This was a "clip" during my first writing class, which spawned me onto a manuscript I'm currently working on. This small writing class instructed by William Conescue of Duke University brought to light my passion for writing historical fiction, something I never would have known. I am passionate about writing about 16th and 17th century England and a bit of France, since I am fluent in French and lived there two years, England six. And I fall in love with my characters, inevitably.
by Lauren Knapp
He was certainly not a man of high stock, and a world away from places where these swaying high mast ships were financed. Fintan Killigrew gazed at the ten or so vessels sitting in the harbor some distance below him, mesmerized by the intricate and varied ropes rigged on each ship; it had taken him years to sharply master and memorize every function of each as well as their proper knots. That was sure proof that he was a hands-on man, and he was no closer to those pudgy fingered patrons in their castles that arrogantly demanded which pirates they chose to do their pillaging than the lowest rogue who’d been at sea his whole life.
Yet he was neither an idiot that would squander his findings on catting, drinking, and gambling like those scoundrels he’d had to live with at sea during the war with the Spaniards. How long had it been now? That was in 1595 so that would mean nearly twenty years now.
Had he really so bad off then as they seemed right now? Fintan looked down at one of the larger ships. Directly in front of it a bleak seaman was dragging his entire body as if it were a menace to himself and he could scarcely stand inhabiting it. He seemed a soul who would never be comfortable on land, and the sea would always be his sole refuge for airiness and freedom. So really Fintan wasn’t any better off than that derelict born under a threepenny-halfpenny blanket who craved the sea and vast movement just as mercilessly.
In his pocket was a sizable emerald ring. He fingered the smooth, cool gold and the contrasting rough stone, like the jagged edges of the rocks that the waves smashed against further down the shoreline. He knew that not a lot of men would have kept it all these years, or any other finds like this he’d taken. Even if they had stored it away safely somewhere, their loose tongues would spill the location at the first round of drinks and then wonder why and how they ended up mortally wounded or dead some days later. They deserved to die at their own stupidity then, for not guarding what they’d fought for, for shedding blood over.
Fintan had earned everything he’d gotten in his life, including the self-inflicted scar above his right eye where he’d held a knife too firmly and cut an inconspicuously supple rope toward himself, slicing through his brow. He had well deserved the roar of laughs on board that day.
“Do you not love y’self, Fintan?” one chided. “Do you hate those pretty blue eyes that much – ‘ere let’s ‘ave a go, too!”
That had been over a decade ago, and here he was once more feeling that uneasy but stirring beginning again of setting sail on those deep, blue waters that the sun glinted on blindingly. As seen from the coast of Ireland it was simply beautiful, almost serene, but he well remembered the Atlantic excitement of massacring Spanish ships returning home with a load of valuables and provisions from the West Indies. Such ultimate freedom; any boat was game really. He remembered forging their way to the African coast to sell their stolen goods, anchoring at ports amid a fanatic fleet of ships of other brethren of the sea and thieves, all the while delighting in the languid African sun his Irish blood never knew could exist in November and December.
How much he’d seen and killed, and how strange to be standing here back in Roaringwater Bay watching men like he had once been: consumed with the love of the ships and salt in the air. The deep blue Irish sky above him was somewhat cooler now, it being the end of August. In just two weeks he would be heading south as usual for winter to the coast of Morocco, but then later this spring he’d be heading somewhere beyond what he’d ever dreamed: far across the Atlantic, into the Caribbean Isles. Yes, it was still in his blood, and worse now.
It was too predictable here now anyways, too safe and well tended to. With that, no risks and no terror, there were no great rewards. A balding old man was heaving a wooden box of apparent lead, although it was probably silver – his boots a mere lump of shreds on his feet. He huffed and puffed, looking as if those were his last wisps of air. He seemed as if he never thought of anything other than swiping small trinkets from those aboard, as if he couldn’t conceive of taking anything larger that would have eased his now aging years. He’d probably never felt a pang of hunger for a massive fortune, like those stories of Drake and Hawkins. He was just here, hauling the riches of some other man only to receive a pittance. His captain wouldn’t get much more than him, either, because their outfitters were indirectly from the Crown, those fat fowl, getting every ounce if it were gold in that box. Fintan had always reveled in their looted cargos, in boxes almost like the one the old man struggled with, strapped with bands of iron and filled with mounds of gold, ivory, silk, sugar. He’d always taken his share very carefully, almost reverently, intending to keep every last bit. But it was never enough.
