A Dagger Bay History
5
 Feb 29, 2016
Rules


ADVANCED WRITING CONTEST

Listen up me hearty’s, Dagger Bay has a long and colorful history – as soon as ye be done spinning it. Tell it like a salty seafarer, or like a sissy historian, the choice be yours. Whether it be told in a Pub to an interested wayfarer, or written in a travel journal by a professor we want to hear about it.


Contest Rules
* Entry Fee: Free (We're still in the Beta period. Please allow for glitches.)
* Prize: Trophy (Virtual site trophy only; and no jackpot yet.)
* Level: Advanced (All members may enter, but judging will be according to the 'advanced' rules.)
* Word Limits: 500 - 2500 (If 'word counter' malfunctions, the QMs may choose to allow a 3% margin of error.)
* Submit period: 14 days (Plus the three day head start you've already had.)
* Voting period: 3 days (May be extended if the number of entries warrants it.)
* All regular Writing Deck Rules apply.
* Multiple entries are allowed in this contest, however, any entry not meeting 'advanced' standards will be disqualified.So take your time, proofread carefully, and make your entry count.

Good Luck!

...
1st place
  7.444

“Arr. So ye and yer troop be seekin' passage in me ship, eh?”

“Yes, Captain. I was told you're the only one with a ship large enough for us all. We're refugees, you see. When we first started out it was just my wife and I plus a few friends, but as we traveled others joined us and our group kept growing. So then, now that our common experience has united us, we'd like to stay together until we make it to a new home.”

“Ah, a large mug of ale. Most kind; I thank ye. Aye, the Lady Dagger is configured to carry a large contingent of passengers. So, just how many are ye?”

“About two hundred, I think.”

(Cough, sputter) “Two hundred! (Ahem) Preparations fer that many takes quite a bit of plannin'. But I'm sure we can be ready by next season.”

“When will that be?”

“About three months.”

“Months?!”

“Aye. Tis already the end of fair weather fer the crossing. Soon foul weather will make it too dangerous to sail.”

“But we were hoping to make the trip now.”

“Arr. Tis always the case. Well it might kin be done. But to get everything in a rush will cost extra.”

“I'll go around to the others and collect as much as I can. But we're not rich people, you know.”

“Nay, of course not. I feared as much. Then ye'd best make sure they understand this will be a bargain passage, not a luxury cruise. So it's simple rations fer the lot of ye. And ye all will have to help with the work when called on.”

“Yes sir, Captain Cyrus. Anything you say. Thank you, thank you so much.”

“Good day, to ye.”

Jonathan rushed back to where his fellow travelers were staying and relayed the news. Then once everyone had hurried away to prepare for the voyage, he found a secluded spot overlooking the harbor and thought back on how he had reached this point.

His homeland once was a virtual utopia. In his prime, their ruler had been a benevolent leader who encouraged free thinking and promoted a progressive society. But with age he grew tired, and his ministers began giving bad advice. Thus the society declined.

Then outside powers began campaigning to seize control. Two or three major forays were repulsed; but each attack left the homeland weakened further. At last the end came. A crowd of invaders, with designs on the destruction of everything good, succeeded in capturing the Capital and stripping power from the ruler and his council.

Despite the new dictator's assurances that everything would continue as before, it was soon clear this wouldn't be the case. His true interest was to despoil every asset and leave only a barren wasteland.

Jonathan recalled the day he rushed home and called for his wife. “Honey! Where are you?”

“We're in the parlor,” came her voice from the other end of the house.

“Mindy, we have to leave in a hurry,” he blurted as he ran down the hallway. He came to an abrupt halt at the door. “Oh, hello. Nice to see you all. Pardon my interruption, but we must get packed.”

“Packed?” asked Mindy. “Where are we going?”

“We have to leave the country while we still can. The dictator is already showing his hand, and it may not be long before people get trapped here.”

The three ladies visiting Mindy looked alarmed as well, but Mindy spoke first. “What's he done?”

“He's shut down Craftsman Square; he's closed the theater, the galleries, and even the college; and he's forbidden any more assemblies in the public auditorium. The only places left open are the mines and the mills. It seems he wants to turn us all into nothing more than menial drudges.”

“Oh, no! What can we do?”

“We're going to pack as much as we can gather overnight, then head out first thing in the morning. And I suggest you other ladies talk to your families and consider doing the same.”

“In the morning?!” wailed Mindy. “But we'll have to leave almost everything behind! Besides, where will we go?”

“It can't be helped,” said Jonathan. “If we wait too long we may not be able to leave at all. We just have to make a new home somewhere else.”

“Okay. Girls, I guess this is goodbye. I'll write you once we find a place.”

Mindy's three guests were eager to leave by this time, so she and Jonathan immediately began packing what each felt was most essential. It didn't take long to fill the wagon plus form a large pile beside it. They then sorted still further till they were down to only two large trunks each.

Late in the evening they were finally finished. Jonathan blinked back his tears as Mindy cried aloud. “We're leaving behind so much. So many treasures, so many memories.”

Jonathan's eye was drawn to a glint in the heap of discarded items so he picked it up. It was a trophy from his first art contest. His lips tightened as his arm lowered and the award dropped from his fingers.

