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FICTION


TITLE: Untitled Work In Progress
By
06/14/12
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I haven't come up with a title yet for this book. Suggestions welcome. :) I'm looking for honest, constructive feedback and any ideas for things that you as a reader would like to see and would enjoy. Thanks to all who come along and critique. Its much appreciated!
[Introduction]

It was a cool night, windy with the sounds of the plantation settling down ringing in his ears. He shifted slowly and painfully on the blanket they called his bed. Shafts of pain shot through his body and he winced trying to get into a position he could manage. The stripes on his back bled incessantly and it was all he could do to breathe and not pass out. He remembered Romans chapter eight and verse eighteen and James chapter one verse two and repeated them to himself. Through the pain he smiled slightly. “Thank you for counting me worthy, Lord.” His thoughts drifted back to England and he briefly reflected on the meeting he and his father had with one of their favorite preachers. This man too knew of captivity and pain but the Lord had used him mightily in his lifetime . . .

###

December of 1671 – Bedford County Jail, England

The door opened to a cell, filthy and stinking as a tall, red-haired man looked up from his place on the floor. There was wear and tear on his face, gained from the many years imprisoned. Yet, a presence remained and a light reflected in his eyes that no earthly punishment could diminish. He sat with leather bound volumes, some blank, some written in, one on his lap in progress. An ink well sat next to him on one stack and a quill held steady in his hand. He smiled slightly at the tall gentleman who entered. He was a stately man, kind yet firm. Around thirty-five years of age, he had a hardness to him that came from his military service. Yet, softness showed in his eyes that betrayed a man of love and compassion. This was Stephen Hudson. The prisoner knew him well. Stephen had first met the red-haired man when he was eighteen, looking to serve the Lord as a preacher by going to school and seminary or enlisting into the military. He’d wanted with all his heart to serve the Lord in whatever capacity He’d had for Stephen but the young man couldn’t seem to figure out which path to take. Their meeting had been by accident. The prisoner had been preaching one Sunday on the glory of God. Stephen had attended as he’d regularly done but had never spoken to the clergyman. Afterwards, as the red-haired man was leaving, he’d come across young Stephen sitting in the back pew with his head in his hands. Had the older man gone through his normal rear exit, he’d have missed the youth altogether. But it had been God’s providence for him to happen upon Stephen in that state and he sat and talked with the boy at length. They’d talked about his convictions and his troubles. He’d revealed to the preacher his dilemma and asked him what he should do. It had been odd, the red-haired man recalled, seeing this young, brash man so conflicted. It wasn’t every day that a youth such as he was as passionate or even as interested in the things of God as this boy was. Now, to look upon him in his military uniform neatly pressed, God had foreseen that he was able to accomplish both goals. That day he’d made a good friend of this young man and they’d kept in contact regularly. Now, some years later, his kindness had only grown as he visited his mentor and friend in prison.
“How are you my young friend?” asked the prisoner.
Stephen smiled. “I am well John. How are you keeping?”
The older man grunted irritably. “I am in prison, son.” A smile crept up once again. “But God keeps his promises and his children and he has kept me well.”
Stephen nodded with a smile of his own at the beloved man before him. The man called John looked at his friend before movement behind Stephen caught his eye. A young boy about twelve years old appeared from behind his father and stood quietly. John beamed and pointed his pen at the youth.
“You must be Eli. Your father has told me so much about you in his letters. You look just like him, you know.”
Eli smiled at that and looked at his father who smiled back affectionately.
“Eli, I want you to meet the man who has helped your father on more than one occasion with more than one problem in my life. He is a famous preacher and has had a profound influence in my life. This, lad, is the great John Bunyan.”
At this, Bunyan gave the older Hudson a disapproving look which Stephen countered with a grin. Eli walked over and took the outstretched hand on John Bunyan.
“Strong like your father, lad. Hopefully not as impertinent though.”
Stephen laughed as he took a stool in the corner of the room and sat down to watch John Bunyan talk with his son. Eli glanced down at the volumes on the floor. Bunyan followed his gaze.
“Tell me boy, do you read the Word of God?”
Eli nodded vigorously. “Yes, sir. My father instructs me in it and I try and read whenever possible.”
“There’s a good lad.” Bunyan smiled and patted him on the shoulder. He then turned and picked up a volume from next to him and held it in his hand as he turned back to Eli.
“And do you love our Lord, son?”
“With all my heart, soul, mind and strength sir.”
At this, Bunyan laughed heartily, very much appreciating the boy’s reference to scripture.
“Would you serve him?”
“Wherever possible, sir.”
Bunyan suddenly turned serious and gave Eli a hard look.
“Would you die for him, young Eli?”
The youngster offered no hesitation. “Always sir.” He said. “I may twelve years old but I know that Christ died for me Mr. Bunyan. How can I do any less for my Savior?”
Stephen Hudson sat in the corner on his stool with the proudest look on his face as his eyes became moist. He loved his son and his family and what Eli had just said to Bunyan had affirmed in his heart how much of a privilege Hudson felt it was to be a Father and Husband. He would cherish this moment and Eli’s words for the rest of his life. Bunyan too had tears in his eyes and he reached over and hugged Eli to himself, praising God for such a faithful Father and Son.
“Never lose that courage and conviction lad. Never lose that love for the Savior. Always count it a blessing to suffer for the Lord as I have here. Live only for him, forsaking all others.”
As he said this, he let go of Eli and pressed the leather book into the boy’s arms. Eli looked down in surprise at the volume in his hands and then back up to Bunyan.
“For me?” He asked.
“Yes.” Bunyan nodded. “I have more copies I’ve made. That is for you son. Read it and when you do remember two things;”
Eli nodded as Bunyan looked right into his eyes and held up one finger. “First, God is sovereign over all and there is nothing outside of his grip.”
Bunyan held up another finger. “Second, you are his slave, as am I. A man’s worth isn’t measured by his influence or wealth. A man’s worth is measured by how he serves God and Jesus Christ, our Great Master. If you suffer, rejoice as did Paul, Silas and others. If you find yourself in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, fear no evil as the Psalm says. God is always with you. And if you find that you are to die, do so as Stephen did, with love and the name of God on his lips.”
Eli was speechless. He stared at the book in his hands, which had two titles on the front. The Pilgrim’s Progress: In the Similitude of a Dream and The Pilgrim’s Progress: From This World to That Which is to Come. The book was very large and Eli was delighted. He stared at the book for a moment and then up to its author. Suddenly, he rushed forward and embraced the great preacher. Bunyan chuckled as a tear ran down his face.
“Thank you, sir.” was all Eli could say.
“Thank you lad and thank our Lord. Your visit today has brought me peace, hope and encouragement. I count it a blessing to suffer for my Savior.”

