From time to time agents of the crown are called upon to carry out tasks beyond the scope of a large navy or the subtlety of a diplomat. Actions often denied by those dictating the orders, and carried out by those who don’t exist on any manifest…
Rain poured from the heavens as if it were the sea itself. Wind whipped down the alley streets now barren and with windows boarded up with nary a light to be seen through them. Three drenched figures in long hooded cloaks huddled under an overhang to escape the direct fall of the rain but did nothing for the splatter and wind that made it seem that it came from every direction. Down the main street the change of guards started for the city. One of the figures nodded and the other two removed a sewer grate and all three one by one slipped down the hole, with the last reseating the grate cover. The sewers tall enough for two men was over knee deep with rain water. The three sloshed through the flooded muck at a quick pace. Coming to the end of the main tunnel they rounded a bend and found the other members of their group cutting through the last bar of a metal grate. The grate fell with a metallic splash. The group quickly entered the exposed passage without a word. The low rumble of thunder shook the tunnel as the sound faintly echoed over the roar of running water. The tunnel had reduced in size gradually and was now barely tall enough to stand up in. The group stopped at the end of the passage and one in the lead climbed the ladder. The stone and steel cover slowly slid open a hooded head poked out. Looking around there was a long pause before he descended the ladder. Lifting back the hood he wiped his face and looked at the group.
“What’s wrong Marcus?” questioned one.
“This is the closest one?” spat back Marcus.
“Yes the one right next to the wharf,” replied the figure crossing his arms defensively.
“We’re on the other side of the damn shipyard! LOOK!” Marcus pointed sternly at the ladder.
“WHAT?!” retorted the figure as he climbed the ladder.
The group started to look at each other in raised concern. The one on the ladder slid back down.
“We’re in the wrong spot! Were supposed to…” His voice cut off swiftly as he felt a sharp pain in his abdomen. He looked down to see a dagger in his stomach and began to gasp for breath looking up.
“I know, we’re supposed to be at the other hatch where the guards are waiting for us.” Marcus replied, tilting his head to one side. “But then again, I’m not the one who is dead.”
Marcus pushed forward and then pulled the blade out as the body fell backwards into the water. He turned his head to the side, gave a nod and the group behind him quickly climbed the ladder. Marcus climbed the ladder last, reseated the hatch and took cover with the rest of the group behind a timber pile. Looking around they found they were on the upper part of a shipyard with the Lord Admiral’s private wharf below. Far to the left a group of armed guards sat in the rain looking at another sewer hatch. Marcus grinned. Motioning with hand signs a female of the group got up and pulled out a crossbow with a rope attachment. Aiming she fired the arrow and a spool of rope rapidly unwound. It made contact with a ship mast docked at the wharf. She secured the other end to the shipyard scaffolding. Each member of the group took out a small zip line attachment and one by one went down the line to the ship.
Marcus and two others went below deck as the others tended to the rigging on deck. The ship slowly rocked back and forth as the storms waves forced their way into the harbor buffeting ship and wharf. Marcus approached the galley where the noise and smell of cooking filled his senses. As they entered he spotted the ship’s cook preparing food with his back to the door.
“Look I told ya’s ta keep ya grubby ‘ands out of me kitchen! I don’t care ‘ow wet and cold it is out ‘ere! Now for the last time leaves me be, an’ stop stealin’ ma food,” screamed a small rotund cook, as he turned around from chopping some vegetables. “O’…not ere’ for ta food are we?” The cook gave a toothy smile to Marcus.
“I’ve already killed one man today, what’s your persuasion?” questioned Marcus keeping an eye on the cutting knife in the cook’s hand.
“No need ta get ya stew in a lump, good sir. I’ll be no trouble ta ya’s and ye crew,” replied the cook planting the knife firmly into the cutting board and taking a seat on his work stool. “An just whut ya plan on doin’ aboard dis ‘ere ship o ta line?” Questioned the cook with a slight chuckle.
“My business is my own but know that my crew and I will be leaving this yard with this ship, so you can step off now or stay for the ride,” replied Marcus with a smirk.
“Oh ho ho, tis’ be a bold plan just to waltz out a ‘ere wit’ ta Admiral’s ship. HA! HA! In fact I just want ta see if ya can just sail outta ‘ere an get away wit’ it. Cause if da Lord Admiral catches you wit’ ‘is ship, you’ll wish you was dead. An’ last time I stuck me ‘ead out, there be a bloody hurricane ragin’.”
“I’ll take that under advisement. Anything else I should know about?” asked Marcus
“Tell ya whot, I give ya one for free, for sparin’ me life. The key ta unlock the rudda’ is in the capn’s cabin, but if any bloke asks, ya beat it outta me,” replied the cook crossing his arms.
“Very good, as you were” said Marcus turning to leave the galley.
“Aye, good sir” laughed the cook returning to preparing his meals as if nothing had changed.
Marcus reached the top deck where the other group members were still preparing the rigging for sailing.
“Almost ready. We’ll be able to open canvas on your signal. Maltz is almost done with the wharf,” Stated Fayina on the main deck.
“Good. Here is the key, go unlock the rudder,” said Marcus tossing it to the woman.
On the other side of the ship a completely soaked man pulled himself on deck. “Blasted storm, blasted Neptune!” grumbled Maltz
“I wouldn’t be cursing him quite yet. We’ll need Neptune on our side for this one,” Chuckled Marcus aiding Maltz to his feet.
“I canna’ believe ya brought us in on this. Tell meh why I agreed to it?” grunted Maltz as he wiped his matted hair out of his eyes.
“What? A reason other than coin and drink?” replied Marcus smirking.
Lightning ripped across the sky ending the conversation as they set about back to preparing the ship to sail.
“Storm’s pickin’ up sir,” shouted Maltz as he dropped the mooring ropes from the ship.
“FAYINA THE RUDDER!” shouted Marcus through one of the deck hatches.
A soft voice shouted back, “Rudder is free, priming cannon now!”
Marcus gave a sharp whistle as he slashed the zip line rope and the canvas dropped from their resting positions taking on the storms wind immediately. The ship lurched forward as each sail dropped catching more and more wind. Edging away from the dock several of the guards were running from their dry guard shacks shouting and cursing. Musket fire pinged of the side of the ship with little effect. Marcus turned back to see a full alarm had been raised and soldiers scrambled to load the cannons in shipyard’s emplacements.
“Fayina” shouted Marcus with raised concern.
“Aye, captain!” replied Fayina as she lit the fuse to the rear chaser cannon.
The cannon fired its payload with precision at the wharf or more precisely the barrels of gunpowder beneath it. The docks began to explode in a chain reaction sending wood, stone, and soldier alike flying. Each explosive made it look as if a broadside had been laid upon the yard with as much effectiveness. Soon the entire shipyard was either ablaze or crumbling into the harbor. The cook took much merriment from the event and was beside himself with laughter at the circumstance. Marcus and his small crew, however, did not revel over this as they knew there was no turning back and the great challenge of surviving the hurricane would test them all.