The next morning the two of them closed the front door for the last time then turned bravely to their departure. Jonathan's expression changed to surprise as he spotted a half-dozen families waiting on the roadway, each with their own heavily laded wagon or cart. Mindy waved excitedly at her friends. Apparently they'd be traveling en masse to a new home.

They had scarcely begun the trip when other dispossessed citizens observed their flight and rushed to join them. Word quickly spread and soon they had grown to a large host -- artisans, skilled craftsmen, philosophers, educators, and entertainers of all types.

At length they arrived at this port town, eager to start the final leg of their trek. A quick negotiation with the captain of an outdated ship and much hectic rushing for outfitting found them finally ready to leave for a new world.

The first month at sea was uneventful apart from a bit of seasickness as people grew accustomed to the motion, followed by several cases of cabin fever due to tight quarters and limited activity. Then one evening just at sunset the lookout spotted two items of concern on opposite horizons.

Far to the west was a line of dark clouds foretelling heavy weather. The captain grew apprehensive and directed the helmsman to change course and steer wide of it. But approaching from the east was a ship whose flag and banners troubled the captain nearly as much as the storm. He spoke under his breath as he addressed his first mate, Elias, but Jonathan felt sure he heard the word “pirates”.

Thus it was that as darkness fell there also came an oppressiveness which pervaded the ship. The fear on the faces of the sailors was quickly transmitted to the passengers. What little talking there was, was carried out in hurried whispers and hushed tones.

Dawn didn't arrive. Only the bell for morning watch indicated it was daytime. So thick was the overcast that lanterns were kept lit throughout the decks. The dimness and increasing roll of the ship told they had been overtaken by the storm. Even so, the gloomy light was sufficient to see that the tracking ship was less than a mile astern, its Jolly Roger grinning aloft.

Captain Cyrus took the gamble of ordering more sails, and Elias rushed to carry it out despite the risk of running fully rigged in heavy winds. For a short time they pulled away from their pursuers, but this ceased once the pirate captain also hoisted more sail.

The stalking continued throughout the day, the winds growing stronger and the pirates drawing closer. By mid-afternoon the ship was near enough for the cutthroats on board to wave threatening gestures at the fleeing sailors.

Jonathan was watching from the rear deck when he heard Captain Cyrus say to Elias, “If only we could do something to make them break off. But I've heard tales of that captain, and he never relents once he sets his sights on a target.” These remarks sparked a memory in Jonathan and he turned to the captain with a proposal.

“Captain Cyrus, I overheard what you just said and I think I can help. One of the men in my group is an excellent shot with a long rifle. We could ask him to come up for a look, and see if he can pick off their captain. Without a leader, maybe they'll give up.”

A short time later the marksman had his rifle braced against the taffrail and was sighting the figure on the opposing ship. He carefully allowed for the rolling of the ship and the force of the wind. Jonathan, the captain and the first mate all held their breath as the marksman pulled the trigger. They saw the pirate captain straighten for a moment, then fall sideways over the railing and into the sea.

The pirates who had been beside their captain ran to the rail and gazed down. A moment later one of them took a long look at the fleeing ship, then began shouting orders. It seemed he was the first mate. The hearts of the men on the Lady Dagger fell as the pirates hoisted a cannon from below decks and wheeled it forward. It was soon followed by cannon balls and kegs of gunpowder.

Once the pirates appeared ready to fire, Elias asked, “Shouldn't you move to a safer location, Cap'n?”

“Nay, t'won't be necessary,” answered Captain Cyrus. “Both ships be rollin' too much. They'll never be able to hit ...”

Jonathan and Elias watched in horror as the captain's body flew off the deck and followed a cannonball into the waves. Their shock was broken by the sound of faint cheering from the tailing ship. Elias ran to give directions to the helmsman while Jonathan called to the marksman to fire again.

The rifleman aimed toward the cluster of pirates around the cannon, but his focus shifted to the kegs of gunpowder behind them. Then praying that the impact of the slug would be sufficient, he let loose a round. Almost instantly a tremendous explosion erupted on the forward deck of the pirate ship.

The ship's momentum drove the gaping hole at her prow deep into a swell and flooded her lower decks with seawater. Tension from the abrupt stop that followed snapped the mainmast, bringing down its rigging to finish the wreck.

Moments later the Lady Dagger shuddered sharply as she crested a swell then dropped into the trough behind it.

“Strike the main sails!” called out Elias, who was acting as captain. “There's no need to tear ourselves apart now that we're not being chased.”

The ship slowed as the sails were furled, and Elias looked back toward the pirates. A number of men were still alive and struggling to stay afloat as the sea rapidly broke apart their ship. He looked toward Jonathan and their eyes met. Jonathan nodded.

“Come about,” bellowed Elias to the crew. “And prepare to take up survivors.”

The faces of the men clinging to flotsam brightened as the Lady Dagger came abreast. Elias leaned over the railing and called down to them.

“Avast! Ye dogs. Afore we bring you aboard, you'll be giving your weapons to the sea. All of them! And you'll be giving us your oath to raise no hand against any of us.”

The rescue went quickly despite the churning waves and intensifying wind gusts. Then although they were again under way, Elias knew they were still in great danger. The gale broke on them in full fury.

The ship pitched and rolled with such violence that the passengers were compelled to sit on the floor and brace their backs against the walls. Some used lengths of rope and tied themselves to bulkheads. Even the sailors who occasionally came below could scarcely keep from falling as they walked.

