Authors Note: I’m sorry I couldn’t resist the ‘Blackadder Two’ bit.0=0=0=0
It was now a good six weeks since Jack had sailed away to fight the Spanish. Each day Anne would ask the ship’s Captain’s that came to her father’s warehouse if they had any news of the ‘Great Peter’, and every day she was disappointed. Every night as she knelt by her bed to say her prayers she begged a merciful God to keep her sweetheart safe.
Eventually she could take the not knowing no longer. After a particularly frenzied battle with a trio of Vampires, Anne came to the decision that she must find out what had happened to her Jack. When she and Master Thomas returned to the tailor’s shop she did not change into her women clothes as was her usual habit. Instead she threw herself into a chair, and then taking a flagon of beer she drank deeply.
“Master Thomas,” Anne wiped the beer foam from her lips with the back of her hand, “How many vampires have I killed in the past month?”
Thomas considered his reply as he poured a mug of beer for himself, “A score at least, why do you ask?”
“Then,” Anne studied Thomas’ face in the candle light, “you would agree that I have put back Satan’s and the Pope’s plans enough so the Kingdom will not be overrun by fiends, if I were to absent myself for a month or two?”
“What are you suggesting Anne?” Thomas looked at her with fear in his eyes, “What do you intend to do?”
“I’m going to look for my Jack!” Anne stood up and started to search the room for pen, ink and paper.
Thomas looked at her in shock, “But my dear Anne you can’t just desert your calling!”
Anne found some writing materials and wrote a note in her clear round hand and addressed it to her father, she folded it in three and handed it to Thomas.
“Make sure my father receives this,” she turned from Thomas who stood holding her letter and watching her in horror.
“You can’t do this!” he wailed in despair, “It is unheard of for a slayer to desert her post.”
“I’ll be back,” Anne collected up her best rapier, her longbow and a quiver of shafts, “I’ll only be gone a month…two at most. Then I will slay every demon in the Kingdom.”
She grinned at Thomas reassuringly.
A dagger disappeared into the top of her boot while another joined her rapier at her waist. She searched through her wardrobe of disguises and selected a couple of suitable outfits and stuffed them in a sack with a couple of spare shirts. Turning back to Thomas she held out her hand.
“Money!” she demanded to be met with a blank look from Thomas, “I know the Council sends you money for weapons and such, plus my upkeep. Now as I still live with my father and buy most of my weapons myself there must be a pretty penny left over.”
Thomas stared back at her defiantly, but soon wilted under her slayer strength gaze. Reluctantly he went over to a cupboard and brought forth a strong box from its depths. With ill grace he produced a key to unlock the box. He lifted the lid and took a purse that clinked with the promise of the coins within. He turned back to Anne his eyes glistening in the flickering candle light.
“Is there nothing I can do or say that will stop you from this foolishness?” he pleaded as he handed over the purse.
“Unless you can bring my Jack back to me…no,” she took the purse and weighed it in her hand, “Be sure my father gets the note,” She reminded him as she turned to go.
“Anne!” Thomas rushed over to her and wrapped her in his arms, “Come back to your foolish old watcher won’t you?”
“Frightened I’ll spend all your money?” Anne joked, a little surprised by Thomas’ reaction.
“Yes…yes that’s right,” Thomas let go of her and stood back, this was not proper, he wiped at his eyes with a rag. “Now if you’re going go before I make a complete fool of myself.”
Anne stepped up to the old man and kissed him on the check, “Until we meet again my good sweet Thomas.”
She turned and in an instant she was gone.
“God’s speed,” called Thomas quietly as he once again wondered how the girl could move so quickly.0=0=0=0
Anne stood in the early morning sun on Tilbury docks and looked up at the ship docked there. The sign at the foot of the gangplank read ‘The Black Pig’. She had looked and sure enough the ship had a black pig as a figure head. The Captain must have a light hearted nature to call his ship thus, Anne thought, other than this the ship looked well found and neat and clean.
