, check with your fellow rather than the vessel in distress.” Callum said, his tone filled with anger, his glare could have killed, and Renner looked afraid for a moment for making yet another mistake, “We shall discuss it later then aboard Triborne. Now, if you will excuse me, Captain, I have a ship to right.” Callum said, his tone was that of authority, Renner shook inside knowing his anger at him, “Dorfman, cast off these lines.”

“Aye, aye, sir.” The older man said and tipped his hand and untied the line closest to him, tossing it back to the longboat and then went forward and untied the bow line, tossing it back as Callum walked toward the aft section of Windsong.

Callum came around the short rail and stopped next to Talon, the hands there were looking at the longboat pulling away from them.

“Was that Captain Renner, sir?” Talon asked.

“What’s left of him,…yes, Darin.” Callum said as he looked over at the longboat as it was pulling away. He fell silent for a minute watching and felt bad for the older man and the way he treated him, another Captain, a comrade in arms, an equal. Callum sighed and then shook his head.

“Are you alright, sir?” Talon asked.

“I long for the fields of home all of a sudden, Darin. It is moments like this that brings that desire of those fields, their peace, to me.” Callum said quietly.

“I can understand that, sir. I miss certain aspects of your home as well, sir.” Talon said softly, “My visit there,…” Callum turned and looked at his young officer and then smiled.

“Those certain aspects wouldn’t happen to be a certain young girl in a long skirt, would it, Darin?” Callum asked as he had a smirk on his face. Talon looked like he had just been caught in the sugar bowl, “Callista Muir, no doubt?” Callum asked and Talon went red. He lowered his head a bit and nodded. Callum put a hand on the young shoulder, “You’ll see her again, Darin, I promise you that.”

“I hope so, sir.” Talon said softly lifting his head. Callum squeezed the young shoulder gently.

“You will. Now, standby to cast off these lines after we pull back the anchor from Dover.”

“Aye, sir.” Talon said as he looked up into his Captain’s young handsome face. Callum winked at him and then turned and walked toward the bow.

“Dorfman,” Callum said as he walked along, Dorfman came close to his Captain, “Go below, ask the Sergeant if he can have some of his Marines help us with the tier line of the anchor.”

“Aye, sir.” Dorfman said, tipping his hand and went to the hatch and the gangway ladder, going down out of sight. Callum continued along and stopped near Collingwood, he looked over the bow, seeing the tension of the tier line starting to slacken, the hull was righting itself as it eased in the tension, and all of the hands were smiling wide.

“How are we doing, Mr. Collingwood?” Callum asked.

“She’s coming over, sir.” Collingwood said, tipping his hand. Windsong was settling into the water, bringing herself upright again.

“Keep an eye on the tier line. I asked Dorfman to set the Sergeant and the Marines to pulling it in.”

“Yes, sir.” Collingwood said as he watched the line touch the water now of the calm sea they were in. Callum looked over the side at the new planks that Camden had installed, now below the waterline.

“I’ll go below and check for leaks. Are you alright here?” Callum asked.

“Yes, sir.” Collingwood said, giving him a brief look and then back out at the thick line. Callum nodded and walked to the hatch, going down the gangway ladder and reaching the lower deck. He went forward through the group of Marines and stepped into the lamplight, seeing McGuffin and Dorfman.

“Sir.” Dorfman said seeing Callum there, he tipped his hand, McGuffin looked back and turned, the Marines were standing out of the way.

“I wanted to see if we were leaking, Dorfman.” Callum said as he looked down at the new planks.

“I checked, sir, it seems to be holding quite well.” Dorfman said. Callum nodded.

“Thank God for Camden’s skilled hands. It would be a long swim back to England, I would think.” Callum smirked and stepped back into the Marines around him, “Alright, everyone clear on what needs to be done?”

“Yes, sir.” McGuffin said and nodded once.

“Thank you to you and your men for your assistance, Sergeant.”

“Our pleasure, sir.” McGuffin said, one side of his big whiskers moved slightly and Callum knew he smiled briefly. Callum nodded back and turned away to go up on deck. Once there, he went forward to the bow and looked over.

“Mr. Collingwood, we might want to get two lines on the anchor as well. I would hate to have them lose it as it was coming back over and drop suddenly. The drop might pose damage to us.” Callum said.

“Aye, sir.” Collingwood said then looked into the group of men, “I need two lines sent over to Dover to hook the anchor. Amos, see to it.” Collingwood said.

“Aye, aye, sir.” Amos said and tipped his hand to Collingwood. He and Jennings set out on the bowsprit with spare lines, each calling over to Dover and then tossing them across the distance. The lines were taken and readied as Windsong’s anchor was hauled up with Dover’s and they watched as hands went over the starboard side to untie the two. It seemed forever for it to happen, but finally the hands came back up on the deck of Dover.

The tier line was back even more by Dorfman, McGuffin, and the Marines below. The anchor appeared on deck and the hands of Dover set about to haul it up and over the rail. It was set down, the tier line was undone and the anchor was picked up again and carried to the port rail. Again, it was set down, the tier line was pulled on, bringing more toward Windsong, Collingwood relaying instructions below as he watched carefully at the hand signals from the crew of Dover. Callum watched it all happen before him and smiled at it all, his men working hard, and his most capable officer directing it all, he had made a good choice for certain in choosing Collingwood.

The tier line was brought out from under the rail, brought over and reattached to the anchor. The two lines were attached from Windsong that had been thrown and the two tow lines were also hooked. Collingwood directed the pull on lines now as he had control of all. The anchor was hoisted over the side and was slowly brought back, hands from Dover kept tension and the hands of Windsong pulled on the two ropes, the cable tier line was pulled as well and the anchor slowly made its way back to its rightful place. Callum nodded once without anyone seeing, turned and went aft.

“Darin, cast off lines from Triborne.” Callum said as he reached the steps to go below.

“Aye, aye, sir.” Talon said, tipping his hand, turning and gave the order to his men there. Callum went through the door, closing it behind him. He stopped at the galley.

“Carson.”

“Sir.” Carson said as he looked up.

“I think we will be alright now, you should be able to light the stove again now.” Callum said and gave him a firm nod.

“Aye, sir.” Carson said and gave a smile in reply. He bent and opened the stove, looking at the embers that were there, blowing on them a few times, then reached for coal, picking up a few pieces, tossing them in, closing the firebox door, “I can have some coffee in just a bit, sir.”

“Very well, I’m going to my cabin to set it right and get some rest for a bit.” Callum said, “You can bring it in when it’s ready.”

“As you wish, sir.” Carson said and gave him a nod. Callum walked away and went to the cabin door. He opened it and looked inside. He left it open as he went and moved the table to the far side of the cabin this time as well as the chairs rather than leaving them in the center as they had been to give he and the boy more room to move around in. Table and chairs moved, Callum went and reset the pallet for the boy against the bulkhead wall, making it tidy for him to get into. Callum got up after he looked at the pallet again and went to a chair and slipped off his boots, setting them on the floor. He got up and moved to the haversack and lay in it, closing his eyes for a minute. He rolled his head over a bit and opened his eyes.

“I beg your pardon, sir.” Carson said at the open door.

“What is it, Carson?”

“Supper, sir.”

“I apologize. I neglected to tell you that we, Mr. Collingwood, and Mr. Talon, and I are going over to Triborne for this evening.” Callum said.

“That’s alright, sir. I overheard something about it earlier, sir. I came to ask if it is alright to start supper for the crew and the Marines, sir.”

“I believe the repairs are complete for now, yes, Carson. It should be alright.”

“As you say, sir.” Carson bowed his head slightly. He went to close the door.

“No, if you would leave it open for me, Carson, it is a bit stuffy in here I think.”

“As you wish, sir.” Carson said. Callum watched him walk back to the galley and then he rolled his head back in the haversack and closed his eyes. He could hear the activity on deck, not only above him, Talon and the hands moving about, getting ready to remove lines from Triborne, but he could hear the faint shouts from the bow, Collingwood giving orders about the anchor being pulled, the tier line being pulled in by the Marines. All seemed well for now as the afternoon was slipping away and Callum felt exhausted in these days that they had been sailing, his constant vigil of it all. He hoped that the end was in sight and he could return home to his family that waited for him. Dustin. Callum smiled softly at the thought of him, and then the pang of missing him took him, starting in his chest, then going throughout his body as he lay there, how he missed him so, the sight of him, his natural scent, that freshness that he always had about him, like soft cotton cloth and cornsilk, Callum smiled wider at that thought.

His thoughts went from the scent of him to seeing him now, it is morning, the sun rising, streaming its light through the window at the head of their bed. Dustin is lying there, sleeping on his side facing Callum’s side of the bed. His face is so angelic and peaceful as he sleeps, the light giving him a glow, highlighting his soft features, his perfectly formed nose, his brown hair is soft and glowing in the light, almost reflecting that light making it turn color to an almost blonde. Callum is watching him from the foot of the bed, his eyes are slowly moving down, surveying Dustin’s form under the covers, the thin body that is hiding underneath, so perfectly defined under them, the light showing off the weave of the cloth, and there it is again, that scent of him. Dustin moves slightly under the coverings, his hands reaching out over the empty space before him in the bed, searching, and not finding what he is looking for. Callum sees those brown eyes open and look as his hand still searches as if to confirm that there is nothing there.