Sometime after midnight Elias came to Jonathan with a plea for help. “Jonathan, your landlubbers need to take turns manning the bilge pumps. The ship's seams are leaking so badly the only way we'll stay afloat is to work the pumps constantly. But I need all my experienced sailors on deck and in the riggings. Even the pirates are doing their share to keep us alive. Every able hand must pitch in.”

Fortunately, by daybreak the worst of the storm had passed. The wind and rain had lessened, and the clouds were breaking up enough to see bits of clear sky between them.

“Land ho!” called the helmsman. “Cap'n Elias, an island dead ahead.”

Elias ran to the upper deck and gazed forward. “Steer for it and put in wherever you find a place. Run us onto a beach if there's no other choice. The ship can't stay afloat much longer.”

In short order a natural bay was discovered and the ship was run aground and debarked. Every man, woman and child gave thanks, each to their own deity and in their own way. Soon enough came talk of how to set up a village and begin building homes.

The helmsman who had steered them to safety spoke first. “We need someone to organize our efforts so we don't work at cross purposes.”

He was answered by the marksman. “What about Jonathan? He's been a good leader ever since we started out.”

“Thank you,” said Jonathan, blushing slightly. “But perhaps Elias should be considered. He is the acting captain, after all.”

Elias stood up and shook his head. “No. I may have filled that role in the regular captain's absence, but whatever authority I had ended once we all came ashore. I agree with the others, it should be you, Jonathan.”

Before Jonathan could speak again the entire company erupted in applause and cheers. Seeing he couldn't fight it he relented. He then called for a banquet with a large share of their remaining stores. Eventually they were all well fed, overflowing with rum and beer, and regaling each other with songs.

Jonathan looked across the crowd at Elias and called out, “Just where are we anyway?”

“I don't know,” Elias answered with a bit of concern. “It's not on the maps. But then this part of the sea isn't well charted. The nearest I can figure is we're somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle. And you know, if'n it hasn't been discovered before, we're free to name it. So what say you, Jonathan?”

“Me? Well, I'm not ready to name the entire island just yet, but I think we can at least name this place we've landed.” Jonathan stood up and raised his mug. “I christen it after the noble lady which gave her all to bring us safely to land. From henceforth this place shall be called Dagger Bay.”

Have you any idea how hard it is to walk on sand with a wooden leg? Captain John Dagger did.

Aside from the physical difficulties involved in making his way up the beach, (sinking several inches with every other step), he was well aware of the pitiful spectacle he made and the considerable enjoyment this offered his crew. It was hard enough to inspire the right amount of fear necessary to guarantee their total obedience without performing this comic routine every time he set foot ashore.

The Captain's birth name, Jean Daguerre, had caused him comparable mockery during his youth. He changed it during the Seven Years War to remove any doubts as to his loyalty and then, in what seemed like divine retribution, his leg was blown to smithereens by a French cannonball.

Generally, whether aboard ship or on dry land he coped manfully with his pegleg and this
was accepted by his men as one of Cap'n Dagger's many accomplishments, along with …
* Avoiding unwelcome attention from His Majesty's Customs and Excise Officers.
* Navigating his ship safely and securely all around the high seas.
* Ensuring his crew had food, drink and were scurvy free ( for the most part).
* Returning with as much contraband as a fore-and-aft rigged vessel could reasonably carry.
* Rewarding the ship's company fair and square after each “run” … and
* Enjoying considerable success with the ladies (despite his disability).
Yes ... he was quite the hero when he wasn't hopping up and down on the beach.

One morning in the spring of 1780 the gallant Captain was found on the quarterdeck looking eastwards as the sun crept over the horizon bringing with it the promise of warmth to the day ahead.

It was a good start and being a superstitious man he offered up his thanks to whatever it was that watched over him and said a small prayer for continued good fortune.

After leaving very specific instructions with the bosun regarding what would and would not take place in his absence he set out across the bay. Young Billy Pascoe, as the strongest rower aboard was picked to ferry him ashore and if the crew were to be believed the lad was also blessed (or cursed depending on your viewpoint) with the gift of second sight. Something to do with his Spanish gypsy mother. He certainly had the requisite dark good looks, along with that extra bit of spark about him. Truth be told, he minded the Captain of a younger version of himself.

It was a matter of some importance to our hero that he should arrive at the destination with his dignity intact as he'd arranged a potentially very promising rendezvous with a “friendly” revenue man.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the necessary arrangements both practical and financial for the safe landing of his cargo – which this time involved very many casks of fine French brandy and a large quantity of tobacco. If things worked out it could bode well for the future. So with all this in mind he ordered the lad to pull the rowboat up as close as safety allowed to the jetty.

“Billy me boy, you make good and sure to keep a weather eye open and let me know if you see or hear anything untoward , anything .. you hear me now? And pay especial attention to this fellow we're meeting. I need to be proper sure as he can be trusted. ”

“Aye Cap'n sir, I never have let you down before sir, ain't that so?”

Despite the truth of that remark, Billy got a swift clip around the ear … but not enough to really hurt.

“Less of your cheek lad and just you do as you're told.”

“Aye-aye Cap'n sir” … Billy was undaunted but this time spoke with a little more respect.

