Preface, Chapters 1–2
In 2016, I wrote and self-published my first novella, Pirate Ophelia. The book was entirely inspired by a job I had just left, though in a pirate-themed world. It was a job I actually enjoyed but was forced to leave due to health issues, some of which were brought on by the job and the people with whom I worked.
I struggled with my mental health for months after leaving. Even years later I am not as mentally capable as I once was thanks to the combination of work stress and illness. I had suffered an unknown disease that affected both my physical and mental health — an illness that was never properly diagnosed but was suspected to be and treated as Lyme disease.
Pirate Ophelia came out of those mental struggles as a way to purge myself of a level of post-traumatic stress that should never be the result of a retail management position. I had trusted people who I thought were my friends, only to be betrayed and cast aside as if I were nothing. When I made the hard decision to leave that job — a place where my co-workers and boss were like my family — I was told to leave and was shunned by those who I loved the most.
As time went on, my anger subsided and the nightmares stopped. Dreams that I never remembered, and yet I always woke up crying from them. The actual memories will always remain, buried deep within my mind, serving as a lesson learned the hard way.
I reconciled with the two who did me the most harm, acknowledging that people make mistakes and can change. This helped my mental health, but I find that I no longer trust others as I once did, afraid to go through such heartache again. To be thrown away like garbage by your closest friend is not something from which one can easily recover.
I once told my friend I would always love him. Maybe that is true, buried under the betrayal that ended our friendship.
Now, after six years, I have decided to release the book in segments online so that others may enjoy the story. I look back at it and can see how I progressed as a writer, getting better with each article or book that I publish. My hope is that someone will read it and appreciate the story for what it is: a story of close friends, harsh realities, and the mistakes that we make during our lifetime.
And now, please enjoy the first few chapters of my book.
Chapter I: The Storm
The night was cold and rainy and the crew worked endlessly to keep water out of the ship. The captain had carelessly sailed into a severe thunderstorm, not realizing how bad it was until it was too late. The captain often did things recklessly and without thought or care for neither the ship nor the crew. The waves tossed the frigate as if it was as light as a feather, making it hard for the crew to stay on deck. A few of them had already fallen overboard, lost forever to the sea. That was the danger of a life at sea — storms, pirates, the unknown.
Swabbie Ophelia was the newest recruit, but she worked just as hard as those who had been on the ship for years. Actually, much harder than several others that she knew of, though she didn’t mind. Unlike some of the crew, Ophelia wanted to be there — she wanted a life on the seas. Ever since she was a little girl she had dreamed of someday being a pirate, and this ship was a start. While her childhood friends dreamed of prince charming and played with dolls, Ophelia was playing with wooden swords and plundering her mother’s jewelry, only to secretly put it back and plunder it again. She felt at home on the sea. She knew the life of a pirate would be a tough one, but she wanted that life.
Ophelia had grown up in a small town in Ireland. Her parents owned a market stall in the town where they sold vegetables grown in their family garden and clothing her mother had made. She had two older sisters who were extremely feminine in comparison. Ophelia preferred to hang out near the water with her best friend, Liam. They spent time fishing, swimming, even building a small boat once, which sailed for an hour before it started to sink. She and Liam both loved the water and dreamed of being pirates. But Liam’s family moved away when Ophelia was twelve, leaving her alone with her sisters, who wanted nothing to do with the water.
Her father then began taking her fishing regularly and let her help run the market stall, which Ophelia enjoyed, even though it was not the life she wanted. When she was twenty, her father told her there was a ship captain in town looking for a crew. Unfortunately, that captain would not sign her up because she was too inexperienced, telling her she was “just a foolish, young girl,” so she continued running her family’s market stall until another opportunity would arise. After a few years, a captain finally agreed to take her on board — this captain, on this frigate, the HMS Honeysuckle. She was finally part of a real crew on a real ship.
