Full-on Pirate Fiction: It’s About Blasted Time, by my Reckonin’…

One of his lesser-used works

by the hand of good ol’ Howard Pyle

So, I dig pirates. This is far from hidden — or difficult to discern — information, given that I talked about it a bit already. I’m essentially inches from a Master’s Degree in English literature with a thesis that basically is a treatise on why pirates are so cool (and basically their own archetype), and Long John Silver — in particular — is among the most super-cool the archetype has to offer. To be honest, and this is some inside baseball  here, I basically decided to write a thesis as an excuse to research a novel that’s been kicking around in my brain — slowly developing — for years…

And I’ve said before that my pirate writing would meander its way on here eventually. Well, no time like the present, I always (read: never) says! A friend of mine recently suggested I should just go all out with this novel via the interwebs, as we live in a modern age, and just start posting it. I’ve finally realized that he was right… after all, Fifty Shades of Grey started out as Twilight fan-fiction (with a twist), and look at her now… plus, all I was going to do was squirrel away what I was writing while giving excuses about “when I had the time to do it properly”… To heck with that! No one ever got anywhere by standing still (…or some such). Up it goes… before I do, though, I’d like to tell you lot a bit about what this novel will entail — aside from the two secondary characters being my attempt at a “piraticized” transplant from Sholay:

  1. A quarter — maybe more, maybe less… likely less — of the plot is heavily influenced by Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood.
  2. The young protagonist is named Hawken (a nod to Stevenson).
  3. The overall plot; many subplots and characters; and jokes in the book are references to sea chanteys — some of them will probably be sung by characters, as well. Specifically (know that some of these are absolutely NSFW content-wise… I’ll mark them as such): Turkish Revelry,  Caroline and Her Young Sailor Bold, Hanging Johnny, Sally Brown, Blood Red Roses, Good Ship Venus (NSFW), Baltimore Whores (NSFW), Bully in the Alley, Haul on the Bowline, Drunken sailor — because… come on, it’s Drunken sailor!, and something mood-settingly sad like Lowlands Away. There will need to be some adjustments though, as the next bit will explain.
  4. While painfully accurate in some ways, I still intend for it to be in the fantasy genre landing somewhere between 17th and 18th century in an Caribbean-esque, but invented setting. I want the English Age of Piracy to be the “feel” of the story, but I also want to be free to have whatever whimsey I feel like chasing as a writer. I want it to be familiar to pirate literature enthusiasts (having Island colonies like “St. Fitch”, instead of St. Kitts… etc.) and I want to feel free to use bits from any pirate eras I want. I know this sounds crazy, but it’s so clear in my mind. It’s like I want to make a renaissance (and slightly post-renaissance) fantasy-fiction in the same way we see medieval fantasy-fiction all over the shelves at bookstores (you know, like the pulpy sword and sorcery stuff… or Game of Thrones… or Wheel of Time, but a couple centuries later). This kind of thing may — probably — already exist, but nowhere near the sheer volume medieval-inspired fantasy.
  5. I don’t want to rule out mysticism and magic in the world, but this story in particular won’t ever deal with it beyond superstitions and hearsay.
  6. As is my custom, I’ve seeded some little bits and jokes in what I’ve written specifically for me (Shakespeare and 17th century dramatic tropes in general occasionally pop-up). I’m even considering adding a character on the crew who is directly a reference to Shakespeare’s lost years, but I don’t know if that would fly in a fictional-fantasy world that is invented… could I play it as sort of an “alternate universe” bit? Not sure.
  7. This all stems from fantasy stuff I’ve been (technically) playing with since I was a wee lad in middle school. “The Captain” in the piece of it I have here was originally some ridiculous, overly fantastical character I made back when I first discovered how “cool” pirates were — whilst knowing absolutely nothing factual of them. I also invented Ace and Deuce before I knew about Sholay, but it was like I was trying to imitate Sholay before I even knew it existed.
  8. I also want to have a… well, I just going to say it… a super sexy gay swashbuckler in this story, as well. Sort of like how some initially saw Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Jack Sparrow as gay, but I want this guy to go full-tilt… not cheeky implications… fully, incontrovertibly gay, and extremely bad-ass. An initial inspiration for this character was Captain Jack Harkness (Whovians out there will know what I’m talking about here). I haven’t developed him at all yet, though.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. This is a ridiculous amount of stuff! Yes, that is true. However, odds are that this is all just going to be what informs the novel. Even all those songs I mentioned, besides one or two, will likely get a single line or mention at best. Also, I’ve thought of all this stuff and I thought it would be great to tell you it… even if it is relatively minimal insofar as what’s physically present in this novel. Maybe a bunch gets cut… Maybe there’s stuff in here that will end up in other novels. I’ll never know ’til I try.