It was a struggle getting out of the gently rocking boat but the revenue man was considerate enough to look away until the Captain had regained his composure. After all, he wanted an easy life and knew the value of discretion, “good manners cost nothing” as his old granny often told him. Francis Tremayne was a middle aged, world weary Excise officer who was hoping to come to a mutually beneficial understanding with Captain Dagger. After a long career in His Majesty's service he had little to show for it other than the aches and pains from past injuries acquired during many violent skirmishes with smugglers, wreckers and the like. He'd had to deal with too many such plundering villains in the pursuance of his duty and decided that he'd better look out for his old age whilst he was still able. And the good Captain was just the man to help him.

The two men eyed each other cautiously like a pair of bare-fist fighters. Each watching out for any sign of weakness. They were equally matched, both around six foot and no sign (as yet) of going to seed. The bedrock of their relationship had to be absolute trust if they were to avoid the dire punishment that would befall them should their felony be discovered. They had many likely foes, not least His Majesty “Mad” King George's preventative men but also all the unseen rogues lurking with betrayal in mind. Life was hard and children had to be fed. Likewise grog and loose women might be cheap but were definitely not free.

And so it began. Stepping forward with a cautious smile the revenue man made the first gesture.

“Well now good sir, I trust you are the renowned Captain John Dagger?”

“Aye, that I am and you must be Officer Tremayne. I'm hoping that we can be of service to one another in these very hard times”.

There was a lot to discuss. Safe havens, reliable men, suitable storage, money to be haggled over, weapons, moonlit nights and much more. On and on they talked until Billy spoke up about tides, darkness and the need to get back aboard ship before they attracted the attention of the local night fishermen. So they took their leave with promises to continue with a more detailed discussion on the morrow.

The Captain stood and watched the departing figure of the revenue man .. His revenue man .. before easing his aching body into the rowboat.

“ Well now Billy Pascoe, what do you make of our fine new friend ? ”

Billy chose his words carefully, understanding the full gravity of the situation.

“I do believe that we can benefit greatly from that gentleman's assistance. He has the right look about him sir, if'n you get my drift an' I reckon as how he needs us as much as we does need a fellow like him.”

“That's my thinking too … where is it you're getting all this “we” and “us” from, young feller?"

“Sorry to speak out of turn Cap'n but you knows as well as I that we're all in this together.”

Secretly amused by the sharpness of Billy's appraisal and appreciative of having secured an acceptable outcome, the Captain set the lad to rowing back to the ship.

Once aboard, Billy dealt with his rowboat and wolfed down a well deserved supper . Below decks and out of the Captain's earshot the crew pestered him for information but as usual he kept his own counsel. After first checking that all was shipshape, Captain Dagger retired to his cabin. He ate a plate of good bread and cheese, drained a couple of glasses of brandy and with great relief unstrapped his wooden leg. Falling into his bunk he was asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. It may not have been the sleep of the righteous but it was sound and as deep as any ocean that he sailed in his dreams.

Meanwhile Officer Francis Tremayne was working out how to deal with his colleagues. It was going to take even more ingenuity to fool his daughter, Lizzie. That young lady was turning out to be as lovely as her mother had been and just as smart. He knew only too well of her devotion but she didn't miss much and was aware of his heavy responsibilities.

After several more meetings our men finalised their arrangements and the Captain's cargo was duly landed during the next full moon in a secluded cove, known to very few outside the immediate vicinity. Those locals that did know of this hidden bay were more than willing to lend a hand and every bit as importantly they knew how to keep quiet … in every sense of the word. The pathways down to the beach were steep but manageable. More to the point there were several of them which was always handy should an escape route be needed. It was a very good location.

Captain Dagger took no part in the unloading but dispatched young Billy to keep an eye on things. Also Billy, having the advantage of two legs was better equipped for the beach. From aboard ship, with the aid of his spyglass, the Cap'n was able to check that the activities were proceeding as planned when he spotted Officer Tremayne on the clifftop doing likewise. To heroes and villains alike, the bright moonlight was both a blessing and a curse. Vital inasmuch as helping the traffickers keep to the narrow footpaths but also serving to illuminate their every movement to friend or foe. Fortunately everything went like clockwork. It seemed that they had a good workable system.

During bad weather the booty could be stored at the back of a handy cave half way up the cliff. Having everything removed in several stages greatly increased the danger of discovery but sometimes needs must when the devil drives. Once landed, the goods were dispersed far and wide through a complicated network that had been established over many years. It was part of the Cornish way of life and as such it was a thankless task trying to stamp it out. King George's men had to be seen to make an effort and some of them actually wanted to succeed but their endeavours were mostly futile.

Over the following months there were several more successful sorties to Captain Dagger's bay, during which time a little prosperity came everyone's way. In fact the Captain and his handsome young sidekick Billy had obtained the status of local heroes, whilst their accomplice had to try and preserve his anonymity. It was customary in those parts to maintain silence with regard to a spot of smuggling but the presence of a “turncoat”in their midst made some uneasy.

Officer Tremayne had put aside almost enough earnings to provide for his old age without Lizzie uncovering his new enterprise. She had noticed that her father seemed more cheerful these days but every so often he became agitated and secretive. Something was amiss. She'd also noticed that the villagers were looking better fed and more frequently the worse for drink. And she felt that they were avoiding her even more than usual.