The crew could barely see the captain at the helm in the storm. Ophelia wasn’t very fond of the captain, even though he was the only one that gave her a chance. He made questionable decisions and treated the crew badly most of the time. While they were hard at work in the hot sun, the captain took naps in his cabin and hoarded all of the alcohol they plundered. He sailed under the orders of the crown as a privateer rather than be a real pirate, but it was worth it to Ophelia. Every pirate had to start somewhere, and this captain was willing to take anyone just to have a crew.
The crew hadn’t plundered anything in over a month and was getting restless. Ophelia noticed right away that most of the crew followed the orders of the bosun without protest. Bosun Janneke had the trust of the crew, and she was able to keep them calm. They would listen when she talked and would go to her whenever there was a problem. She had a powerful voice that carried across the ship, with a tone that both commanded respect and sounded compassionate. Janneke clearly did not have faith in the captain, but she knew they had to stick together, and she always had the best interest of the crew at heart. Right now they needed the captain, no matter how horrible he was.
Swabbie Erik had been with the crew a little longer than Ophelia, and she could tell he was one who could be trusted. The crew thought highly of him, especially Janneke, and Ophelia noticed Erik did most of the hard work without being asked. He was very tall, of Viking descent, and had bright red hair with a matching beard. Erik was very friendly and liked it when everything worked smoothly — he did not like those who caused trouble and interrupted the cooperated efforts of the crew. He seemed to be one of the only two lower ranking crew members that Bosun Janneke completely trusted, the other of which was Swabbie Celia.
Celia was still very young with much to learn. She was highly intelligent, though she could be a little childish at times. She often assisted the bosun with tasks, leading Ophelia to believe that Celia was in training to take the rank of bosun herself someday. However, several of the crew did not like taking orders from Celia, grumbling later that she was becoming a little egotistical and arrogant. Ophelia knew that Janneke was aware of this — she had overheard the bosun discussing the matter with the unhappy crew members more than once.
The rain began to let up and the clouds started to brighten a bit. The ship was finally sailing out of the storm. When the rain became nothing more than a drizzle, the crew cheered, with some falling onto the deck in sheer exhaustion. Bosun Janneke stood at the front of the ship looking around as the crew celebrated. Ophelia noticed that she did not look happy.
Janneke was scanning the crew, looking for something.
“Eight,” she said quietly to herself. “We’ve lost eight of the crew!” she yelled to everyone within earshot. The captain had given control of the helm to the navigator and was walking among the crew.
“Any severe damage?” the captain asked as he approached Janneke.
“Some, but not much…amazingly. The sails are pretty ripped up.”
“We’ll have to sail into port and get them repaired.” The captain started to head toward his quarters, but the bosun called after him.
“What about those who were lost?” the bosun said with a bit of anger. “Do you even care?”
“We’ll recruit more crew when we dock.” The captain continued his walk to his quarters without even looking back.
Ophelia could tell that Bosun Janneke was quite upset. It wasn’t the lost men that bothered her as much as the fact that the captain didn’t even care. To him, men were expendable, and new recruits were just as good as seasoned crew. This was unmistakably not true, but the captain was too foolish and self-centered to care. The crew began mumbling to themselves — they obviously felt the same way as Janneke. Ophelia couldn’t help but wonder how someone like that could remain captain on any ship. Surely the king would not tolerate a captain who was so careless and who didn’t seem to even care about attacking enemies of the crown. But she was not going to let this ruin her dream. She would someday have her own ship, she just had to start somewhere and gain the knowledge she needed for a life on the high seas.
Chapter II: Mutiny
It was the middle of the night when Ophelia was awakened by whispering. Her bunk was not far from Erik’s, and she saw that he was in a conversation with Celia and Bosun Janneke. Ophelia pretended she was still asleep but shifted enough so she could hear them better.
“We can’t let this continue,” Celia was saying.
“Well, what can we do?” Erik asked. “Technically, we are still under orders of the crown, and they chose to appoint him as the captain of this ship.”
“But surely they wouldn’t allow him to continue as captain,” Celia continued. “I mean, it hardly is good for the crown. We don’t even plunder ships anymore! We just sail from port to port. That really defeats the purpose of privateers. Sometimes I think the only reason he wanted to be captain was to sit in his quarters and drink rum.”
