Sea Witch Voyages

EXCERPTS

Index: (Scroll down for each excerpt)

Sea Witch  
Part One
Chapters 2 & 3 : Jesamiah meets Tiola for the first time
Chapter 22 Dec 4th 1716 : Jesamiah's Birthday
Part Two
Chapter One July 1717 - Tethys, the Goddess Spirit of the Sea is awake and watching....
Chapter Twenty-five Tiola goes into the sea to meet with Tethys

Bring It Clos
Chapter 17 - 10th October 1718 - Jesamiah meets with Blackbeard

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The Time : The Golden Age of Piracy, 1716
The Place : The Pirate Round, from the South African Coast to the sun-drenched Islands of the Caribbean

Escaping the bullying of his elder half brother, from the age of fifteen Jesamiah Acorne has been a pirate with only two loves - his ship and his freedom. But his life is to change when he and his crewmates unsuccessfully attack a merchant ship off the coast of South Africa. 

He is to meet Tiola Oldstagh an insignificant girl, or so he assumes - until she rescues him from a vicious attack, and almost certain death, by pirate hunters. And then he discovers what she really is; a healer, a midwife - and a white witch. Her name, an anagram of "all that is good." Tiola and Jesamiah become lovers, but the wealthy Stefan van Overstratten, a Cape Town Dutchman, also wants Tiola as his wife and Jesamiah's jealous brother, Phillipe Mereno, is determined to seek revenge for resentments of the past, a stolen ship and the insult of being cuckolded in his own home.

When the call of the sea and an opportunity to commandeer a beautiful ship - the Sea Witch - is put in Jesamiah's path, he must make a choice between his life as a pirate or his love for Tiola. He wants both, but Mereno and van Overstratten want him dead.
In trouble, imprisoned in the darkness and stench that is the lowest part of his brother's ship, can Tiola with her gift of Craft, and the aid of his loyal crew, save him?

Using all her skills Tiola must conjure up a wind to rescue her lover, but first she must brave the darkness of the ocean depths and confront the supernatural being, Tethys, the Spirit of the Sea, an elemental who will stop at nothing to claim Jesamiah Acorne's soul and bones as a trophy.

Sea Witch  (The First Voyage)

 Jesamiah meets Tiola for the first time

Chapter Two
Aboard the Christina Giselle, a girl, Tiola, stood peering over the rail, mesmerised by the foaming water churning away along the side of the hull. Yesterday a school of dolphins had kept them company for several miles, their silver bodies leaping and glistening as they flashed and darted. Today, it seemed they had a different companion, one unwanted and uninvited.
   Tiola. Fifteen. Named for her grandmother, an old, old name, Te-o-la, short and quick, not Ti-oh-la as some, wrongly, said. She was slim and not very tall; a tumble of midnight-black hair, with eyes as dark. Her features were fine, almost delicate, her mother used to jest she was a fairy child. She was, in a way.
England, Cornwall, was many miles, many weeks and many tears behind. She would not see her home or brothers again. Nor her mother. Mother was already in the next world, gone to God. Except, while she had hanged, the jeering mob had shouted that a woman who plunged a knife into the heart of her own husband, was of the Devil’s breeding; would burn in Hell. From there it had been an easy step for someone to shout “Witch!” and for the blood-fever of superstition to spread. Had it not been for one of her elder brothers hurrying her to safety, Tiola would also have been lynched. Her father’s blood had been spattered on her clothes also.
   The irony? It was not Mother who was the witch.
  Tiola’s guardian, Jenna Pendeen, shielded her eyes against the glare of the sun and peered at the approaching vessel. “Is it not a British flag she flies? Surely, she is of no threat to us?”
Behind her the Dutchman, Captain van Noord, shrugged. “I grant she may be British,” he proclaimed in perfect English, “but if that is all she is, then I am the King of Spain!” His manner was easy and confident; neatly dressed and polite he roamed the decks of his ship, hands clasped behind his back, his darting glare missing nothing. Rightly, he took pride in the sleek vessel he commanded.
Realising what he meant Jenna squeaked alarm. “You suspect her to be a pirate?” Her hand jerked to her throat. “Are we in danger?”
   The Captain offered a polite bow. “Ah no, Ma’am, I do not suspect them to be pirates, I am certain of it. From experience, I know her crew for what they are, rogues and thieves. Degenerates who deserve to kick from the gallows. As no doubt they shall one day.”
   Tiola said nothing. No one deserved to hang, it was a wicked death. Only if the victim had friends or relatives to act as hangers-on, to add their weight to the jerking torso, was the slow strangulation hastened to its gruesome end.
   “Ought we not show more speed?” Jenna asked nervously, glancing up at the billow of the sails. She fluttered her hand at Tiola. “You understand, my concern is for my ward Miss Oldstagh, not for myself. I promised her mother I would take care of her. In the hands of pirates I dread to think what indecencies she may suffer.”
   Jenna, unable to do anything to save her beloved mistress had transferred her devotion and duty to the only daughter instead. Someone had to accompany the child she had insisted, she could not leave England, flee for her life, alone.
   “It would be interesting to meet a pirate,” Tiola announced, turning to smile at van Noord. “Do they all have eye patches and gold teeth?”
   The Captain smiled at her naive innocence. “Alas child, the pirates I have had the misfortune to cross a course with have all been dirt-grimed drunkards with black, foul teeth and even fouler language and manners.”
   Jenna drew in her breath, horrified.
   “You have my word dear lady; they will not be setting foot upon this ship.” Van Noord half saluted his two passengers and strolled astern, issuing calm, unhurried orders as he went.
   Tiola linked her arm through Jenna’s. “He knows what he is doing, we must trust him.”
   The older woman snorted. For all he was a gentleman, through most of her forty years of life she had never found a reason to trust a man.
   Almost leisurely, the Dutch crew were reducing the spread of canvas to fighting sail. A ship had to be balanced, the height of her masts to the length and weight of her hull. Full sail would give them speed but not manoeuvrability. And in a fight, it was being able to turn that counted. That and the power of her guns and the efficiency of her gunners.
   Excitement was shivering down Tiola’s spine. Real pirates! All the stories she had read of daring adventurers: Sir Francis Drake and his expeditions against the Spanish; Captain Morgan’s famous sacking of Panama and Portobello. William Dampier, whose exploits had led him to sail twice around the seas of the world, and who was even now on a third journey. And Captain William Kidd, whose pirate bones had bleached from where they dangled on the gallows at London’s Wapping docks. They had pushed him off from the wagon twice. The first time the rope had snapped and he had tumbled, shaken but unharmed, to the mud of the low tide. The misfortune had not served him well for they tied another noose and pushed him off again. To the end he had shrilled his innocence, claiming he was a privateer with a royal commission, not the scoundrel of a pirate.
   Tiola shivered again. She was not afraid, the child she was had too much liking for the romance of adventure, and the ageless woman, the part of her that carried the inherited gift of Craft passed down through alternate generations, grandmother to granddaughter, was not afraid of anything. Aside, Captain van Noord knew exactly what he was doing.
   Equally however, these men rapidly closing on the Christina Giselle appeared to be as competent in their trade.
   At first sight of the cannons being run out, Jenna fled to the sanctuary of their cramped cabin situated forward on the lower deck. Tiola remained above, although prudently she moved to the taffrail along the stern, out of the way of the scurrying men busy rigging protective netting. Several of the crew shouted at her to go below, including Captain van Noord, but with determined stubbornness she pretended not to hear, and they did not have opportunity to bother with her again. 
   Her throat dry, breath coming short and quick, Tiola’s emotions were tumbling together, alarm mixing with exhilaration. She was determined to stay and watch, for there was something here – someone – stirring her excitement. She stood, her hands gripping the rail as the pirate ship ran closer, studying the men aboard her as the smaller vessel began to overhaul the Christina Giselle. Her vision enhanced by the ability of Craft, Tiola needed no telescope to put to her eye.
   Pirates. A ragged bunch, most of them barefoot and unwashed with greasy, unkempt hair and dressed in loose woollen shirts and seaman’s striped trousers. Their captain stood astern on the quarterdeck, smarter dressed than his crew; a buckram coat, white breeches, a feathered plume in his cocked hat. His hands were clasped behind his back, his face grim as he glowered, steadfast, ahead.
   Her gaze slid over him, dismissive. No, it was not his spirit calling to hers – there must be someone else. Someone who…