Lizzie was kept pretty busy looking after the small plot of land adjacent to their cottage. They kept a cow, chickens and a pig or two (sometimes up to a dozen if the sow did well). A small vegetable garden needed tending as well as making use of the surplus milk, so all in all she didn't have a lot of spare time on her hands. Cleaning the cottage was one of her least favourite chores but one afternoon when the autumn rain was too heavy she took shelter indoors and decided to tackle the unholy mess that was her father's study. That's how she found the secret stash.

Taking all things into consideration it could mean only one thing but she had to find out if her worst suspicions were correct. The consequences of her father being caught helping the “trade” rather than the Crown were too awful to imagine. Now that she'd guessed what was happening she had to use her wits and bide her time.

The next “run” was scheduled to coincide with the last full moon before the treacherous winter weather arrived. Everything was prepared. On the appointed night Lizzie kissed her father goodnight as usual and instead of getting into bed she sat on it's edge and waited. After about half an hour had slowly crept by she heard the door latch rattle and wrapping her cloak around her she followed his footsteps down the lane. Both keeping to the shadows they made their way to the vantage point that gave Officer Tremayne of his Majesty's Customs and Excise the best view of the very proceedings that he was duty bound to prevent. Unaware of Lizzie's proximity he raised his spyglass and surveyed the pandemonium down on the beach.

Captain Dagger had grown fond of this place and his reputation for being a ladies' man remained untarnished. On previous visits he'd enjoyed the company of an attractive widow who just happened to own a tavern. He was considering seeing out the winter months by her fireside and was lost in a pleasant reverie when he heard the first warning shots. All hell broke loose down on the beach, scattering the villagers and sending his crew running for the rowboats. Billy was too far up the beach to join his shipmates and made his escape by running up to the hidden cave. Once inside he was astonished to see Officer Tremayne and behind him shivering with fear or cold ,he could not tell which, the loveliest girl that he'd ever set eyes on. It was then that he felt the warm trickle of blood pouring from his shoulder. Such had been his fear that he'd felt no pain from the bullet … but he did now.

After the pain came darkness and then ... silence.

It seemed to Billy Pascoe that fortune had smiled down on all of them that night. Lizzie told him how his crew-mates reached the ship just in time for Captain Dagger to set sail into the darkness. The villagers fled in all directions and in the confusion no-one was apprehended. Officer Tremayne and Lizzie, having patched Billy up as best they could, made it back home before the revenue men had time to discover their absence. When all was clear they returned to the cave, brought the lad up to the cottage and nursed him back to health. Now all that Billy had to do was await the return of his Cap'n … but looking at Lizzie and out across Dagger Bay he wasn't sure that he wanted for anything more.

Who was the treacherous scurvy dog that betrayed our heroes? What happened next?

That's a tale that will have to wait for another day.

John Drover had been making a good living for himself with his steam yacht by carrying cargo between the mainland and the many islands within a few hundred miles. During this prosperous time he had even become engaged with a beautiful young maiden named Molly and was building his fortune while planning a spring wedding.

Unfortunately all this changed when a new shipping consortium bribed the governor to give them an exclusive trade concession. At first John tried working as a contractor for the consortium, but they paid such small commissions he couldn't meet his expenses. Thus he felt he had no option but to take on the pseudonym “Jack” and begin running cargo for those merchants who were likewise being crippled by the shipping consortium's new 'fees and service charges.'

As word spread among the merchants, 'Jack's Night Delivery' took off in a big way and he was again building his nest egg for the spring event. Alas, the consortium also heard of these nocturnal activities and brought in some patrol ships to stop him.

One evening he had just left a mainland port with a shipment of machine parts for one of the islands when he saw a ship exiting the harbor behind him and taking the same heading. He knew such a ship would not be on this course unless it was a patrol following him.

Jack cut his running lights but the full moon was bright enough for the pursuers to keep sight. The chase continued more than an hour, but no matter how he changed course, they continued to track him.

At last he neared his destination and was nearly out of options. One hope remained to him. He steered for the submerged reef on the south side of the island. His ship, being a coastal vessel, had a shallow draft and could pass over the reef without touching it. The ship pursuing him, however, was built for open seas and thus had a much deeper draft. They'd be fools to try following him across it. That, or not be aware it was there. It didn't take long to find out.

Jack had cleared the reef and was well beyond it when he heard the loud splintering of timbers as the hull of the other ship was ripped to pieces. He then heard the terrified cries of the men aboard as their ship went down. He nearly turned around to help, but held back as he recalled stories he'd heard of these consortium privateers. He was convinced they'd still try to arrest him, even as he rescued them. So he sailed on and left them to their fate. Fortunately the darkness quickly hid the sight from him.

Some days later he learned that all hands on that ship had been lost. What's more, the consortium was blaming him for the loss. Without survivors it couldn't be proven he'd done anything, so no warrant was issued. But most people believed he was involved in some way. So thereafter people called him “Black Jack, the Merciless.”

The worst consequence was that his fiance'e broke off their engagement. She didn't want to be married to a villain. What's more, she didn't even tell him in person. She merely sent an acquaintance to return the diamond ring and pearl necklace he'd given her upon proposing. He later heard she moved away and married a scrawny schoolmaster from the north.

His business also dropped off significantly after the incident. Although the merchants still hated the consortium, they detested Jack's callous disregard for other lives, no matter that they were enemies.

