Dark clouds ran before the wind as the first light stole into the world. The black sky went grey as slate, the black sea turned grey-green. As colour stole back into the world, a hundred banners lifted and began to flap.
Blackbeard beheld the huge ships anchored at the shore. Sam Bellamy's ship, the Whydah, old Calico Jack's Kingston, Stede Bonnet's Revenge, Blackbeard's own ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge and many others floated proudly, their masts thrust up like spears. They belonged to the many pirate captains who ruled the Caribbean. Beneath them, the sailors began to move about, stirring coals into new life and gutting fish for the captains to break their fasts. The sea was stirring too. The waves grew larger as the wind rose, sending plumes of spray to crash against the longships.
Blackbeard stood and watched. He was a huge and heavily-muscled man. His shrewd and calculating grey eyes missed nothing and his nose was large and hooked. But his most fearsome feature was his beard. It was deep black which he grew to an extravagant length. He twisted it with ribbons, in small tails and turned them about his ears. As he stood on the hill and watched below, he looked like a king admiring his kingdom.
Soon, the men below left their fires to make their way toward the hill. Oarsmen, steersmen, sailmakers, shipwrights, quartermasters and the fighters crowded together in a crescent around the base of the knoll. The captains made their way up the slopes.
The Magister Thomas Barrow climbed up the hill, raised his bony hands and spoke.
"My fellow comrades. Today ends my term as the Magister of the Pirate Republic. I have led you to numerous victories and have done my best to uphold our Code of Conduct. But now it's time for you to choose a new leader."
The crowd roared in approval.
"Then who shall be our leader?” he asked.
Several pirate captains raised their hands and ascended the hill. Each captain was given a chance to speak to the people. Some stood and showered themselves with praises. They proclaimed themselves as "able", "courageous" and said that they will "lead them to glory and riches". Others flaunted their achievements. They talked of their daring exploits and how they raided heavily laden merchant ships and how they escaped British ships in epic chases. Blackbeard listened to all of them and kept frowning. He was not impressed by any. They were all cowards. None of them were strong enough to lead the pirates and would immediately surrender and accept a pardon if the British ever caught them. Soon the shouting died away and a consensus hadn't been reached.
Barrow announced again, "Who shall be our leader? Who will lead us for the next few years?"
Blackbeard made up his mind. “I will,” he answered.
At once the captains gave way to let him ascend the hill to stand beside Barrow. He stood up on the hill and faced the audience.
“You all know me. If you want sweet words, look elsewhere. I have no singer’s tongue. I have a sword, and I have you," he pointed at the audience. "With you by my side, we can achieve anything. There’s no one braver than us, no one stronger, no one fiercer in a fight."
The entire crowd was swept away by his boldness. They watched him with wonder. He continued.
"The others would have you be content with looting small merchant boats and cogs...but I shall give you more. I shall give you the brightest gold from Spain and the costliest fabrics from France. I shall loot the Dutch ships for their spices and will drown you in the finest wines from Portugal. I will give you anything and everything you wish. And instead of running away like cowards, I will chase the British ships should they trouble us and will put their crews’ to sword. For we are pirates, our writ runs everywhere the sound of the waves are heard," he ended with a fist raised in the air.
“THE BLACKBEARD!” shouted someone from below.
"THE BLACKBEARD! EDWARD TEACH THE BLACKBEARD!” cried someone else.
Soon others joined in. They stamped their feet and shook their fists and yelled "BLACKBEARD! BLACKBEARD!” The cry swelled and became a roar. It rolled up the hill, like a giant rattling the clouds.
And as a thousand voices shouted out his name, the Blackbeard smiled to himself and walked down the hill.
Author: Sai Reddy
Editor: Anubhi Srivastava