The next morning came quick and rough, with icy waves that crashed ferociously into the hull. Jude almost tossed out of his hammock when the sound jolted him awake, but he twisted and grabbed ahold of it to stop himself from falling.
Alongside the roaring of the ocean, the room was filled with the cacophonous bootsteps of Jude’s crewmates. His eyes widened in panic as he watched the pirate’s snatching up weapons and rushing out of their beds, but when the tired bleariness cleared from his eyes, he noticed many of them were smiling ear-to-ear. A beat later, he realised the frantic shouts he could hear from above deck were joyous and celebratory, not fearful like he’d first thought.
Jude leapt from his bed to join them, enthralled to find out the cause of their excitement.
He followed the rush of pirates to the stairwell and took them two at a time, doing his best to dodge between brandished swords and clubs as he went. When he arose onto the gun deck, Jude froze at the sight of Sebastián, who stood over one of the cannons to help another pirate load it. He knew right away whose side he wanted to be at during whatever was causing this kerfuffle, so he stepped out of the stairwell and ran over to where Sebastián had just looked up to see him.
“Jude, you’re awake!” he exclaimed, grasping at Jude’s hands when the newcomer came to a halt by his side. “Have you heard?”
“No! What on earth is going on?” Jude whispered frantically, squeezing his hands in response.
Sebastián only let go so he could sling an arm around his shoulders, then directed him to the window his cannon was lined up to. Right away, Jude noticed a vessel sailing ahead of them, which the pirates must have set their sights on. It was too far away for him to make out the colours of its flag, but they were gaining on it quickly.
“We’re attacking a ship?” Jude asked breathlessly, eyes transfixed on the vessel.
“Your first raid,” Sebastián whispered back excitedly, squeezing Jude’s shoulders. “Don’t be scared. I’ll get you through it.”
“I’m not scared,” Jude replied quickly, though he wasn’t completely sure. “I want to help.”
Sebastián laughed, loud and heartily, as he leant away and gave Jude’s back a heavy pat. “Of course you do,” he murmured, gripping his shoulder affectionately. “Go get yourself a weapon from on deck and meet me here when you’re ready.”
Jude nodded, and with a final glance back out the window, ran to the stairwell.
Emerging onto the main deck, Jude looked up to see the rope nettings were covered in pirates who’d hoisted themselves up for a better view. He ran past them all to a weapons rack on the port side, which only had a few pieces still remaining. The swords had been snatched up already, so he grabbed the next sharpest looking thing; a long halberd with a chipped, rusted blade on the end.
Once he’d adjusted his grip and figured out the best way to hold it, he looked over the bannister to see they were suddenly much closer to the opposing vessel. Above him, the flagpole clinked with the sound of a rope and pulley hoisting their black flag into the sky.
The ship heaved as the navigator steered them towards the opposing ship, and a voice from the helm cut through the sharp morning winds. In an instant, the entire ship rattled from beneath Jude’s feet when a fierce explosion burst from the gun deck. He winced and clapped his hands over his ears, but the sound was already echoing through him as he watched a cannonball shoot across the sea and clip one of their target’s masts.
The pirates that hung from the ropes all cheered in unison when the collision was made, but the orders didn’t stop. The first mate continued shouting from the helm, and soon there were ropes and grapples flying as they pulled up alongside the opposing vessel. Jude could see the franticness of the other crew as they hoisted sails and tried to outrun them, but the pirate ship cut through the water with ease until they were able to secure themselves beside their chase.
When a gangplank was slammed down to connect the two ships, the situation finally settled in Jude’s mind. There he was, standing frozen at the bannister of a pirate ship, about to board a vessel of defenceless merchants. He stumbled backwards as he watched his crewmates storm across, fearful of both getting involved and getting in someone’s way.
The deck suddenly shook with the recoil of more cannon fire. One, two, three, set off in quick succession, tearing into the merchant ship’s hull.
Jude clutched his halberd to steady himself, using it as a walking stick to stay on his feet when their ship rocked against the water. He stumbled back further, hiding behind the mast to try and collect himself.
Rather than remind himself why he was there in the first place – his mother; his job; his stupid fucking town – all he could focus on was how severely his hands shook around the pole of his halberd. But he wanted to do this. He had to. To fight amongst his new crew would be a chance to prove himself, but more than that, it was his chance to fight back against everything that had wronged him. He needed to do this.
Jude held his breath and peered out from behind the mast. No one had managed to board their ship yet, but fighting had broken out on the merchant vessel. He tensed at the sound of clashing steel and cries of pain, but what made his heart skip a beat was when his sights landed on Sebastián as the man crossed over the gangplank.
Without another thought, Jude leapt out from behind the mast and ran towards him. As he stumbled his way across, his eyes widened to see his friend crossing swords with one of the merchant sailors, despite the skillful way he held his blade. It was the look on his face that made Jude worry; he didn’t share the same devilish grin as their crewmates, but furrowed his brow in concentration and kept glancing over his shoulder amidst the fight, distracted from what was in front of him. Something was wrong, and if he wasn’t careful, he’d be cut to ribbons.
Jude ran forward and lunged his halberd between the fighters. It caught the sailor’s blade and knocked it out of his hand, though he missed scathing any flesh. What mattered is that he was at Sebastián’s side, and his opponent was now unarmed.
“There you are!” Sebastián exclaimed, eyes widening only for a moment before he spun and slashed his sword against his attacker, slicing red down his torso. Jude flinched at the sight and threw himself forward into Sebastián’s waiting arms, then quickly pulled back to look him in the eye.
His features had relaxed and a smile was tugging at his lips, but his brow was still furrowed with worry. “I thought you’d rushed ahead and gotten yourself killed!” Sebastián exclaimed, gripping one of Jude’s arms tightly. “And here you are, saving me instead.”
“Only because you’re dancing around like an idiot!” Jude hissed, but he gripped him back just as tightly.
“I was looking for you,” he laughed. “Now, grab your spear– stay armed. I imagine they’ll be surrendering soon, but we have to stay on our toes.”
Jude grinned and nodded, finally filled with excitement to be standing in the middle of a pirate raid. He heaved up his weapon from where it was stuck into the deck, then ran to rejoin Sebastián’s side as they stalked the length of the ship together.