   And then she saw the man with the black hair and the blue ribbons.

.... A fierce battle ensues, the pirates getting the worst of the quarell... 


Three
Jesamiah slashed at the tangle that had once been a topmast. One more broadside and they would be finished. His arm was screeching pain, blood slithering, wet and sticky, down his arm. He ignored it, would tend it later – if he survived that long. If he had not bled to death or stopped another shot of iron.
“Keep firing!” he bellowed at the men in the waist – although only two guns were now intact. “Gunners, forget this mess just keep bloody firing! You other men get aloft and help cut those shrouds free!” Anger stormed in his eyes, despair shrieking in his deep, husky, voice. He paused from his hacking, wiped sweat and grime from his forehead with the back of his sleeve, spreading blood grotesquely across his face. Mermaid lay wounded and sluggish, as if along with the broken mast her heart had been torn from her. Their only hope was to keep fighting, for she could not run. Jesamiah closed his eyes, not wanting to witness her agony. She was a good craft, she did not deserve to die so ignobly.
   With a cheer of relief and success, the men managed to hack through the last cable and the mast fell away with a plume of spray into the sea. They had a chance now, a slight chance to hold their own when the Dutch Indiaman next fired, when she tacked to run alongside, board and finish the job.
   Except she did not. The Christina Giselle was contemptuously sailing away as if the Mermaid did not exist; her guns were being run in and as Jesamiah continued to watch, stunned, open-mouthed in furious disbelief, her maincourse fell in a billowing cloud of canvas from the yard, and topmen were racing aloft to loosen off the topgallants. Sailing away as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Not bothering to waste her time or effort in finishing off an unworthy opponent.
   Jesamiah swore; the sweat trickled down his face, beneath his armpits and the small of his back. He sheathed his cutlass, wincing, clamped his hand over the wound in his arm, watched, incredulous, as sedately returning to her original course the Christina Giselle put water between them.
   The entire engagement had taken no more than fifteen short minutes.
   “Bastard!” he yelled as he stood amid the chaos of broken wreckage, the shattered mast, the dead and the dying. No time just yet to feel for them; that must came later – they all knew the risks of a fight, survive and hope to become rich, or die poor. That was the deal. Death stared them all in the face, whether it was from the raking of a cannon’s shot or the tightening of the hangman’s noose. The close proximity of death was not an easy companion, but while pirates lived, the life was good and the rewards when they came along, worthwhile.
   The wounded needed tending, a necessary task that Jesamiah hated but was another of his responsibilities as quartermaster. They needed a surgeon aboard. When they reached Cape Town he would have to remind Malachias about finding one.
   Glancing along the shambles of the deck he ran his hand through his hair, unsure where to make a start. Looked again at the departing ship. Damn you! he thought. Damn you to Hell and back! Then he paused, stared, not believing what he was seeing. Was that a child? A sodding child was standing at the merchant’s taffrail! Had that Dutch captain been so confident he had allowed a passenger to observe the whole debacle? Cocky bastard! Jesamiah narrowed his eyes to see more clearly, but from this distance detail was distorted. All he could see was the shape of a girl with dark hair – a girl for God’s sake!
   Annoyed, he glowered, but as he turned away to get on with what he ought to be doing he had the uneasy feeling she was watching him, and him alone. The hairs at the nape of his neck prickled and his spine shivered. Sound faded from his ears; the moans and pleas for help from the wounded, Malachias calling orders – everything blurring in his mind as if nothing else mattered, as if there was nothing else outside the existence of himself and this girl. She was staring at him and he felt naked and vulnerable beneath her gaze, as if she had stripped him of his rough, hard exterior, the necessary façade of a pirate. As if she could see the private hidden person. He found his hands were shaking, had the strangest feeling this girl, whoever she was, knew everything about him. Everything.
   Stranger still, he did not mind her knowing his secrets, felt almost relieved that at last he could share them with someone. Her presence was not intrusive but comforting – and suddenly a suppressed memory of the past flooded into his mind, a memory of experiencing something similar to this before!
He had been on his knees spewing his guts into wet earth puddled with his own urine; was distraught, crying and gasping for breath. He was not yet fifteen years old and his brother was behind him carolling vicious and vindictive laughter. And through the shame and fear he had distinctly felt a hand resting between his shoulder blades: a sensation filled with love and protection. And a voice had entered his head, breaking through the utter, bereft and lonely despair. 
   ~ Fight him! ~
  Words he was sure, later, he had imagined, for everything that dark night had been tainted with bewildering distress. Yet, squinting across the widening gap of the sea at this girl he questioned his assumption. Had he imagined it?
   He felt – how did he feel? Odd, as if someone was standing beside him, smiling. As if a smile was in his head – not words, not thoughts, just a loving, protective smile.
   He looked down at the splinter of wood stabbing into his arm, at the blood soaking his shirt. Was this nonsense because of blood loss? Making him light headed? Yet, beyond this stupid idea that someone was standing here with him, there was no disorientation, no confusion.
   He had a sudden urge to look at that child properly; spun on his heel and hurried up the companionway steps to the shattered chaos of the quarterdeck, claimed the telescope from beside the ship’s compass, mercifully both still intact. Extending the tube to its full length, was about to raise it to his eye when Malachias, his face covered in blood, called his name and distracted his attention. The spell was broken. Jesamiah turned to answer and when he looked again she was gone; no one stood at the stern of the Christina Giselle. There was no girl. He shrugged. Perhaps he had imagined her after all? Perhaps it was the smoke, the noise, the anguished cries of the wounded begging for help – his anger – playing tricks on his mind? He shook his head to clear his senses, set his attention to concentrating on more important things; getting this sliver of wood out of his arm, tending the wounded – there would be amputations to do. The dead to see to, a few words of respect to be spoken over them before the corpses were sent overboard. The Mermaid to be salvaged, somehow.
   Busy, his mind occupied, he forgot the girl.
   As Tiola, with her gift of Craft, had intended him to.

