As the thick pall of smoke cleared away, leaving behind only the sharp spicy tang of gunpowder, the Big Brenda hove back into sight.
Her sails were now in shreds, the bowsprit had gone and the main topgallant mast had sheared off and was hanging loose in a tangle of rigging. Many of the shrouds had been cut and there was evidence of heavy strikes to the hull.
The oversized figurehead was missing some important pieces of her anatomy and, indeed, there was no sign either of Black Bert’s flatulent bundles. A single plume of dark pungent smoke rose from somewhere on the quarterdeck.
There had been no reaction or retaliation whatsoever from the Big Brenda. Not a single shot.
“Kipper me capstans. Is that it?” said Higgs. “Oi fort dis wuz th’ Dread Pyrit Black Bob Roberts.”
“Naaar, naar,” said Lorst, shaking his head, “dis be sum uvver Black Bert.”
The helmsman guided the Wanderin’ Penguin close by the crippled ship.
“Load yer pistols an’ scurry up them ratlins boys. Preepair ta bord!”
Eager hands threw grappling irons across the rail and the ships were slowly pulled towards each other.
The crew of the Wanderin’Penguin blew loudly on their battle-vuvuzelas and chanted the pyrit war-cry, “Cum an’ ‘ave a go if yer fink yer ‘ard enuff!”
The two ninsō leapt across the narrowing gap as if propelled by springs, landing like cats, their razor-sharp longswords at the ready. They were quickly followed by several of the crew, swinging on ropes, knives clasped in their teeth.
The boarding party stopped, and looked around them in confusion.
Lorst stepped onto the captured ship.
“It’s a ghost ship Cap’n,” whispered seaman Earlie, turning around twice and spitting in his hat.
“Lets ‘ave nun o’ that sooperstishunry,” cautioned Lorst. “Luke…”
Captain Black Bert was alone, lying concussed on deck. The source of the odorous smoke plume was revealed, rising from Bert’s blackened codpiece.
“Best throw sum water o’er ‘is valoobles. Where is evverywun?”
“Listen!” said Higgs.
The faint sound of drunken singing rose from below decks.
"Way, haul away, we'll haul away Joe
To me ‘way, haul away
We'll ‘eave an’ ‘ang togevver
Away, haul away, we'll haul away Joe
Wunce oi wuz in Irelan’
Diggin’ turf an’ tayters
An’ now oi'se on a Pyrit ship
Crewed by Master…
‘Way haul away, we’ll haul away Joe”
“Oi fink dey’ve bin dishin’ out th’ grog a bit early,” suggested Higgs.
“Cap’n,” cried out a voice, “weez driftin’ towards the Shoals.”
“Aye, rite. Pick up that gyant weevil, oi promised yer a gude meel ternite.”