###

[Chapter 1]

June, 1677 (Present Day) – Sugar Cane Plantation near Bridgetown, Barbados

Eli was jolted awake by a bucket of cold water. He sat upright so quickly that he gasped and cringed with the pain of his wounds.
“Get up, Slave and meet your new owner.”
Eli looked around. It was still night. He stared at the man before him. Flynn McGinty glared back at him. Nicknamed “Grim,” he had a reputation for taking pleasure by inflicting pain. He was good at it too. A former pirate, though that was debatable as far as Eli was concerned, Grim was tough and leathery. He stood just over six feet tall, a few inches shorter than Eli and a fact that irritated Grim to no end. His black hair was pulled back into a tail and he wore a red shirt with black pants and black leather boots. A sword hung off his belt and a pistol was strapped to his leg. Eli knew the Owner’s right hand man also carried a knife somewhere on his person. It was Grim that had beaten Eli earlier this morning on his arrival after Eli had intervened when Grim had hit a young woman in town near the brothel. Grim was known to be a lewd man and frequented the brothel whenever he could. When Eli had stepped off the ship, they passed through town to a carriage waiting for them. A young woman standing outside the brothel watched solemnly as the men were paraded through. Grim had made a pass at her and was met with disdain. At the girl’s harsh reply, Grim dealt her a blow to the face. In spite of his wrists being chained, Eli surprised all watching by lunging at Grim and knocking him down. Eli had saved the young woman but it had cost him dearly and he now suffered for it. Slowly, Eli stood to his full height. Though only eighteen years of age, he stood three inches over six feet tall was lean and muscular. His powerful frame made Grim look smaller than he was.
Grim growled at him. “Move it you dog.”
Eli turned to walk out of the little hut he was in when Grim clipped him across the back of the head with a stick.
“More respect too, dog.”
Eli looked at him. “I have no respect for gutless pirates like you.”
Another strike. Eli staggered.
“You have a loose tongue slave. I suggest you fix that. Mr. Morrigan ain’t nearly as nice as I am.”
They left the hut in silence and headed down the dirt path toward the plantation mansion. The sky was crystal clear and the sounds of nature buzzed and hummed all around. Lamps lit the way all over the plantation and Eli could see guards standing their posts throughout the grounds. They headed up the path and five minutes later came to a stately home on the edge of the plantation. A door opened as Eli and Grim climbed the stairs. They entered the house and chains were placed on Eli’s wrists by a guard at the door.
“Mr. Morrigan will see you now.” Said the guard.
“I’m ever so delighted, sir.” Eli said drily.
Grim shoved him through the door and into an ornate office. The room boasted expensive paintings and gold-trimmed décor. Statues and artifacts lined one wall while books lined the other on high timber bookshelves. A desk sat on the other side of the room from the door, massive in size and stunning in detail. A man sat in the chair writing on a piece of paper. He didn’t bother looking up as Eli was brought before him.
“Your new slave as requested, sir.” announced Grim.
After a long moment, the man finally looked up and smiled. Grey hair pulled back into a tail led down his face into bushy mutton chop side burns. His tanned skin was creased from years at sea. He stood and rounded the desk. He was as tall as Eli but thin. He wore a suit of blue satin, then gentlemen’s clothing, and rings and jewelry adorned his hands. He sized up Eli as one looks at a prize and finally smiled.
“Welcome to my plantation Mr. Hudson.”
Eli made no reply. Again the man checked him over. Even in height with Morrigan, Eli’s dark brown hair too was pulled into a tail and his young face showed the beginnings of a beard from days in captivity, unshaven. He was handsome, with piercing brown eyes and a strong jaw. He had on the remains of a white shirt, shredded and matted with dried blood. Brown pants and boots completed his clothing.
“You seem like a suitable worker Mr. Hudson. I trust Grim here has treated you accordingly.”
“I’ve been beaten three times now and I’ve been here less than a day.” Eli replied angrily.
Morrigan feigned concern. “Beaten?” he asked. “Three times?”
Grim smiled evilly behind Eli as Morrigan continued.
“Well, young man, you are a slave.” Morrigan emphasized the last word. “Perhaps you’ll think twice next time before you open your mouth or make somewhat heroic yet stupid gestures for women who aren’t worth it.”
“What I think, do or say seems to be of little concern here, Mr. Morrigan.”
The smile left Morrigan’s face and another blow came. Eli dropped to his knees and felt the warmness of blood drip down his neck. Morrigan stood over him.
“Disrespect will not be tolerated boy. If you can’t abide by the rules here your life will end sooner than is necessary. Are we clear?”
Eli glared at him with no response. Another blow, this time to his wounded back. He yelled in pain.
“It doesn’t have to be this way slave. It’s your choice. Either way you go, you will break. I own you.”
“My Master is Jesus Christ. I’ve been brought here falsely. Now you treat me and others in this way and expect total loyalty? You are sadly mistaken sir.”
Another blow. Eli fell to the floor.
“I don’t care if you claim God, the devil or some other religious lunacy, slave. I own you and you will learn to behave. Rest assured Mr. Hudson, however you end up, I shall lose not the slightest bit of sleep.”
No answer came as Eli, now on his hands and knees, groaned. Morrigan took that as submission and told Grim to get Eli a chair. Grim brought an old, half broken chair stained with blood from previous, similar encounters. Grim hauled Eli to his feet and roughly shoved him into the chair as it protested noisily. Morrigan turned, walked behind the desk and sat down.
“Now then Mr. Hudson, we have our rules. You will do as you’re told, when you’re told. You will do your work and do it the best of your abilities. Failure to follow these simple basics will result in the punishment you received tonight, or worse. Follow these rules and you could live a very happy life.”
Eli looked up. “A happy life? If this is your idea of a life of happiness sir I’d gladly let you take my place.”
Grim stepped forward but Morrigan held up his hand to stay the blow.
“You are now the property of Tobias Morrigan of the colony of Bridgetown on the Island of Barbados. Call it what you want Mr. Hudson, you’re still mine.”
Eli suddenly knew who this man was. “Red Morrigan? The Pirate?”
Morrigan looked at Grim. Another blow came and knocked Eli to the floor.
“I don’t know you slave and you don’t know me or my business. You’re no friend of mine either. You will refer to me as Mr. Morrigan. And just to make sure you get the message, you will begin your work early today as soon as we’ve finished here.”
“Fantastic.” Eli spat as he pushed himself up slowly.
“You might be strong Mr. Hudson but even a young lad like you can only take so much.”
Eli managed to stand again to his full height and leveled his gaze at Morrigan.
“Now then, I have a question.” said Morrigan.
Eli kept his eyes on Morrigan but said nothing.
“Why do people never learn to have a conversation here?” he asked smugly. Grim smiled.
“Fine then boy. Tell me how it is you came to be in the custody of the man who sold you to me.”
Eli felt a surge of anger rush through him. “Ben Blood destroyed my home and tried to take my family.”
“Go on . . .” said Morrigan.
Eli eyed him coolly. He knew Red Morrigan and Ben Blood were well acquainted.
“Blood attacked our town. He was looking for my father.”
Morrigan’s eyes lit up with recognition.
“Of course! How blind I am! You are the son of the famous Captain Stephen Hudson. Stephen Hudson, now the Governor of St. Kitts. Ben talked a lot of your father lad.”
“I’m sure he did. Think what you want Mr. Morrigan but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Ben Blood brought me to you.” Eli raged.
“Naturally. You see, Ben Blood receives ‘supplies’ from me and I in return am given first choice of his captives. It’s wise in our line of work to have good friends you know.”
Eli knew better. He knew of the real arrangement between Blood and Morrigan. They had been pirates together and still were as far as he was concerned. They had plundered, killed, attacked, stolen and otherwise wreaked havoc all over the Caribbean for years. They were the best of friends. Morrigan eventually settled in Barbados and had bought his first slave. He’d kept his ship and the most loyal of his crew, Grim having been his first mate. The guards around the plantation were, in fact, those crewmen. It wasn’t long before Blood had brought him his first lot of captives free of charge as slaves in return for stolen weaponry Morrigan had “procured” from the local regiment of English soldiers along with various goods and supplies. As it happened, their commanding officer, Captain Harris, and the Governor himself were friends of Morrigan and profited greatly. Essentially, the entire colony was under Morrigan’s command.
“Of course it doesn’t matter who gets killed along the way.” Eli spat.
“I can’t afford to worry about such trifles, lad.” Morrigan chuckled.
Grim smiled and laughed behind Eli as he shook his head.
“So you fell prey to Ben Blood’s wrath. I can only imagine the state of your town. Basseterre is it?”
Eli’s silence told him his answer.
“How is it that I only attained one member of the great Hudson family?”
“Ben Blood isn’t as great as you claim.”
Grim hit Eli again. Eli grunted in pain.
“No disrespect here boy. Ben Blood is a friend and a great man.”
Eli spat on the ground. “That’s what I think of Ben Blood and of you, Morrigan.”
Morrigan actually smiled. “I like your fighting spirit boy. I’ll enjoy breaking you down into nothing. Grim?”
Suddenly, a barrage of blows rained down on Eli. He couldn’t defend himself as Grim drove him back down to the ground and beat him mercilessly. The last conscious thought Eli had was rage at the laughter coming from Morrigan.