Excerpt chosen by 
korculablue  - who left a comment below :
Hi Helen, this excerpt is a wonderful choice you have selected and I really enjoyed reading it all over again. I have found it very hard to choose a favourite as there are so many; not just in "Sea Witch" but "A Hollow Crown" which is the book I originally wanted to take my excerpt from.Coming from the North East of England I live very close to Durham and one of my favourite parts relates to this area. You won't be surprised though to hear I returned to "Sea Witch" Your description of that first battle at the beginning of the book; where Jesamiah and Tiola first encounter each other leaves me breathless with its emotive power. It was my first encounter with the story of Jesamiah and I couldn't stop reading on. My choice therefore is chapter 3 of "Sea Witch" Incidentally, your description of how Jesamiah came into being during your walk along the seashore touched me deeply and a perfect example of how your writing draws the reader right in there with you. 

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Capt. Jesamiah Acorne is only a fictional character, of course, created by me on a Dorset beach in the last week of October several years ago, but the scene written below had been a vivid dream (I know it sounds cliched, but it's the truth).
It was one of those dreams where I saw every detail in vivid clarity, and heard every word... including Jesamiah grumbling: “Fine bloody way to spend a birthday.”
I was annoyed, however, to have woken up - thus missing the next bit. Thank goodness I am a writer... I got up and sitting at my PC in my nightdress and dressing gown wrote the scene as I had "seen" it... and added the "what happened next".