“Quintan?” Dustin asks softly in that morning light that bathes him. Callum sees his head lift off that thick soft pillow.

“I am right here, my love.” Callum says softly in reply, but he is not heard. He watches Dustin slowly drop his head back to the pillow and a tear rolls from the one closed eye that can be seen.

“I wish you were here with me.” Dustin whispers to the empty space in the bed, “I miss you so.”

“Dustin, I am here with you, right now.” Callum says from the foot of the bed. He cannot move to go to him, to hold him, to comfort him. Callum’s chest is tight and ready to explode from this pain he feels inside now. He tries to reach down to the bed at the foot but cannot move his hand. The pain was still there.

Dustin was walking up from the stable, the horses moved about with him as he went up to pump more water into the bucket he carried with him. Callum stood on the flagstone at the back of the house watching Dustin come toward him and get closer, the pain in his chest was still there. His eyes moved with Dustin.

“Dustin, can’t you hear me?” Callum asked as Dustin moved by him going to the pump at the corner of the house. He watched him set the bucket down, some of the horses moved close to him as he pumped the water out into the bucket. Callum watched in amazement as Dustin stopped pumping, picked up the bucket with one hand, the other touched the horses he walked by, they followed him down to the large tub as he poured the water in it, then started back up to the pump again, Callum watching him the entire time, missing him more and more as he watched him.

“Sir.” The voice said, making Callum open his eyes, the vision of Dustin was no longer there, it was replaced by the vision of Talon leaning over him.

“Darin?”

“Yes, sir. Mr. Collingwood’s compliments, sir, all lines have been removed from Triborne. Our anchor is back in place and the tier line has been set to coil below, sir.”

“Excellent.” Callum said, “Well done, Darin, thank you. I’ll be up presently.” Callum said swinging out of the haversack.

“Aye, sir.” Talon said softly. He backed up a couple of steps, watching Callum stand and then go to a chair and sit down. Carson came in with a small tray and went to the table, setting it down.

“Some coffee for you, sir.”

“Thank you, Carson.” Callum said as he tried to focus his eyes, the tightness in his chest was still there but easing a bit, Talon just stared at him, Carson set the coffee on the table and turned away, seeing Talon staring at Callum with a concerned look, Carson turned back and looked at Callum and then back at Talon.

“Is everything alright, Mr. Talon?” Carson asked as Callum reached for the coffee.

“Yes, I suppose it is, Mr. Carson.” Talon said in almost a whisper, still staring at Callum, he finally turned and walked out of the cabin leaving Callum and Carson alone, Carson looked back at Callum, who seemed not to pay attention at all. Carson walked out and went back to the galley.

Callum sipped his coffee repeatedly until it was gone then set the cup down and reached for his boots, slipping them on one at a time. He stamped his feet on the deck and rose out of the chair. He looked at his tunic on the peg but shook his head at it for a moment and walked out of the cabin, going by the galley to the door at the bottom of the steps, he went through, closing the door and went up on deck, seeing the deck was upright again, the crew moving about to set lines and stays on the remains of the destroyed starboard rail. Callum looked about seeing all of the activity and then looked aft, seeing Collingwood coming toward him, tipping his hand to him.

“Sir, I have the anchor set. Would you care to have it dropped, sir, if we are staying in our position for the night?” Collingwood asked.

“No, we will see if Captain Stewart will let us tie off to Triborne for the night.” Callum said as he went toward Collingwood, meeting him, they both went to the aft rail and Callum looked up.

“Ahoy, Triborne!” Callum called up the ship of the tall ship, Collingwood was standing behind him looking up as well. A face looked over the side, Strathum.

“Ahoy, Captain Callum.” He replied.

“Mr. Strathum, I am wondering if Captain Stewart would not mind if we were to tie of to you for the night?”

“I will ask it of him, sir. Will you give me a moment?”

“Of course.” Callum said and gave a slight wave. Strathum disappeared at the rail. Callum looked back at Collingwood.

“Do you know him, sir?” Collingwood asked.

“I know of him, Abel. He was on Hannibal at Gibraltar from what I understand, before she was lost. It is said, he saved many of the hands. That was a black day for us. She was a fine ship.” Callum said.

“Were you at Gibraltar, sir?”

“No. Captain Powers had received orders for a different mission. We were with Fitzwarren and the squadron at the north of Spain at the time.” Callum said.

“I see, sir.” Collingwood said and then looked up, Callum turned and looked up as well.

“Captain Callum, Captain Stewart’s compliments, sir, we can send over two lines for you to tie off. It is would be an honor to have you tie off with us for the evening, sir.”

“My thanks to Captain Stewart, Mr. Strathum.” Callum said, giving him a nod, Callum saw a tip of the hand to the wide hat, “Abel, standby to receive their lines.”

“Aye, sir.” Collingwood said, turning and looking at Jennings and Bateman, who went to the rail in answer to Collingwood. Lines were thrown over and taken by Jennings and Bateman, they led the lines out toward the bow going up the starboard side of Windsong, bringing them around the base of the Mainmast. Hands set to the lines, Callum looked and saw that the lines were held fast to Triborne, and then raised his hand, turning to look forward. He signaled by dropping his hand and the crew began to pull, Windsong slowly was coming around in the water to the port side of Triborne, to be parallel with her once again. It was slow work, the pulling, but it was finally done, and the lines were gathered and tied off at the bow, a stern line was taken and thrown up and Windsong was secured to the much larger ship now. Callum looked at Collingwood and gave him a nod.

“We are secure for the night, Abel.”

“Aye, sir.” Collingwood said and tipped his hand. Callum looked up at Strathum.

“My thanks again, Mr. Strathum. I am indebted to your Captain, sir.”

“Our pleasure, Captain Callum.” Strathum said, touching fingers to his hat as he looked down, “Supper is in an hour, Captain. I was told to inform you, sir.”

“Thank you, Mr. Strathum, we shall be on time, sir.” Callum said and bowed his head slightly and gave a brief smile. Callum felt the slight bump of the two vessels together in the water, “Abel, let’s have a bit of slack between us, shall we?”

“Aye, sir.” Collingwood said and went forward to give instructions for the lines. Callum turned and went to go below to get ready for this evening aboard Triborne. He went around the short rail and looked out across the port side, seeing a boat rowing over from Dover. He stopped and looked, seeing the boat crew pulling, broad hats were at the stern near the tiller. Talon appeared at Callum’s elbow.

“It looks like Captain Tomlin, sir.” Talon said.

“So it would seem, Darin.” Callum said, “I wonder if something is wrong? Perhaps he misses Carson’s cooking?” Callum gave Talon a side glance. Talon looked at him and then it dawned on him what Callum meant.

“I hardly think that, sir.” Talon said.

“Well, let’s help him tie off and we can see what this about, shall we?” Callum asked.

“Aye, aye, sir.” Talon said and followed his Captain to the rail, beckoning to a couple of the hands. They all waited at the rail as the boat pulled up alongside the port rail.

“Permission to come aboard, sir.” Tomlin said. as he tipped his hat slightly, showing the blonde hair. Callum smiled at his friend.

“Of course, sir, you are most welcome.” Callum said, “Mr. Talon, secure the lines if you will.”

“Aye, sir. Dorfman, Rafkin.” Talon said, lines were taken, and they tied off. Tomlin was let by the boat crew and came up on deck, tipping his hat once again to Callum.

“Thomas, twice in one day, I am honored.” Callum said, tipping his hand and then holding it out, Tomlin took it, “I was just saying to Mr. Talon, you must be missing Carson and his talents in the galley.”

“Hardly that, Captain.” Tomlin smirked, “I understand that you are dining aboard Triborne this evening, Captain Stewart and I spoke of it before you performed your service while we were at your wheel. Mr. Summers and I were extended the same invitation, sir.”

“I see. It would seem that Captain Stewart wishes to have a conference then over supper. So much the better then, we can discuss our strategy in greater detail.”

“So it would seem.” Tomlin said as Summers came up on the deck of Windsong as well now, tipping his hat toward Callum, who nodded. Summers and Talon shook hands.

“What brings you over so soon, Thomas?” Callum asked.

“I was wondering if I might have a word with you before we are to go aboard Triborne.” Tomlin said.

“Of course. I want to freshen up a bit, would you care to join me in my cabin?” Callum asked, holding out his hand showing the way, “Mr. Talon, you have the deck for a few minutes while I speak with Captain Tomlin,” Callum said as Collingwood stepped up, “Mr. Collingwood, perhaps you wish to freshen up before supper as well. We will have Amos take the deck in our absence, have him place two other hands as well as two Marines for the duration.”

“Aye, aye, sir.” Collingwood said, tipping his hand and turning to Amos to relay the orders.

“This way, Captain Tomlin.” Callum said.

Carson set out a bucket of water and a clean cloth on Callum’s table to wash with. He had taken Callum’s tunic and went up on deck with it to brush it out as best he could for him without Callum having to ask to have it done. He opened the door and led Tomlin into the cabin, Callum holding out a hand to have him sit down in one of the chairs.

“What’s on your mind, Thomas?” Callum asked as he pulled out the shirt tails from his pants, lifting it up and over his head.