If you have borne with me thus far, I cannot thank you enough(you beautiful soul, you). The least I can do is… well, actually do what i’ve been saying I’d do … let you enjoy or ignore the beginnings of my pirate novel:

(Commencing sampling… finally:)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

He brought his boot down with a firm thud on the end of the wooden frame of the room’s bed, waking up the young man, “You ready to work, boy?”

After waking from his dreams with a start, the boy stared into the man’s eyes. He wondered how those eyes could still have such a gleam of new beginnings, and still be so full of whatever torments the man had lived through.

“Hmm?”

“Yes sir,” the boy replied after composing himself. After a pause, he began, “Sir, I just wanted to say that I…”

“Save it, boy. I’m only going to tell you this once: do not tell the crew about anything to do with our past, I don’t know what they’ll do – well, I have an idea what they’ll do, but I think you want to keep your insides just that… insides.”

“Yes sir.”

“I’m not sure just how this is going to play out. If I tell them I trust you, that’ll do… for a while. You keep your mouth shut and let me work this out. Till I do work this out, you keep it down to ‘aye’ and nodding. You do exactly as I, or any of the men, tell you – unless you are in the presence of myself and myself alone.”

“Aye s…”

“You’d best drop the ‘sir’, or the men aren’t going to trust you. You refer to me as Cap’n from here on out, boy… And I want you to understand, you don’t say anything. Your only word is mum – you don’t tell anyone your name, where you’re from. Anything – ‘cept ‘aye’. If I tell you to do something, and anyone asks you why, you tell them ‘Cap’n’s orders’, anything else, I’ll throw you overboard myself. You got that, boy?”

“Aye… Cap’n,” He said the words tremulously, but he knew this was what he needed to do to absolve himself. He owed this man his life.

“I think we understand each other. Things aren’t going to be easy. If you’re lucky, Ruvee will take to you… and if Ruvee takes to you, wont be long before Aji takes to you too. Your life will be hard – harder – if those two aren’t in your corner.”

“Aye, Cap’n.”

“I’m telling you all this now for your own protection,” which was true, the Captain only hoped the crew didn’t press the boy too hard – or at least that the boy could withstand the pressure long enough for him to get things lined up first – he then concluded, somewhere between very stern and rather comforting, “now get yourself ready.”

At that point the Captain swept his cloak off his shoulders with a slight flutter, placed the hat he had held in his hand onto his head, and silently left the room. He was a fairly tall man with dark hair that just grazed his shoulders. To some degree, the look of the captain embodied all the fanciful tales of seafarers that the young man had heard in his childhood. The captain’s build suggested he was capable of quick movement, but unquestionably strong as well. He was not a man of bulk, but his muscles were well defined. His skin had been sun-bathed – and looked as though it had been for years – with a bronze tone. The captain was adorned with a rather impressive array of fine clothing as well; he was wearing a fine short-waisted beige doublet, a blue jerkin with patterned embroidery, and a pair of black knee-breeches. Over it all, the Captain was wearing a deep blue, almost black, cloak with golden needlework at its edges. Atop his head was the recently placed leather cavalier hat that matched his fold-over boots perfectly.

The young man was always amazed that the Captain – a man of such force and expertise – seemed to constantly be on the pinnacle of fashion, and had so many clothes for so many occasions. He smirked at the thought of seeing what would happen were he to refer to the captain as “a dandy”, but the smile melted from his face after thinking of some of the less pleasant moments he had experienced with the Captain in their time together up to the present.