He didn't like his new reputation at first, but soon realized that a dangerous notoriety was useful for giving him a degree of safety. He was now dealing with people who placed small value on human life, since the only shipping orders he received anymore were for deliveries of untaxed liquor. So here he was a rumrunner, little better than a pirate.

One evening he was heavily laded with barrels of rum bound for Dagger Bay, the outermost island, when he saw against the horizon what looked to be another patrol ship. Not wanting a repeat of the former occurrence he doused the lights and increased speed, and hoped he hadn't been spotted. This time there was no moon to work against him, so he felt there was a chance.

By daybreak he was approaching the island. Peering rearwards he just made out the patrol ship. They must have seen him after all and guessed his destination from the heading. Gambling that his smaller ship hadn't yet been spotted in the dim morning twilight, he steered away from the harbor and made his way toward the island's backside. Just before rounding the end of the point he looked back and noted with satisfaction that the other ship was still headed for the port. He'd done it.

Jack reduced speed and cruised slowly along the coast. He scanned the shoreline hoping for someplace he could pull in and hide for a while. At length he spotted a small cove which suited his purpose. After anchoring, he waded ashore and looked around. He discovered a narrow cave concealed by foliage and was struck with an idea.

He spent the next couple of hours unloading the barrels and hiding them in the cave. Then feeling sure they wouldn't be found he returned to his ship and left the cove, smiling at his ingenuity.

Entering the harbor he saw the patrol ship had already docked and squads of armed men were searching the ships along the wharf. Jack docked his own ship, then stood aside with a grin as agents boarded and looked through his holds. As they left disappointed, he tipped his hat and bid them, “Good day.”

Jack's attention quickly turned to the sound of men shouting. A commotion had erupted on one of the boats when a search party found a secret hold filled with bootleg rum. The boat's captain was restrained while the squad unloaded the barrels and poured the contents into the harbor. Their work done, they released the unfortunate captain and strode away with taunting remarks.

Jack recognized the captain as a colleague, so he walked over to him. “Tough break, Tom.”

Tom didn't answer. He just glared at the empty barrels scattered on the wharf.

Jack spoke again. “Were those for that new fellow's tavern? What's his name, Chris, or something?”

Tom nodded. Jack decided not to mention that his load as well had been bound for the new tavern. “C'mon. I'll go with you to tell him what happened. It'll help to have someone back up your story.”

After hearing the news of his loss the tavern owner collapsed into a chair. “I'm ruined. Finished! I put everything I had into buying this place and setting it up. I was counting on those deliveries to make back my investment.”

Tom was apologetic. “I'm really sorry, Mr. Deazy. It couldn't be helped. That consortium ship came in right behind me and I didn't have time to unload before I was boarded.”

“I understand,” moaned the owner. “But what am I to do? I don't have two coins to rub together now. I can't buy more stock. I have nothing to live on. I can't even buy passage back to the mainland. Dagger Bay has been my ruin!”

Jack's face lit up as another brainstorm hit. “Say, what would you think of me buying this place from you? I couldn't give much, but you'd at least have the means to do something else.”

“Really?” The man's voice was desperate. “You would do that?”

“I have a diamond ring and a pearl necklace I've been holding for some time. I reckon I could trade those for this building. I'm sure you can get at least a thousand for them.”

Tom joined in. “And I'm willing to give you free passage back to the mainland. It's the least I can do, considering it was my boat your cargo was seized from. I can hold off leaving until tomorrow morning if you need me to.”

Within a few hours all the transactions had been completed. Chris Deazy didn't want to stay in Dagger Bay any longer than he had to, so he packed his personal items, then he and Tom sailed on the evening tide.

Jack waited a few days before retrieving the liquor from the cave. He wanted to be sure everything was quiet again before making his move. In the meantime he painted a big sign to adorn the front of the new business, ”Black Jack's Tavern.”

His venture was immediately successful. Being the only tavern around had its advantages. And by knowing all the local rumrunners, he was able to head off any attempts at competition.

In less than a month he made enough to buy the section of beachfront property which held his secret cave. He then used that area to receive deliveries and hold them until they could safely be moved to the tavern.

Although he only sold bootleg liquor to his customers, he bought a supply of legal stock for showing to consortium agents whenever they came to inspect. There were rows of bottles, complete with tax stamps, lined up on the shelves behind the bar, and sealed barrels in the front stockroom bearing the proper tags. The inspectors never caught on that these bottles and barrels didn't change from one visit to the next. Nor did they ever find the hidden storeroom where he kept the real stock for trade.

Tom eventually became manager for the tavern, and Jack turned his attention to other things. He made a road across the island between the tavern and his cove. He then built a small house there for himself. Whenever the brawls in the tavern became too tiresome for him, he'd seek seclusion by sailing his yacht around the islands, or sitting on the porch of his isolated home and watching the sea.

Years have passed since then and the consortium no longer controls the local trade. Jack has never married. He's not semi-retired since Tom handles the tavern. He still takes an interest in the business and can be found talking with customers from time to time. But lingering whispers of his past reputation keep all but the bravest, or most foolish, from approaching him.
3rd place
  7.111

“Oh look. What a picturesque little pub. I just love these places,” said Rita to her friend. “And what a clever name, The Last Port Pub. Let's step in for a quick pick-me-up.”

“Good idea,” Thelma answered. “I need to get off my feet a bit. We've been sightseeing for hours.”