[Chapter 2]

{Flashback} Two Weeks Earlier – Basseterre, St. Kitts

Charles Killington stood in the large, decorated office and looked over his work. Stephen Hudson was a fastidious man and liked things just so. Normally, Governor Hudson kept his own office. But since his departure two days previous, Charles had kept the Governor’s things neat and tidy. As he turned to leave, Mrs. Hudson entered the room.
Charles smiled. “Good day Madame. May I be of service?”
Emily Hudson was a beautiful woman with a gentle nature. Her golden hair was tied back on her head and her emerald green eyes sparkled as she walked over to the man who kept their house running from day to day and touched his arm.
“Charles, your work is magnificent. I believe this room has never looked better.”
“Thank you Madame.” he replied graciously.
Charles Killington was a tall, gaunt man of seventy-five. He had a grey wig on and a green waistcoat with trousers. White stockings covered his legs down to his black polished shoes. He was always well-groomed and rivalled the Governor himself in his efficiency and manner. He was kind-hearted and grandfatherly. He ran a tight ship in the house and Governor Hudson had set him in charge of the entire estate. A trusted family friend, Charles had followed Hudson to the Caribbean and to St. Kitts out of love and loyalty. Charles had known Hudson since the days of his youth and had been well acquainted with Stephen’s father. Stephen’s parents had been killed when their ship was attacked by pirates and Charles and his wife Elizabeth had taken young Stephen in and raised him as their own. Elizabeth had loved and nurtured him like no other and both she and Charles loved Stephen like their own. Sadly, Elizabeth died the year before Stephen was sent to St. Kitts as the new Governor. Stephen had insisted that Charles come with them. There was nothing left in England for the older man. Stephen had told him that taking Charles would be his great honor. While that was true, Charles knew the new Governor-to-be had just wanted to take care of him. Not long after their arrival in Basseterre, the capital of St. Kitts, Charles began to get restless. One night as he sat talking with Stephen, he’d told the new Governor that he needed something to keep his mind fresh. After some back and forth talk, Stephen asked him to manage the estate. Charles was rapt with the idea and the following day, it was announced to the rest of the staff that Charles was the overseer. Now, he looked at the younger woman in front of him, a woman he adored as his own daughter and kissed her on the forehead.
“You are beautiful young lady.” He stated.
Emily laughed. “Here you act so formal, then I a get a kiss?”
“Forgive me Love, but you and your family are precious to me. How can a grandfather resist?”
She took his arm and they looked around the room. After a moment she looked back to him.
“You are the only one who worries for Stephen more than I do.”
He patted her hand as he stared at the empty chair.
“When he was in the Royal Navy, I constantly worried, especially given the way his parents died. Elizabeth and I prayed every day for his safety. Now that he’s gone away to Port Royal on business, I still fear for him.”
“Don’t be scared for him Charles. He is skilled at what he does and the Captain with him is good and a close friend.”
At this, Charles brightened. “You’re right child. Come, my duties are done for today. Shall we see what our youths are up to?”
They left the room and walked through the Governor’s mansion. They came to the courtyard in the middle of the home where Esther and Mary, the Hudson’s twin daughters were talking to the Gardener as he groomed the assortment of flowers in his charge.
“How do you know which flower is which?” asked Mary.
“Or where to put them to make them all so lovely.” finished Esther.
The man smiled warmly at the two girls. “I studied botany in London. I can tell you all about every flower here if you’d like.”
At this, he clipped white roses and gave one to each twin, careful to remove the thorns. They beamed as they smelled the flowers’ fragrance.
“You always have had a way with this garden Martin.” said Emily. She too smelled the roses the girls held.
“Thank you Madame.” Martin smiled and handed Emily a rose as well for which she thanked him. He then turned his gaze to Charles and gave a respectable “Hello Mr. Killington.”
Charles nodded in return. “Good afternoon Martin. Your work as usual here is masterful.”
Martin grinned his thank you and went back to work, pleased with the praise from the family. Emily rushed the girls into the house as they said goodbye to the gardener. Charles lingered a moment longer, reflecting on the beauty of the garden before turning and meeting the girls inside. Emily, with Charles and girls in tow, searched the house for her two sons. She glanced back and laughed as each of her daughters had taken an arm of the man they called “grandfather” and talked his ears red of the day they’d had and the garden they loved. Emily turned into the vast library they kept and searched the aisles. She went to her eldest son’s favorite shelf with the works of the great John Bunyan but found his seat empty. They left the library and walked through the house to the veranda on the back of the mansion. Here, the group spied Elijah and Phillip, standing and talking as they looked out at the bay below. Esther and Mary called out to their brothers who turned with smiles and waved at them. The girls rushed down the stairs as Emily and Charles watched. It always pleased Emily to see the closeness of her children. They truly loved each other and that brought more joy to their parents than nearly anything else. Charles offered his arm to her which she accepted and together they descended the stairs to meet the children. Phillip greeted his mother with a kiss but Elijah kept his eyes fixed on the bay as if mulling something over. Charles went over and spoke quietly to him. She marvelled still how much their children shared their features. Mary and Esther were gorgeous like their mother, nearly identical save for two differences. They shared their mother’s high cheekbones, soft pale skin and overall feminine beauty. But where they differed was a sight to behold. At fifteen years old, Mary, the older of the two by just minutes, had a rich head of curly brown hair and the deep emerald green eyes of her mother. Esther had the same rich head of curly hair, colored blonde like her mother’s but had a unique set of the bluest eyes imaginable. In every other feature they were identical.
Phillip, seventeen years old, also had his mother’s blonde hair and the same blue eyes that Esther had, which they shared with their father. It was Stephen’s eyes in fact that had drawn Emily to him in the beginning. Phillip was every bit the handsome young man. He was slightly leaner than his brother, much like his father. He was tough and fit with an athletic body. He had a temper, a fiery soul, as his father called it. His passion for the things of God sometimes put people off. But he was quick witted and humorous and very gifted as a swordsman. He had aspirations of joining the Royal Navy like his father had, a fact that made his parents proud and yet worried Emily inside. He loved his family and found great comfort in them, especially his brother with whom he was exceptionally close. Elijah, or Eli as he was more commonly called, was the eldest at eighteen years of age. He was a striking young man. Every bit his father’s son in appearance, he was somewhat quieter than his father or brother. He was tall at six feet, three inches and built more powerfully than the others. He had broad shoulders with a muscular body and tanned skin from the tropical weather. He’d adapted well to the Caribbean climate. His dark brown, shoulder length hair, tied back, matched Mary’s and Stephen’s but he was the only member of the family to have brown eyes. They were deep, rich and piercing. They were kind eyes, warm and friendly, that drew a person in and captivated people.
Where Phillip was very handsome and gentlemanly, Eli was more ruggedly so. Where Phillip had that sort of boyish charm, Eli was a magnet for people’s affection. He was the rock in the family, much like his father. He had a wonderful sense of humor that made everyone laugh but he was mature, not childish. He loved his family deeply and was very protective of them, especially his sisters. With Phillip, he had a brotherly bond like no other. He was very much like his mother too in some ways, especially in personality and that endeared him to her even more. He and his father shared a passion for God that was unmatched and his thirst for the scriptures was at times insatiable. He was so strong, yet so gentle. He was extremely courageous but also so humble. Where he could share his faith, he did so without hesitation. When it came to skill, he was riddled with it. With a sword he was unbeatable. Only his brother challenged him and for that their father was very proud of his sons. With a pistol, he was deadly accurate. He could also throw a knife across a room and strike his mark every time. Eli was a captivating young man and yet he struggled within himself to know what the fuss over him was. He was very popular in town but there times that he didn’t understand why. His parents believed that Eli struggled to see himself the way the Creator did, as a treasure and creature to be loved. Stephen and Emily worked hard at instilling in their children the love of the Lord and that they were beloved children of the Heavenly Father. Eli though wrestled with the idea and there were times it caused him to hesitate. They prayed God would show their son how precious he truly was in the eyes of the Lord.
Phillip finally drew his mother’s attention and she smiled at him.
“What were my young men doing out here today?” she asked.
“Eli was just telling me Father should be half way to Santo Domingo by now.” Phillip replied.
“Oh? And how was your time in town today?”
She looked back and forth between Phillip and Eli. Phillip grinned mischievously as he watched his brother.
“Adventurous to say the least.” he said. “It’s a shame they built the blacksmith next to the tavern here. Every time we go there some drunkard feels the need to insult us.”
Emily became concerned. “Please tell me you didn’t fight. You know how we feel about that.”
Phillip laughed and shook his head. “Hardly. He wouldn’t let me, mother. Besides, they wouldn’t stand a chance against us, anyway.”
She gave him a stern look that drew an accusing finger pointed at Eli.
“Honestly. The poor soul didn’t have a chance. The insult had barely left his mouth when Eli cornered him about his sin and depravity. By the time he finished, the old codger was crying in his rum.”
At this, Emily softened. Eli turned at the mention of his name and smiled at his mother.
“We don’t fight unless we have to. But I expect we’ll have a new man attending church this week assuming anything I said sunk in passed the drink.”
They shared a laugh as Eli hugged his mother. It was then she looked passed him at the ornate case sitting on a nearby table. Her eyes widened excitedly as she pulled away and looked at him.
“Is that it? It’s ready?” she asked.
“Yes and its magnificent. Let me show you.” Eli said.
He turned and walked over to the case on the table as the family gathered around. Eli opened the case to a finely crafted sword. The evening sun glinted off the blade as he extracted it from its box. Truly magnificent, it boasted folded, re-enforced steel with a double-edged blade that ran down to a handle of gold and silver. The mixture of precious metals was ornamented with a single red ruby protruding off the bottom off the covering hilt that sparkled with the sunlight. It was perfectly balanced and all the more impressive considering Eli and Phillip had a hand in making it. The local blacksmith was a generous bear of a man who took an instant liking to the Hudson’s when they arrived. Both Eli and Phillip had become fast friends with blacksmith Henry Hoode’s son Thomas who was the same age as Phillip. Thomas was his father’s apprentice and had one day shown Eli and Phillip around the shop while his father was working. Eli had taken a keen interest in blacksmithing and found the word hard yet fascinating. Phillip shared Eli’s fascination and the two, together with Thomas, had asked Henry Hoode if they could learn something of the trade by making a sword for their father. The results had proven yet again the efficiency of her sons and that Eli especially seemed simply to be good at everything he tried and did. The girls marvelled at the work as Charles asked to hold weapon. Eli handed it to him, letting him examine it. After a few moments, Charles sheathed the blade and put it back in its case. He clapped both boys on the shoulder and congratulated them on a job well done.
“Excellent work lads. Why don’t we head inside and see what Margaret has cooked up for tea?” Charles suggested.
They group headed inside but Eli, sword in hand, paused to look down the hill at the bay. The sunset played lights over the water. An arm snaked through his. He looked at down at his mother and smiled slightly.
“He’ll be back before you know it.” he said to her.
“I know that my son. But I see the worry in your eyes too.”
He nodded. “I pray for him. But I feel something malicious in the air. Perhaps I should go see Commodore Atkins.”
She shook her head. “About what Eli? I’m sure Commodore Atkins has things in hand. He is very capable. Come, let’s go inside and eat. The rest is up to God, son.”
He smiled and nodded as they turned and walked inside together chatting away.

