Note: This is the first part of this new fiction series I’m writing for my website.
By JonChristopher Collins
A late evening aboard his ship sends Captain Vance James Patrick into a flurry of retrospective thoughts. Years of piracy bubble up into a mix of regret for past deeds and strangely, melancholy over leaving his former way of life. “Does it even matter that I gave it up?” he thinks. “I left my bountiful work only to do something just as morally questionable but less rewarding.” Vance, once the feared captain of the Sea Screamer, now spends his days doing much the same pillaging he did then only to give half of it away. “Blasted conscience,” he thinks. It’s the conscience that brought such a change in him that he now freely gives what he has taken.
He can’t freely give of everything, though. He’s a privateer. So, while he gives much to other people, a lot of the loot goes to other governments.
“Beautiful night, isn’t it Vance?”
His arms jerk and he’s brought out of his thoughts. Vance says, “Seraphina, you shouldn’t startle me, darling.”
“I’m sorry, love,” she says giggling. “You were in deep thought.”
“What is it this time?”
At the age of 25, Vance became one of the most infamous pirates. At the age of 35, he course-corrected. Granted, he’s still a pirate, but he’s making progress. This change was in many ways brought on by his wife, 28-year-old Seraphina Claire Mason-Patrick.
“I’m not sure, Seraphina. Perhaps discontentment.”
When they met, she was 20 and he was 27. Coming from a French family with a military background, Seraphina is no stranger to excitement. While she’s no pirate, she took to espionage early in her career. Assigned to gather intelligence regarding naval attacks, she crossed paths with Vance. His crew had sent heavy fire on a French cargo ship that was accompanied by an armed ship. A few of his crew of fifty boarded the military vessel and subdued the crew, making several of the sailors aboard the ship watch as the cargo ship was pillaged, and the crew was thrown overboard to the mercy of their swimming abilities.
Vance accomplished this with his crew of fifty against the French crew of one hundred fifty. Seraphina was watching all this from afar with other spies. Vance taunted his victims; he didn’t kill them immediately. Instead, after swiping a dagger across their chests and leaving a few with close range bullet wounds, Vance had them thrown overboard with the others. Swimming with wounds, they witnessed their ships set ablaze.
The cuts and holes the crews incurred burned as they mixed with the water, and the pain only grew as they saw the ships burn before their eyes. “All this for cargo. I haven’t seen my family for over a month; this might not change,” one man thought. This man was right; choking on tears streaming down his face, a wave tossed him to his death.
Seraphina’s orders were not to engage any attackers but to watch. She engaged the pirates anyway, and it altered the course of her life just as much as that of Vance. She and her men sailed near the wreckage and the nearly submerged men. Some of them were already dead due to drowning or bleeding to death. Seraphina and her men rescued some of them, but even among those who survived the attack, several died of infection.
“Discontentment? Do you remember what you told me when we first properly met?”
“Yes, Seraphina. I said that I had never been so content until you came along; I learned contentment from you.”
“Right you are.”
Of course, this wasn’t the attitude Vance displayed when she came sailing in. Following the rescue attempt, Seraphina boarded his ship in hopes of gleaning information. “What’s your business here, pirate?” she asked.
“Come on, is that how you address someone upon first meeting them? What’s your business here, miss?”
“You first. You chose to engage in battle with government ships despite not being provoked.”
“You have a point, although I’m irritated to admit it. I’m Captain Vance James Patrick. Who are you?”
“Seraphina Mason. I’m with the French military. Not only have you damaged and stolen property, but you have murdered men and left others severely wounded.” That’s enough about the past for now. At the moment, Vance and Seraphina have arrived at a French port.
“Didn’t think I’d be back in France so soon,” Vance says.
“Yes, well, here we are.” Seraphina adjusts her hat on her black hair. “Our meeting with the king and queen is fast approaching so we best be ready.”
“Indeed. We need to get to the inn.”
“We have no need of sleeping at such places. That’s what our ship is for. I only wanted to walk for a few minutes, darling.” An evening stroll passes the time for the privateer couple. Their love sparked in France and brings them back to this place from time to time.
“Mr. and Mrs. Patrick, such a pleasure to see you again,” says a maid at the front entrance of the king’s palace.
“Yes, a pleasure to see you too.”
A royal guard strides down a long hall to meet Vance and Seraphina. “Bonjour,” he calls out as he walks down the hall.
“Bonjour,” Vance says.
“I trust your journey was pleasant?” the guard asks.
Vance and Seraphina walk toward the guard, meeting him in the middle of the hall. “Certainly was,” Vance says. “The weather got a little laborious to navigate on our way back but nothing we can’t handle.”
“Yes,” Seraphina says. “I’m an expert at navigating ruckus, so it was no obstacle.”
“Good,” the guard says. “If you will follow me, the king and queen will see you now.”
Seraphina and Vance trail close behind as he walks over to the room where the royal couple will have their meeting with the privateers. The guard knocks and opens the door. “Your majesties, Vance and Seraphina Patrick have arrived.” The couple walk in, and the guard closes the door.
“You arrived faster than expected,” the king says, motioning them forward.
“Yes, your majesty. We finished the job with haste,” Seraphina says.
“It appears so,” the queen says.
“We wanted to meet with you not only for the payment but to negotiate your next commissioned assignment,” the king says. He peers out a nearby window. “Your next task is closer to the palace. Pirates are terrorizing our waters and striking critical exports of ours. Your will—”
Gunfire blasts are heard in the room; blood splats across the room. “Oh no,” Seraphina says.
“Help,” Vance exclaims.
Several guards come through the room’s entrance. The royal advisor, Thomas LePage, stands in front of the guards. “What have you done? You two are under arrest for the murder of the king and queen.”