Chapter Five

            The cover of darkness was a perfect means of escape for him. And it was even better for him because of the storm. The rain pounded down on his boat, and Alastair had to keep sailing away from the harbor, especially when daylight attempts to peek through the clouds. He got a good look on the horizon, and realized that this storm was going to pass in a day, maybe two. Means that Alastair had only two days to get out of the view of the harbor, and out into open sea. While he was pressed on his mission to escape, time almost slipped from his mind. It was as if his time had no sense of progression. Then with one large lightning bolt, Alastair found himself in the parlor of his house. There was a party, people talking, drinking, carousing, while he was standing in his white shirt, banded hands, shaven head, pants and boots were the same. He walked down a set of stairs on a very large ship, but then he woke up.

            The storm was gone. Alastair woke up to a calm sky, full of wind. Ship still on course. He knew that he was probably three days out at sea. With no one in sight he had a moment to breathe. He just sat on the floor next to the barren map table, his mind flooded with emotions: Happiness for the death of Dunne, but near enraged sadness for everything that had happened. He changed. He killed, he snapped from reality to kill, he tortured and mutilated. He violated all humanity to get here. But he had to remember that his humanity was taken from him, and any form of him was either split up and the spoils spent or buried with no trace of memory left. In the eyes of any civilization, Alastair Groovybeard was a ghost.

~

His mind baked in the sun as his ship sailed onward, but there was an odd comfort for it. Alastair then woke up and emerged into a volatile rage, shouting out in anger for all that happened, then broke down into a fit of tearing sadness. He then looked up and saw a lone seagull, the creature then landed on his boat and just died. He ran over and cooked the bird, fulfilling some lost energy for a moment. Alastair then took the map, which had been the importance of his journey since his time in the Tolbooth. He opened the map, placed it on the table, and then a diamond symbol with a skull, in the middle of the map, was glowing, but then dimmed away. It seemed that the map was directing Alastair to the Devils Shroud. And Alastair knew that the only way to the Shroud was to follow the glow of the skull in the middle of the map.

            His initial escape was travelling northeast, so he had to turn northwest around Scotland to get to more open water. Thankfully, there were no storms so clear skies and enough wind to get around were all in Alastair’s possession. It would just take a couple days to clear the bend. One day, Alastair took a minute to look around at his ship, what was left of it at least. The British that commandeered his ship had begun painting over the yellow and green paint, as well as the yellow diamonds in the green. The lower decks were soiled and riddled with trash and waste. On the wood overhead of the helm, the metal plating that held Alastair’s name and company was taken off its hinges. Replaced was a three word Latin phrase: Hostis humani generis, assigned to men who were classified as pirates. For a good hour, while the wind still carried his ship, Alastair looked at the words, he knew what they meant, but a thousand thoughts flowed in his mind. How did he get here? What did he do to get here? But more importantly, why did this revenge feel good? On and off, he would look at the words, because while he claimed to be this monster, he still felt regret.

~

            People died to get him on this boat, in this water. People died to make Alastair who he is. But, something in Alastair’s mind told him that those that died were merely pawns. Moved off the table for some odd sense of purpose. Not that he was chosen, but that he was wronged and something had to make this right. Maybe it was fate, or just dumb luck, or maybe it was who knows what? And what about that map? He just picked it up from some decrepit thing that was left to die. Decaying and representing a living and dying testament to societal abandonment. And he was about to trust that this area beyond the Shroud was the way out? Again, no one has ever made it back from the Shroud. If they did, he never heard of it. But maybe, the Shroud can actually give Alastair that way out? That, since he lost everything, he can find a way to make himself rich again, return to his former status of living. And he has no one to go after him: Milton was dead, the cur was dead, and the Warden was unsure of his existence. Nobody was left. This was his time.

            After about five days of travel, he finally made it around Scotland! He would now head southwest to the Shroud. From his charts, and looking at the map he got in prison, he would have to go to a section of the Caribbean. But it was blank. Maybe it was not written down for a reason. That those who tried to find it could not, Alastair thought, because it was hidden. And that no one wrote about it because they did not make it. Or they did….and chose to keep it a secret. He had to tack the sails because the wind changed direction to the north, while he was fixing the sails he came upon a small 2-ship fleet of Navy ships.

~

            He did not want to give away any attention, so he made sure to hide the special map carefully in his clothes. Very limited options: 2 ships, looked like frigates, armed, heading southwest. England and all her powers behind them, storm to the East, no land mass anywhere else. Wind to the north. One ship he recognized: The Shark, owned by Admiral Alex Long, by-the-book sailor through and through. The other…looked like The Beaver: A trading vessel, manned by a guy named Lawrence Crosby. News of his arrest would have reached their ears, so he had to maintain a low profile. But he was unsure if they knew about the kid….this troubled him. If they knew, he would go somewhere worse than the Tolbooth. So he had to be safe about his words, because they closed in on his ship.