###

Malice was indeed in the air as a black-sailed ship streaked silently toward Basseterre. Its captain was a truly evil man. He stood at the helm watching the island of St. Kitts coming into view. Another couple of hours and they’d coast into the bay unnoticed under cover of darkness. Benjamin Brooks, or, Ben Blood as he was better known, watched the sun fall behind the island with a scowl on his face. He hated the place and the people. Most of all, he hated the man who ran the town. Stephen Hudson was more than familiar to him. His patch he wore over his right eye was a testament to the day they met and signified the hatred he held for the man. Brooks was an older man of fifty, though for his age, he was remarkably fit and capable. He had the body and strength of someone half his age. He neither drank nor took part in the usual revelries of most pirates. Instead he chose to keep a level head and ran his ship like a slave plantation. His crew respected and feared him. He was known to simply put a bullet in a man’s heart for the smallest reason or, for no reason at all. He could out-duel any man under his command save for his First Officer. Brooks stood just over six feet but was slight and tough in build. His black hair was tied back in a tail that showed streaks of grey. He wore a red shirt that blew in the wind, taking the nickname he’d been given and embracing it in his everyday life. His black pants and black leather boots were neat and tidy. His appearance commanded respect, all the more so due to the various weapons and ammunition he sported on his body. He loved weapons because of their lethality and took to stuffing his belt and straps over chest with various items from bullets and powder to knives and swords. He even wore a whip wound tightly and secured to his right hip. Benjamin Brooks was the personification of death. Rumors abounded that he was the Devil’s own son, evil incarnate. He had a black heart that matched his sails and signature flag. He’d spent the last fifteen years building his reputation as possibly the most feared man in the Caribbean. He took whatever he wanted, when he wanted and killed those he felt like killing. If he saw a ship in his path, he destroyed it and those on board. Orphaned in his youth, Brooks grew up on the streets of London. He quickly learned the art of survival and proved to be a solid fighter. He rarely lost and when he did, he made it a point to make his opponent suffer for it. It was this time in his life that gave him his outlook on the world. At fifteen, he’d hopped aboard a ship bound for the New World and learned the art of sailing. He quickly developed a ruthlessness that was unmatched in the crew. At one point after sailing aboard for a couple of years, the second officer on board flogged him in front of the crew for disobeying an order. That night, while everyone slept, a battered and beaten Benjamin Brooks crept into the man’s room, jammed a knife through his throat and threw the body overboard. The next day the room was discovered splashed with no little amount of blood and the man’s head sitting neatly on his pillow. They all knew he’d done it but none could prove it. That day, Benjamin Brooks became Ben Blood and he never looked back. In fact, the men feared him. Blood grew into a truly soulless and evil man with no regard for human life. He had a bloodlust that was unquenchable and often killed for pure enjoyment. He hated everyone and had no friends. His crew and officers feared the man save for his first officer, Miguel Candelaria. He seemed to be the man after Blood’s own heart and it somewhat endeared Candelaria to Blood. Though Blood never admitted it, he trusted Candelaria and confided in him often. They’d grown together as numbers one and two and made for an effective team. It was Miguel who walked up beside him but said nothing. Blood waited a moment before speaking.
“Not long now Miguel. Revenge will be mine.”
Miguel nodded but stayed silent. Blood looked at him sideways.
“Spit it out Miguel.” He snapped.
“Spies report Stephen Hudson departed two days ago, destination unknown Señor.” he said emotionlessly.
Blood seethed but held his temper. After a moment, an evil smile creased his lips.
“Well then, perhaps fate has dealt me a more favorable hand. If we cannot kill the man, we’ll take what is most precious from him first. We can always come back and finish him off.”
Now it was Miguel’s turn to smile. Rarely one to show emotion, Miguel nonetheless seemed pleased to inflict more pain on this man his mentor hated so much.
“Señor, I have instructed the cannons be at the ready to fire once we anchor in the bay. The men are ready and waiting. There are no other ships in sight.“
Blood nodded. “Good. This may prove easier than expected. Well done Miguel. You stay with me when we land. Send the men in three companies on my order. We use the cannon fire to cover them on approach and keep the fort busy. With Hudson gone, the local regiment will be down men.”
Blood held his large hat on his head as a gust of wind nearly blew it off. The large red feather whipped hard in the wind. Blood turned to Miguel and looked his man square in the eyes.
“We’ll turn this place into a smoldering graveyard and hang the bodies of his family for him to see when he gets back. No one lives Miguel. I want them all dead. Prepare yourself now. We land in two hours after sunset.”
Candelaria nodded silently and turned to do just that. Blood watched the sun dipping beneath the horizon and took a deep breath.
“Revenge is sweet, blood will flow . . . today is a good day to die.”