“He doesn’t even drink rum,” Bosun Janneke replied, her eyes glazed over as if she was deep in thought. “He drinks tea, and maybe wine once in a while.” She looked at Celia and Erik. “The only reason they made him captain was because there was no one else. I was there. I saw it.” She stared at a nearby torch, as if deep in thought again. “The previous captain was killed in battle. We tried to take a Spanish Man O’War near Kingston. We didn’t know they had that many soldiers on board. We barely got out of there alive. The captain fought alongside us and died with many of the crew. After that, there was no one else, so the governor of Kingston at the time appointed him.”
Celia and Erik glanced at each other. It was clear that the previous captain was a good leader and the bosun missed him, but her focus returned to them and the problem at hand.
“So what should we do?” Celia asked.
“I think it’s time for a mutiny,” Janneke said. Celia and Erik exchanged pleased looks.
Ophelia smiled to herself. She didn’t know how it would go or who would take the captain’s place, but she was excited to be a part of this crew. With the exception of the captain, they seemed to look out for each other, just as a good crew should.
The next morning, Bosun Janneke could be seen making her rounds to all of the crew. She always checked to make sure everyone was doing their job. Ophelia had never seen the bosun be harsh, but she could tell Janneke was not one to be trifled with.
Ophelia could see the bosun approaching her as she swabbed the deck. She always felt nervous whenever Janneke approached, as if her grade school teacher was looking over her shoulder to make sure she did her work correctly.
“Swabbie,” Janneke said quietly. “We are planning a mutiny against the captain. If you are in, join our planning session below deck tonight after most of the crew has gone to sleep. If you are out, be prepared to join the captain against the rest of the crew.” Janneke continued on her way to the next crew member, though Ophelia noticed the bosun skipped a few along her path. Janneke was being selective on who she gave this information to, and Ophelia was so happy to be one of those chosen to guard the secret.
That night most of the crew gathered at one end of the ship. A few of them stayed sleeping soundly in their bunks. They were clearly the ones Janneke didn’t trust to be involved in the mutiny planning.
“I say we push the captain overboard,” one of the crew was saying.
“I say we hang him!” another one spoke out.
“I would prefer less violence if possible,” Celia said.
“I agree,” replied Janneke. “There are two ways we could do this. One could get messy, the other would be easy.”
She looked around at the crew, who each glanced at each other. No one wanted to speak up as to their opinion. Ophelia suddenly found her courage.
“What is the easy way?” Ophelia said quietly.
“We simply make sure the captain drinks enough alcohol to pass out when we reach port and then we just leave him there,” Janneke said. “If we start a fight on board, we could lose good crew. I don’t know where the others’ loyalties lie,” she said as she gestured to the sleeping crew. “I would rather not take the risk.”
Erik and Celia nodded in agreement. They obviously had already discussed this and decided on their own solution but needed the crew to make the final choice. The three looked around again, evidently waiting for input from the others.
“Let’s do it the easy way,” Ophelia said. “We are already short crew members. If we lose many more, it will be too hard to sail.” The others nodded in agreement, though a few were disappointed that the captain would not die at their hands.
It was only a few days before the ship reached port. Most of the crew left the ship to go ashore, either in need of supplies or wanting a drink at the local tavern. Ophelia had gotten to know Erik and Celia a good bit over the previous few days and felt very comfortable with them, almost like family. Even the bosun was warming up to her, though Janneke was often too busy to chat — she still had to oversee the crew and make sure the ship was in good condition.
Celia, Erik, and Ophelia joined some of the crew at the tavern for a drink. Almost all of the alcohol on the ship was reserved for the captain or was to be sold for profit, of which the crew saw none. Some coin went to repair the ship and buy food, but most of it was either pocketed by the captain or sent to the king. Bosun Janneke had said the captain did that to keep himself in the king’s favor, though she suspected the king didn’t know the captain was pocketing a percentage of it.
