Late July 1718, Nassau
“Those are my men in there,” Edward growled, raking the others with a steely blue glare. “I'm not leaving them. I'm not letting them be hanged.”
“Kenway,” a big tall dark haired man tried to reason with him, stroking his long black beard. “They are held by the Brits. That garrison is well nigh impregnable.”
“They'll be hanged, Kenway,” another big man spoke, a man with a military bearing and brown sideburns on his cheeks. “You can always find more rats to recruit.”
“I wonder,” Edward said softly, rounding on Benjamin Hornigold, the last man to speak. “I do wonder, Ben, if it was your men in there, if it was you in there.” He paused and held Ben's eye. “If it was me in there... would you still insist on sitting out here on your hands?”
Benjamin Hornigold opened his mouth to answer, then shut it, glowering and looking away. Thatch looked hard at him, then at Kenway and harrumphed. They' d been at this for hours now. Arguing back and forth with no result. Kenway clearly wanted to get his men out and stick it to the Brits at the same time. That's what pirates did. That's what a captain did for his crew. He stuck by them, through thick and thin. Yes, Ben was right. Kenway could easily pick men up here in Nassau and in Kingston and in Havana. His reputation would ensure a steady supply. Thatch knew, however, that bodies wasn't all a captain needed, wasn't nearly enough to truly run a good ship. Loyalty was necessary too. A captain depended on his men's loyalty as much as they depended on the captain to guide them and look out for them, look after their interests as well as his own. If Kenway were to desert these men now...
“Kenway is right, Ben,” Thatch declared darkly, tapping his half empty mug of rum on the table and staring the other man down. “We can't leave them there. It's a crude trap the Brits have set you, Kenway. They hope you walk into it.” His grin is tight. “As I know you will. Me and Ben'll help you out.” He turns to smile at the big pirate whose face is stone, all teeth. “Won't you, Ben?”
Hornigold, fingering the butts of his pistols, glared from one man to the other, from the blond fellow privateer with his stubbornly set mouth and hard blue eyes to the black haired intense pirate feared all over the Caribbean and even beyond if the rumours were true. Between Edward Kenway and Edward Thatch, also known as Blackbeard, Benjamin Hornigold could not bow out. He knew that. Knew he was weak in such illustrious company. For now. But someday....
“Aye, Thatch,” he nodded at Blackbeard who stared at him hard. “Aye, Kenway. I'll help ya.”
“Good,” Thatch boomed and polished off the rest of his rum. He wiped his arm across his face and sighed, his face lighting up with happiness at the chance to wreak havoc and mayhem. “We pirates stick together. Or we'll be stuck to.” He laughed, throwing his head back. Edward smiled thinly shaking his head. Thatch was one of those ebullient men whom nothing seemed to depress, not even the prospect of dancing on a noose in the end. They were all for the noose, Edward knew. They were pirates – criminals in the eyes of the law, of decent folk. Edward had known some 'decent' folk in his time and knew better than to trust in the mercy of the law. Here, he made his own law.
“We need a plan, Thatch,” Benjamin remarked, reasonably enough.
“I have one,” Edward slid onto a chair and pulled out a map of the Nassau with the fort clearly marked. “You, Ben, and you, Thatch, attack the fort from the sea, close to dawn. Bombard it.” His voice was low, intense. Even here in Nassau there were always unfriendly ears to account for. “Keep them distracted to give me time to get the prisoners out.”
“Alright, Kenway,” Thatch scratched his beard. “Will do. How much time do you want?”
“Half an hour. One hour tops.” Edward leaned back, arm draped over the back of the chair. “I have no intention of fighting my way in or out.”
“How do you plan to get in?” Ben demanded, hands folded on the table, eyes on the map and the positions Edward had drawn there. “What's your way out?”
“A secret passage. Unguarded. Right into the fortress. We'll be disguised as a patrol, Redcoat patrol. In the chaos no one should pay us any mind.”
“How many men are you taking?” Thatch asked, clearing his throat and spitting to the floor of the room at the Old Avery's, their usual hangout that Anne's burly bouncers kept secure and respectable enough for the Brits to leave her alone.
“Ten,” Edward replied, handing the folded map to Thatch. “Enough to slip in, fight if necessary, not attract attention. Adewale and the Jackdaw are ready just in case you two need help.”
“Edward,” Benjamin said carefully. He would try once again to convince Kenway of the folly of his enterprise, even though he knows the stubborn man wouldn't listen. “You'll raise a hornets' nest here. The Brits aint done so badly by Nassau. They've brought in order, stability. Can't you see that?” He leaned forward, searching his former comrade's face for any sign that Kenway understood, that he saw how dangerous it was to stir the Brits to anger and revenge. “If you succeed, Kenway, they will come after you. Woods Rogers himself will come after you – us. Us too because we're associated. Would you let us all die to save a few worthless thugs?”
For a long time Kenway and Thatch stared at him as he continued. “Woods Rogers is here, Kenway. Woods Rogers himself, commanding this damned blockade. He will lead the manhunt for you, your Jackdaw, Thatch and me and everyone else here. You'd kill us all, Kenway. Kill us all over nothing.”
“The lives,” Edward said slowly after a long silence. “The lives of my men are more important than whatever some jumped up aristocrat might think or do to me and mine. If necessary, I am quite willing to pull down Nassau around their Redcoat ears to see them freed.” He looked keenly at Benjamin Hornigold, a former privateer with a soft spot for the Brits: he would not attack British shipping, military or otherwise. That had always seemed a little strange to Kenway – after all a pirate had no allegiance but his own. Hornigold, it seemed, still held on to some vestige of the old world, of aristocracy. “Do you understand me, Ben?” he asked softly, hands flat on the table as he stood. “Nassau can be rebuilt. The lives of my men cannot.”
Ben stared, opened his mouth to say something and closed it without saying anything. The blond man's mind was set and he would not be budged. Hornigold threw up his hands, giving in.
“Alright, Kenway. Fine. We'll distract Rogers for you.”
Thatch sat forward in his chair, boots thumping on to the wooden dirty floor. “We'll give you your hour, Kenway. More if we can.”
“Very well.” Edward nodded. “I will have Adewale ready the Jackdaw. As soon as they see your attack, the galleons will come in. Don't fight them. Run. We will regroup at Great Inagua.”
Thatch inclined his head sharply and stood, rubbing his hands, eyes gleaming.
“Let's go give the Governor a good kick up his sorry Redcoat arse!” he crowed leading the way out of the tavern into the setting sun.