It was lucky for that step up, meeting the Vice-Admiral through Dorset’s Justice of the Peace to sign him on, who he’d met through a recently calculated bevy of contacts. His father would’ve hated all of them though. His father had been a fisherman from Kinsale and nothing but, his entire life. The old man would’ve had all men out to sea as fishermen and fishermen soley, and their women too. His scowls, his wrinkled and sour face at such mentions of “pirates” – he would have been driven mad by what conspired now: all of Ireland and Wales going off to sea, virtual all pirates now. Everyone was, whether they claimed merchant, privateer, or “pressed by the Crown” navy men.
And if they were not pirates at first, they would turn once at sea. It was the ocean’s way. His father had been right about one thing – most of them were foolish. But not his own son, who was born to strike to win.
No man could stand the thrill that was firing its way through Fintan’s heart as he smiled to himself, knowing well his intense temperament and drive to win. The voyage was in just days, and one of a lifetime. He could feel the ship there now, even though it wasn’t due in for at least a week. The Sugar Rot, said to be over 120 tons. As he smirked he wondered how many of these meager ants would dare venture as far as the Leeward Islands, so far west. He remembered proudly that he’d been seriously considered and then picked because of his seasoned fighting skill and expertise from the war, as well as a surety in feet and mind. It was obvious he had ocean water running through his veins. What was not so apparent to others was how hugely he was going to reap.
Just then a feminine figure dressed completely in flowing crimson drifted past his range of sight, her pale beauty flashing through his reality like an exclamation point to his thoughts. With exquisite pleasure he was startled from his ruminations, shielding his eyes with his hand now as he squinted to gain a better view.
He could see that her head was not just turned in his direction, but focused intently upon himself. He detected determination in her unfaltering gaze. It was for this reason that he swiftly left the post he was leaning against to go towards her. At five yards or so she abruptly turned her head down, her face now completely cloaked. Like a stealthy panther, Fintan crept up until they were walking side by side.
“A beautiful day for such beauty to be here, yet not entirely a haven for the fair sex in the surroundings.” He remarked calmly, looking ahead.
An then she turned to look at him, still walking. Once again she held his eyes unblinkingly. She was amazingly more lovely at close range, Fintan marveled, unable to hold any other thought than her clear green eyes and sweet lips. He could feel a slight push off his block of confidence; she was not only beautiful, but of money, as advertised by her rich apparel. He consciously steadied himself, realizing he was holding his breath to hear her speak.
She smiled. “Are you sure that you’re not one of the added dangers here on the dock?”
For a minute Fintan was speechless. Her teeth reminded him of the perfect pearls he’d so often hoarded on drenched ship decks. He’d never met a person with such wonderful teeth.
“Some have called me dangerous, but in the presence of you I would swiftly sacrifice that fault, as any others.”
An eyebrow raised he thought, sighing inwardly. What next?
“And for what reason is such a man of so many faults traversing this walk?” she asked, her face blank.
Then Fintan did something very rash. He reached in his pocket and held the ring towards her.
“To wait to give this to you, as a token of what shall come in weeks to follow.”
She stopped, and gazed down at the ring in his hand. She looked back up at his black eyes, which were completely stern. He nodded for her to take it, and something in his manner made her take it from his calloused palm, very gently. She was inspecting it between two fingers when Fintan became overwhelmed with an emotion he’d never experienced before.
“You’re to have a castle, with thousands of acres, and the best horses and servants for miles. You’re to be with me, and never forget me.”
The pit of his heart was hammered by a peal of laughter. He stared at her incomprehensibly as she lightly handed the ring back to him and started walking briskly in the other direction, chiding “A visionary, no less!” behind her.
That she could not see the clarity of what was about to conspire between them left the hefty Fintan stunned in one spot momentarily. Then, a familiar feeling of war and conquest settled over him and he felt the small but heavy ring in his fist, and two long legs took very deliberate strides towards the woman of whose name he had yet no clue.