Table of Contents
AN UNTOLD TALE
There is something about me, ain’t there? You noticed the moment your eyes grew used to the dingy light of the tavern. And you came here, like everyone who struts these worn boards, for tattle of Anne Bonny and pirates. Buy me a dram, tread closer, and my tale will make your eyeballs roll. Do you remember that scoundrel Calico Jack? Well it all started way way way before his day. But what may surprise you is that I myself roved among them—the unsung miscreant—the one that slipped through their net. I see you are tongue-tied and burning to ask how we lived like sows? Rutted like pigs? Killed like boars? I’ll explain, good as I can, but you won’t like my answers, I’m telling you now, mister. There’s no glamour . . . no quest . . . no founding of colonies . . . just the tugging of the moon against fate. Who am I, you finally think to ask. You may as well know—I was Black-beard’s thirteenth wife—and very unlucky for him.
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Copyright © 2011 by Wendy Perriman.
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Berkley trade paperback edition / June 2011
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Perriman, Wendy K.
Fire on dark water / Wendy K. Perriman.
eISBN : 978-1-101-51545-7
1. Romanies—Fiction. 2. Teach, Edward, d. 1718—Fiction. 3. Pirates—Caribbean Area—Fiction. 4. Queen Anne’s Revenge (Sailing vessel)—Fiction. 5. Domestic fiction. I. Title.
near and far—always and ever
What fates impose, that men must needs abide;
It boots not to resist both wind and tide.
January 5, 1719
The severed head bobbed afore the mast of the pirate sloop like a grisly lantern exactly as rumor predicted. But the black eyes now only flickered intermittently when glazed by shafts of sunlight, and the septic snarl was set against further cursing. The trophy—tied by its long gory mane to the bowsprit—twisted on air like licking vipers, conjuring life where it had long since ceased to writhe. Shock had frozen the face in a roar of defiance, and confusion lay trapped in the hazy whites of his eyes. A swollen tongue protruded from the black matted beard while the nose, still screwed up for battle, lay lost in the purpling wax of decaying flesh. The decapitated prize twirled ceremoniously in proof—a public deterrent for fellow buccaneers to witness.
When the townsfolk of Hampton heard the news, they swarmed to the north shore of the river like a flush of vengeful ducks, huffing and squawking to waddle ahead of the press, anxious for confirmation and to claim their brag in history.
Is it him?
I ran too—eager to know if the law had finally vanquished the Terror of the Seas. I jostled my way toward the front of the mob, and the impact of that spinning skull knotted the breath in the base of my throat. I could scarcely believe in the prize hung before me
—The infamous Blackbeard is dead!
Now, I know some folks may contend that I am far too enamored of these sea villains, having recently completed an account of
The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe.
But the moment I gazed at the dead captain’s eye pits I felt a compelling urge to begin a new book, although possibly under some pseudonym this time. I have a notion to write a general history of the most notorious pirates, so that their brave and terrible deeds may not fade unrecorded—an idea that came to me as I scanned the crowd surrounding Governor Spotswood and noticed him conferring with some common gypsy wench.
Thinking it strange that the most esteemed gentleman in the colony would be holding court with such a lowly creature, I immediately inquired of a bystander as to who this young slattern might be. I judged she was not yet of age, but even under the youth and grime I could tell she was some gamy thing—all lithe legs and wide, moist eyes. Well, consider my surprise when someone whispered she was Blackbeard’s doxy. And then imagine my utter disbelief when I learned that she was the one who had betrayed him!
It is my deepest desire to interview this trollop—for whom better to give me an insight into the outlaw’s secret kingdom? But as soon as she had identified the dangling head, she scurried into the crowd and was lost to sight. I have just heard rumor that she may be headed for one of the Carribee islands—which is where I will begin my search as soon as I have the resources. Whatever it takes, I must find this wench. For I believe that my entire future enterprise depends upon it. . . .
MURK SUNSET AND FOUL SUNRISE
here is something about me, ain’t there? You noticed the moment your eyes grew used to the dingy light of the tavern. And you came here, like everyone who struts these worn boards, for tattle of Anne Bonny and pirates. Buy me a dram, tread closer, and my tale will make your eyeballs roll. Do you remember that scoundrel Calico Jack? Well it all started way way way before his day. But what may surprise you is that I myself roved among them—the unsung miscreant—the one that slipped through their net. I see you are tongue-tied and burning to ask how we lived like sows? Rutted like pigs? Killed like boars? I’ll explain, good as I can, but you won’t like my answers, I’m telling you now, mister. There’s no glamour . . . no quest . . . no founding of colonies . . . just the tugging of the moon against fate. Who am I, you finally think to ask. You may as well know—I was Blackbeard’s thirteenth wife—and very unlucky for him.
Folks call me
. . .
. . .
. . . or just plain
. It depends on who they are and what they’re after. I once claimed to be Cockney but that was to clothe my Romany roots—I wasn’t born nowhere near Bow Bells. So, aye, I’m a gypsy and come from a long strand of travelers. Our lives were spent in tents or on carts, roaming round England from crop to new harvest. The men reaped grain when autumn permitted while youngsters picked fruit in the orchards and fields. My uncles sold horses (acquired by dubious means) and kept the cauldron stewing with fresh-poached game. I learnt many neat skills as I tagged along beside the woods and rivers. When the picking season ended, the caravan rested on Battersea Common and the perpetual battle ensued once again against harsh, icy winter and the even colder townsfolk.
Grandma Vadoma was the knowing one. She told fortunes in the markets for our sustenance and campfire stories for our pleasure on the road. Shona, my ma, was a dancer—exotic, mysterious, mesmerizing. But it wasn’t her face that snagged farmers and sailors, who were drawn to her sinewy hips that slithered and writhed with forbidden allurement. She would tempt in the squares, fields, streets, and taverns, and sometimes sold her nights to a high-enough bidder. I spent ten years absorbing the feminine divine and owe much of my charm to them.