The pirate and the gypsy queen
This is one of quite a few fanciful pieces I wrote about the sea, I hope you like it.
A shrill wind blew like Winter’s Shrew along the weathered pier.
It tore at cloaks and wooden boats and pierced them like a spear.
From off the roiling sea it tore and wailed against the stone
And he who dared that deadly gale dared it all alone.
Among the gathered merchantmen and rakish men o’ war
A brigantine of twenty guns stood tethered to the shore.
Proud she stood, a fighting ship, oak from deck to yard.
The heart and soul and mistress of the pirate Jean Renard.
For endless days that mighty gale besieged the Cornish Coast,
It lashed in hate the steadfast shore, shrieking like a ghost.
The sailors in the seaside bars enjoyed their brief respite
And used the time, as sailors do, to drink and whore and fight.
Inside the small and cheery inn behind its battened doors
The captain of the Black Queen paced the oaken floors.
Upon the ‘Widow’s Loft’ he stood staring out to sea
A prayer to the cold North Wind at last to set him free.
Upon his wanted head he wore a price of government gold,
‘Dead or Alive’, the caption read, for anyone so bold.
He knew too well this deadly gale was momentary truce,
Beyond it waiting, biding time, the shadow of the noose.
Then he spied beyond the glass, approaching down the lane,
Behind exhausted horses, faces turned against the rain,
A coach and mounted escort, its windows dark as sin.
Its sodden driver stopped the coach outside the captain’s inn.
A mighty bolt of lightning lit the scene with eerie light
As from the coach a figure stepped wrapped against the night.
With hair so long and scarlet and eyes of deepest green,
Framed within the portal’s light stood the Gypsy Queen.
His heart beat like a hammer as their eyes met through the gloom
All before him disappeared as she walked into the room.
Coruscating shards of light careened within that space,
As entranced he stood, unmoving, his beating heart arace.
Cascading curls of scarlet hair framed that flawless face,
Her heaving breast and ivory skin encased in silk and lace.
Candle light reflected bright from the earrings on her cheeks,
She shook the heavy road coat off and raised her head to speak.
“Tis not the night for man nor beast, asylum here I crave.
Anyone abroad this night will find an early grave.”
“If you could be so kind good sir,” to the proprietor she spoke,
“A stable for my horses and a place to hang my cloak.”
Her eyes met his one last time as she turned around to leave.
His wits returned Renard withdrew a kerchief from his sleeve.
A jaunty bow, a rakish grin, a twinkle in his eye,
A warning growl from out the dark from her escort standing by.
She left that space a darker place as she turned and left the room,
Even the fire gamely toiled to pierce the evening gloom.
He watched her climb the hotel stair and vanish out of sight.
He chuckled to himself and thought, ‘I’ll have some sport this night.’
And still the howling tempest lashed the house without respite,
A shrieking soul in torment seeking shelter from the night.
It crashed against the tortured glass and shrieked around the eaves
It thundered like a living thing left haunted and bereaved.
They met again at dinner as the tower bells chimed nine,
Roasted meats and pheasant and cups of Spanish wine.
Polite conversation and considered repartee’
The Gypsy Queen and he who dares the haunted, silent sea.
They spoke about the weather and the spring-time in Madrid,
About the restless ocean and the secrets that it hid.
He told her tales of far off lands that she had never seen
Of France and Madagascar and the places in between.
She told him of her giant oaks and the glades of emerald green
Of firelight and open roads of dark wood nights serene.
She spoke of dappled sunlight and the colours of the fall
And how the gypsy soul must heed the full moon’s mystic call.
“It seems we’ve much in common, that our lives are pre-ordained,
We follow not the paths to which so many souls are chained.
Our roads though very different are very much the same,
We’re chattels of the Evening Star in the context of the game.”
“I fear you are mistaken sir,” she said with mock concern,
“A privateer you are I fear and common law you spurn,
I am but a Gypsy, I wish nobody harm,
Your sail seen on a wind tossed sea is reason for alarm.”
“M’lady, surely we are not so different you and I,
We’d take a dullard’s money in the twinkling of an eye.
I may choose a rapier and you the crystal ball,
Bandits of a different cut, I wager after all.”
Two chairs flew back and burnished steel reflected candle-light
Renard drew last and moved to keep both bodyguards in sight.
Across the velvet drapes the shadows danced as if to flee.
“It seems your dogs aren’t spayed madam, I’ll do it now for free.”
“Stay your arm Renard,” she begged, “I took it not as slight.
I’ll not see blood spilt needlessly on such a wicked night.
I fear my brothers see offence where none was surely meant,
Let’s keep our necks intact at least until the claret’s spent.”
“I fear the hellish journey has played havoc with their heads,
It’s time they cooled their blood and sought the shelter of their beds.”
They flicked her murd’rous glances as she took them by the arm
“You’re just a call away my loves, relax, I fear no harm.”
They stood alone at last against the fire’s warm embrace,
The hiss of burning logs the only sound within that space.
“Such loyalty is rare madam, I’d have them in my crew,
But alas I fear that they reserve it just for you.”
“A life upon the road good sir spares little time for rest,
It teaches us to watch our own and never trust the rest.
Townsfolk tell their children to consider us with dread,
Lest we come at midnight and steal them from their beds.”
“I bear the title Queen throughout the forests that we roam,
My subjects are the shadow folk, the highway is our home.
But still, alas, at end of day I’m Gypsy born and bred
And those whose towns we travel through would gladly see me dead.”
“Your story is my own,” he said, “I too must watch my back,
A list of those who’d string me up isn’t something that I lack.
Both those who hunt me on the sea and those among my crew
Who’d kill me for the ransom or a tot of rum or two.”
They talked and laughed into the night safe inside the Inn
He watched the way the shadows danced across her silken skin.
The way her eyes drew firelight and glittered all the while,
The way she made his blood race with the beauty of her smile.
Two different worlds collided in the hours before the dawn,
The barricades breached at last, all pretension torn.
They spoke in lover’s whispers with the fire burning low,
The secrets of their hearts revealed that no one else would know.
But the wariness of the hunter held their beating hearts at bay.
That instinct that bids you turn to fight another day.
Their souls were tied to deeper things that no one else could share,
Those things that banish love for good to sorrow and despair.
Any heart that sails with him the sea will soon beset
And founder on the shoals of disappointment and regret.
Whilst she within her darkened glades must heed the pipers tune
And steel her heart from all who dance beneath the Stealer’s Moon.
For those precious hours before the storm their hearts were free,
Unshackled from the shadows of the ghosts that bid them flee.
Let loose from iron cages like hunted, haunted birds,
Their eyes said what their hearts felt without the need for words.
Then at that moment when at last their hearts had fused as one,
Through the heavy curtains shone the first cold ray of sun.
He kissed her as the cockerel’s call heralded the day,
Then wiped a tear from off her cheek as she turned and walked away.
He watched from the ‘Widow’s Loft’ as the sun rose on the day,
Hoping he would see her face before she rode away.
Their eyes met all too briefly and her tears were clearly spent
But he knew she placed a promise in his heart before she went.
The heart of a sailor man is pledged to Davey Jones,
He must sail the haunted sea forever and alone.
And she is of the forest her heart not hers to give,
Condemned to spend her nights alone as long as she will live.
And out upon the storm tossed sea as she thunders through the spray,
The memory of that kiss comes to haunt him through the day.
And often in the firelight she thinks of him awhile
And the Gypsey Queen may shed a tear and smile her secret smile.