Chapter Twenty Two
December 4th – 1716
With the onset of dusk, all the miscreants of Cape Town made their way to the brothels and drinking houses – all those who had no decent home to go to, which in this fleapit, was the majority. Jesamiah among them. It was the third day of December, tomorrow was his birthday he was entitled to celebrate. 
   The noise from the tavern below was increasing but he was too busily occupied with Aloette to notice the rowdiness. “That was good,” he said. Breathing hard and withdrawing from her, he leant across the bed for the bottle he had left on the floor, the sweat gleaming on his naked body. He took a long swig, offered it to her. She shook her head.
   “You have it, my prince, you need to get your strength back for next time.”
Jesamiah grinned, saluted her a toast. There was to be a next time then? Do anything for a handful of silver, these Cape Town strumpets. From the room next door – the walls were only thin planks of cheap timber, plastered over and painted in pink-tinted lime-wash – came the rhythmic protest of a creaking bed, a girl’s giggling and a man’s grunting. Another couple doing what Jesamiah was doing, along with half the sailors ashore from their ships. Rue was somewhere down the corridor with a redhead.
   “We have the entire night,” Aloette said, her voice low and purring.
   “You have paid me, have you not?” she added with a coquettish smile, while trickling her fingers over his nakedness, her broken nails tracing the patterns of the acorn tattooed to the left of his chest and the mermaid on his left forearm. Doing as she suggested, he drank; with most of the bottle already consumed and his desire for a woman sated, was asleep before he had emptied it.
He awoke to find the candles had burnt low – several were out, the stubs a congealed mess of molten wax. The hubbub downstairs was less rowdy, the sounds in the street beyond the window quieter. The only noise from the room next door was a man’s snoring. The early hours, then. He groaned, half pleasure, half headache and rolled across the bed his arm seeking the warmth and delight of the girl. Grunted, annoyed to find her gone. He opened his eyes properly, looking for her. The shabby room was empty, her side of the bed quite cold, her clothes missing.
   “Bitch,” he muttered as he lurched from the bed, fumbled for, and almost filled, the chamber pot, and retrieved his shirt, breeches, stockings and boots. Most of his clothes were scattered over the floor; he vaguely remembered being in an eager hurry last night. He ensured his pistol and cutlass were where he had left them, looked for his coin purse in his coat pocket. The money was gone, he would have been surprised to find it had not, but his weapons were untouched. The coins did not matter there had only been five or six shillings anyway, and he kept a few gold doubloons sewn discreetly inside his waist sash. He could always filch some more silver when he had need of it.
   Rather unsteadily he dressed, found his waistcoat under the bed; wound the sash around his waist, satisfying himself that the gold was where it should be, and fastened the leather belt from which hung a cartridge pouch containing shot and powder, and his knife. He pushed his pistol through his belt, checking it was loaded, and buckled his baldric slantwise across from his right shoulder, more irritated to discover that the girl had also taken the second bottle of rum.
Grumbling at the dishonesty of women, he set his three-cornered hat firmly on his head, tossed his long coat over his arm and unlatched the door. Met face to face with the barrel of a pistol. No time to draw and cock his own weapon; he swung aside, attempted to slam the door – the man fired, the acrid smell of powder and the sharp sound of the shot reverberating into the room.
   Jesamiah reeled, somehow managed to ram the door shut with his boot, slapped the bolt home. Dropping his coat, breathing heavily, aware of a searing pain below his left shoulder and the sticky feel of trickling blood, he dragged a chair across the door, ramming it beneath the latch. He winced, slid his hand inside his shirt and pulled it away to discover blood on his fingers. He felt at the back, nothing; the lead had not gone clean through then. Damn.
   He could not think about it now, there were more pressing matters to consider. He ran to the window, grabbing at the catch to the slatted wooden shutter. The thing was stuck, rusted solid. He pulled at it, swore again, spun around frantically looking for something he could use to smash his way out. The door was splintering as an axe struck through the flimsy panels, revealing more faces. He drew his pistol, cocked the hammer home, hearing the necessary double click and as the door burst open, aimed, fired. One shot. One dead man. He was looking at four more very alive men with swords and pistols. Submitting, he stuffed his now useless pistol back into his belt and resigned to fate, held his hands up in surrender.
   “You’ve got me fair and square, mates.” Nodding at the rumpled bed, added, “You must have paid her more handsomely than I did.”
   “Jesamiah Acorne,” the one with the fancy sword said, waving it uncomfortably close to Jesamiah’s belly, his face crinkled into a leering snarl. “I am authorised to place you under arrest for acts of piracy committed against His Majesty King George and certain private parties. Crimes for which you shall hang.”
“Oh aye? It is a long way between here and the gallows, lads.” Jesamiah said with a tilt to his head and a calm smile. “Am I not entitled to a trial? The good citizens of Cape Town enjoy a good trial.”
“As they enjoy a good hanging.” One of the pistols was shoved nearer Jesamiah’s chest. “Judge, jury and rope are ready and waiting for the pleasure of your company. As we await the pleasure of our reward.” The pistol barrel prodded Jesamiah’s sternum, none too gently.
   He frowned. What reward?
   The hammer cocked. One click. Two. “One hundred and fifty beautiful gold pieces to him who delivers you into His Majesty’s custody.”
   “We figured we’d split it a’tween us.”
   Only one hundred and fifty? Jesamiah was unsure whether to laugh or feel insulted.
A long blink of silence and a frozen stillness; a waiting for one man to move before the other.
“I am afraid you may have need to figure again, mates.” Jesamiah finally said with a grin, “I’m not in the frame of mind to oblige helping you in your grand scheme of things.” He kicked out, hard and sudden, catching the startled pistol holder in the crotch, sending him sinking, groaning and clutching at himself to the bare floorboards. Falling forward, Jesamiah rolled, grabbing for the dropped pistol as he rose, fired. The man nearest the door yelped, blood pouring from where an ear lobe had been. And within seconds the room had became a vicious brawl.
   Ducking low Jesamiah drew his cutlass and slashed at the nearest pair of legs, avoided a punch, took a kick in his ribs. He felt something crack, a sharp hurt, crumpled, wincing, knocking the chamber pot over as he fell, but was up on his feet again, dodging another blow, taking a punch to the jaw that sent him staggering.
   A man lunged, caught Jesamiah off balance. Almost at the same moment another pistol fired, the shot thumping into his midriff – the two blows combined sending him toppling backwards, hard and fast against the window shutter. Thin and rotten, the wooden frame gave way and with a yip of surprise Jesamiah fell through, tumbling into the early morning quiet of the street below. He lay a moment, winded and disorientated.
   Gathering his wits, glancing upwards at the furious faces peering down at him, he was on his feet and off, running into the night, darting and weaving along the narrow, dim-lit alleyway as if he were a hare with the Hounds of Hell chasing after him. A musket shot whistled past his ear, he swerved, kept running, aware, with sharp curses rattling in his panting breath, that he was being followed. Damn them! They had been expecting him to make a run for it, had posted men outside. Dodging to the left behind some piled crates stinking of fish he flattened himself into the shadows, took the opportunity to get his bearings and breath back. He ran his left hand across his waist. Chuckled. No wonder the pistol ball had packed such a thump; it had met with one of his gold pieces! He would find a coin-shaped bruise there come daylight. Funny, the rest of the pain was not registering; he had a lead ball in his shoulder but could not feel it. Frowned, looked down at his right arm, saw a ragged shirt, sodden with blood dripping profusely from the torn skin beneath.
   He grimaced.
   Must have caught himself on the wood and glass as he crashed through the window, regretted looking. Now he had seen it his arm felt as though it were ablaze with searing fire. 
   Running footsteps, shouting voices and flickering torches coming towards him. He would have to move. He tried to run, his legs feeling suddenly odd, his vision blurring. He stumbled, fell to one knee. Leaning on his cutlass – incredibly, still clasped in his right hand at the end of the bloody mess that was now his arm – he scrambled up, kept himself going by willpower alone, aware his blood was draining out of him like water leaking from a spout. He clamped his left hand across his forearm, ignoring the protest from the wound in his shoulder. If he did not find a safe hiding place soon, tend to this, he might well bleed to death. Could he reach the Inheritance? He cursed, realising he was running in the wrong direction, heading uphill away from the harbour. Aside, these were not fools; they would have had the savvy to put a watch on his ship.
   “Fine bloody way to spend a birthday,” he grumbled, stumbled again, leant against a wall, head back, breathing heavily. He closed his eyes, let the world of these dark, slum alleyways of Cape Town spin by a few times. Feeling the first signs of consciousness beginning to ebb away, desperate, he murmured, “In the name of all that is good, someone help me!”
   His vision blurring, walking – staggering, he no longer had the strength to run – he reached the end of the sewage-stinking alley, turned right then left, the agony of his arm and shoulder tearing through him. Men coming towards him. Where were they all appearing from? He side-stepped into a passageway, swore colourfully and explicitly as an arm caught at his waist, spiralling him inward towards the unlit darkness of a sheltering wall. He tried to kick out, to lift the cutlass clutched in his right hand but all strength was leaving him, seeping away with his pumping blood. He almost fell, but a woman’s arm was holding him upright. Her fragrant smell of summer meadows and flowers filled his nostrils. Her voice, urgent, in his ear.
   “I can help. Do not struggle.” Deftly she turned him so his back was against the wall, her body pressing close into his to hold him upright as much as to shield him.
   “Put your left arm around me – quick man! Do it!”
   Bizarrely he still wore his hat. She reached up tipped it forward to hide his eyes, and then her lips were over his mouth kissing him, her palms flat against his chest as torches flared and the sound of heavy boots approached.
   With one hand she brought Jesamiah’s head down burying his face in the mass of her black hair. She half turned, glowered at the two men who had paused to watch.
In a clipped uneducated accent, she snarled, “Go pay fer yer own pleasure, ye poxed curs! I be busy.” And she turned her head, her mouth seeking for Jesamiah’s again, her hand starting to hitch up her skirts.
   Grinning, the men moved off, one of them lewdly fumbling at himself.
   Bewildered, feeling wretched, Jesamiah moaned. This woman, a beautiful young woman, had come from nowhere, grabbed him, and was kissing him in a public alleyway. Yet when she had turned and bawled she was busy her features had blurred, her immaculate appearance had become ragged, greasy and smutty. He shook his head confused, felt the dizziness churn through him. His legs buckling, blackness rushing in, he began to
slide down the wall.
   He was heavy. Attempting to hold him up, she eased her arm further around his waist and half pushing, half dragging him, she turned in through a low, unlit doorway. Inside, the passageway was dark, a feeble light showing from the head of a steep flight of wooden stairs. She let him sink to the floor in a crumpled heap, shut the door and slammed a bar across to secure it. Heaving him upright, pushed him up the stairs, his feet stumbling over most of them.
   “Jenna!” she called, urgent, “Jenna, come help!”
   From the top of the stairs the light increased as a curtain was drawn back, its rings scraping on the wooden pole, a frowning, sleep-mottled face appeared. “Now what scrawny misfit have you brought home, girl?” The woman, dressed in night apparel, her hair twisted and tied in strips of torn rags advanced downward. “Lord, child! Can you not learn to leave injured tomcats to their own devices?” Nonetheless, she helped carry Jesamiah into the first floor room, the place filled with the pleasant aroma of herbs and coffee.
   “Put him on the table,” Tiola gasped, nodding her head at Jenna who swept lengths of material and sewing paraphernalia to the floor. His face was drained of colour, a low moan escaped his lips as he slid into unconsciousness.