She knew enough about ships from helping her father to know a good one when she saw one. In happier days she would be happy to entrust a cargo to the Master of the Black Pig. Anne counted the gun ports in her side, twenty cannon to a side a good forty guns in all. No doubt the Captain would always be looking for volunteers to fill her births what with the threat of invasion and the promise of prizes to be taken.
Anne was confident that she could get herself signed aboard. Her disguise was good; she looked like any young lad out looking for adventure and fame. As for her womanly attributes, while not being exactly flat-chested her breasts were not so large as they could not be concealed under a loose shirt. She would just have to be careful about other things, and anyway a little shyness was to be expected from a well brought up lad on his first voyage.
Taking a deep breath, well not too deep, Anne set her shoulders and marched up the gangplank.0=0=0=0
Anne presented herself to the ship’s First Mate who stood at the top of the gangplank preventing access to the rest of the Black Pig. Anne looked quickly around the deck, now was the time to decide whether this was the ship for her. The rigging looked tort and well maintained. Hatches not in use were battened down and cannon were lashed securely to the deck. Everything looked clean and in place.
“AAAAAAAHRRRRRR! Aaaaaahrrrrr, Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahrrrrrrrrrr! Me laddy!” Aahr’ed the Mate, “What can I be doing for ‘e?”
The mate had a mass of wild red hair, a wooden leg and a patch over his left eye. Obviously a man of great experience, Anne felt even more confident that this was the right ship for her.
“I wish to sign aboard to fight the Don’s Sir!” Anne lowered her voice by an octave or two.
The Mate looked at her and her gear suspiciously, “Let me be seeing y’hands me laddy.”
Anne held out her hands, the Mate took them in his great calloused paws.
“Aaaahrrrr!” exclaimed the Mate dramatically, “You have a woman’s hands me laddy. I’ll wager these dainty pinkies never weighed anchor in a storm.”
“Well no you’re right there.” Anne replied truthfully; the Mate rubbed the back of her hand with his thumb.
“Ha-ha-ha! Aaah!” laughed the Mate, he did seem a jolly fellow, “Your skin laddy, I’ll wager it ne’er felt the lash of a cat ‘o’ nine tails, been rubbed with salt, and then flayed off by a pirate chief to make fine stocking for his best cabin boy.”
“Not now you’ve mentioned it,” replied Anne earnestly, “does that sort of thing happen a lot then?”
“Not often,” admitted the mate wistfully, “now lad why should I let ‘e aboard The Black Pig?”
“Perhaps,” answered Anne thinking that bribery might be the way to go, “for the money in my purse?”
She held up her purse and had it snatched out of her hand.
“Ha! Aaaah! You have a woman’s purse!” The mate exalted as he daintily examined the contents of the purse. “I’ll wager this purse has never been used as a rowing-boat. I’ll wager it’s never had sixteen shipwrecked mariners tossing in it!”
“Once again,” Anne was by now thinking she had made the biggest mistake of her life, “Master Mate you’ve proved you can see right through me.”
The Mate studied Anne closely, “I’d wager, that those ruby red lips of ‘e’s got thee in trouble with some fair wench, an’ ‘er father is as we speak looking for ‘e to make an ‘onest woman o’ ‘er!”
“Well…” shrugged Anne with a disarming grin, no doubt her father was in fact looking for her, with the intention of making an honest woman of her.
“Oh! But ‘e have a woman’s mouth laddy,” roared the Mate throwing his arms wide, “I’ll wager that mouth never had to chew through the side o’ a ship to escape the dreadful Spindly Killer Fish!”
“Not as such,” agreed Anne sadly shaking her head.
“Well that’s alright then,” the mate now spoke in a more normal tone of voice, “don’t want people chewing through the side o’ the ship now do ‘e?”
“Umm, no Master Mate,” agreed Anne hope rekindled in her heart.
“So lad you want to sign aboard?” asked the Mate bringing out a ledger that had been resting against the Bulwark, a seaman produced a quill and an ink pot. The Mate took the pen, opened the ledger and dipped the nib in the ink, “Now me laddy what be y’name?”