Erik, Ophelia, and Celia were enjoying a good ale when they saw the captain walk in alongside Bosun Janneke. The captain was speaking to the bosun without looking at her as they walked. The three could hear only part of the conversation — the captain was talking about finding new recruits while at port. Janneke noticed that the three were listening and gave a slight smile. She never agreed with the captain’s recruitment techniques. Rather than find people with talent, the captain just recruited anyone who was willing to sail, which left for some poor crew members who didn’t quite pull their own weight.
The captain sat down and dismissed Janneke with a wave of his hand. Janneke looked over at Erik, Celia, and Ophelia and gave them a nod. They knew she wanted to leave as soon as possible or they could miss their opportunity. But many of the crew were in the tavern drinking, while others were loading supplies and the sails were still undergoing repairs.
Ophelia looked around. All they needed was a distraction for a few hours to buy them some time. Erik mentioned the captain had a weakness for drinking games, and so Ophelia needed someone who could drink more than the captain, hoping that he would then drink enough to pass out. In the corner was a muscular man enjoying a mug of ale by himself. She approached him cautiously.
“Excuse me, sir?” she asked politely.
“Yes?” He looked up from his mug. He had very dark hair and a full beard. His eyes were amber in color and, though he looked tired, they seemed as if they hid an interesting, yet sad story.
“I was wondering if you could do us a favor,” she asked while gesturing toward Erik and Celia. “Our captain there,” she began as she nodded her head in the direction of the captain. “Our captain loves drinking games and none of us have ever been able to beat him. I was wondering if you would be interested.” The man seemed intrigued at the idea, but hesitated. “Drinks are on us of course.”
“Well I can’t turn that offer down now, can I?” he laughed as he started to get up from his seat. Erik and Celia smiled at each other. This plan was sure to work. Celia left the tavern to inform Janneke of their plan while Ophelia and Erik joined the captain and the man at a table.
Hours passed and most of the crew had returned to the ship. Bosun Janneke took a head count and knew that the only important crew members missing were Ophelia and Erik. She knew they had been keeping the captain busy at the tavern, she only hoped that the captain would not return with them. After everything was completely loaded onto the ship and the repairs were finished, Janneke went to the tavern in the hopes to get the last two crew members and leave both the town and the captain far behind them.
As Janneke approached the tavern, she could hear laughter coming from inside. She walked in and saw Ophelia and Erik sitting at a table with the captain and a strange man. The captain was visibly drunk, and the strange man was quite intoxicated, though not as drunk as the captain. Just as Janneke approached the table, the captain passed out on to the floor. Erik jumped when he realized Janneke was standing right behind him. He had been drinking a little too but was still mostly sober.
“What happened?” Janneke asked while trying to hold back a laugh.
“Well,” Ophelia began. “I asked this gentleman if he would challenge the captain to a drinking game to buy us some time. He did, and now he’s won.” Erik and Ophelia began to cheer.
“Good job,” Janneke said. “Now let’s get out of here.” She reached down to grab the captain’s hat, sword, and coin purse. Ophelia and Erik got up to follow her.
“Wait!” Ophelia cried and grabbed the coin purse from Janneke. “Here,” she said as she handed the pouch to the man. “Thanks for your help.”
“Take me with you,” the man said quietly, still looking at his empty mug. “There is nothing for me here.”
“What skills do you have?” Janneke asked. She seemed to be staring him down as if to see if he would cower under her gaze.
“I’m a blacksmith,” he said as he gazed back at her. The two were sizing each other up, debating if they could trust one another.
“You helped my crew?” Janneke asked.
“Yes, and I would gladly do it again. The free ale didn’t hurt, mind you.”
“Honest,” Janneke said in an admirable tone. “I like that. We could probably use a blacksmith anyway. Some of my crew seem to break their swords too easily.”
“Probably inferior metal,” the man said. “I only make the best.”
“Good. What’s your name?”
“Welcome to the crew Edward.” Janneke led the way out of the tavern and back to the ship, with Edward following her and Ophelia and Erik bringing up the rear, smiling to each other the whole way. They were rid of the captain and had made a new friend. Things were looking up.
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