“Quintan, I know we are under orders to hunt this bastard down. You were lucky last night, very lucky.” Tomlin said as he set his hat down and then took a chair, “What do you think he will really do now?”

“Truth be told, Thomas, I am not sure.” Callum said as he dropped the shirt on the back of a chair and stepped to the bucket of water, “I wish I knew. I told Stewart earlier that he will return to finish what he started last night. We did give him a rather serious blow with our engagement, and that was the only thing that really saved us, that and Collingwood’s aim.”

“We saw several rockets on the horizon and not going skyward. What happened?” Tomlin asked as he watched Callum cup water with his hands and put it to his face and then scrub it a bit. Callum stared down at his reflection in the surface of it.

“He is quite a sailor, I’ll give him that.” Callum said quietly and then looked at Tomlin, “He was shadowing us in our course just as I wanted. We saw him in the dark, a shadow only against the horizon. He made a port turn and was able to disappear for a time.” Callum dipped his hands again and lifted more water and scrubbed his face with it, “Then out of nowhere, he was on us. He was able to cut across behind us and come up on our starboard stern, how I don’t know. It was quite remarkable, and very frightening at the same time. I knew I had been out sailed.” Callum said as he looked at his friend sitting there with wide eyes listening to him.

“How is that possible?” Tomlin asked, “A port turn and then coming against the wind to your starboard aft?”

“I know, it is incredible, but there he was. We were following our course, trying to keep an eye out for him, but as I said he, he happened on us out of darkness. Yes, we had our lanterns lit, of course, but I had Patkin aloft, his attention never wavered. It’s like he can appear and disappear when he chooses, it’s the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen. What galls me the most, I suppose, is being out sailed by a Frenchman.” Callum smirked.

“You think it is that Admiral then, the only that you spoke of at home?”

“I do indeed, Thomas. He is very skilled obviously and is quite dangerous.”

“That is very obvious, Quintan. What do you plan to do now?” Tomlin asked.

“We will sail for where he ports in the morning. I will sail in first up the Somme, find him, you and the other will lay off to the north of the fortification at the mouth of the river, I will signal, and try and draw him out as I said.”

“Quintan, if he is there, this plan of yours, he will have guessed it already and will be waiting for you. Did you not say that you overheard them speaking last night? He knows, Quintan, he knows you’re coming, he will destroy you.”

“A chance I’m willing to take, Thomas.” Callum said

“You still think him mad?”

“Of course. Why would he mutilate those crews and not take the cargos of those vessels? He is quite mad, and his madness will see him undone. I will have him on execution dock.” Callum said as he went to his trunk and pulled a clean white shirt. He closed the lid and went back to the table, draping the shirt over the back of a chair. He picked up the cloth and dried his face, he set the cloth down and looked at his friend, “All we need do is find him. If I sail past the fortification, passing as a merchant, there will be no reason for them to fire on us.”

“How will we know if the fortification is manned and armed if we are to lay off to the north?” Tomlin asked. Callum thought about it for a moment. He raised a finger finally.

“If we see anything about the fortification being fully manned and readied, once I find the Avion, I will send up three rockets, if the fortification is not manned and readied, once I find the Avion, I will send up only two rockets instead.” Callum said as he slipped the shirt over his head, dropping it down him.

“Sounds reasonable enough I suppose. We should be able to see that from aloft at any distance.” Tomlin said, “But, there is another problem in all of this, Quintan.”

“Yes, Captain Renner.” Callum said softly.

“I saw him come alongside earlier in his longboat as you were still hauled over. Did you refuse his coming aboard?”

“I did.” Callum said as he stiffened a bit.

“What did he say about last night?” Tomlin asked, “We could see you signaling, surely he did as well. Was it he or Captain Stewart that returned your signal?”

“It was Stewart. He must have been close to Renner’s position, he alluded to it when he arrived this morning, trying to apologize for Renner’s not coming or being here.”

“What did you say?” Tomlin asked above a whisper.

“I told Stewart that he had nothing to apologize for, Renner’s actions were his own. Obviously the man cannot make a move with informing Stewart of it first.” Callum said and shook his head a bit, going back to the chest and pulling out a long necktie, he closed the lid, he came back to the table and started to wrap the tie around his neck, “It is rather sad to me. Renner had such an outstanding reputation. His actions at Copenhagen can be seen as stuff of legend. It is said that he saved Nelson and Victory from certain destruction during that engagement.”

“I have heard that as well.” Tomlin said as he watched Callum tie the tie, then reach for his vest, slipping it on and start to button it, “What are you going to do about him?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, you have command of this squadron. Renner knows it as well, as does Stewart.” Tomlin said.

“Surely you’re not suggesting that I relieve him of his command, Thomas?” Callum asked as he looked at his friend.

“I’m not sure, Quintan, but I do know this, I would not gamble my life with him watching my back. He proved that in Portsmouth and you well know it.” Tomlin said with a bit of anger in his voice, “Quintan, if you get yourself killed because of him,…”

“That is not part of my plan, Thomas.” Callum said as he frowned slightly, “Nor is removing him from his command.” Callum stopped frowning and then sighed a bit, “No, I will give Renner a chance to prove himself.”

“At what possible cost, Quintan? The man is a drunkard, you know that.” Tomlin said as he pounded the table with his fist once, “You are going to gamble your life away knowing that. But, it is not just you, it will be all of us as well.”

“I know how you feel, Thomas, you have made that quite clear.” Callum said and then smiled, “There is much, too much, at home waiting for us to not survive this.” Callum pulled the chair out and sat down, “I have thought over this long and hard for a time, especially last night after our engagement, and then earlier when Renner came alongside, and he tried to offer his apologies to me. I saw the fear in his eyes when I refused him, Thomas. It was one of the saddest things I have ever witnessed. He knows of his own shortcomings and of my anger towards it all.”

“That does not justify his inaction, Quintan.” Tomlin said softly and shook his head slowly for a moment, he looked Callum in his sparkling eyes, “You are my Captain as well as my friend, do not let your heart take over for your reasoning simply because you feel sorry for the man is all I am saying, I beg you. There was a duty to perform and he failed to do so.”

“You are right, of course.” Callum said softly, “I do not think him a coward, Thomas.”

“That’s not what I’m saying, Quintan.”

“No, I know you are not.” Callum said. He pat the fist once of his friend that was still on the table as he got up from the chair. Tomlin followed him with his eyes, “I was saying to Darin earlier as I watched Renner pulling away that I miss the peace and quiet of home.” Callum said as he wanted to change the subject.

“As do I.” Tomlin said, “I have not spoken of it, but,…Christian and I had words the night before you and I left for Portsmouth.”

“Really. Is that why he was acting the way he was when we pulled up on the drive?”

“Yes.” Tomlin said quietly, “As you know, he was convinced that he was going to be sent abroad after he reported to the Garrison.”

“Yes.” Callum said just as soft, “But, I wonder about that, Thomas.” Callum watched as Tomlin looked confused for a moment, “It’s something that McGuffin said to me when the Marines were coming aboard.”

“What was that?”

“That there was a shortfall in officers to be had, that’s why he is leading and there is not an officer present.” Callum said.

“I wondered about that.” Tomlin said, “I had thought that General Emery might have only thought McGuffin as being more than capable.”

“No, there is more to it. I mean, the Sergeant is more than capable, as you well know, but it is regulation that deployment must be made with an officer present.” Callum said.

“You think possibly that Christian wasn’t sent abroad then?”

“It is a possibility to be sure.” Callum said, “But, there is something else. I have been having the most peculiar dreams of Dustin. I pray that nothing is wrong at home.”

“What kind of dreams?”

“I am there with him, I can’t talk to him or touch him, but can see and hear him very clearly. I have had similar dreams but this is different somehow.” Callum said.

“I am sure it is only that you miss him, as I miss Christian.”

“Yes, there is that, but, as I said, there is something different about this. I can’t quite put my finger on it.” Callum said as he shook his head a bit.

“Well, let us hope that we can end this and soon.” Tomlin said with a slight smile.

“Yes, I agree.” Callum said as the door opened, Callum looked over his shoulder and saw Carson with his tunic in his hand, the boy was beside him, smiling, “Carson.”

“Excuse me, sir, I did not mean to interrupt.”

“No, it’s quite alright.” Callum said as he stood up, “Captain Tomlin and I were just discussing last night’s events is all.”

“Yes, sir.” Carson said, stepping forward and holding out the tunic for Callum, Callum put his arms behind him and Carson slipped the tunic up and on him, setting it in place and then lightly brushed the shoulders.

“Thank you, Carson, for giving it a brushing for me. I would not wish to shame our good vessel with looking shabby to be sure.” Callum smiled as he pulled his tail out and threw it over the tall collar.

“Of course not, sir.” Carson, said and then looked at Tomlin, “Captain Tomlin, sir, you look well, sir.”

“Thank you, Carson. You look a bit tired.”

“I was with the wounded all night, sir, tending to their needs.”

“I see. And who is this?” Tomlin asked as he saw the boy, who looked a bit nervous with another officer in the cabin.

“Ah, I forgot to tell you about our latest passenger, Thomas. This is Hans Pedersen. We encountered his merchant vessel, it had been attacked by our Frenchman. The boy survived the attack about three weeks ago.”