Thinking on the Captain’s more stern disciplinary actions up to this day had reminded the young man of the task at hand: get dressed, and try to mentally prepare for meeting the crew he would be working with into the foreseeable future. Getting dressed would, of course, the easy part. He had no clothes to his name outside of a pair of grubby slop breeches, a rope to tie them off with, and a loose fitting cloth shirt. The young man used to be of a bit more means: miserably low-paid a clerk as his father was, and himself later, on his own – even as a mere shipman – he had always managed to keep himself from looking like too much of an urchin.

Those were the days before “the incident” – as the Captain had come to refer to it. The young man looked back at those days fondly. Sure it was hard work. Sure his old captain had been a bastard. But those days, when not terrible, had some adventure… And those days had her… That was all over, though, and his new captain promised him something almost as good as the return of love into his life: the Captain promised him Vengeance.

This was all information that he needed to push to the back of his mind. He was now to concentrate on keeping his mouth shut, and doing as the Captain said. He couldn’t let worry overtake him, and he couldn’t let the Captain’s men know who he used to be.

~

After sitting a moment in meditative thought, he dressed himself, and left the room to follow the Captain’s lead. So long as one didn’t look closely, his natural grace could’ve made even his homespun clothes seem like the work of a fine tailor. He just had a certain quality about him.

He walked down the stairs leading from the upstairs rooms, passed by the reception area, and made his way to the dinning hall, where he knew the Captain would be waiting. To call the room a hall was rather generous, it consisted of little more than four tables and a small bar space. The Captain was passing the time eating from a bowl of some sort of pudding and conversing with the Inn’s owner, a man by the name of Isgar. Upon the young man’s entry, the Captain and Mister Isgar were coming down from a rather raucous fit of laughter.

“…and I said ‘If you weren’t such a bully, you’d realize that behind every trap door that’s seen too much use is a devil!’” the Captain concluded and began laughing with Isgar anew. It was yet another quality of the Captain that amazed the young man. Even though “the Cap’n” was so stern and disciplined, he could instantly put anyone at ease.

“I have to say, Master Isgar,” the Captain said as he had another spoonful, “that young lady of yours makes some of the best hasty pudding I’ve ever had. If I’d a few less years on me, I’d snatch her right up – a lovesome woman who can cook like that.”

At that Isgar’s daughter, who had just come in to fill the Captain’s glass, blushed. She was a very pretty young lady: a freckled brunette, who did her best to disguise her tomboyish nature, but one need only to look into her eyes to see she was tough. Upon filling the Captain’s glass, she looked up and saw the young man.

“Bah. Her mother – gods rest her – would’ve never let me hear the end of it were I to give her to salty sea-dog such as yourself. I’d’ve had to gut you or she’d’ve beat me black an’ blue with the cookin’ wares she taught our Jenny to use so well,” he spoke with an air of deep loving for his daughter, coupled with the humorous tone he had kept with the Captain, “and it appears to me you’ve got some competition with your valet,” he was referring to the fact that Jenny had made her way to the boy, and was now playfully pushing him toward the table with the Captain and her father.

“You go sit down with the Captain and I’ll have some pudding out for you just as fast as my legs can carry me,” the young man resigned to her will, returning her smile, and started heading for the table.

Speaking quietly enough that the boy wouldn’t hear his compliment, the Captain responded to Isgar, “I can hardly blame her, there are great things ahead of that boy. Great things…”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(Sampling finished)

It’s not a lot, and technically I’ve got more, but this is what I have with some polish on it. I try not to be too verbose, but when I imagine it… When I hear it in my head… it’s right. That said, I’m very possibly too close. It’s too dear to me to make adequate judgement. I’m not saying I wouldn’t cut or simplify based on other peoples’ opinion, but I don’t know the working from the not-working in my own head. Likely as not, I should just get the hell on with it regardless and let polishing come later. I’ve always been willing to butcher and cut-up my writing in the past, but that was a little different. I’m usually clever enough to keep some distance in what I write. At the very least, putting this up has incentivized me moving forward. I have an audience now, even if I’m mostly just imagining you lot up…. Good enough for me.

Be seeing you (next time),
~Bret Kinslow~

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