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Look Sharp!

“Look sharp!” commanded Tane (In Maori mythology Tāne (also called Tāne Mahuta) was the god of forests and birds, son of the sky god Rangi and the earth goddess Papa.) as the mist cleared late in the morning. (Maori name means god of the forests). To the right and to the left, the cloud bank ended abruptly, clear orange sky ahead.

“I think we lost them, Captain,” a deck hand said.

“Not likely,” Tane replied, certain that the ship they’d seen at the first sunrise was still out there, shadowing them, waiting.

“Yo! There!” Another deck hand shouted from the stern, seeing another, larger ship, nose out of the cloud bank.

I knew it, Tane thought, it was just too much to ask for clear sailing on this, of all runs. “Load the cannons! Make ready the powder!” Taking spyglass in hand, extending it, Tane focused on the marauder ship, clicking through magnifications, until he could precisely see….Haders.

Full sails

“Full sails! Give me every inch of canvas you’ve got!” he barked, considering his next move. They were full up to the gunnels, it was a good haul, but that made the ship heavy. Though the marauder was a bigger vessel, most likely it was empty, searching for prey.

Rubbing his upper lip then lower lip, Tane consider options – there weren’t many. They could ditch their precious cargo and probably out run them. They could fight, out gunned, but maybe, through sheer luck and tactics, escape. They’d worked so hard for a month!

“Captain, they’ve changed course!”

“Rig everything for a fight! Make the tarps secure! Lash everything that can move down! Tie in!” commanded Tane.

Cannon ball

Ka boom sounded from below. Instantly, Tane knew what it meant and grabbed the rails. A iron ball tore through the bottom of the ship, ripping through the hold, splintering the cargo and deck, leaving one of the great sails in tatters. Multiple men shouted the obvious, “There’s another one below us!”

Cursing loudly, Tane ran towards the boiler controls, then trimmed the power to the levitron engines on one side, causing the ship to list dangerously, while the crew held on for dear life. Puffs of smoke issued from the first ship, still a good distance away, cannon balls whirling by.

Tane grappled his way to the starboard side of the vessel, looking down at the second marauder as another volley shot up, missing their ship as it continued to slide perilously sideways, losing altitude by the second.

Grabbing one of the nearby men, he shouted, “Stoke the boiler! Use the cargo, make it as hot as she’ll stand, give me all the power you’ve got!” Climbing back to the controls, grabbing them as much to hold on to something as anything else, he trimmed the ship back level.

“Captain! They’re right below us!” some of the men shouted as more cannon balls flew by, one glancing off the hull, reaching it’s zenith, then plummeting.

Tie in!

“Everyone! Tie in!”

Looking down at the ship below, knowing they were reloading at that moment, Tane thought, three seconds should do it. Making his way back to the controls, wrapping a leather strap around his left wrist and to a stout pipe, he threw the contact, cutting the power completely. In an instant, everything became weightless. Men held on as their legs flew up. One thousand one…One thousand two….

Wind whistled by…

One thousand three…flipping the switch, sparks flying, the four great engines flashed back to life, generating so much vertical force, rivets popped, ricocheting off the girders. Men hit the floor, as the whole ship groaned and pitched, slowing in the air, landing on top of the marauder ship to the screams of those below, crushing them under its weight.

Their masts broken, the crushed ship’s boiler smoke boiled up through the cannon hole in Tane’s vessel. Tane pushed up the control, the ship raising, ripping, and breaking free of the wreckage. Below, fire broke out, steam leaked, and men shouted, some in death throes, as one side of their propulsion units failed, sending the vessel into a flipping spin, only to be lost in the clouds below. In the mist a sudden explosion and ball of fire flared, then nothing.

Hooks

From above, grapple hooks and long ropes cast down from the other pirate ship, now overhead. Great, mechanical winches groaned as they drew the ships together.

“Weapons!” Tane shouted orders as a mass of men and women boarded their vessel, jumping down from ship to ship, swords drawn, powder guns blazing.

Meandre (Loving, Wisdom, Inventiveness), cut off the arm of a Hader maniac just as his sword was about to slash Tane. Tane saw wildness in her eyes, her Kumite blood raging, One of her braids slapped his face and he stepped back, making space for her to fight. Looking at the mass of Haders swarming over his vessel, he spotted what must the the leader and headed toward him, slashing and killing his way there. Whirling, cutting, stabbing, Haders fell all around him. Screams, curses, thuds, broiled like a caldron of hellish sounds as the battle raged on.

Shot off the side, one of his men fell overboard, the rope snapping tight. The battle, against overwhelming odds stalled, marauders relentlessly pressing everyone, including Tane, together as they fought on back to back.

Drop your weapons

“Halt!” came a shout and the attackers ceased and stepped back, happy for the rest, as Tane’s crew stopped, too. Through the mass of pirates a big swarthy man pushed, sword blood red, grinning with a freshly scarred face, also dripping blood on his right cheek.

“Drop your weapons, or we will kill every last one of you.”

All his crew looked at him, and with a grudging sneer, Tane nodded. I need time…

“Ye fight well, I’ll give you that,” the big man said as he looked over the ship.

Pointing to a couple of his comrades, the pirate shouted, “Go have a look at the hold, tell me what we’ve got.”

Looking at Tane, lifting up his dreadlocks with the end of his sword, the marauder captain said, “You’re no Halan, you lack the mindtalkers’ ugly, pointy ears. You be a leftover, aren’t ye? Which you from?”

Seeing as there was no need for secrecy, Tane replied, “Aukum.”

“Ah, I see, no wonder you’re so good with a sword. I remember Kumites,” he nodded, “great warriors, honorable. Aye, we used to be something, weren’t we?”

Eyes growing wide

Running up, one of the pirates said, “You’ve got to see this, Captain,” handing him a stick. Looking at it, the big man’s eyes grew wide as if handling a bar of gold.

“Show me!” he shouted. He strode briskly to the tarps as the men untied the ropes, rolling back the canvas. “By her Majesty’s Beauty!” the big man exclaimed. He reached his knife down, cutting the twine, and lifted a handful of finely cut sticks high into the air above him, “We’re rich, mates, It’s pitch-wood!” Everyone cheered.

Rubbing the callouses on his hands, Tane thought back to the month of hard labor cutting and splitting the butt of that enormous tree down into hundreds of bundles of kindling.

Ye Be Woodcutters

After a couple hours, every piece of the firewood removed, one of the pirates said to the others, “Let’s cut off their heads and put their ship in tow.”

Hearing that, the marauder captain bellowed, “Enough! They fought well, leave ’em be. Leave their ship, too. Listen up, if you have half a brain left in your addled heads. If you kills the people you steal from, you can’t steal from ’em again.” His crew mumbled, nodding to one another at their leader’s wisdom. “Now be gone the lot of you, back to the ship.”

Tane shouted as they left, “Its 800 leagues to port, we’ll never make it without wood for the boiler, at least leave us enough fuel for the journey!”

Turning, hefting an ax in his right hand, the big pirate threw it, sending it twirling end over end until it buried itself in the wooden mast near Tane’s head. “Ye be wood cutters!” He yelled back. “Figure it out!”

(Reference music as ship flies of into the sunset with billowy white clouds underneath it…to this song)

Aio: Tuirina Wehi and Tuwhiti Happy