“What?” Tomlin asked.

“Yes,” Callum said as he sighed again and looked at Tomlin, “We came across them, it was a Dutch ship.”

“Where is it now?”

“We set charges and sank her. There was no saving her. It was one of the most ghastly things I have ever seen in my life to be sure. He doesn’t speak English but Carson speaks Dutch.”

“My God.” Tomlin said as he looked at the boy and then at Callum, “What are you going to do with him?”

“We came across an American merchant and tried to have him taken with them to take him home as they were sailing north, but he wanted to stay with us, begged us not to go actually.”

“Quitan,…”

“I know, Thomas.” Callum said and held up a hand, “I know. Once we are done with this, I will see to it that we take him home.”

“Home?” Tomlin asked with wide eyes, thinking home to Birmingham.

“His home.” Callum said, and Tomlin eased a bit.

“Oh, thank heavens, I thought for a moment that you were adopting yet another one.” Tomlin rolled his eyes.

“He would do well there, Thomas, but no.” Callum smiled at his friend.

“Well, as you say, I suppose.” Tomlin got up from the table, “Should we see about going over to Triborne?”

“Yes, I suppose we should.” Callum said. He turned and looked at Carson, “Carson, Captain Tomlin’s boat crew, are they still alongside?”

“They are, sir.”

“If you would, have them disembark from the longboat and bring them up on deck, they can their supper here on Windsong, provided there is enough of course.” Callum said.

“There is, sir, more than enough, I assure you.” Carson smiled.

“Very good.” Callum said and looked at Tomlin, “Will that be alright with you, Captain Tomlin?”

“Very generous of you, sir, thank you.” Tomlin said and then looked at Carson, “And thank you to you, Carson.”

“It’s my pleasure, sir. Think nothing of it.” Carson beamed. Callum picked up his hat and went out of the cabin, Tomlin following behind him, Carson and the boy stepping out of the way for them. Callum came out on deck, Tomlin behind him, Callum looked about seeing Amos there, tipping his hand and stepping close to his Captain.

“Amos, you understand your orders?” Callum asked.

“Yes, sir. I have the deck, sir. Hammond and Patkin will be up shortly, sir, along with two Marines as well.”

“Very good. Have Patkin go aloft and keep a lookout.” Callum said.

“Aye, aye, sir.” Amos said and tipped his hand. Callum turned a bit and saw Collingwood and Talon come throught the door from below and up the steps to the deck, joining them all. Summers stood nearby.

“Now that we are assembled, shall we go, gentlemen?” Callum asked and gave a nod, he went to the remains of the starboard rail and stopped, looking up the climbing steps of Triborne, “Ahoy, Triborne, permission to come aboard.” Callum said as he saw a few crewmen at the rail.

“Permission granted, Captain, and welcome.” Strathum said as he looked down, “Captain Stewart is eagerly awaiting your arrival, sir.” Strathum said with a smile and a slight nod.

“Thank you, sir.” Callum said as he reached out and grabbed a step and came over and started the climb up, Tomlin followed Callum and then the rest of the officers one at a time. Callum reached the deck as the Boson’s piped sounded, Captain coming aboard. Callum tipped his hat toward the Poop Deck, as was custom and then placed it back on his head, Tomlin doing the same, he and Callum touched their fingers to the brims toward Strathum, and were given a nod of reply back out of respect.

“Genlemen, you are most welcomed aboard Triborne.” Strathum said, and put out a hand to show the way, “May I escort you to Captain Stewart?”

“Thank you, Mr. Strathum.” Callum said with a nod.

“If you will follow me.” Strathum said and led them through a doorway, going around a stairway along the same deck as the Main Deck, they turned and reached a companionway, Strathum stopping, taking off his hat, tucking it and knocking, Callum, Tomlin, and the rest of the officers doing the same.

“Come.” Could be heard from the other side of the door. Strathum opened it and stepped just inside out the way.

“Sir, Captain’s Callum and Tomlin are here, along with their officers, sir.”

“Excellent, show them in.” Stewart could be heard and not seen. Callum stepped forward and turned in through the door, Tomlin following him, “Captain Callum, Captain Tomlin, a pleasure, gentlemen, welcome, please do come in.” Stewart said as he came toward them, the other officers filed in as well. Callum had been aboard many other vessels over his years in the service and the Great Cabin was no surprise to him, a ship of this size, a third rate vessel by class, but very impressive and stately to be sure. There was a long wide table in the center of the room, covered in white linen, set already with place settings, ready for the guests to be seated. Callum also saw several pieces of upholstered furniture about, arm chairs fir for an Admiral, and as such some Captains brought their own furnishings aboard with them, comforts of home as it were. Stewart stepped up, taking Callum’s hand and giving it a firm grip. Callum gave him a brief smile and then Stewart took his hand and reached out for Tomlin, giving it a firm grip as well.

“Thank you again for having us, Captain Stewart.” Callum said, “You remember our officers, of course.”

“I do.” Stewart said, giving them all nods, “Gentlemen, please do, come in.” Stewart said, waving a hand toward the table. He turned and looked back at Strathum, “Standby to receive Captain Renner, Strathum, if you will, then you and Mr. Rawlings can join us as well.”

“As you say, sir.” Strathum said and tipped his hand, stepping out closing the door behind him. Stewart turned and went toward the table, putting his hands on the back of a chair, pulling it out.

“Captain Callum, may I place you here, sir, at the place of honor, sir.” Stewart said, and Callum felt humbled for a moment by the gesture.

“Of course, thank you, Captain Stewart.” Callum said and stepped closer to the chair.

“Captain Tomlin, if you would take this place at Captain Callum’s right.” Stewart said as he came round the table, pulling a chair in the middle of the group.

“Thank you, sir.” Tomlin said as he stepped forward, he sat down after Callum did.

“Gentlemen, if you would take up a few places as well.” Stewart said as the door opened to the Great Cabin, the steward entered, carrying a large tray, the smell followed it and him, it smelled wonderful to Callum as he looked over.

“Ah, Denton, perfect timing as always.” Stewart said with a half-smile on his face, “Gentlemen, this is Denton, my steward. He was once Lord Hood’s steward, and is one of the best cooks in the entire fleet, isn’t that right, Denton.”

“I am not one to boast, sir.” The older man said as he smiled slightly, setting the tray on the table.

“Quite right, I always boast for you and about you to be sure.” Stewart said as he rubbed his hands together, “Gentlemen, you are in for quite a treat this evening to be sure. There are several Admirals that have tried to take Denton away from me over the past few years, but I always seem to be able to keep him with me, isn’t that right, Denton?”

“As you say, sir.” The older man said as he backed away from the table, the white jacket that he wore was simple but elegant Callum noted and finely pressed.

“Yes, he was used to cooking for His Lordship and why he stays with me, I am not quite sure.”

“It is your need of my services, sir, that much is certain.” The older man smiled and nodded toward Stewart. Callum smiled wide as he knew there was a very good relationship between this man and his Captain. Callum looked about and everyone was smiling hearing the slight tease between the two, “Shall I wait on everything else for the time being, sir?”

“Yes, until the rest of our guests join us, thank you, Denton.”

“As you wish, sir.” The older man bowed his head slightly and silently left the cabin.

“What is it that smells so delightful, Captain Stewart?” Callum asked.

“Denton makes these wonderful little items with cheddar. They simply melt in your mouth. I always ask him to make them when I entertain guests aboard Triborne, as well as at home.” Stewart said as he looked at Callum.

“He cooks for you at home as well?”

“Yes.” Stewart said, “He and I struck a bargain a few years back actually, Captain. He had a terrible misfortune in his life at home. His wife was lost in a house fire, burning it to the ground, her along with it. Most unfortunate. I found out about it a few days after it happened and went to him and offered him a place to stay. He maintains his duties for me in both places, as I am a widower as well.”

“I see. I’m sorry, Captain.”

“Have you a family, Captain?” Stewart asked.

“Yes, I do, a son.” Callum said as he rested his elbows on the table and folded his hands together in the air.

“They say children are a true blessing to have.” Stewart said softly.

“To be certain, they are, Captain Stewart. I never gave much thought to having them, until my son came along just recently.”

“Ah, he is newborn then?”

“No, actually. I happened upon him, or rather Captain Tomlin and I did in Portsmouth after returning from our mission at La Rochelle, isn’t that so, Thomas?”

“Indeed.” Tomlin said with a soft smile.

“I don’t understand.” Stewart said as he opened the top of a decanter and began to pour wine for all at the table as well as the empty places that would be filled soon.

“It was actually he that found us, I suppose, truth be known.” Callum said as he looked at Tomlin for a brief moment and then back at Stewart, “We were doing some shopping, Captain Tomlin had just purchased a small trunk actually. We went to return to our lodgings at the Heritage Arms, while making another stop along the way. This young lad of the street stopped Captain Tomlin and almost begged to carry the trunk for him, even though it was almost as large as he was to be sure.”

“Indeed it was. He was very persistent as I recall.” Tomlin said.

“Yes, he was. It showed me his character, his resolve. I was most impressed by it.”

“How old is he, sir?” Collingwood asked hearing this for the very first time.

“He can’t be more than five or so. He’s thinks he’s older for sure.” Callum said.