(Part Two)  Chapter One 
July – 1717

Tethys, the Goddess Spirit of the Sea is awake and watching....

Tethys stirred, her presence swirling the currents as she travelled the vast loneliness of the bottom of the oceans. And as she passed, her shadow churned the debris of her accumulated trophies; the decomposing bone and flesh of once living things, lifting the rotting carcass of a whale, moving the mouldering flukes which were once its tail as if the creature were still alive. Rocking the hull of a ship torn in half, its single remaining mast pointing forlornly towards the far distant light as if imploring the sun to beat down upon the splintered and jagged decks once more. The tattered sails waved like swaying weed, and the empty eyes of the dead, her crew, stared, unburied and forsaken.
Tethys was alone among the dead, and there was no other like her. She was the sea, she was the ocean, and only in places did she meet her sister the land, her brother the air, or her semi-loyal daughter, Rain. But they all despised her greed and were indifferent to her loneliness.

She did not mind her solitude, but sometimes the desolation overwhelmed her and she had the urge to rise to the surface and make her presence felt among the humans who dwelt within the sight and the sound of the sea. She was searching for him, for one man in particular, the one she wanted as her own.
And where she reached with her senses, the winds of the world captured her scent and filled the night air with the smell of the sea and the sound of her desolation as she touched the shore and called to him.
~ Jessh..a..miah? Jessh..a..miah? ~


                 Chapter Twenty-Five


Later in the story, Jesamiah has been imprisoned (no spoilers, I won't say where or how) and Tiola and his crew are aboard Sea Witch trying to find him. Tiola decides to use her power of Craft to find him... she steps out onto the bowsprit and clinging there, with her mind she enters the sea, seeking Tethys... 