“Jack-a-Roe, Master Mate.” replied Anne.
“ AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRHHHH! That be a woman’s name!” exclaimed the Mate.
“No it’s not!” replied Anne indignately.
The Mate thought about this for a moment.
“Y’quite right,” he admitted, “got a bit carried away there!”0=0=0=0
The Black Pig left Tilbury docks on the evening tide and started to make her way slowly around the coast towards Southampton where she would join one of the squadrons waiting for the Spanish to appear in the channel.
At first the crew were sceptical of Anne’s worth. However, after she had shot several seagulls on the wing with her longbow, and beaten all comers at sword practice she, or more importantly young Jack-a-Roe, was accepted by all the crew.
Because of her keen eyesight and her uncanny ability to see in the dark Anne often found herself on lookout duty at night. On this particular night The Black Pig was sailing in company with several other ships. They expected to sight the Don’s in the morning, Anne stood in the shrouds watching the waves when she felt someone step up behind her.
“See anything laddy?” it was the mate’s gruff voice.
“All clear Master Mate,” reported Anne as she continued to scan the sea for danger.
“We’ll be sighting the Don’s come dawn no doubt, me laddy,” observed the Mate thoughtfully. “An’ shortly after that we’ll have at ‘em…send ‘em all to Davy Jones’ Locker ha-ha!”
“By the grace of God, I pray that is so Master Mate,” Anne had the feeling that the Mate wanted to ask her something but didn’t know how to put it.
“If there’s anything you’d be wantin’ to tell y’old Mate, Coz now would be a good time t’do it me laddy,” the Mate scratched the back of his head as he spoke, a look akin to great confusion on his face.
“No Master Mate,” Anne replied confidently, “I’m looking forward to getting at the Don’s…”
“Oh come off it laddy!” exploded the Mate suddenly, “I might be an’ old mad Sea-dog wi’ only one leg an’ one eye, but I ain’t stupid! Did you really think y’could get away wi’ it on a ship full o’ men?”
“Get away with what?” asked Anne backing away from the Mate.
“Why it’s as plain as the nose on y’face an’ the tities down y’shirt!” the Mate seemed relieved to have said his piece.
“Gods teeth,” sighed Anne, “I thought I’d covered them up so well. I suppose you’ll put me a shore now?”
The Mate considered before speaking again, “Don’t think I’d no’ thought o’ it laddy. But the crew…the crew wanted ‘e to stay. Y’pull more than y’weight, y’honest an’ clean and nerry a bad word for anyone.” Anne breathed a sigh of relief. “What I be needin’ to know me laddy is…when the shots whistlin’ o’er y’ead, an’ the Don’s are coming for ‘e o’er the bulwalks you’ll not be screaming an’ cryin’ fer y’mammy now!”
“Rest assured Master Mate,” Anne looked the old sailor straight in the eye, “it would not make me tremble to see ten thousand fall. I laugh at cannon balls, and there’s not a Don alive who can best me in a fight.”
The Mate eyed her for a long minute; eventually he cleared his throat and spoke.
“If e’ be sure Jack me laddy,” the mate gave Anne an exaggerated wink, “I’ll take ye word on it, an’ no one will say a word that y’not what y’say y’are.”
The Mate turned to walk away; before he had gone more than a pace or two he turned to face Anne once more.
“I were right though,” a great grin split his face in the darkness, “you did have a woman’s hands!”
The Mate roared with laughter as he made his way below decks.0=0=0=0
As the Mate had predicted they sighted the Spanish the next day and attacked almost immediately. The English ships attacked like wolves trying to destroy their larger Spanish enemies. The fast manoeuvrable English ships would try to cut out a Spanish ship from the mass or surround a straggler. Once surrounded they would pound it until it was safe to board and take her for a prize.
Anne found herself put in the ‘tops’ where she could use her eyes and longbow to best effect. When the Black Pig got within bowshot of a Spanish vessel. While her guns pounded at the Don, Anne would pick off officers and the enemy gunners. The battle went on for days until the English ships had exhausted their shot and powder and the Spanish had made the coast of northern France at Gravelines.