“That much is true.” Tomlin said as he was handed wine, “Thank you, Captain Stewart.” Tomlin smiled and nodded once, “He is quite a charmer though, I will say that. I have never really cared to be around children myself before, but, Henry has made me rethink that.”

“Thomas, I didn’t know that.” Callum said as he was handed wine as well. He took his arms from the table.

“Yes, as I said, he is quite the charmer.”

“Yes, he is.”

“He is at your home, sir? I didn’t know you were married.”

“I am not, Mr. Collingwood. No, I have an aunt that lives with me. She is caring for the lad.” Callum said.

“What made you take him in, Captain, if I may ask?” Stewart asked.

“He is or was an orphan, living in a crate in an alley there in Portsmouth. He was doing for himself just to try and scrape up something to eat. We gave him a luncheon that very day. I have never seen anyone eat as much as he did, wouldn’t you agree, Thomas?”

“Yes, indeed.” Tomlin said as he stared at the wine glass in thought, “Life was very hard for him. I remember him saying how his mother had died a couple of years before that. He couldn’t have been more than two or three at the time, and yet he tried to survive with no one at all. It amazed me actually.”

“Yes, well, we went on to go home to Birmingham finally without him, but it was when I was returning home from the court martial at the Admiralty, I had stopped to see Dr. Crawford to have my stitches removed from my wounds from the mission, when I happened across him again, purely by accident. I gave him money, a few coins, to have him get something to eat. That’s when he told me.”

“Told you what, sir?” Collingwood asked as he was next to Callum on his right.

“I asked him when it was that he had eaten last. He said with very little thought behind it, it had been since we had given that luncheon, almost a week by then.”

“Dear Lord.” Collingwood said softly.

“Yes. It ripped my heart from me to hear that from one so very young. I asked him if he wanted a home, a place to live and to be taken care of. He finally agreed. I can’t imagine life without him now.” Callum said softly. Stewart was just standing there, looking at Callum as he was obviously lost in his thoughts over Henry.

“I must say, Captain, it is a wonderful that you have done for him, taking him in as your own like that.” Stewart said, “You are in Birmingham as well, Captain Tomlin?”

“Yes. I am on the neighboring property next to the Captain. A house that he owns actually.”

“I see. That could be rather convenient.” Stewart smiled.

“Yes, it can be.” Callum smiled briefly, “I offered Thomas the house as he did not seem to wish to return to his home in Norfolk.”

“Yes, I never cared for it there. Birmingham is very friendly and quite charming.” Tomlin said.

“Indeed it is.” Talon said softly, making Callum smile as he looked at his young officer.

“And can offer a great number of things as well, isn’t that right, Mr. Talon.”

“As you say, sir.” Talon said and turned a little red. Callum saw the questioning look from Stewart.

“Mr. Talon had visited my home, seeking me out to inform me of the tragedy of the sloop that Captain Eddington commanded. He met a young lady there, the sister to a close friend of mine.”

“Ah, I see.” Stewart said as he went to his own chair at the head of the table. He looked over at the blushing young officer, “They say that young ladies of the country are the prettiest by far, Mr. Talon.” Stewart said as he sat down. Talon looked over at him for a moment, still blushing, “Nothing to ashamed of at all, I assure you. My late wife came from the country as well. A very pretty girl when I first met here. She captured my heart and my imagination as well.”

“Thank you, sir.” Talon said. He cleared his throat softly as there was a knock at the door.

“Come.” Stewart said. Strathum stepped inside.

“Captain Renner, sir.”

“Ah, at last. Show him in.” Stewart said. He stood up out of his chair, Callum being polite rose also, as did all of his officers. “Ah, Renner, good of you to join us.” Stewart said and crossed the Great Cabin to him, extending a hand.

“Are we late, Stewart?”

“Not at all, Captain Callum and his party came a bit early.” Stewart said.

“I see. Better early, I suppose.” Renner said and looked nervously toward Callum as Renner was being pulled along by Stewart.

“Captain Callum, may I present Captain Renner, whom I believe you know, sir.” Stewart said, Callum turned and looked at Renner and gave him a slight bow of his head.

“Good evening, Captain Renner.” Callum said but did not extend his hand out.

“Good evening, Captain Callum.” Renner said and returned the slight bow of the head.

“I believe you recall Captain Tomlin, Captain Renner?” Stewart asked. Tomlin turned and gave Renner a slight head bow as well.

“Captain Tomlin, a pleasure, sir.”

“Captain Renner.” Tomlin said, trying to be polite, but was cold and distant. Renner averted his eyes from Tomlin.

“Captain Renner, may I present my officers,” Callum said, “My 1st Lieutenant, Lt. Abel Collingwood, my 2nd Lieutenant, Lt. Darin Talon.”

“Gentlemen, an honor.” Renner bowed his head toward them slightly.

“Captain Renner, this is my 1st Lieutenant, Lt. Cary Summers.” Tomlin said without looking at Renner, Tomlin holding out a hand.

“I believe we have met before, Mr. Summers, you look familiar to me.” Renner said.

“At the Admiralty, sir, we met in passing, Lt. Eddington introduced us.”

“Yes, that’s right, now I recall. Good to see you again, Lieutenant.” Renner said and gave a brief smile, “Gentlemen, may I present my 1st Lieutenant, Lt. William Carrington.” Carrington was a taller dark haired man, thin, young and very good looking to Callum. Their eyes met and Carrington stepped forward and reached out his hand to Callum. Callum took it and the grip was firm.

“Captain Callum, it is an honor to meet you, sir.” Carrington said, his voice was smooth and deep, matching his looks.

“Thank you.” Callum said, as he bowed his head slightly. Hands were let go and Carrington turned and looked at Tomlin as Renner stepped out of the way.

“Captain Tomlin, it has been a long time, sir.” Carrington said.

“I thought that was you, William.” Tomlin said, taking his hand and giving it a firm grip.

“You know each other?” Stewart asked.

“Yes, Mr. Carrington and I became midshipmen together. It seems like a lifetime ago though.” Tomlin said as he looked at the handsome old friend of his.

“Wonderful.” Stewart said as he clapped his hands together, looking back at the door, seeing his own officers, waving them forward with fingers, “Gentlemen, I believe you all know my officers, my 1st Lieutenant, Lt. Daniel Strathum, and my 2nd Lieutenant, Lt. Clarence Rawlings. Captain Renner, please, if you will, have a seat there in the middle.”

“Thank you, Captain Stewart.” Renner said as he walked around the end of the table going by Callum, he reached the chair and pulled it out and placed his hat on the floor as was custom beside the chair. He came round it and waited to sit as the others still stood. Tomlin and Carrington were chatting softly, the others were watching them as all were gathered about the great table, Stewart going back to the head and waited.

“Gentlemen, please, make yourselves comfortable.” Stewart said, being the gracious host that he seemed to be. Callum was most impressed with Stewart, his kindness was not false in any way that Callum could see, he was genuine in all things, at here in the Great Cabin, “Captain Callum, I am wondering, sir, would you care to speak of tactics now, or after dinner?”

“It is your table, Captain Stewart, and I am but a simple guest at it.” Callum said and gave him a soft smile.

“Thank you, Captain. I feel it is probably best to discuss our matters before our dinner is served, don’t you?”

“If you insist, Captain Stewart.” Callum said, continuing his soft smile.

“Gentlemen, may I have your attention please.” Stewart said, standing and picking up his glass of wine, holding it up a bit, “The King.” All assembled stood, picking up their glasses as well, and held them up, “The King.” They all replied in response to the toast. All drank from their glasses except Renner, Callum noted, which surprised him. Renner set the glass down, but stared at it. All sat back in their chairs, “Captain Callum, I turn the assemblage over to you.”

“Thank you, Captain Stewart.” Callum said, giving him a brief nod, “And thank you for this evening, an evening that we can all be gathered together to go over our plans and strategy. As you know, all of you, the events of last night, our engagement with our quarry was difficult but our losses were nowhere near his. We dealt him a very serious blow, and wounded his pride greatly by just surviving. His madness is going to be his undoing. I had the chance to overhear orders and discussions in French last night in the dark after they began to disengage from us and sail away. I have given it some thought and have come to the opinion that it was not for our benefit, as if to lay a trap for us, but merely discussions and counter discussions without thought that they might be heard.”

“Gentlemen, aboard Windsong is a lone survivor of an attacked Dutch merchant that we picked up. This boy and his ship were attacked over three weeks ago, the crew murdered, butchered as all of the others were before, a ghastly and grisly thing to see, I can certainly attest to that. The boy had given me relative position of where they had been attacked after their second night of sailing toward home. I calculated with drift, partial sail that was intact when we found her, and with what the boy had told me what he had done to get her under his control. I projected a course from that information. It was confirmed last night after we were attacked, The Avion sailed to the south, southeast, heading for the same projected course and destination that the boy had given me. In short, gentlemen, I know where this Frenchman is and where he ports.”

“And where is that Captain Callum?” Carrington asked.

“On the Somme River, Mr. Carrington.”

“I beg your pardon, sir, but can this information from a boy be accurate?” Carrington asked.

