"Honey take the wheel" -- Or, how a young captain's daughter became a young captain
Splinters flew as the yardarm exploded overhead. "That's the mainsail!" the bosun cried, as yards of canvas tumbled to the deck. At once the snow lost a full knot of speed.
"Aye, those damned Sassenach will want to be boarding us soon," the captain muttered as he stroked his dark beard. The British corvette wore around, presenting its starboard broadside. Another blast of chain shot, this time sent low over the deck. A quite unmanly scream: the captain sprawled next to the wheel, blood pumping from the stumps of his knees. "Surgeon!" screamed the bosun. A knot of men struggled to help the felled captain as more tattered sail fell to the deck.
He was quite lucid for a man who had just lost both legs at the knee. "Where's my daughter?" he asked.
"Nora!" called a voice. And suddenly she was there. Her mother's fair hair, a lean, almost boyish figure; bare feet on the deck and a skirt short enough to be useful on a deck, but too short for modest society.
Tears started down her cheeks. "Father! But.. But..."
"No time for crying now, lass. Ye've got to take command. They'll be on us soon, and we need to be ready when they board."
A sniff of the nose, a wiping of the face. "All right, Father, I'll do my best."
"Ye'll do a lot better than that, lassie, or they'll have us all on a gibbet in Port Royale!” he roared. “We may carry French letters, but the Sassenach still call us pirates." As men toiled to staunch the bleeding, the captain's eyes sought out a scarred, burly man. "Hamish!"
"Aye sir?" he asked, coming close.
"Make sure the men obey her. Keep her safe."
"Aye sir," said Hamish.
Three men hustled the captain belowdecks even as he lost consciousness. The remaining gaggle looked uncertainly at the too-young captain's daughter. Hamish snarled, and the men drew back, for a moment more afraid of him than even the British cannon. The girl kneeled next to where her father had been, terrified. Then her eyes focused. "Hold fire on the larboard broadside. Starboard gunners and everyone else prepare to board the English when she grapples."
The men hesitated long enough for Hamish to roar "well, you louts! You heard her!" Feet scampered on the deck and astonished faces took their positions.
The corvette came on, wind spilling over her port quarter: she had the weather gauge. The sailors on her deck stood ready with grappling hooks and swords; even at this distance one could see the military precision of the line of waiting marines. "Steady now," Nora called out. Low, to Hamish, she said, "I suppose it helps that we were lately in a storm."
The burly Highlander kept a calm voice. "How do you figure that, lass?"
"Well look at us! We look like we've just fought off twenty pirates! In truth, it was just one storm. So while we may look awful, we have a full complement of men... And guns..."
Hamish smiled at this, even as the English smiled in anticipation of an easy prize. At scarce five yards, they threw out their grappling hooks. "Fire!" cried the captain's daughter, and eight seven pounders spat fiery death into the corvette's hull. "Cleaidh Mor!" she shouted into the confusion, and swung over the rail. Her deck crew raised the great shout of "Alba gu brath!" as they sailed over the rails into the fully surprised English. The starboard gunners soon followed, filling the enemy's deck.
Captain Uilliam Gaunson was born of a long line of warriors of the Clan Gunn. Though his hair was gray now, he had fought in many campaigns for King James III/VIII of England and Scotland and had been a master of the sword in his day. He had tried to teach his only child all he could about the art. Nora had been an apt pupil, and now eagerly showed off what she had learned. The English captain surrendered on his quarterdeck, and even more suddenly than it had begun, the fighting was over. Seven English bodies littered the deck. Her call of "Alba gu brath!" sounded piped rather than shrill, and was lustily answered by the roar of fifty hearty Scottish throats.