By this time the Black Pig was a shadow of her former self. The Captain lay mortally wounded and the Mate commanded. Like most other ships there was no more powder and shot for her cannon or arrows for the crews bows and crossbows. The rigging and sails hung in tatters from her yards and the crew had to man the pumps day and night to keep her afloat. Even so it was with a heavy heart that the Mate turned the Black Pig towards London and Tilbury.0=0=0=0
The news that the Spanish fleet had been burnt or scattered to the four winds beat the Black Pig home as did many ships laden with wounded. When the Black Pig finally limped into Tilbury Anne saw the wharfs and jetties covered with the bodies of wounded sailors left to fend for themselves now they had done their duty. Many towns people were doing the best they could to aid the injured and dieing. But many sailors died there because the Queen failed to loosen her purse strings.
After being paid off and wished good luck by the mate and crew Anne wandered the docks looking for her Jack.
“Jack!” she would call as she walked between the rows of the wounded, “Jack Howard of the Great Peter?”
“A silver Crown to anyone who can tell me the where abouts of Jack Howard of the Great Peter!” Her cry becoming more desperate as the time past.
Near evening she found a sailor who claimed to have been aboard the Great Peter and in the thick of the fight. He said he had seen Jack struck down by a flying splinter. He had been carried below and later sent back to Tilbury. With renewed hope Anne continued her search.0=0=0=0
It was late in the evening and already dark when Anne finally found her sweetheart. If it had not been for her slayer senses she would have walked right by his bloodied and broken body. She knelt down by his side and gently kissed his swollen lips. Carefully she placed her arms under his body and lifted him up.
People stared at the young lad who carried the desperately injured sailor through the streets of London until they came to Master Thomas Harris’ tailors shop. The old Watcher opened the door to her frantic knocking and stared at the apparition before him. For a moment he did not recognise his slayer until she spoke.
Leading the pair into his workshop Thomas sent one of his apprentices for a physician who arrived within the hour. For many days and nights Anne stayed by Jack’s bedside, refusing to rest until she was sure he would recover; which in due course he did.This couple they got married,
So well they did agree.
This couple they got married,
So why not you and me?THE END.
Authors Note: This whole sorry tail was inspired by a folk song off one of my Steeleye Span CD’s. Listening to the words I thought ‘That girls just gotta be a Slayer!’
I’m no great expert on the events surrounding the destruction of the Spanish Armada in 1588, so, I’ve played fast and loose with history to make everything fit with my story.
It does appear that Queen Elizabeth delayed paying off the crews of the warships and kept them on station until many had died of disease. Only then were the ships recalled and the crews paid off, this was a stain on the Queen’s popularity for some time. However, time and Hollywood are great healers and nowadays few people know of this black mark against Good Queen Bess’ name.
From the album, ‘Bedlam Born’.
There Was a Wealthy Merchant.
There was a wealthy merchant,
In London he did dwell.
He had a beautiful daughter,
The truth to you I'll tell.
She had sweethearts a-plenty,
And men of high degree.
But none but Jack the sailor,
Her true love ere could be.
Jack he's gone a-sailing,
With trouble on his mind.
He's left his Queen and his country,
And his darling girl behind.
She went down to a tailor's shop,
And dressed in men's array.
She's signed a bill of passage,
To convey herself away.
Before you get on board, sir,
Your name we'd like to know.
She smiled all in her countenance,
They call me Jack-a-Roe.
I see your waist is slender,
Your fingers they are small.
Cheeks too red and rosy,
To face the cannonball.
I know my waist is slender,
My fingers they are small.
But it would not make me tremble,
To see ten thousand fall.
The war soon being over,
She went and looked around.
Among the dead and wounded,
Her darling boy she found.
She picked him up all in her arms,
And carried him to the town.
She sent for a physician,
Who quickly healed his wounds.
This couple they got married,
So well they did agree.
This couple they got married,
So why not you and me?