            He surrendered, showed himself unarmed. The fleet positioned themselves on either side of his ship, and while the crew of the Beaver came aboard to check the contents of the hull. Crosby stepped on board to meet Alastair, he did not say a word, but he only backed off at the smell of the rancid sailor. “Well”, Crosby replied after gasping fresh air, “You best get aboard. We can offer you fresh food and a bath”. Alastair had to mask his speech, so he gave himself a powerful stutter “th-th-th-thank ye lad.” But while Alastair came aboard, the ship was taken by the Shark: El Rey de Mar was his life, and he could never get it back again, for the crew of that frigate set the ship ablaze. Neptune had it now.

~

            Inside the cabin of the Beaver, Alastair was welcomed with warm blankets and a hot cup of tea. Comforts he thought were exhausted. “Strange thing to find a small ship such as yours so far out here” Crosby replied with warmth. “Y-ye-yes, th-thank you” Alasatir replied. “You know where we are headed?” “No.” “Nassau. We retook it, and now England wants us to bring civilization to the place. So we will be bringing it back into the control of king and Country, and youre going to help me” “I am?” “Aye, I know who you are…Alastair” He was made! He knew that Crosby was going to take his gun and shoot him where he sits. It was over. Or so he thought

            Crosby reached from behind his desk to pull out a piece of paper. It was a letter of marque. A pardon. Crosby passed it across the desk to Alastair, still in shock of Crosby’s response. “Do you know what this is?” “It’s a pardon.” Alastair replied in his normal voice, now that the charade was through. “Aye. You sign that pardon, you are free to help me. Cant have criminals wandering around thinking they run the place now do we?” “Aye” So Alastair had a choice: Be free of the crimes committed, and he gets a chance to start over again. Seemed easy right? Or…he could use this moment of reprieve and revival to his advantage, bide his time. He signed, and chose to wait. Strike at the best time   

~

            Alastair has been pardoned. He was officially exonerated of his status, and returned to civilization. But he did not want to. He knew that men will always be subjugated, made to feel weak, to use the power of their positions to remove others. He could see it on the men of the ship, they were tired and weak, part of him was sympathetic to those men, the other side wanted to see them all die, because beneath the power of the social elites, the common person is what he began to hate the most: Civilization needed monsters, and the masses of citizens need to be reminded of who they are. What they did not know, Alastair thought, was that they had a use for him. He could use their current state to free them. And perhaps, join him on the road to the Shroud.

            While on the ship, Alastair spent time to get to know these men. Thankfully, the sailors were all fresh to the seas, not a single one knew of Alastair’s predicament. However, while some of the sailors voluntarily, others were press-ganged. Taken from their homes without provocation. These men were of Alastair’s concern, especially since they made up the most of the crew. Then there was the business with the Shark, which kept a close watch on the Beaver, so he had to find a way to eliminate them from the conversation without causing alarm. Daunting tasks at hand, but with the right opportunity, anything is possible.

~

Alastair’s first point of interest needed to be the people. Mess was usually at 6 bells, so Alastair had ample opportunity to seek an audience. The leader of those press-ganged, a red-haired portly dwarf named Augustus, flanked by two of the ship’s carpenters: Markus and Viktor, bothers both. Alastair got his allotment of food, pig and buttered orange, and sat down next to Augustus. Did not say a word to each other, but Markus and Viktor just stared at Alastair, like he did something wrong. “Wha yoo doo heer?” Viktor leaned over to ask Alastair. “Just eating mate” Alastair calmly replied. “No mate’a arrs” Viktor replied with disgust. “Im on the ship with you lot, don’t much like it either.” “Not ‘posed to like it” “Never said I did” “Wha yoo-“ “ENOUGH!” Augustus replied in a stern voice. “What do you want?” “We’ve been on sea for a couple of days, maybe you guys longer, I don’t know, and all that time, you never thought about how your position in this ship is critical” Scarfing down his food, Augustus paused. The just stared at Alastair. “You show up on our ship while we are in the middle of this voyage, and we don’t off you because of that trawler of a ship your sailing. You walk into the captain’s quarters and are now part of this crew, not a word of which reaches this crew, because goodness forbid we have an opinion. You come here and tell me that you have something I need?! What might that be?!” Alastair replied with an evil little smirk: Control of this ship.

Markus and Viktor were both ready to rip Alastair out of his seat and beat him up, but as they both put their hands on him, but Augustus stopped them. He heard Alastair’s words, but what he did not understand was his motive. “Look, I know you and your mates that joined were taken. You want a way out? We take the ship” Alastair replied. Augustus asked him politely and calmly “Nobody has been able to complete a mutiny. Nobody. They have been all stopped because the men who were press-ganged are bunch of idiots. Only I know this ship well enough to lead this force.” “And I know how to attack. You want those press-ganged to join? Give them something to fight for. We take the ship and we head to wherever we want” “That simple? What’s the catch?” “I need to go somewhere” “We can definitely drop you off anywhere you like” “Youre in Luck, where I want to go is on our way, and from the looks of it, we got maybe three days until we reach it” “Where you headed?” “The Devil’s Shroud”

~

 

