Historical fiction, action adventure, wooden ships, wilderness mountains, life and death. A blending of characters, drama and just a little of what makes men and women, well, men and women. The struggle survived and a moment frozen in time. A first touch, a small bit of gentleness to calm the waters.
From my recently released novel, CAPTAIN’S CROSS:
Thomas was worried about Bear and the ship behind them, but the thrill of guiding Annabelle under full sail in a strong wind overcame all of it. He overcorrected several times, but began to feel the ship’s movements through his hands and feet and the compass steadied up. Thomas fingered the gash in the wheel where the ball had just missed Ben’s left hand. He began to tremble as he put the events through his mind. Damn serious business, he said to himself.
By evening the ship was almost back to square. Thomas was still at the wheel, but he was worried. The wind was shifting to the southwest and he had to fall off five degrees to keep the wind in the sails. Ben stood next to him and watched the pendant slide around on the mast.
“Next storm is coming this way. They come one after another this early in the summer. Our luck is running out. We’ll have to work to bring her into Charles Town.” Ben looked out to the horizon. The warm air from Carolina was sweeping over them but would be soon coming straight out from where they wanted to go.
“While we can still see, Thomas, we’ll take her toward the land on the larboard tack. Keep her steady, lad. I’ll be right back.” Ben went to the deck and stuck his head into the passageway and called for the crew.
The deck got busy as the men took their places. It almost seemed half empty though, with Bear tucked into his bunk, bare from the waist down and wrapped in bandages. Ben took Bear’s usual place and called up to Thomas, “When I say so, bring the wheel starboard and cross the bow under the wind. Don’t go too far and steady up on the other side about west, sou’ west. You’ll feel it when it catches.” Thomas was scared. Really scared. He was pretty sure what he had to do, but…
Ben shouted, “Come about!” At first Thomas froze, but then he turned the wheel to the right and the ship began to swing into the wind. The sails slacked and he watched the compass swing through. As the bow neared the mark Ben wanted, the wind filled the sails and Annabelle leaned with it. Thomas had to bring the wheel back a bit, but found the wind was strongest just a bit west of that.
“A little west of it, sir,” Thomas shouted. Ben snugged off the line in his hands and went back up to the quarterdeck.
Ben looked at the pendant and the sails and said, “You’re right. Hold her there. Do you need to be relieved?”
A cloud came over Thomas’ face, “Well, sir. If I’m doing something wrong, I’m sorry.”
Ben laughed out loud as Suzanne and Wills climbed the step up to them. Ben said, “No, Thomas. You are doing everything right. Keep at it and you tell me when you want someone to take over.”
Suzanne had the canvas chair out and Draco claimed the deck on her right side. Wills was at the wheel with a file to repair the musket ball damage.
“No,” Ben stopped him, “Leave it, Mr. Wills. A reminder of the good wishes from His Catholic Majesty.” Wills simply shrugged and went below.
Ben swung around and looked up at the flag still flying out from the mast. Pulling the halyard free, he lowered it and cupped it in his hands before it touched the deck. There was a clean musket ball hole he was able to put his finger through just below and to the left of the red Maltese Cross and just off the wingtip of the dove. Smiling, he knew someone on the French privateer must have been offended by what the flag represented. He touched his hand to his chest and felt the smaller version of the Huguenot Cross held there under his shirt by a leather cord. His father had given it to him on his tenth Christmas, a treasure passed down from his grandfather. He thought of his father for a moment and then his mother. Patting the cross, he then examined the rest of the flag for other damage.
“Mr. Wills!” Ben shouted and the carpenter popped his head out of the passageway, “I have a small task for you. Please mend our ship’s banner. It will not do to have the Captain’s Cross injured.” Ben released the flag from its bindings and turned it over to Wills for the needed repairs.
With a tired sigh, Ben claimed the deck on Suzanne’s left side and Wills went off to find his sewing kit. The motion and sounds of the ship moving through the sea and air calmed him. He had to push the thoughts of the fight from his head. Let the worry and doubts that he had not made the best decisions or used the correct tactics slide away. They were all still alive and still had the ship under them. His thoughts shifted side ways as Suzanne slipped her soft warm hand into his and squeezed.