“Ah, a nautical décor. How quaint. And look at that print of a sailing ship wrecking?”

“Yes. I believe it's The Shipwreck by Vernet.”

“Ooh, there's a small carving below it. It looks like it's been done on a piece of bone. Wait a minute, I think that's real ivory.”

“Scrimshaw.”

“No, really. It a little picture carved onto a piece of ivory tusk.”

Thelma didn't bother to respond. Instead she walked to an empty table against the wall and sat down. She chose the chair which wasn't beneath the relic whaling harpoon suspended from the ceiling, and left that one for Rita to take once she came along.

It was early afternoon and they were the only customers in the pub. But its well-worn appearance told of boisterous merriment at night. The corners of the table were sticky where they hadn't been wiped thoroughly. The chairs at several tables were mismatched, showing that whenever one got broken its replacement was chosen without care. And the astringent scent of pine oil cleanser lingering in the air wasn't strong enough to cover the unmistakable odors of vomit and urine.

Thelma pulled the linen handkerchief from her purse and held it to her nose while she took a deep breath. As she did so Rita completed her tour of the room's artifacts and finally joined Thelma at the table.

“Oh, did you see this?” Rita asked. She spotted a small map hanging on the wall above their table. “Hmm, Dagger Bay & Environs. There's the town, and the harbor, and, ooh, a governor's residence. Where is Dagger Bay anyway? I've never heard of it.”

“It's only in some artist's imagination. There's no such place,” answered Thelma tersely.

“Arr, but there is,” said a gruff voice behind them. Turning to look they saw the barman coming from the back room and wiping his hands on a stained hand towel as he approached their table. “Dagger Bay is real enough.” Then seeing the skeptical expression on Thelma's face he continued. “Surely tis true. I've been there m'self many years ago.”

His gaze locked onto the map and the lines around his eyes and mouth softened a bit. “The main town was founded by immigrants hailing from all parts of the world, with a large contingent of former pirates thrown in fer good measure. They're an artistic lot who love creatin' the most fantastical things of beauty you've ever seen.”

“Oh, how lovely. It sounds just like an artists' colony,” gushed Rita.

“But the settlers aren't the only inhabitants of the island. Deep in the jungle is a tribe of natives what go around with very little clothing. We didn't see 'em often and only knew 'em as the 'Strippers'. On special occasions known only to them, they would engage in fearsome battles with each other. Their contests were quite bloody and often continued nearly a month. Only the hardiest would emerge alive at the end.”

“I'm sure,” Thelma said with a flat tone of voice. “Most unbelievable.”

“Yeah, scrimshaw!” joined in Rita.

“Unbelievable, ye say? But that isn't the half of it,” continued the barman. “In that amazing land are things found nowhere else. There be dragons, and phoenixes, talking frogs, and other creatures said to be mythical, except that there they are, right in front of you. Even devils and satans and other demonic beasties can be seen about.

“There were also legends of a most frightening being. Some say he was a powerful magus, while others described him more fearsomely, yet none knew what he truly was. He'd go about with a lantern, searching for a name what had been stolen from him.”

“Oh, come on, now! Do you expect us to believe this?” Thelma barely contained her impatience. “If that place was really all you say, then why would you have left it?”

“Aye, yer right,” he said. “I didn't want to leave. I was cast away from it unwillingly. I was in a small boat, ye see, fishing offshore, when a squall came up suddenly and blew me far out to sea. Having lost my sail and oars, I then got caught in a current which carried me untold miles further still. At last I was seen by a passing freighter and picked up. I pleaded with them no end to take me back. But no, they wouldn't. Instead they brought me here, and here I've been dry docked ever since. Many's the time I've longed to go back. But few are the ships that venture to such a place. Besides, I'm no longer strong enough for that sort of life any more.”

“You poor fellow. Pulled out of paradise,” cooed Rita. She reached out and touched his hand in sympathy. But the contact of her gesture made him give a start and his demeanor became gruff again.

“So, are ye ladies going to order anything? Or will ye just sit here talking all day?”

Rita overlooked his comment and answered first. “I'd like a salad of fresh greens and a cup of chocolate-mint tea, please.”

“I'd like a salad too,” joined in Thelma. “And a double-mocha espresso latte.”

“Nay. Fer a drink like that ye'll have to go down the street to one of them --”

“Never mind then. Just bring a cup of Earl Grey.”

Thelma watched the barman until he disappeared into the back room, then turned to Rita. “Did you ever hear such nonsense? Dagger Bay, indeed! It's all nothing but a sailor's tall tales.”

Rita shook her head. “I'm not so sure about that. When I was looking around earlier, I saw something interesting over there behind the bar. It was a large gold coin mounted in a frame, and it was stamped, Dagger Bay, One Doubloon. So apparently that place is real enough to mint coins.” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “It looked like real gold too!”

“Still, I'm not entirely convinced.” But Thelma's tone was softening and a crease formed between her eyebrows as she thought about it.

“I noticed a travel agency just up the block,” said Rita. “After lunch let's go see if they've heard of it. Maybe they even have a tour package we can look at.”

“Why does that place sound so attractive to you?”

“Are you joking? They have pirates, fantastic creatures, and, ahem, strippers!”
4th place
  7

“Land clear,” shouted Smitty.

“Forty-five to starboard,” the Captain told Lefty, who immediately started spinning the wheel as he replied “Aye, Cap’n.”