###

Later that evening, Charles and Emily sat by a fire and talked idly. The twins had gone to bed and the boys were in the library reading. The estate had settled down for the evening as the staff had either gone home or, for some, went to their quarters on the back of the grounds. Emily looked up at Charles who was absent-mindedly watching the flames.
“Eli senses danger.” she said.
Charles nodded. “He told me. The young man has his father’s keen sense of danger. Pray it doesn’t come true tonight.”
Emily stared at the flames herself lost in thought.
“I hope he’s wrong . . .” She was cut off by intermittent booming coming from the bay. She and Charles looked at each other, the color draining from their faces. Realization that Eli had been right dawned on them as they jumped to their feet. A moment later, Eli and Phillip burst into the room.
“Cannon fire!” yelled Phillip.
Eli took charge and pointed to his brother.
“Phillip, weapons!” he shouted. “Mother, get the girls!”
Phillip hurried across the room to a cupboard as Emily rushed out to the sound of Mary and Esther screaming from upstairs.
Eli pointed to Charles. “Grandfather! Go to the staff quarters and round everyone up. Young men go with Phillip and me. The rest, with you!”
“I’ll bunker everyone in the cellar under the mansion. They’ll never be able to find the hidden doors.” Charles said.
Eli nodded and turned as Phillip came back to him with an arm full of weapons. He threw Eli his sword, a belt of knives which Eli slung over his chest and a gun belt with two satchels of powder and bullets. He handed Charles the box containing his father’s new sword and another sword which Charles hadn’t seen before. It was beautifully crafted in much the same style as Stephen’s had been but with smaller stones around the hilt. Charles looked at it amazed and then at the two boys. Eli smiled despite the atmosphere.
“Father’s wasn’t the only blade we made. For you Grandfather, with our love, respect and gratitude.”
Charles nodded. “I don’t know what to say boys.”
“Tell us when this is over, Grandfather.” smiled Phillip.
Charles strapped the sword to his belt when the room suddenly became chaotic. Emily returned standing above them on the balcony overlooking the sitting room with Mary and Esther each holding some precious items to the family including a bag filled with books given to Eli when he was younger. Eli knew exactly which books she had and was very appreciative. The staff too burst in at the same time, some in a panic. Charles barked orders at them as Emily watched her sons prepare for battle.
“Peter, James, Andrew and Simon! You follow Eli and Phillip. The rest come with Madame Hudson and me. We’ll bunker down in the basement with provisions. Keep it orderly people!”
Emily’s heart sank. She watched as the families and staff began to follow Charles through the house but her attention was with her sons. She knew they were going to do what they had to do but it didn’t make her worry any less. The thought of losing either of them gutted her. She, Mary and Esther hurried down the stairs and hugged and kissed Eli and Phillip, wishing them Godspeed with tears in their eyes. Eli and Phillip held them momentarily as Eli looked at all three.
“Don’t worry about us.” he smiled. “Phillip and I will be back for you soon.”
Charles came back to the room and over to the girls.
“We must go Love.” he said to Emily. “Now.”
She nodded as the tears flowed and she and girls rushed off with the rest of the group in tow, shepherded along by Charles.
Eli turned to the men with him now. Along with Phillip, Peter, James, Andrew and Simon stood ready and watched him. All four men were somewhere in their twenties. Peter was the oldest at a hair under thirty and the only man to have a family. He was the man responsible for safety of the estate and the family and a man who worked very closely with Charles and the Governor. Eli looked him in the eye somberly. “Peter, I give you the choice to follow Charles below. A man should protect his family.”
Peter shook his head. “I’ve kissed my wife and son. They’re safe here. I now do my duty and protect my Governor’s family and his colony. I go where you go sir.”
His thick Scottish accent was hard and firm. Eli nodded. Each man checked his weapons one last time and followed Eli outside. They ran through the main gate of the estate where Eli paused and looked down at the bay. A ship had sailed in unnoticed, armed to the teeth.
“Pirates.” Eli breathed. “Let’s go!”
They ran down the long path toward the town. The fort was under siege and faring poorly. The regiment was at fifty percent and reinforcements hadn’t arrived yet to take the missing company’s place. Stephen Hudson had resisted the escort but Commodore Atkins held firm and won in the end. Now, though he’d done his duty in making that decision, Commodore Atkins faced an impossible enemy and couldn’t adequately protect the town. Eli and his men entered the town minutes later and ran into Thomas Hoode. He was armed as they were and looked to Eli and Phillip.
“About time. I was beginning to think you weren’t coming.”
Phillip grinned. “And miss a fight with pirates? Not a chance Thomas.”
Eli moved them on. They headed down the street and turned onto the main avenue that headed down toward the center of town, the store and the docks.
“Where’s your father and mother?” Eli called to Thomas.
“He went to get mum and then up to the Governor’s mansion as arranged by your father. They should be headed that way now!” Thomas replied.
Eli nodded as they entered the middle of the town. The scene before them would have scared off lesser men. Bodies lay in the streets and blood flowed freely. Eli’s only consolation was that not all the dead were townsfolk. Rage built inside and Eli closed his eyes and whispered a quick prayer. A scream caught his attention close by. The group turned to see two pirates chasing a woman. Eli, with lightning quickness, flipped a knife from its leather holster across his chest and whipped it with deadly accuracy. A split second later, a gunshot sounded. Eli’s man dropped first followed by his companion.
“One day, I will beat you.” Phillip quipped.
Eli nodded with the briefest of smiles. Most people would think Phillip’s sense of humor crass at a time like this but Eli knew it was his way of keeping his wits. In a way, Eli felt comforted by his brother’s calm demeanor.
“You’ll need a lot more practice instead of lounging around as usual little brother.” He shot back.
This drew a laugh from Phillip and chuckles from the others. Suddenly an explosion rocked the church building off to their left and ahead. People fell as earth, rock and timber knifed through the group close by. Finally, Eli spotted the man responsible for the invasion coming up the hill from the docks. He was in his fifties, tall, lean and well-groomed. He had an eye patch over his right eye and his body was stocked with weaponry. Eli had never seen the man but knew exactly who he was. He was surrounded by ten men including his first mate, a Spaniard. He looked at the leader of the group as the man barked a series of orders to one of the crew. The man rushed off to carry out the order when the Captain finally made eye contact with Eli. Surprise registered for the slightest moment and the passed just as quickly. The man recognized Eli and Phillip for who they were. That evil smile crossed his lips as he pointed to Eli and his men. His fighters began rushing up to the hill toward them as Phillip and Thomas flanked Eli.
“Is that who I think it is?” asked Phillip.
“Captain Ben Blood.” Eli practically spat the name out.