“As accurate as I can make out, and a firsthand account. This is far better information than we have been given thus far by the Admiralty, as they have been merely guessing as to where he might be up to now. No, I am convinced that he is there. If you study the chart that I provided to all of you before we sailed from Portsmouth, it shows clearly the projected attack sites to the merchant vessels. If you study it carefully, you will see a pattern begins to emerge. Each site is approximately within two miles, they are grouping of two or three and then relative position of the next group is about sixty miles.”

“What does that prove, sir?” Carrington asked.

“That we have a larger problem than just this Frenchman, Mr. Carrington.”

“I don’t understand, sir.” Strathum said.

“All attacks have been in the North Sea or in The Channel, have they not?” Callum asked as he looked at the two officers, they both nodded, “No attacks have been made farther north or on the west coast of England or Ireland.”

“I’m sorry, sir, I still don’t follow you. It would make sense that he would attack from France somewhere, yes, certainly.”

“And I agree with you, Mr. Strathum, wholeheartedly. But ask yourself this. How does he find his targets? How does he happen on them in complete darkness, with no moon? And how does he strike in only certain areas and is never seen by any of our ships either coming or leaving our ports?”

“He is being given information, sir.” Strathum said as he sat forward a bit, realizing what Callum was really saying.

“Yes, he is being given information as to where and when, and possibly even the target.”

“How is that possible, sir?”

“Night before last, I had the deck and was at the wheel, I had lookouts posted, both fore and aft, as well as one aloft. We caught sight of a sail at our stern, sailing directly due east from our southerly course. That ship spotted us, as with our lights glowing, but yet, we are low to the water, she was about ten miles off or so. And with that ship spotting us, he attacks the following night. That ship informed him.”

“But how, sir.”

“By semaphore.” Stewart said as he was listening to every word. All eyes turned and looked at him, “Brilliant, Captain Callum, absolutely brilliant of you to make such a deduction.”

“Thank you, Captain Stewart.” Callum said and smiled softly again at his host.

“Who do you think it might, Callum?” Renner asked.

“Agents of Napoleon,” Callum said, “but, I would think something more simpler than that, something that might be overlooked by all involved.”

“Who?” Renner asked.

“Other merchants.”

“Why would you think that?”

“Ask yourself this, Captain Renner,” Callum said as he sat back in his chair and folded his arms over his chest, “He murders the crews, but leaves the cargos intact. He has put his pennant on most of the ships as a signature, a sign for all to see that find them. He sets them on a course to sail on to England on their own, or in the case of the Dutch ship we found, leave it adrift. He knew we were out here or at least coming. What he didn’t expect was to find a vessel our size ready to fight back. This has thrown him off balance.”

“What do you propose, Callum?” Renner asked.

“I propose that we turn and find his hiding place. When we discover it, bring him out and we can take him, together.”

“The Avion is a ninety gunner.” Renner said.

“Yes, yes it is, Captain Renner. Hunter and Triborne are seventy fours, Dover is a thirty six, more than a match for him.” Callum said.

“He will blow you out of the water first, Callum.” Renner said.

“A calculated risk I am willing to take to find him, Captain Renner.” Callum said as he glared at Renner, making him feel uncomfortable, “But, tonight, I would ask that we stay lights out, except for Windsong, we will glow in the darkness, drawing him in. Captain Renner, I would ask that you set sail ahead of us south, southeast, hold position from us about ten miles, he will come from that direction, if he comes tonight, you can be in a position to either cut him off or block him from coming closer. Either way, we can all deal with him together and in short order. I think the wind will hold throughout the night.”

“And if he doesn’t come?”

“Oh, he’ll come, especially after last night and the thrashing we gave him. He will be like a wounded beast, pained, but guarded. The moon is still new, and it will be in his favor. If he does not come once the dawn arrives, I will set sail south, southeast for the Somme River. We should reach it by nightfall, you, Captain Stewart, and Captain Tomlin will follow two hours behind after we sail. Hold position just north of the fortification at the mouth of the Somme out of sight. Once we sail up the river and find him and his portage, I will fire signaling rockets as we did last night. Two rockets if we find the fortification manned lightly or unmanned completely, three rockets if there are ready for us. I am of hopes that he will set out after us, chasing us to destroy us and then we will have him. Either way, his position, his hiding place will be known, further spurring his madness, and we will have him.” Callum said and then picked up his wine, holding up his glass for a moment and then sipped from it and set it down. The table was silent, Callum looked at the other end at Stewart, who was looking about at everyone else.

“Another daring plan, Captain Callum, I salute you.” Stewart finally said. Stewart went wide eyed as Renner stood up from his chair, hat in hand. Callum narrowed his eyes as he watched Renner.

“Captain Stewart, I thank you for inviting us. I believe that I should take my leave now and get Hunter underway as Captain Callum has suggested.” Renner said.

“Renner, there is no need yet, please, sit, have your supper and then you may be off.” Stewart said.

“No, perhaps it is best if we undertake this right away, as I know Captain Callum is suggesting.” Renner said, turned and looked at the other end of the table, “Captain, I tried to offer apologizes earlier to you, sir, for my actions of last night. Understandably you did not wish to hear them, and I can understand your position in that. I will follow your plan, sir, as you have lain out without deviation. I will not repeat the events of last night, sir, I assure you.” Renner spoke as Callum rose out of his chair, still with narrowed eyes.

“Captain Renner, I was not implying that you leave immediately, sir. I do not wish to be misunderstood. Captain Stewart is correct, you should stay with us and have your fine dinner, sir.”

“Very generous of you, Captain Callum, and very magnanimous, I must say. No, Captain Callum, I know when I am not wanted, sir, and you have made that abundantly clear to me. I will carry out my duty and take up the position that you have outlined. I shall see all of you in the morning.” Renner said and started to step away from the table.

“Renner.” Stewart said as he rose, all eyes at the table were wide and horrified as to what Renner had just said. Carrington got up from the table and went to follow his Captain, stopping for a moment to look at Tomlin, his old classmate, and then went by Callum.

“I’m sorry, sir.” Carrington whispered as he stepped behind Callum and followed Renner, where he had gone as he now out of sight. Callum turned and looked at Stewart, who shook his head at Callum’s silent question.

“Gentlemen, I must apologize for this.” Stewart said, looking at the open door of the Great Cabin. He slowly turned and looked at Callum at the end of the long table, “Captain Callum, I feel that,…”

“Captain Stewart, please, you have nothing to apologize for. I feel that I am to blame for this, these feelings that Captain Renner must be having at this moment, sir.”

“As he said, that is very magnanimous of you, Captain. Gentlemen, please be seated. Help yourself to more wine if you will.” Stewart looked up and saw Denton come into the cabin through the open door, carrying a very large tray, once the aroma of what was on it followed and soon filled the filled the Great Cabin, Stewart sat down and watched Denton place the tray in the center of the long table. It was covered with a rather large dome, sterling silver. He bowed his head slightly at Stewart, who nodded in reply to Denton. He removed the domed lid and stepped back revealing a large piece of beef along with potatoes and carrots surrounding it. The aroma became heavier in the air and all smiled at what they saw.

“I must say, Captain Stewart, you set a very fine table, sir.” Tomlin said as he looked toward the head of the table.

“Thank you, Captain Tomlin, as I have said, it is Denton here that makes that happen. He is a true wonder and without him I would be pressed to have only hard tack and slur if he were not here with me. Isn’t that right, Denton?” Stewart said giving a bit of a teasing look at the older man.

“Quite right, sir. You would waste away to nothing I am certain, sir.” Denton said and looked at all of the officers about the table, who smiled in return at the older man, “Would you care to have me serve now, sir?”

“As we are all salivating, Denton, I would say, yes, by all means.” Stewart said. Denton bowed his head slightly and then began to serve, Captains first, then on down the line of the junior officers, to finally serve Stewart last, as was only right. Denton left the tray on the table as they all began to enjoy this wonderful dinner that was in front of them. He took the domed lid and left the Great Cabin and the officers alone. It was all very elegant to Callum, not the simple fare he was used to at home or aboard Dover or Windsong. The clatter of silver on fine china could be heard from time to time as the table was mostly quiet, all thinking about Renner and what he had said before leaving. Callum finished the wonderful dinner and sat back and looked about the table.

“Please, Captain Callum, do not stand on ceremony by any means. Help yourself to more.” Stewart said as he looked at the end of the table.

“It was quite wonderful, thank you, Captain Stewart, but I have had enough.” Callum said and smiled softly again. He picked up his wine and sipped at it, then set the glass down.

“Would you care for anything else, Captain?”

“No, thank you.” Callum said, watching his officers slow themselves as they were all becoming stuffed.

“I was wondering about something that you said earlier, Captain.” Stewart said as he had now finished and pushed his plate.

“What would that be, Captain Stewart?” Callum asked in reply.

“You wish to sail up the Somme and find him. I understand that, but, when you do, do you not think he will be ready for you?”

“That is entirely possible, yes.”

“And if he is, do you not think he will fire upon you?”

“I don’t believe so, Captain Stewart. I think he is one that will want to actually get his hands on us as it were. That would be evident from his previous actions.” Callum said as he folded his hands together and rested his elbows on the table.

“Yes, but it is different now. You survived his attack, dealt him a blow, and then if you discover his portage, you might bring a different action from him.” Stewart said, all the officers at the table were shifting their eyes back and forth between each end of the table.

