Sugar and Berries

The surviving crewmen of The Margaret were lying face-down on the deck. They’d been boarded by The Guppie, now bobbing along starboard, strangely peaceful now that the smoke and clang of battle had ended. They’d been badly beaten, decimated, and surrendered to their fate.

The pirates laid planks of wood across the boats. First came a mop-up crew to kill the remaining wounded. After that some gathered crates of the cargo, mostly berries and sugars from the island. Then they rolled a large heavy block of wood made from several crude logs bound together. Crewmembers of The Margaret exchanged puzzled glances.

Then came the man who could only be the infamous Captain Horatio Magellan. Standing over six feet tall, he strode across the ships, resplendent in his blue naval uniform, still immaculate so many years from his days in the British navy. His face was as weather-beaten and cracked as any driftwood, his white walrus mustache standing out like ice against his sun-browned skin.

“Who is the Captain?”

One of the crewmen tilted his head upwards. “The Captain was killed. I’m Nathanial Hollander, first mate.”

“You will work as slaves for us?”

“Never!”

“Then hoist the block!”

As pirates held sabers to his neck to keep him from struggling, several others lifted the great wooden block over his body, and then gently laid it down on his flattened body.

“Oof!” moaned Hollander.

“Haul the anchor chain!”

Magellan’s crew drew up the anchor, but rather than winding the chain on its giant spool, they dragged the loose links and laid them across the heavy block. Hollander wheezed as the pressure weighed down upon him.

Magellan smiled a mirthless smile. “One less slave then. I prefer to do business with berries and sugar! These islands and your ships provide rich cargos! I shall be known for brown sugar and berries. I shall have to add these items to my coat of arms!”

Hollander gasped, barely able to spit the words, “Men like you aren’t known for their plunder, they’re know for their crimes!”

Magellan smiled wider and angrier. “Sugar and berries! Throw a cask of each on our good first mate, shall we lads?”

His men lifted barrels of their new loot on the block, and one clownish one did a jig, as Hollander’s lungs collapsed, and his bones began to snap. Cruel laughter rose on the deck of  The Margaret as the ritual was reenacted, prisoner to prisoner. Most accepted slavery, though some called Magellan hateful names and were crushed under the block. A few of the doomed called Magellan a particular name, and when he heard that name, he made a point of weighting them down more slowly, link by link of the chain.

After the bloody rite was finished, some of the booty was hauled aboard The Guppie, along with the great block. Corpses were tossed into the sea, slaves shoved into the hulls of both ships, and the conquering crew appointed new officers for the captured ships. Then came drinking and song.

As his men jigged and sang, Captain Magellan sat and fumed. The last words of Hollander were ringing in his ears. That and the name he’d heard repeatedly from the other dying sailors. Of course in his bloody career he’d been called many vile things, but the fact that more than one of the prisoners had used the name meant that others were saying it too. He really did want respectability, a coat of arms with sugar and berries. Instead, he was making a name for himself, a legend, based on his signature act of cruelty.

They were calling him “Captain Crunch.”Image

–Dan Kilian

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