            Markus and Viktor flinched and Augustus nearly lost his breath. “The Devils Shroud?!” Augustus replied. “Aye, I am through with polite society, with England, I need to rid myself of this world.” “That’s still a death wish for anyone who chooses to go. Hopefully the same folks that did your eye don’t go after you.” “That was an accident, gun had too much powder one day, backfired into me eye. Shame too, the guy I killed was not so lucky”. All three men’s faces went from serious to scared, as Alastair gave them a evil little smile, like the one he used to kill that worm who destroyed his life. “My pistol did not work, and we were at a bit of an impasse over some…legal matters. I was right, he was wrong, so he wanted me out, for good. So I feigned, tricked him, I cut his leg, and he was walking away from me, I pinned him, hacked off his legs, then his arms, then finally I chopped his head off. I had my revenge. Why do I tell you this? Maybe because I needed someone to talk to, let the world know how I feel, but maybe….you think press-ganging is a tough charge? Try losing everything, then being called a monster, set up by the same man you had this dispute with. But I think the best part about revenge is that you settle your account. I will help you, help me get to the Shroud, but know that I am not here to threaten, but that this process will go better if we ALL WORK TOGETHER. Yes?” All three men just nodded, their sense of strength was lost after Alastair’s dark side became prevalent. “I dinna wanna control your press-gang forces” Alastair clearly explained, “I just dinna want ANY resistance. You want out? I got the plan. You three buggers trust me. Without a fault.” They all agreed, especially Markus, who was near pale white from Alastair’s story. “Okay lads, heres what we gotta do”.

            Controlling the Beaver was not hard for the press-ganged members and Alastair, but their only concern would be trying to get rid of the Shark. The ship was full of regulars, and their captain was tough in battle. Dangerously enough, both ships changed shifts at the same time, 8 bells, so they had to make sure the Beaver was theirs before the watch shifted over. This was no issue, but Augustus, Alastair, Markus and Viktor had a meeting with some of the press-ganged before the attack. They needed to make sure everyone was on the same page. “The topic, lads, is mutiny” Alastair quietly proclaimed. “We will take this ship around the shifting of the watch. We dinna want to cause any suspicion, so we divide the group into two parts: ones to take the guard down during the shift change, and another to eliminate major officers on this ship.” “Who will be in charge of each part?” Viktor asked. “I will take down the officers with Markus and a couple of the men, while Augustus and Viktor take some more of the men to eliminate the watch. We then hold the remainder of the crew hostage, while we launch an attack on the Shark”. Some of the press-ganged were taken aback, because there weren’t nearly as enough cannons on their ship to take it down. “Mad as this sounds mates”, Alastair asserted “We can still use our cannons to disable them for a bit. Give an escape, and then we are in the clear. The attack will begin at 7 bells, which is not too late now. Move”.

~

At the commencement of 7 bells, the plan was in motion. With both ships next to one another, silence needed to be assured. Augustus and company were eliminating parts of the watch quietly, disposing of the bodies in a fast and secluded manner, either in closets or beneath sleeping bunks. Alastair and his group were separating officers, knocking them out and taking their uniforms, some of which were wearing them, including Alastair, so that way the watch on the Shark does not have to worry about any issues. While making his way to the captain’s quarters, Alastair did not find him anywhere. Crosby was gone. But then he noticed a note on the table: Shame you had to do this Al. I guess you could not find peace. But know this, I notified the Shark when I saw some of the men moving around the ship. They know, and they should be attacking the ship soon. England can afford the loss. Cannon fire was immediately heard, but not before Alastair found Crosby’s body, wrists slashed in a cloak closet. They had to get out of there.

Bodies were flying around the ship, as the Shark was attacking it. Some men got frantic and started panicking, others were being barked order by Augustus to escape. “Time to go boys!” Augustus yelled to all crew still alive, which was not many, “Unfold the canvas! We move now!”. Cannons were still raging about on the Beaver, but they were able to move. The Shark chased them down, but then the sky got darker, no stars and no clouds. Something was wrong, very wrong. Still in the captain quarters, Alastair checked the map he got at the prison, the skull in the middle was extremely bright, brighter than before. He was here; somehow the entrance to the Shroud was here. But he did not like the doorway’s imposing manner. Then the sky and water turned blood red.

~

            The mutineer crew of the Beaver, all were going crazy in fright, some were taking cover, but the whole of the ship got taken over in the color of the blood red sky. The ship then was being attacked, but no cannonballs in sight or sound. Some were frantically trying to repair, while some were trying to turn the helm around, but to no avail. Alastair looked out to the Shark and saw it being taken under the water, it just snapped in half traversed to the depths below. But then, the Beaver started to take on water, but the crew was taking their buckets and emptying the water out into the sea. It did not work. Then, without warning, the boat was capsized, and the whole crew flooded into the water, with thousands of thousands of shark attacking the crew in the water. Alastair traversed into the deep, seeing the men get devoured alive. He could not hear their screams but he could see their bodies vanish into red. Alastair then passed out, his vision faded to black, but he felt dead. His mission failed…or at least that’s what he wanted to think.

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