Eli drew his sword and the others followed suit. A minute later, Blood’s fighters met them head on. Swords sang in the cool night as blows were exchanged. Eli whipped his sword in a blur, cutting, hacking and slicing through flesh as it came. The confrontation ended quickly and Eli and his men stood tall. Seven pirates lay dead at their feet. Eli looked up at Ben Blood who scowled back. He said something to the Spaniard and they turned back and headed toward the ship. As they did so, Blood pulled a pistol from his belt and fired a shot into the air. A few seconds later, a massive cry went up as another hundred men rushed up the shores and into the town, unnoticed before now. Eli went white. Basseterre stood no chance. There had been little resistance and the fort was now deathly quiet, its cannons silent. God only knew what became of Commodore Atkins and his men.
Eli turned and shouted at the others. “Back to the house! We must evacuate the others!”
It was then that Phillip, Thomas and others realized why. They sprang into action as more explosions rocked the colony. It was all they could do to block the sounds of death from their minds. They reach the estate minutes later as Eli directed Peter, James, Andrew and Simon to round up the others.
“We’ll meet you at the hidden path.” Eli told Peter. “Go!”
The four men hurried off as Eli, Phillip and Thomas turned to see torches beginning to run up the path. It was just over a ten minute walk at a regular pace to go from the town to the estate. From the front door of the mansion, one could look all the way down to the gate leading up the path to see who was coming well before they arrived. It was a feature Eli now thanked God for because it now served them well.
“Are there any more guns?” Thomas asked.
“Not here.” Phillip replied. “We three have our pistols. That’s it.”
Eli glanced at Thomas’ and Phillip’s satchels and then at his own.
“At best, we could take out three men before they got to the door. It’s not worth the fight. Blood will be among them. We need to get everyone to the secret cove.”
As he finished talking, Peter rushed out to them.
“We’re on the move sir. Charles is leading your mum, sisters and the rest across the grounds as we speak to the ship. Your orders?”
Eli fixed Peter with a mixed look of concern and admiration. The man’s loyalty and honor were impeccable. But Eli wanted him to be with his own family and to help Charles get everyone out. He knew Peter would resist leaving him unless Eli made it sound as if he needed Peter’s help.
“I want you to help Charles and make sure our families get to the ship. Phillip, Thomas and I will be along shortly.”
Peter saw through Eli though the younger man’s gaze never wavered. A few seconds went by and Peter nodded. He offered Eli his hand.
“Whatever happens sir, it’s been my honor. I will personally make sure everyone gets to that ship.”
Eli nodded as he gripped Peter’s hand. “Thank you Peter, for everything. We are counting on you for their safety.”
James, Andrew and Simon rushed out and began to draw their weapons.
Peter stopped them. “No. We are to make sure the families get to the ship.”
His words left no room for negotiation. Still, the other men looked at Eli who never took his eyes off Peter.
“Let’s move!” Peter shouted and finally turned and ran through the house, followed by the other three.
Eli turned back to his brother and their friend. The three of them had become such close friends. Now, they would need each other more than ever to get through this. Phillip clapped each of them on the shoulder.
“Shall we?” he asked.
They smiled and rushed quickly inside. They hurried upstairs and to the outside balcony facing the town. Eli wanted to make sure his previous notion was right. They looked out and saw that Blood’s group had advanced quickly. There were at least twenty-five men. Not worth the fight at all.
“We’ll have to run for it.” Thomas said. “Peter and Charles should be herding everyone down the hidden path to the ship if they haven’t reached it yet. The soldiers with the ship will be ready to move. We won’t have to fight . . .
Eli cut Thomas off. “Yes we will. They’ll need time to get under way.”
“But Eli, there’s ten men guarding that ship. They’d be ready to set sail with everything going on. They would’ve heard the attack. It’s standard orders.” Phillip replied.
Eli nodded but said nothing. He knew Phillip was right. But Blood was advancing quickly. The timing was wrong.
“We need to give them time to get out of sight. If Blood sees that ship, he’ll order his crew to give chase. We are the reason he’s here Phillip.”
“Lord, save us!” Phillip breathed.
All three of them turned and hurried back inside and downstairs to the main room. Eli had an idea.
“Phillip! Thomas! We need to set a fire!” he yelled.
Phillip whirled and looked at his brother in shock.
“Eli, this is our home! We’ll lose everything!”
“We’ve already lost everything Phillip. Blood has taken over! It’s the only chance the ship has to get away!”
Phillip nodded and said nothing. Thomas had left the room and returned with a small barrel of brandy the cooks used to cook with in the kitchen. He looked at Eli who nodded and set about dowsing the room. Phillip reluctantly began to help his friend. When they’d finished, Phillip looked at Eli somberly.
“I know it has to be done,” he said. “but I’ll miss this place.”
Eli put a hand on his brother’s shoulder.
“Blood will pay for this Phillip. For now, we must trust God.”
Together they pulled their pistols out and fired at two different spots on the floor where Thomas had traced a small line of gunpowder to start the fire. Both lines sparked and caught fire as the boys ran from the room. The fire raged quickly with Eli, Phillip and Thomas making it out the back door just in time before everything in the room went up in flames. They bolted out across the green lawns of the estate toward the back wall that lined the edge of their home and kept the jungle out. They scrambled to the corner where all three men, taking barely a minute to cross the yards leapt and lifted themselves up and over the wall. It took them only seconds to search and find the faintly worn path through the trees and into the jungle that would take them to their family, the ship and to safety.

###

Ben Blood heard a loud whoosh and his men stopped abruptly behind him as the house in front of him burst into flames. He glared silently at the fire as the men just behind him piped up incredulously.
“Did they just kill themselves?” he asked.
The Spaniard, Blood’s First Officer turned and struck the man in the face.
“It’s a diversion.” said Blood curtly. “They’re delaying us. I’d say there’s an escape route somewhere. Find it.”
The men began to spread out as The Spaniard turned to his Captain.
“I saw a small cove on this side of the island as we came in, Señor.”
Blood smiled cruelly. “Clever dogs.”
He turned to the Spaniard. “Take five men and head back to the ship. Leave me one hundred men to finish off the town. Take the rest, cast off and sink that ship. Come back and get us when you’re finished.”
The young Spaniard turned to carry out the order.
“Oh and Miguel?” Blood called.
Miguel turned as Blood gave him a stern look.
“No survivors please. I would hate for Governor Hudson not to lose everything he loves.” He touched the patch over his left eye and smirked. “You know, eye for an eye and all that.”
Miguel Candelaria smiled wickedly as he turned and headed down the hill with his few men in a rush. Blood turned back to the burning mansion and fumed.
“I will break you Hudson.” He growled. “Then, I’ll show you what pain really is.”