“Possibly. The main thing now is to find him, to sniff him out. Once that is done, I think he will make mistake after mistake and we can take him.”

“You wish to destroy him.” Stewart said.

“Our orders as you well know are to either do that or to capture him. Either will serve its purpose to stop him once and for all, Captain Stewart.” Callum said.

“I mean no disrespect, Captain, please do not misunderstand me as I share in this. But, you would rather see him destroyed.”

“I have said before, Captain Stewart, that he will more than likely fight to the last man before giving up. It would be part of his madness.”

“How can you be certain?” Stewart asked.

“Last night, I overheard something to confirm that. It was quite clearly he that wanted to continue the attack, but one of his men convinced him to disengage from us and their attack. I was bracing for the next boarding, but it never came. Apparently he relented to the sense of his man or officer and they set sail.” Callum said.

“Then it might happen again. This officer as you say has some influence over him.” Stewart said, thinking about it, “How many of his men do you think were lost to your actions?”

“I would think possibly sixty or slightly less. Would you agree with that, Mr. Collingwood?” Callum asked.

“Quite possibly more, sir.” Collingwood said, “They were strewn all over our deck like cordwood, and there were those that the Marines shot on their own ship as well, sir.”

“Yes, quite right.” Callum said.

“And you only lost six in all of that.” Stewart said and shook his head a bit, “That is truly amazing, Captain, truly.”

“Yes, clearly we had the weather gauge.” Callum said and sat back in his chair once again.

“I would think it is something more than that, Captain.” Stewart said as he also sat back in his chair, Callum cocked his head slightly, “If I may say, Captain, clearly it was the resolve of yourself and your men. You took on more than overwhelming numbers, sir, and you survived it. It must have been a sight to see, a terrible one no doubt, but truly a sight nonetheless. You should be quite proud of what you have accomplished, sir.”

“Pride is something that I do not feel at this moment, Captain Stewart. We were merely doing our duty, sir.” Callum said softly.

“Of course.” Stewart said and bowed his head slightly. Denton walked back into the Great Cabin with yet another tray. Stewart looked over and gave a half-smile at the older man, “Ah, it would seem that dessert has arrived.” Stewart watched as Denton came to the table on the other side and set the tray down, it contained two pies, “I see that you raided the apple barrel again, Denton.”

“Yes, sir. I would hate to have them go soft before we returned to port, sir.”

“Good thinking, Denton.” Stewart said as he leaned forward a bit, “Gentlemen, may I say that Denton here makes the best apple pie that I have ever had the pleasure to taste.”

“Would you care for coffee, sir?” Denton asked as he cut into the first pie and began to serve it up on the small plates that were also on the tray. He handed them out, the first to Callum, who held up his hand to stop him.

“None for me, thank you, Mr. Denton.” Callum said with a brief smile, “I am afraid that I ate too much of your wonderful supper.”

“As you wish, sir.” Denton said softly and moved it over to Tomlin, who looked at it and smiled, taking the small plate. The plates were handed out.

“I think coffee might do just fine, Denton.” Stewart said.

“I’ll just go and fetch then, sir.” Denton said. Callum watched as all of them began to slowly eat the pie before them. He watched as Tomlin rolled his eyes a bit at the taste of it.

“It must be better than Martha’s, Thomas, with the face you’re making.” Callum said.

“It would be a close second, sir.” Tomlin said as he smiled at Callum.

“Who is this Martha that you speak of, Captain?” Stewart asked as Denton returned with the coffee, pouring for Callum first.

“My aunt that I spoke of earlier, the one at home. She also makes an apple pie that is stuff of legend.” Callum said as he watched his cup being filled, “I only wish I had room to sample yours, Mr. Denton, to compare the two.”

“Thank you for it saying, sir,” Denton said as he stood there with the pot before moving to someone else, “however, I find that it best not to make comparison against honest home cooking, sir. Aboard Triborne, it is somewhat difficult to control the oven temperature. I have burned more than I have been successful with, I assure you, sir.”

“I think you too modest, Mr. Denton,” Callum said, “I have not had a finer meal ever aboard any ship in the fleet, Victory included. Captain Stewart is indeed most fortunate to have you with him.”

“Again, thank you for saying so, sir.” Denton bowed his head a bit and poured more coffee for the others at the table.

“As I was saying earlier, Denton excels with his cooking skills. Why at home, I am always receiving notes from friends hinting at possibly being invited to dinner.” Stewart said and waited as his coffee was being poured, “Isn’t that right, Denton?”

“It is true, sir.” Denton said and righted the pot he held. Callum watched and couldn’t help but think that there was something more between these two. Denton seemed so relaxed around his Captain, and Stewart would give him side glances from time to time Callum noticed. He smiled softly to himself wondering if they were involved with one another. He let it go for now. Everyone seemed to be done with their plates now as Callum sipped more and more coffee. He felt relaxed a bit more than he had before dinner began.

His thoughts went to Renner and what he had said. Callum really wanted him to stay, but Renner was obviously uncomfortable and voiced it. Callum wanted to have more conversation with the man to try and find out what he was thinking and why, but that was not going to happen. He looked at the head of the large table, seeing Stewart looking back at him. There was something between those two Captains, Stewart was always trying to cover for him, speak for Renner, to apologize for him, why? Callum did not want to be rude and pursue it with Stewart, it was best that it remain unsaid for now.

“Is the coffee to your liking, Captain?” Stewart asked. Callum gave him a brief smile and a nod, “I have been told by Lord Fitzwarren that your steward makes the best coffee.”

“Yes, one of Carson’s many talents. I, too, am most fortunate to have him, as you are with Denton.”

“Has he been with you long?”

“Carson has been with Dover as long as I have been aboard, starting as a midshipman. I think sometimes that he came with the ship when it was built.” Callum said and received chuckles from his officers, “He and Captain Powers had quite an understanding. It was a slow transition for him, I think, as well as for me after Captain Powers was killed.”

“I served with Captain Powers aboard the Trident actually.” Stewart said, “I was a midshipman myself, Powers was our 1st Lieutenant. He was quite a man. It was a sad day for me when he received his orders to become master of Dover. I never had the opportunity to truly say goodbye to him. He helped me in so many different ways.”

“Yes, he had that way, didn’t he? I learned everything I know from him. He was my first and only commander after I left school.” Callum said.

“A good commander to learn from, there is no argument there to be certain.” Stewart said with a smile.

“I had no idea that you sailed with him, Captain Stewart.”

“Yes. He was transferred to Admiral Graff’s squadron as I recall. That was a bad bit of luck for the Admiral.” Stewart said.

“Indeed it was.” Callum said.

“What happened, sir?” Strathum asked as he looked at Callum.

“I was only nine, a midshipman, Dover was my first assignment. Admiral Graff was invited for dinner aboard Dover. Captain Powers was well known for his hospitality within the fleet. We had dinner in the Great Cabin and Admiral Graff went to leave. He had the misfortune to slip off the gunwale as he went over the side to his longboat. He fell overboard and landed on the gunnels of the longboat, snapping his leg in half near the hip. The boat crew pulled him aboard and they pulled away to get him to the surgery aboard the flagship. Admiral Graff bled to death when they amputated his leg. Most, most unfortunate.” Callum said and then sipped more coffee, “Captain Powers was deeply affected by that. We were soon given over to another squadron.”

“My heavens.” Strathum said softly.

“Bad business all the way round.” Stewart said, “I never all of it before now.”

“Yes, I saw it happen, as I was on the Quarterdeck, taking the watch.” Callum said, “I’ll never forget his screams.” Callum lifted his eyes, meeting Stewarts who only nodded a bit, “Well, Captain Stewart, I wish to thank you for a most wonderful supper.”

“Are you leaving, Captain Callum?” Stewart asked.

“Yes, I think we probably should be going before it gets too late. There are some preparations to make before we set sail with the dawn.” Callum said, picking his hat up from the deck and stood, “Again, I thank you for a pleasant evening.” Callum bowed his head slightly as his officers rose from their chairs as well as Stewart and his officers.

“Let us escort you then.” Stewart said and went toward the door, Callum walking along with him, taking each other’s hand and gripping firmly. Stewart opened the door, taking his hand back and then holding it out to have Callum go first.

They were all lead up on deck and taken over to the port rail. The hands were there and the Boson was ready to pipe Captain disembarking. Callum looked at Stewart again and clasped his hand firmly, Stewart bowed his head slightly in reply and then turned and took Tomlin’s hand firmly. Stewart nodded to the junior officers as the pipe sang out and Callum went over the side and down the ladder steps of the hull, stepping onto Windsong. He turned and saw Amos standing there, tipping his hand.

“Is everything alright, Amos?” Callum asked the large muscular man.

“Aye, sir. Nothing to report. Captain Tomlin’s boat crew is standing by, sir. We saw Captain Renner and the Hunter set sail as well, sir.”

“Excellent.” Callum said as the rest of the officers joined him on deck, “We will bed down for the night, Amos.” Callum said as he looked about in the night sky, noting the breeze, “Light the lamps fore and aft as well as on the Main. I want a rotation of the watch, three hands and two Marines at four hour intervals at all times on deck.”

“Aye, sir.” Amos said, tipping his hand again.

“Mr. Collingwood, let us double check all rigging and sails. As I said, I want to be underway by dawn.” Callum said as he looked at Collingwood.