The Sea Queen turned smoothly, following pretty close to the tree-line, thought Norman. This was his first cruise as cabin boy and his first port-o-call. He could not figure out why they were staying so close to land when there was plenty of open water ahead. Cooky saw his confused look and said “I’ll explain it all to you in due time, ha. Just watch and enjoy seeing how Lefty pulls us into that there pier. There ain’t a better driver anywhere to be found."

Sure enough, Lefty docked the Sea Queen without Norman even feeling a bump as it nestled against the floating platform. The Captain didn’t even pay any attention to the docking; he had faith in Lefty, and had already started giving orders to the crew: “Jones, you’ve got first perch, Smitty, you take three on the water run. Cooky, you’ve got inspection, and take our young cabin boy with, and show him the lay of the land. Pappy, you’re in charge of off-loading the cargo; pick ten to help you. Arnest, you’ve got the crow until you get the signal from Jones. Fred, you relieve Jones at midnight, and Sean, you’ll be staying sober tonight. You have the relief at dawn.” The Captain was smiling as he said that, and the look on Sean’s face was explanation enough.

Departing the ship, Cooky warned Norman to watch his footing, as the pier was a floater. “Look at the water and tell me what you see,” he asked Norman.

“I see water,” Was the obvious answer Norman gave, puzzled.

“Yep, you have a lot to learn,” said Cooky. “If you look, you will see that the water turns from blue to green over there. That tells you where there is sand beneath. Notice that the green is only about a third of the way out from the shore. So this pier is only anchored at the shore, out here it is all on barrels, which is why it still feels like being on a rolling ship. That rope over there that runs from the end to that pole on shore is used to pull in the pier before the tide goes out, otherwise it would snap off.

“And whatever you do, do not ever go out more than ten paces into the water, or onto the sand in low tide, as that sand will grip you and pull you down, and you will be in Davy Jones’ locker before you know it. The water is safe for swimming, only if you remember to swim back to the shore all the way until you touch bottom, before standing.

“You will notice that where the water is still blue, you can’t see the bottom. That’s because this island is the remains of a volcano, and this bay here is formed from its crater. Smitty once lowered the fathom rope here, and ran out of line without it touching.

“Now, let’s get a move on, or it’ll be nightfall before we reach the first defense post.”

Norman wondered if Cooky were being truthful with him, but decided it didn’t matter one way or another. As they left the pier and starting walking toward the tree-line, he noticed about a dozen people milling around or pulling sleds toward the pier, evidently designed to move loads across sand. There were no buildings on the sand, but he could make out a few behind some trees, and even a few in the trees themselves. From one such nest, he could have sworn he noticed an undressed woman cross in front of an open window. Cooky saw where Norman had looked, and said “don’t worry, the wenches will still be here when we get back – ha.”

Norman (who had turned a nice shade of red) said nothing, and continued following Cooky into the trees. Their walk was uphill as soon as they entered the trees, and after about ten minutes of more climbing than walking, they reached the first gun emplacement.

Cooky showed him how to make sure the weapon was in working order, without actually having to fire it, and instructed him that he had better be paying close attention, as he would be doing the next one himself. Norman found the task relatively easy. Almost the same as clearing the guns on ship. The only real difference was the size. He noticed that this cannon was aimed at the northwest edge of the bay, and if it needed to be turned, it would require many hands, as it was not on a rail turntable. He thought this strange, but figured there must be more weapons covering the whole bay area, and wondered how long this “inspection” would really take.

Cooky easily figured out what Norman was thinking, but didn’t say anything; just smiled, and said “let’s get on the next emplacement.”

This trek was a lot easier, as it seemed they were walking horizontal to the beach, and after about fifteen minutes they reached the next weapon. True to his word, Cooky had Norman do the inspection on his own, and he just watched to make sure it was done right. Norman noticed this one was facing the southwest edge of the bay, and also was not on a turntable. His questioning look had Cooky say that everything would be explained at the last stop. This didn’t make sense to Norman. “Why didn’t we pass any guns facing straight west onto the bay?” he thought to himself.

After about another hours climb, they found themselves at the top of the island, saying hello to Jones. “What are you two doing here?” Jones asked. Cooky said he was just showing Norman the lay of the land, and wanted him to see how the place got its name.

Norman was impressed with the view. They could see the whole island from the north through the west to the south. The east was nonexistent. It was a sheer drop to pounding surf a few hundred feet down. There was no way anyone could attack from that direction, and the rest of the island with the exception of the bay was forest or cliff-lined right to the water.

“From here,” said Cooky, “you can see what is not visible (even from a crow’s nest) from below. In fact it can only be seen from here when the tide is out. Look closely now…”

Norman watched the bay and sure enough after a few minutes, he was able to see a darker shade of blue that jutted across almost the entire entrance of the bay. Slowly the darkness grew into what appeared to be a reef that had the uncanny look of a dagger, with the hold being to the south and blade pointing to the north. There was really very little area of water available on either end for a ship to enter into the bay proper. “That there reef will tear a ship to shreds in a heartbeat,” stated Cooky. “At high tide, it will even tear their keels off. Yes sir, Dagger Bay is about the safest haven you’ll ever find.

“Now, what say we leave Jones here, to his duty, and we go visit the wenches?” Norman couldn’t help but smile at that.