###

As Blood’s men set out to find them, Eli, Phillip and Thomas burst into the clearing and rushed down the small beach. The ship in the distance was facing out to see and to Eli’s relief, it was moving. Peter waited for him on the shore with James, Simon and Andrew. This way was risky but it was doable and they’d need all seven of them to catch the small sloop before it left them behind. They all hopped into the little boat as Peter and Eli pushed it into the water and jumped in. They began to row steadily in sync with each other and the little rowboat knifed through the water. They could barely make out black figures on the ship rushing about, with only some watching over the bow to see if they would make it. Eli repeatedly checked the beach they’d left for any signs of life and to his amazement, there were none. He’d expected Blood not to be far behind. Phillip had sworn repeatedly Blood wouldn’t find the path. Eli wasn’t as sure as his brother. Though the path through the jungle was hidden, it wasn’t hard to find. For a man like Blood, it presented virtually no challenge. Eli prayed silently that their distraction had bought them enough time to slip out of the cove and into the night for safer waters, unnoticed. Minutes later, they reached the sloop. James and Simon caught the ropes thrown to them and secured the small craft while the rest climbed aboard. Once everyone was safely on the ship, only then did Eli start to relax. Thomas found his mother and father and hugged them. Peter found his family and held them tightly while Charles greeted the other three with congratulations, handshakes and thanks. Eli and Phillip hugged their mother and sisters and greeted Charles. As Charles was talking to Eli, Captain Morris walked over to him. They turned to look at him but Morris had his eyes on Eli. Eli nodded to him.
“We’re clear and headed out to see.” Morris assured them. Sighs of relief went up all over the ship. “We’re making our way to Nevis for shelter where we’ll take up with Governor there and report on what happened.”
Eli stared at the man for a moment. Morris betrayed his emotions and looked down.
“What’s wrong Captain?” Eli asked.
Morris hesitated and then fixed Eli with a look of concern.
“Blood’s ship passed by here this morning. I dispatched one of my men to the fort to pass the message on to Commodore Atkins that a possible pirate vessel was approaching. As my man left, I spotted through my spyglass one of their officers looking our way. I’m confident he didn’t see the ship as she was hidden. However, he knows about the cove. I’m worried they’ll realize something is up.
Eli frowned. The wind was in their favor and they had the cover of night with a head start. But if Captain Morris was worried, they had cause for concern. Their ship streaked ahead silently, all but invisible on the sea. Eli stared back at the island. A minute later a spotter climbed down the ropes from the crow’s nest and walked over to Captain Morris. Eli stood with Morris and Phillip as Charles, Thomas and Peter joined them. The group eyed the man who’d come down from the top as he reported.
“Sir, Blood’s ship is leaving the bay. It seems they know we’ve escaped.”
“They’ll sink us for sure!” blurted Thomas.
Everyone on the ship turned at the sound of Thomas’ voice. Eli thought quickly.
“If they catch us, we’re all dead. Captain, do we have any barrels of gunpowder on this ship?”
Morris nodded. “Yes. We keep a small supply below. What do you have planned young man?”
Eli closed his eyes as his plan formed in his mind. He looked up and suddenly spotted another ship, a merchant sloop, with lamps aglow and headed their way, oblivious to the danger on the island.
“Make for that sloop and hail them Captain. The Lord has seen fit to give us a way out. It’ll have to be quick and silent though or Blood will see us. Let’s move!”
Morris caught on to what Eli was thinking. The crew snapped into gear at Eli’s command and the men on the ship pitched in as well. Barrels of powder were brought up to the deck, families were huddled at the bow of the ship and Morris, Charles and Eli went over Eli’s plan.
“We’ll transfer everyone aboard their ship and rig this one to explode. We should have just enough black powder here to pull it off. Once everyone is aboard and safe, we’ll rig her up and send her out to sea. Ten minutes should be enough time for that ship to get us around the island and out of sight. It’s going to take timing though.”
The other two nodded and Morris clapped him on the shoulder. “Fine work lad. I’ll get to signalling that ship. You two get those barrels lashed and secured to the rigging.”
Eli and Charles nodded and hurried away. Eli found Phillip and Thomas and filled them in on his plan. They ran to the front of the ship and began tying barrels to the forward mast. Eli and Charles rigged the helm. The man at the helm looked at them nervously. Eli smiled at him.
“Don’t worry sailor. When the guns go off, you have permission to move.”
The sailor cracked a smile and nodded silently. Eli and Charles moved on, securing the odd barrel at intervals around the ship’s railing. Finally, Eli looked up and saw that Morris had recruited Henry Hoode to help him and they’d been successful in hailing the incoming ship. Eli breathed a silent prayer of thanks as it began to turn toward them. A short time later, Blood’s ship lamps could be seen at the edge of the harbor. By this time though, Morris’ ship had come alongside the unknown sloop they’d flagged. Words were exchanged and a moment later, Morris, Eli and Phillip crossed over on an extended plank and met the captain and first mate. They shook hands briefly and Morris launched into what had had happened. The officer listened intently before Morris gave way to Eli and let the eldest Hudson talk. It took little time convincing the other Captain, an old man named Robert Pine. He eagerly offered his assistance and even called for one of his crew to come over.
“Mr. Le Grande was the finest gunner in these waters. If you’re pleased to do so, take him back with you to ensure your barrels are properly fitted while we take your crew and passengers on board.”
All were agreed and soon the plan was put into action. Eli, Phillip and Morris crossed back over with Le Grande in tow. He set about with Eli and Phillip checking the barrels while Morris and his crew quickly ushered the passengers across. Morris kept glancing back nervously as Blood’s ship was now out of the harbor and headed their way. He hurried the rest through before he ordered his crew to follow. Finally, Eli and his brother met Morris as Le Grande nodded to the Captain.
“Your barrels are ready to go. We poured some fuel from the lamps on top of each barrel and drilled a hole in each lid. Hopefully, this will ensure your barrels explode as planned.”
Morris nodded as sea spray washed over them and thanked him. With that, Le Grande headed back over. Everyone except Morris, Eli and Phillip were across. The ships were loosed from their lashings that held them together and slowly they started to separate. Morris motioned for the boys to cross but they hesitated.
Morris looked at them sternly. “This is my ship. Your intentions are noble lads but I will not rescind my duty to your father and to my command. Get across that plank. That’s an order.”
They nodded and thanked Morris for what he’d done. As they settled onto the ship, Morris took a look around and nodded. He ran over and loosed the main sail. The ship jolted forward as he ran to the helm and turned the wheel, aiming the Flying Fox out to sea. The planks had been withdrawn now that the Fox was moving away from them and Captain Pine’s crew, with Morris’ assisting, made the ship ready to head off. Morris was to tie the ship’s helm, aimed out to sea and see to it that she began her course. He would then abandon ship and Pine’s ship, called the Sparrow, would fish him out of the water.
The plan went smoothly and the Morris was soon splashing into the sea as their ship began to sail away. Morris’ crew flung him a rope just as cannon fire erupted from Blood’s ship. Moments later, whistling was heard and wood from the rails and top deck splintered and flew into the air. Morris was hauled aboard and was handed blankets to warm up with. Everyone aboard held their breath to see if the barrels would explode. Eli’s heart soared as he saw the sparks light next to the barrels. All looked as if it would work out. But just as quickly as the sparks flew, they went out. Another minute and a few more feet passed and twice more, sparks took only to extinguish quickly. Suddenly, realization hit Eli.
“The powder must be wet from the sea spray.” he said.
Morris, Pine and the others turned to him. Le Grande bellowed out to them from the other side of the deck.
“She won’t light like that Captain! Those cannon balls and should have sparked the powder! It’s too wet!”
As he finished his sentence, another barrage hit the ship and water and debris sprayed the deck. A spotter called down to them.
“Blood’s ship has taken the bait! But the powder isn’t lighting!”
Phillip turned to his brother. “We should have made a fuse and lit it.”
Eli nodded, realizing his error. In tying the barrels up as he had planned, he was expecting the cannon balls to hit them or hit nearby to spark them. He never accounted for sea spray. His brother was right. They should have lit a fuse and tried to time it.
Some of the sailors pulled out muskets but Eli shouted at them.
“Stow your weapons! Firing will give us away!!”
Eli turned to his mother and kissed her, then his sisters. Emily looked questioningly at her son. She watched Eli turn to Phillip and it dawned on her what he intended to do.
“Watch over them Phillip. I love you all.”
“Eli!” Phillip yelled. But it was too late. Before anyone could stop him, he bolted and dived over the rail and into the water. His mother screamed. His sisters cried for him to come back. Phillip took off after him and tried to follow him but was held back by Thomas, Morris and Charles. Phillip smashed his fist in anger on the railing as he watched his brother swim toward the moving ship. Eli managed to grab a stray line just as the Flying Fox was beginning to pick up speed and cruise out to sea. Only yards away, all on board the Sparrow watched helplessly as Eli begin pulling himself on board the ship, cannon balls, debris and water raining down on him. Moments later, he climbed aboard and scrambled below, out of sight.