“Aye, sir.” Collingwood said and put his fingers to his hat.

“Would you care to have me take the deck tonight, sir?” Talon asked.

“Are you volunteering, Mr. Talon?”

“Yes, sir, if that would be alright with you, sir?” Talon asked.

“If you so desire it, then by all means, the deck is yours, Mr. Talon.” Callum said and gave him a look, Talon tipped his hand and touched the brim. Callum turned and looked at Tomlin, “May I see you to your boat, Captain Tomlin?”

“Yes, of course, sir.” Tomlin said, he and Callum crossed the deck slowly, Summers close behind them, “Quintan, what did you really make of Renner?”

“I think he did not want a confrontation with me, Thomas. It is sad, but I really wanted him to stay. I felt that I should have accepted his apology in front of all that were there.”

“Water behind us, Quintan. Do you think he will standby, at the ready?”

“Did you notice his appearance, Thomas? He was shaven, cleaned and pressed, and he only touched his glass when the toast was made, but did not drink. Yes, I think he will do his duty. And we will see it further in the morning, I would think as well.” Callum said.

“Yes, I did notice his appearance.” Tomlin said as they reached the rail, looking down at the waiting boat crew, Tomlin put out his hand, Callum took it, “It was rather enjoyable this evening.”

“Not quite like being at home though.”

“I couldn’t agree more, Quintan.” Tomlin said, “Let us get this over with and we can get back to that, shall we?”

“I can hardly wait myself, Thomas.” Callum said, taking his hand back, “Remember, lights out for the night.”

“Of Course.” Tomlin said as he went through the rail and down to the longboat, Callum looked at Summers.

“Good to see you, Cary.” Callum said, patting the young man on the upper arm.

“Likewise, sir.” Summers said and smiled, going through the rail after Tomlin. Callum watched the longboat pull away from Windsong.

“Stay out of trouble, Quintan, until I see you again.” Tomlin said.

“Mind yourself as well, Thomas.” Callum smiled and waved once then shook his head a bit. Callum turned and looked about, the hands had lit the lamps and were now setting about to check rigging and canvas. Callum went to the steps and went through the door, passing the galley.

“Coffee, sir?” Carson asked.

“Thank you, Carson, that would be most welcomed.” Callum said as he went by and reached his cabin door, opening it. He left it open and tossed his hat on the table and slipped out of his tunic, hanging it on a peg in the bulkhead wall. He went over to the table and sat on a chair as Carson came in, setting coffee on the table, “Thank you, Carson.”

“How was dinner, sir?” Carson asked.

“It was fine, Carson.” Callum said as he picked up the cup.

“I understand that Denton is a fine cook, sir.”

“To be sure, Carson, but I have grown accustomed to what you prepare. It was a bit,…elegant for my tastes. Not that I’m complaining, you understand.”

“No, sir. I have never heard you raise a complaint about cooking, sir.” Carson said.

“A friend of mine at home said to me once that he compared himself to a barn horse, never to buck the hand that feeds you.” Callum said as he sipped more coffee.

“Sound advice, sir.” Carson said and Callum looked up at him with a blank look, “If you’ll excuse me, sir.” Carson said with a bit of a smirk. Callum smiled after Carson walked out the door. He set the cup down and unbuttoned his vest and undid his necktie, getting up and walking over to the trunk and placed it inside with the other items there. He went back to the table and picked up the cup and finished as Carson returned. Callum smiled at him and handed him the cup, “You should sleep now, sir. You have had less rest than I have. We are settled in for the night, and under protection, sir. You really need to relax, sir.”

“You’re right, Carson, as always.” Callum smiled and sat down on a chair and pulled off his boots, setting them next to the chair together. He rose as Carson watched and went over to the haversack and climbed in. He lay there and thought of the day, the services for the fallen Marines, those brave young boys that were gone now, the repairs to Windsong, the daring of it all, clubhauling like that in the open sea, and then Renner, the man was so lost, he wanted to help bring him back, back to his duty, himself, his command, and then dinner aboard Triborne, Stewart being so kind and gracious was almost too good to be true for Callum. His eyes closed slowly and sleep took him, hard and fast.

“Sir.” The voice in the low light said, and Callum felt himself being shaken lightly, then once again, Callum tried to open his eyes, “Sir!” The voice said and now Callum came alive and focused. He could hear other voices, shouts and calls. Callum looked up and saw Talon over him.

“Darin.” Callum said and breathed in through his nose, seeing the look on his young officers face, “What’s wrong?” Callum asked as sat up in the haversack.

“We don’t know, sir. Something is happening to the south of us.” Talon said and backed up a step. Callum let out the breath and swung his legs out of the haversack.

“Get my boots.” Callum said and got out of the haversack, going for the door. Talon grabbed the boots and followed as Callum hit the deck and looked. Whatever was going on, Dover was blocking from his sight as she was laying off in that direction. Callum looked about, seeing the hands, almost all of them on deck and most of the Marines with McGuffin, Callum looked aloft, Patkin was there and was looking in the direction.

“Patkin?!” Callum called as Talon handed Callum a boot. He put it on and grabbed the next one.

“Flashes, sir, toward the southeast.”

“Renner.” Callum said as he stamped his foot on the deck, he turned and went to the starboard side and jumped for the steps, climbing up the side of Triborne, not waiting to ask permission to come aboard, Callum was met by Lt. Rawlings, who tipped his hand to Callum, “Pardon my intrusion, Lieutenant.”

“It’s quite alright, sir.” Rawlings said as Callum went for the stairs to the upper deck, the highest point of Triborne’s decks, looking to the southeast. He saw them, flashes against the horizon. From this point on Triborne, Callum was at the same height as Patkin was aloft, “Glass, sir?” Rawlings asked as he held out his hand. Callum looked and took it, extending it and putting it to his eye, “Can you make it out, sir?”

“It would seem that Captain Renner has engaged our Frenchman.” Callum said as he lowered the glass and collapsed it. He handed it back to Rawlings, “Lt. Rawlings, you had better inform Captain Stewart. Thank you for the use of your decks, now if you’ll excuse me.” Callum said and went for the stairs, leaping down them to the Main Deck, he went to the gunwale and cupped his hands around his mouth, “Windsong, cast off those lines, make all plain sail! We’re getting underway!” Callum said and turned to climb down, he got about halfway and jumped, landing on the deck, “Hurry lads, there’s no time to lose!” Callum called out as he looked at his men hurrying to untie the lines that tied them to Triborne, he spun and saw Collingwood, “Abel, get those rail guns checked and loaded! Sergeant?!” Callum called out.

“Sir!” The graveled voice answered.

“Have your men standby, weapons ready!”

“Yes, sir. You heard the Captain, lads. Get your muskets ready.” McGuffin said. The Marines set off to the gangway ladder quickly, those that were experienced from last night led the way, the newer ones brought over from Dover, followed. Callum spun and looked overhead. Sails were dropping and Windsong’s deck moved a bit and groaned from catching the wind.

“Mr. Talon!” Callum called.

“Sir!”

“Take the wheel!” Callum said as he started toward the aft section now, “Steer us a course, south, southeast! Bring us around Dover’s stern!”

“Aye, sir!” Talon said from the wheel. Windsong took the wind and started to move, pulling away from the larger Triborne, Callum looked over the starboard side seeing the growing gap between the two vessels and looked aloft again, the canvas was snapping and was now at full billow. He turned and looked forward, Talon was steering a course, making a port turn, easing them behind Dover at her stern.

“Captain Callum!” The voice called out from Dover in the resting in the dark. Callum moved across the deck to the port rail, seeing Dover’s silhouette in the darkness.

“Here!”

“Sir! Are you getting underway?!”

“Cary?! Is that You?!”

“Yes, sir!”

“Cary, look to the southeast! Captain Renner is under attack! Inform Thomas we are going to help! You had better get underway yourselves!”

“Aye, sir!” Summers said from the aft rail of the Quarterdeck. Callum lost sight of his dark form. He turned and looked aloft again.

“Amos!” Callum called out.

“Sir!”

“Run out both jibs! We’ve got to get there!”

“Aye, sir! Alright my lads, get to it, run out the jibs! You heard the Captain, we’ve got to move!” Amos said and the hands responded quickly. Callum turned and went to Talon at the wheel.

“How does she feel, Darin?”

“She riding it well, sir. I can barely feel her pulling against my grip.”

“Good. When the jibs are run out, you might feel a change.” Callum said at Talon’s side.

“I’ve got her, sir.”

“Captain!” Patkin called from aloft, Callum looked up, “More flashes, sir!” Callum looked forward and could barely see them against the swell and sway of the horizon but they were there. Collingwood came next to Callum.

“Captain Renner must be giving him hell, sir.” Collingwood said.

“I hope you’re right, Abel. We should be there in about an hour at this speed.”

“Rail guns are checked and loaded, sir.”

“Very good, Mr. Collingwood. We will do this as we did last night, gentlemen, all hands at the ready. We’ll go straight at them. If it is bad for Hunter, we will board her to render any assistance that we can.” Callum said with almost a growl in his throat as he looked forward without looking at his officers.

“Aye, aye, sir.” Collingwood said as he also stared at the flashes in the distance.

 

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