The Atlantic trundled beneath the keel and with her mind Tiola entered into the creaking and swaying existence of the ship, becoming one with the rhythmical shift and sway of movement; aware of every nuance of sound, of every constructed part of her.

.... (she travels on down, through the ship and into the depths, down and down) ... 

The seabed, the scuttle of crab and starfish. Sand and rock, and coral and shell and weed. The scatter of bones – the gaping corpse of a fish another of a seal. Of drowned men and wrecked ships.
A forest of swaying weed, taller, thicker than a ship’s mainmast. A place where it was difficult to decide what was plant and what were the tentacles of a giant squid or octopus. A chasm opened below her, zigzagging across the sand floor, ominous and black. Pitch black, where no light could penetrate. Yet, as she descended, Tiola could see, in the eye that was her mind, as clear as if a flare was illuminating everything with an eerie glow of translucent light.
     Deeper! Down deeper! Going down and down to where even the reddish light faded and only flutters of iridescent weird creatures pulsed in the blackness. Where monsters lurked and night was never day. Where such things as stars and moon, sun and sky, wind and rain were distant dreams from an age long, long forgotten.
     And through it all, from the foaming surface to the fissure that was the deepest rift of the deepest ocean, Tethys watched. As she watched everything and saw every movement in and around her elemental, ethereal, existence. Every birth, every life; every death. She saw the whelk and the whale, the shark and the shellfish. Had seen the seas when they were silver acid and molten lead. Had witnessed her daughters, the rivers and the lakes and the rain turn to ice and cover her sister the land. Had seen the first creatures live, thrive, and became fossils of stone. Rejoiced at the first birth. Mourned the first death. Witnessed the reptilian beasts drag themselves from the mud and impassively watched them evolve into the terrible lizards they were to become. As, in the passing and passing of time – no more than a rippled sigh to her – she also watched them die.
     She had seen the rocks of the ocean bed heave themselves upward to form mountains so high they touched the airless sky. Had seen the great plates of the continents split apart and grind together in earthquakes of destruction, while volcanoes spumed lava to form new, fertile land. She had been there when the world had began. Would be there when it ended.
Tethys.
~ Who are you who dares enter my realm, mortal? ~
~ I am Tiola Oldstagh, Lady. And I am no ordinary mortal. ~
~ You are from the creation that is Man. ~
~ We are, all of us, created from the stuff of the stars. We are all made from the same breath that created the first simple life, therefore we, both you and I, Tethys, must be kindred of the race called man. Yet, we are not mortal. ~
~ I helped create that first life. ~
~ As did the knowledge of Craft which I possess and carry. You are therefore my sister, and as your kindred it is my right to enter your ocean realm without the asking. As it is my right to beg your help to find my mate, my lover. Your son. A son who is one of the sea. ~
     In another part of her being, Tiola heard and felt the chasms of the depths of the oceans shift slightly; the bottomless fathoms begin to open like a toothless mouth to swallow something down. Tethys, annoyed, was sinking, preparing to take Tiola with her into the abyss of eternity.
The unseen but oppressive presence of Tethys mocked Tiola’s awareness.
~ You fear me. ~
~ I fear nothing except being too late to save my lover. ~
~ I can destroy you. ~
Tiola’s turn to mock. ~ You cannot. ~
~ You have not the strength to fight me, Witch Child. ~
~ I have no intention of fighting you, Water Woman. Nor do I fear you. I fear nothing and no one, for I have already survived fear. It is those who know they can survive who are to be feared, Tethys. We are the ones who are dangerous, because we have conquered fear. Therefore it is you who fears me, my Lady Tethys. ~
The sea rippled, a wave rolled, driven by no earthly wind. Scurried across the surface of the ocean, gathering speed and power.
~ I can destroy the ship. ~
~ You can. But you will not. ~
~ Will I not? It is my right to take those ships and sailors whom I fancy for my own. It is the price they must pay for molesting my Being. Those I choose must pay the passage for those I reject. ~
    Tiola's body-self felt the wave of water rise up and crash over her and the bowsprit, a deluge of wild spray that sent Sea Witch yawing to larboard, the sea rearing huge, washing over her decks. Tiola heard, from a great distance, Rue shouting urgent orders for men to get their arses on deck.
~ You will not destroy the ship Tethys, because she carries men who admire your wisdom and respect your power. ~
~ What care I for men? ~
~ You care for one of them, Tethys. This ship is his ship. Destroy the Sea Witch and you destroy him. ~
~ I have no care for pirates. Nor for witches. I rule the sea. I am the sea. My word, here, is what shall be and what shall not be. ~
~ You are the currents, you are the surf and the tides, the spindrift in the wind and the foam upon the shore, but you cannot control me or tear this chain of silver anchoring the soul that is mine to the soul of the Sea Witch. Through the power of my Craft I have become one with her, as she is also one with her master, my lover. And your jealousy, Tethys, cannot divide us. ~
     In her body-form consciousness Tiola felt the chafe of the topmast fore stay against her arm, felt beneath her bare feet, Sea Witch stoutly rising as she lifted over another onrushing wave, the vessel determined and steady on her course towards the Chesapeake Bay. If Tiola were to glance upward way, away overhead, she would see, tiny and distant, the underside of the keel forging through the water. And out on the lonely thrust of the bowsprit, would see herself, her hair and coat and gown billowing around her in the sudden-come wind, glowing with phosphorescence, standing silent and alone in the darkness.
~ Yes. Look! ~
      If she looked, her concentration and conviction would be broken. To look was to doubt and Tiola knew she must never doubt her ability. Doubt was weakness. Confidence was strength.
Scathing, Tethys laughed. ~ You are new to your Craft, Witch. Come back when you have learnt how to use what you have. In a thousand, thousand years. ~


     And Tiola answered, proud and confident. ~ The shell that is my body is new, but not the knowledge I carry and use within it. In that I am as old as you. ~

What happens next?
Sorry, you’ll have to read the book!