###

Eli ran down the steps to the cargo hold. It was here they had rigged a few barrels to the mast pole that ran through the deck to where he now stood. Without a doubt, this explosion would sink the little ship before Blood’s ship could get to it in time to find much. Eli checked that the barrels weren’t wet and found them perfectly dry. He set to work by pulling his pistol out of his belt and kneeling down in front of the closest barrel. He took out his pouched wondering if the powder in his satchel would be wet from his swim. He grimaced. The leather pouch hadn’t kept any powder dry. He flung the bag away and popped off the top of the barrel next to him, scooping out a handful of black powder. He loaded some in his pistol first and then made a small trail back to the steps where he came down. It took a few more handfuls of powder to complete the task but finally he stood ready. It was a crude way to light up the ship but it was the only thing he could do on short notice. He poked his head up from below and judged the distance to the railing. He shook his head, instantly wishing he hadn’t. He knew there was almost no chance of him getting off the boat before the explosion. He prayed, “Lord, if it is your will that I die here tonight, I pray you allow my family and friends to get away safely. May you be glorified . . .”
He nodded and stood at the top of the steps. The powder would flash and burn quickly. He heard the familiar “BOOM, BOOM” of the cannon and aimed his pistol.
“Here we go.” He breathed.
The instant he heard the whistle he fired and ran for his life.

###

A lookout approached a moment later and cleared his throat, waiting. Pine and Morris turned and Pine nodded at the man.
“Sirs,” replied the sailor. “Blood’s ship seems to have taken the bait and is turning to follow the Fox out to see. I think the plan has worked.”
“Not all of it.” said Morris. “Those barrels need to blow up.”
Suddenly, an explosion rocked the Flying Fox. They all turned as Phillip yelled. “Nooo!!”
He sunk to his knees as the rest looked on stunned. Eli had never emerged from the ship. His plan had saved them they knew. Blood’s ship had turned toward and followed the Fox. But as their ship disappeared around the island, hearts sank and tears flowed. Emily, Mary and Esther sobbed uncontrollably as the Hoode’s comforted them. Thomas stood with a hand on the kneeling and slumped Phillip’s shoulder, tears running down his face. Morris and Pine stood staring at the trees as they now moved behind the island and out of sight. Pine finally turned to his first Officer and ordered them on to Nevis and fast. Charles, now holding the sitting Emily in his arms looked at Morris, his eyes watery.
“He didn’t make it did he Captain?” he asked.
Morris could only shake his head. He felt responsible. Now Eli’s mother, two sisters and brother were under his care and his father would soon be heading back to a family grieving from loss.

###

The Red Death pulled alongside the wreckage a little while later and the men aboard scanned the water. The flaming skeleton that was the Flying Fox now sat badly listed in the water and sinking. Candelaria searched the water with his men and increasingly became agitated. There was plenty of wreckage and debris. But the realization that no bodies were anywhere to be seen started to sink in. It had been several minutes since they’d wounded the little ship but they had no idea that the party aboard was being ferried off to safety in Nevis. A massive cheer had gone up when the Fox blew up. All manner of cargo, personal items and pieces of the ship now floated around them. Candelaria growled at the lack of death in the water below him. They’d been tricked. He felt like killing someone now more than ever. Had they burned to death? No, that was impossible. Surely they’d have seen some remains. Candelaria was a pirate who knew what death and wreckage looked like. This was not the scene he was expecting.
Suddenly a call went up that a body had been found. Miguel rushed to the other side of the ship and saw the frame of a man floating draped over a broken plank of wood. He ordered the body fished out of the water. One dead body wasn’t good enough but at least it was something. He needed to see it for himself. Moments later a tall, strapping you man of eighteen lay on the deck before him, unconscious but not dead. Various cuts and bruises littered his body as one of the crewmen stepped up to Candelaria.
“Blood won’t be happy mate. One body of out of entire ship . . .”
Candelaria seethed at the course of events and took his frustration out on the man who spoke, running him through the heart with a dagger, quick as lightning. The man gasped with shock as he crumbled to the deck and died. Miguel stood over the prone bodies for a moment as one of his crew turned over the barely surviving body of the young man from the water. Miguel’s face suddenly changed. He knew this boy. He’d seen him on the avenue in the town and had watched, somewhat impressed when he and his men cut down seven of Blood’s. He smiled. Blood wouldn’t be happy they’d all gotten away but this would somewhat make up for that. The others wouldn’t be able to go too far and there was always another day.
He looked at the three men closest to him. “Take him below and lock him in the cells. I want you three on watch. You’ll be relieved in four hours.”
“Three men sir?” one of them asked.
“Yes. That man is the reason why we have no other dead bodies and the reason seven of your fellow crewmen are dead. He’ll gut you like a fish if you’re not careful. Go.”
They nodded in submission and hauled Eli Hudson to the cell below. The rest of the crew looked at the man they’d recently dubbed El Diablo. He expected perfection out of them as evidenced by their dead comrade lying at his feet. But more so, he expected perfection from himself. Being made a fool of didn’t sit well with him and if he’d have his chance, he would make that young man pay dearly for what he’d done.
He whirled and faced his men. “Get this ship back to the harbor. I need to see the Captain.”
The men left to attend their stations as the second mate walked over to Miguel.
“Who was that man, El Diablo?” he asked.
“The eldest son of Governor Hudson. Our chase hasn’t been completely in vain. Get these men going fast. I want to be back to the bay in thirty minutes.”
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