This year’s Christmas freebie

Tah dah! Secrets started life in an anthology and has now been liberated for me to share with you all as a Charlie Christmas pressie.

1804

Aboard the frigate Hecuba, two bells in the last dog watch. 

Only a fool would barge into Stephen Hopkins’s great cabin unannounced, especially when he was in conference with his first lieutenant. When Midshipman Rogerson burst through the door, he consequently got the reception he deserved.

“Are we beating to quarters?” The captain demanded, dark eyes glowering below a mass of dark hair.

“No, sir.” Rogerson was a sensible lad of fifteen, two years now at sea and utterly absorbed with serving king and country, so why he’d taken such leave of his senses as to come in unannounced was an utter mystery.

“Then, Mr. Rogerson, you are forgetting yourself. What is the meaning of this?” The lantern shadows on the captain’s face gave it an unnaturally solemn appearance. Barely more than ten years older than the midshipman but with all those years’ experience in his pocket, Hopkins seated at his own table in his own well-furnished cabin was a formidable man

“It’s a monster, sir. Two points off the larboard beam and very close. Mr Douglas said you were to be notified immediately, sir.” Rogerson was usually a bundle of nerves when in the presence of his superior officers but on this occasion he was strangely animated.

First Lieutenant Simon Paget smiled. Despite being the same age as the captain, he knew he gave the illusion of being younger, less careworn, if no less a sailor. “I’ve always heard about other people seeing sea serpents but I never believed it could be true. You’re not attempting to fool us, are you?”

The young man looked horrified. “Of course not, sir. It’s there all right, come and see.”

Lieutenant Paget caught Hopkins’s eye and managed by another smile to defuse the anger brewing there. He picked up his hat and placed it over his short cut locks. The new fashion, much more practical than the long queue the captain still favoured. “There’s not a moment to lose, I’d say.”

The scene on deck was like a tableau. From Douglas, the ship’s master, down to the meanest foremast jack, men were frozen in their places, eyes fixed on the object in the water. The sun had set early, being only weeks from the shortest day, but the steady stream of moonlight made observation easy. This was no optical illusion: this was indeed a monster. Huge, menacing and slowly approaching the frigate.

A long neck rose from the water like a sinuous mast, bearing a head that seemed too small to grace the body carrying it. That body could be seen just breaking the water—a massive bulk, as big as a finner—shining sleekly. There was the impression of a long, strong tail following behind, prompting Douglas to mumble about Behemoth and whether this beast also ate grass like the ox, or if its preferred food was jack tars.

Read the rest here…

2 thoughts on “This year’s Christmas freebie”

  1. Oh, I did enjoy this tale exceedingly. I agree with Mr Paget’s thinking upon a joint enterprise of Spirits. The Sea Monster sounded very like a relative of a well known Inverness resident 😳x🐝x

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