~ ~ ~ 




~ ~ ~


Bring It Close
Chapter 17 
Thursday 10th October 1718

There was a distinct chill in the air in the quiet hour before dawn. Jesamiah stood under the trees, his hands tucked beneath his armpits, staring across the dew-wet lawn at the balcony and window from where he had just climbed, leaving Tiola asleep, her body curled, contented, hair tousled. A smile on her face. He had not woken her but had dressed quietly, placed one of the less wilted flowers in the dent of the pillow where his head had been, and left her.
“I’ll come for you when you are ready,” he had said as he had felt the shudders of ecstasy coursing through him, and had grinned as she had cheekily answered, “I am ready now, and you are about to come.”
“That’s not what I meant,” he had repeated later, after she had crept down to the kitchens and stolen him some food; after they had sat in bed, naked, together, devouring the spoils and leaving crumbs on the sheets. “When you are finished here I’ll fetch you.” And had added, suddenly doubtful; “If you want me to?”
He smiled up at the blank darkness of the glazed window.
“Of course I do,” she had assured him.
“I want to know about my father,” was the other thing he had said. “I want to know why he did nothing to stop Phillipe. Why he allowed a boy – a man, he was all those years older than me – to do what he did. I thought Phillipe was my elder half-brother, and I thought he did those things because being the elder somehow gave him the right. But he had no right. He was not my brother. He was not my father’s son.”
“Leave it,” Tiola had urged him, her palm on his chest. “They are gone, it is done. Leave it.”
He puffed air through his cheeks, his breath visible in the coldness. If only he could. If only he could!
He was fiddling with his right earlobe, realised suddenly that the hoop of his gold earring was loose, that the attached acorn charm was not there. He cursed as he fastened the hoop, hoped the acorn had fallen off in Tiola’s bed. That she would find it, keep it safe.
Lost in thought, he did not hear the whispered breath at his back until it was too late.
“Move a muscle an’ thee be dead, bastard.”
Jesamiah froze, willed himself to keep still as the pistol barrel pressed into his right temple. He forgot all about his earring as he heard the double click of the hammer. Prayed that his voice would not betray the fear thudding through him as he responded as nonchalantly as he could; “Hello Teach; you really have to learn how to move quieter if you want to creep up on people.”
It was a lie, he had not heard a sound, but Edward Teach, Blackbeard, would not be knowing that.
“What be thee doin’ ‘ere, Acorne, skulkin’ aroun’? Gotten thy eye on tha Guv’nor’s silver, hast thee?”
Slowly Jesamiah lowered his hands to his waist and felt surreptitiously for the slender blade concealed inside the facing of his coat. “I would wager I’ve been doing the same as you. Taking my pleasure with one of the ladies of the house.”
“Tha Guv’nor bain’t be pleased to be hearing tha’.”
“The Governor ain’t goin’ t’be ‘earin’ of it, is ‘e?”
“No’ ‘til ‘er belly swells.”
“When that happens, Teach, I’ll be long gone. Or I could put the blame on your nocturnal activities.”
The bigger, older man snorted, pushed the pistol harder against Jesamiah’s head. “Thee tried t’kill me. Thee crippled my sloop an’ made a gurt fool out o’ me in fron’ of my men. Give me a reason why I shoul’nay shoot thee ‘ere an’ now. An’ make it quick, I’m in no mood fer parlour games.”
With his left hand, Jesamiah eased the weapon aside. “You fire that an’ you’ll wake the entire household. You’ll probably think of an excuse to explain why you’re standing over a dead body, but saying why you are here, in the dark, an hour before dawn will be more difficult. Add to that, you owe me. Seeing as how you reckon I owe you, that makes us quits.”
Teach snorted again, but he un-cocked the pistol, lowered it. “An’ just how doos thee fathom tha’n? Thee lost me my ship. She were’n a fine vessel, tha Queen Anne’s Revenge.”
“I didn’t lose her. You were pissed out of your skull and you sailed her over a sandbar. You wrecked her, not me.”
A snarl began to pucker Teach’s lips. “An’ what of my sloop? Adventure? Thee nigh on scuppered ‘er an’ all, thee bastard.”
Slipping the knife into his sleeve, from where he could retrieve it in a hurry should he need to do so, Jesamiah tipped his hat back slightly. “Be that as it may. For some fokken stupid reason I saved your life, mate.”
“Fuckin’ tripe, thee bilge rat!” Raising the pistol Teach reversed it suddenly and brought the butt down hard into the curve where Jesamiah’s neck met his right shoulder. Jesamiah cried out and slumped to his knees. Willpower and gritted teeth made him ignore the agony shooting down his arm and stabbing up into his brain. He held his breath to ride it out.
A couple of deeper breaths and he forced himself to his feet. Halfway up he moved quickly. Stepping forward he thrust the blade up and under Teach’s waistcoat, pushed it against the lower ribs.
“You even think of blinking and it’ll be in to the hilt.”
“Thee casn’t kill me Acorne, nay un can. I ‘as made a pact with tha Devil.”
“I’m willin’ t’put that claim to the test.” Jesamiah was very close to Teach, his face almost in his; the smell of bad breath and body odour was nauseating, even with the general stench of uncleanliness a familiarity. Through the concealing bush of his beard ulcerous sores were spotted around Teach’s mouth and nose, a few blackened teeth were loose in his gums.
“I could kill you,” Jesamiah said, taking half a step backwards, but not removing the dagger. “Send you to the Devil to find out if he lied. Or are you goin’ t’throw the pistol into that flower bed over there and talk to me like a civilised gentleman?”
“Thee bain’t got tha guts t’kill me, worm.”
“Ah, but I have. Only, the price on your ‘ead ain’t ‘igh enough yet. Give it another month an’ you’ll be worth killin’. Now, do you want to know why I stopped you attacking the Fortune of Virginia or not?”
Teach growled, tossed the pistol away.
Jesamiah removed the dagger, but kept it in plain sight. “She sailed from Nassau, where she had been commissioned by Woodes Rogers who, as you know, is a bosom pal of Virginia’s Governor. The pair of ‘em ‘ave got bees buzzing in their bonnets about pirates who ain’t sworn an oath of amnesty. Are you listenin’ to me, Teach? They’ve got it into their ‘eads t’be rid of scummers like you.”
“I be list’nin’.”
“You were going to attack the Fortune of Virginia – you see, Blackbeard me old mate, you’re too fokken greedy. What had you assumed? That she was laden with rum; molasses; passengers? Slaves maybe?” Jesamiah shook his head, tried to ignore the throbbing ache in his shoulder. “You’d got it wrong. She was packed to the gunnels with armed militia. Her orders were t’draw you in, wait fer you to board. Then finish you off. Savvy?”
“An’ thee,” Teach sneered, “out o’ tha goodness of thy putrid heart decided t’save me? Pull tha other leg, it has a bell tied to it!”
“I decided to warn you ‘cause I figured if I did you a favour you’d stop sendin’ your bloody men to spoil me pleasant evenings with a bottle and a blonde.” Jesamiah slipped the dagger into his pocket, spread his hands. “I ain’t got no quarrel with you, Teach, and I don’t p’ticlarly like the way these bastard governors are tryin’ to run us out of the Caribbean. This is our patch. Let ‘em bugger off if they don’t like the way we do things.” He folded his arms. “I came here specifically to warn you, but if you don’t want to listen, I’ll not waste m’breath.”
Blackbeard grunted, nodded, fell for it. Every untruthful word. He put his arm around Jesamiah’s shoulder and steered him away from the house, heading through the boundary trees to walk up-creek along a gravel path of crushed ballast that crunched beneath their feet. Began boasting how he had made the girl he’d been poking scream with delirious pleasure. “Left she crumpled in a heap sobbin’ an’ wantin’ more. She’m nait been drubbed like that afore. Takes a man to show as how it be done prop’ly.”
“Indeed it does,” Jesamiah responded, wondering who the unfortunate victim was, then wondering if it was true. He could not see any woman willingly bedding with this odious man. And Teach could not have been ashore long. They must have taken a good while to limp home, and there was fresh tar on Teach’s hand, Jesamiah noticed, while his boots were mud-caked. Come to see Governor Eden perhaps? To arrange the secret offloading of cargo?
Stopping at the bank beside a wooden jetty, Teach indicated a bum boat, four men were huddled together in the stern, snoring.
“I be goin’ home to me bade, Acorne. I live’n o’er to there,” he pointed in a vague direction across the creek, “at Plum Point. I be wantin’ thee to row back tha way thee came, an return to thy little ship an’ get off m’river. If’n I catch thee here again I’ll string thee up from thy own yardarm by thy balls. Be thee understan’in me?”
Jesamiah touched his hat, turned on his heel. “Aye Cap’n.” He walked away, heard the sound of a hand slapping against faces to wake up sleeping men. Heard grunts and grumbles and then the splash of oars.
Sweat trickled down his spine. That had been close. Thank God for his ability to think quickly and lie convincingly!
Peering over his shoulder, Jesamiah saw Teach’s men rowing across the creek, Teach standing in the stern, one arm outstretched. Saw a flash, heard a loud bang and remembered belatedly that Teach always carried more than one pistol.
Felt the impact of a lead ball slam into his right shoulder. As he crumpled to the ground, heard a man laugh, then shout. “Nay’un tries t’better me Acorne! Nay’un!”








