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The Hempen Jig

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posted on Jan, 12 2011 @ 12:23 AM
It was a mistake I made twelve years ago that brought me to this place; an empty belly's nagging hunger pains enticed me to follow a man of apparent wealth through the avenues of Bristol. As I stalked my quarry I realized I was not alone in my intentions that night, another young street rat like myself was skulking the shadows ahead with a watchful eye on my prize.

I had seen the well-dressed man before, this was another of his trips to the tavern so his purse could wait; it might have even been easier to snatch with a bit of the drink in him later. I broke off my pursuit with a new target in mind and no intention of sharing the night's prize. It was hard to catch up to him at first, the crowded streets were difficult to navigate for the dregs of society. I was on the heels of my usurper as his movements became more tense, he looked desperate and agitated; he was looking to strike. He clumsily struck out at the mark a few blocks from the tavern, I had his sword arm and spun him as he raised his dagger to strike, plunging my own stiletto into his chest.

I could see my prize standing before me, and his purse a hair's breadth from his sword. There we stood, my meal ticket and I across a dead man from one another, surrounded by horrified on-lookers. The man had known he was being followed; but it wasn't the corpse he'd been keeping wary of. He made me an offer, one-sided though it was; attack him and possibly get my prize or join his crew and never go hungry for as long as I worked for him. He offered me enough to eat for a week after I had sheathed my dagger, “incentive to be at the docks tomorrow,” he called it.

“KLUNK.” “Snap.”

I can once again feel the splinters digging into my feet and the sun beating down upon my chest. The noose around my neck feels tighter, heavier than it did before. The first of the three men beside me scheduled for death this day hangs lifelessly before the gathered crowd. They eye us like vultures as the governor himself levies the charges against the next man.

He was one of the first friends I made during my days as one of the crew of the sloop captained by a man whose life I saved. For nearly five years we ran trade routes protecting English merchant ships from French and Spanish privateers. We spent our hard-earned coin on women and wine and never slept hungry. Despite the captain's growing dependance on the drink, we thought those days would never end; until one fateful night when Poseidon's wrath was legendary. We were escorting a merchant ship returning from a plundered French port. She was overloaded with cargo and the captains in their wisdom moved her cannons to our ship. The storm claimed her quickly, capsizing her and dumping her crew and cargo into the angry sea. We fished some of the men from the water's clutches and dumped the excess cannons while the captain drank in his quarters, drowning himself in vintage wines.

The sheets were in tatters the next morning, the ship's compass smashed and wheel damaged by the fallen crows nest. A conspiracy was hatched by the end of the storm and any unwilling men had been lost to the sea. The captain was still asleep when we dragged him from his quarters and held him over the rail. We cut his throat and bled the drunken fool. His body was tossed overboard and thrashed mercilessly by sharks drawn in by the blood and bodies. After several days of sailing we put into a small unnamed port the men had talked about while we fixed what damages we could. There, in a city of outlaws we came to terms with what we had done.


No snap, some of the women in the crowd look away as my friend who fancied himself a bard struggles for breath. A cruel fate for a long-winded man who once regaled the crew with songs and tales of great deed and treasures; a cruel fate for any man who I cannot recall ever seeing kill another.

The governor is reading charges again, for a giant of a man this time. He was a head taller than any other man I ever sailed with, and possessed of more strength than any three men combined. Though he spoke little, he was honored by all the crew with which he served; Thor we called him, for surely, the old Norse gods could be proud of one such as he. I met him only a few years ago as a hand on the Queen Anne's Revenge. A small contingent of British troops put up a fight for the vessel and cargo they were transporting and I was fighting a man at the rail. In a furious succession of slashes I knocked his sword from his hand and shoved the defenseless man over the side. Credit where it's due, he gripped my belt tight and took me with him. It wasn't the first time I expected to die in a watery grave; but a sharp pain in my shoulder shook the few half-a* prayers I knew from my mind. I'll be damned if Thor didn't lift us both back up over the rail with one arm only to toss the Englishmen back like a dead fish.

I bought him several pints when we put in to port the next day, as did others; the three of us, I and my oldest and newest friends missed our departure the next morning. We found another vessel after a few days more of celebrating; she was a small but effective crew and I rose quickly to captain.


The entire fortress seems to shake as the Norseman struggles for breath; I am surprised the rope only creaks and strains; even with all the fury in the giant, it holds strong and wins the day. I wonder, as I look up at the knots meant for me, if there is a chance the rope maker was drunk that day; one can hope.

The governor reads my name as Thor stops kicking; I smile to the crowd when he begins reading my crimes. I would wave too, but the troops made sure to use iron shackles this time. The hangman's face is uncovered and he smiles at me as he caresses the lever that will speed me to my death. He takes pride in his job; no less than I took in mine. A few on-lookers spit when I begin to laugh, the governor seems well-intentioned but even Blackbeard wasn't possessed of this many crimes. My feet are numb, my chest is hot and this rope feels heavy. I wish he'd speed this up, if I'm to die as slowly as my friends I may as well start now.

edit on 1/12/2011 by eNumbra because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 28 2011 @ 12:43 PM
reply to post by eNumbra

Excellent read!

Thank you for quite an intriguing and descriptive journey...

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