Read Part 1 here.
Melville burned. The wooden bottle-cleaning stands near the waterfront. The rebottling plant at the center of town. The village gardens. The brick homes. They all burned.
The crew of the Sarsaparilla hefted crates of bottles, shattering every glass container they could find. Men and women who had labored for years to catch wild bottles from the asphalt sea wept as they saw their life’s work literally shatter before their eyes.
The pirates rounded up the townsfolk in the square. One of the late mayor’s lieutenants attempted to calm the group. “Listen, they’ll burn our homes, but if we stay calm, they’ll let us live. We are not what we own. Remember that!” She spoke with conviction. She looked every person in the eye. She comforted crying children and calmed every fluttering avian.
And that’s how she caught Rootbeard’s eye.
“You, lass. Here.” He gestured with one of his cutlasses.
The lieutenant stood and approached. She felt her hips sway. She hated that her author had written her as seductive. She needed to be strong now, not sexy.
“Your name,” the pirate captain commanded as she drew near. The crowd behind her sat, silent and watching.
“Marina Talon,” she spat.
“A good name for a captain’s wench, don’t you think? I like the shape of your arms. You’re strong, I’d wager. And in more ways than one,” he leered.
She hated that she didn’t take more after her avian father. She could use some claws at the end of her fingers and not just some feathers in unsightly places. “I am strong. I’ll kill you in your sleep. And then I’ll captain your boat to some brothels so the whores there could point and laugh at all your men. And then I’ll let them sail your tugboat off the edge of the world in shame.”
Rootbeard stepped close. She smelled the sweet coming off of him, his foamy beard tickling her nose. “My men might have some things to be ashamed of. Aye. But I suspect you’d think different of me.”
She kicked him between the legs. Hard.
He grunted. He seized her by her long brown hair. He swung her around as he held his cutlass against her throat. “If you want to play hard, lass, I can match your efforts.”
“I think she’s not interested in your company, sailor.” The voice cut through the murmurs of the townsfolk and echoed in the square.
Rootbeard’s men swung around, searching for the owner of the voice.
Atop a nearby building, leaning nonchalantly against a smokestack, stood a dashing figure in a bright red shirt and a captain’s hat.
“Who’re you?” Rootbeard thundered, still holding Marina by the hair.
“Some call me the Shopping Cart Pirate. And I don’t take it kindly when other pirates sully our chivalrous occupation with such uncouth displays.” He stood and strolled to the edge of the roof.
The men around the square trained their flintlocks on him.
“Oh, now, you wouldn’t shoot down a man about to offer an honorable combat to your good captain, now, would you?” The man atop the roof clicked his tongue at them.
“Kill him,” grumbled Rootbeard.
Ferocious, deep-throated yipping filled the square. Chihuahuas the size of direwolves launched into the area, each targeting a different man with a gun. The pirates turned and fired on their terrible attackers.
Rootbeard had no gun. No dog tried to tear his arms off, even as his men around him fell to the beasts.
The Shopping Cart Pirate sauntered to a drainpipe at the edge of the roof and slid to the ground. “Well then, shall we duel, or will my associate have to act again to make sure that all things are settled with honor?” He drew a rusty blade from a cardboard sheath.
The captain flung Marina to the ground and drew his second cutlass. “Aye. Ye leave me no choice.”
“Honor is not a choice. It is a demand.” The Shopping Cart Pirate saluted his opponent. “But honor makes another demand.” He nodded to Marina. “My lady, it is your honor he has offended, and not mine. I will not defend you unless you request it of me.”
She snarled, “Kill him.”
“Very well. Have at thee!” He lunged toward the captain.
Rootbeard blocked the lunge with one cutlass as he swung with the second toward his opponent’s head. Shoppy leaned forward to let the blade pass over him and spun into a second attack. Rootbeard countered and lunged. Shoppy leaped, somersaulted in the air, and landed behind Rootbeard. He slashed toward the pirate’s left side. He blocked as he spun toward the blade. Using the hilt of his second cutlass, he smashed down on Shoppy’s blocked blade.
The rusted sword shattered like a glass bottle under the attack.
The Shopping Cart Pirate flung the useless hilt away and plucked a dagger from his sleeve and used it to fend off one lunge, a slice, a second lunge. The next attack cut into his left arm. The crimson shirt soaked up blood. He grunted.
Rootbeard grinned. “One dagger against two cutlasses? Your chivalry won’t help you now. You’re the only pirate I’ve ever met in Barrelbottom with a shred of decency. I thought all those pirates were used by their authors. You must have been a very bad character.” He lunged again.
His opponent tried to block with his dagger, but missed. The captain’s cutlass sank deep into the pirate’s chest.
The Shopping Cart Pirate fell to his knees. “Honor has been satisfied. You have won the duel. Kill quickly.”
Rootbeard grinned. “With pleasure.”
This is a Barrelbottom Tale.
Read the conclusion of “Melville Falls” here.