5 comments:

  1. Hi Helen, this excerpt is a wonderful choice you have selected and I really enjoyed reading it all over again. I have found it very hard to choose a favourite as there are so many; not just in "Sea Witch" but "A Hollow Crown" which is the book I originally wanted to take my excerpt from.Coming from the North East of England I live very close to Durham and one of my favourite parts relates to this area. You won't be surprised though to hear I returned to "Sea Witch" Your description of that first battle at the beginning of the book; where Jesamiah and Tiola first encounter each other leaves me breathless with its emotive power. It was my first encounter with the story of Jesamiah and I couldn't stop reading on. My choice therefore is chapter 3 of "Sea Witch" Incidentally, your description of how Jesamiah came into being during your walk along the seashore touched me deeply and a perfect example of how your writing draws the reader right in there with you.

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    1. Having a little blub here - what a lovely comment to read first thing on a Sunday morning! Thank you. As you are probably aware, I adore Jesamiah so I'm thrilled when I hear that others are enjoying his adventures (especially given that my ex-agent ditched me because I wanted to write Sea Witch MY way) Can I ask you to perhaps post some of your comment on Amazon and/or goodreads? Such nice words will go a long way to helping sell the series. Also, do you mind if I make a bit of a feature on my blog of the above?
      I'll sort out some of the chapter you mention and post it up here later today - and thank you again!

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    2. Your chosen excerpt is added above -thank you for selecting it!

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  2. Forgot to say Helen that korculablue reads Leila lol

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    1. p.s. I am busy writing voyage five - On the Account. Hopefully, it will be published early autumn

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Thank you for leaving a comment, your interest is much appreciated.

Helen