It happened in 1719… “BEFORE THE MAST”
“Behold! A cry from the crow’s nest.
A ship appears from the south west.
The years below deck that bored me,
All lead to what lies before me:
Hear the terror! Fires burn and cannons sound.
Fate awaits me, as the vessels circle round
See the slaughter - cutlass swings and pistols fire.
I hold my breath, close my eyes and hang on for
Death before the mast.”
SInce the beginning of 1719, the alliances and hostilities between the European nations extend all the way to their distant colonies, causing the Caribbean Sea to boil with conflict as the War of the Quadruple Alliance begins to unfold. The English, French and Dutch have allied their forces against the Spanish, and from Aruba to the Bahamas and beyond, there is no quiet spot ashore or at sea.
Besides the political turmoil that leads the colonies to the point of tearing at each other’s throats, the pirates and privateers are also on the prowl. Terror rules the trade routes, and both Spanish and English authorities have sworn to try and end piracy in seas.
While the ships are fighting storms and enemies, on the islands life attempts to go on as normally as possible in the face of the war; people work, pray, drink, brawl, party, fall in love and break up. In a world where nobody is what they seem to be, everyone has their own secrets: the tavern owners and barmaids are spying for the pirates, the tanned merchant sailor with a charming smile is a mercenary following his mark, the youngest English Navy sailor is a girl in disguise, the French Governor is involved in shady deals with the pirates, including granting them hidden protections… Who knows what other secrets people could be hiding?
During a working dinner with the English governor of the Bahamas - Sir Woodes Rogers - a strategic alliance was formed, with the English privateers agreeing to assist the English and French Navies in the ever present battle against piracy, as well as against the common enemy in the Caribbean: Spain. The daring plan agreed upon was to disguise their man-of-wars as defenseless merchant ships and pretend to be a trading convoy, a juicy piece of bait for both pirates and Spaniards alike who certainly would not be able to resist sailing into the allied firepower of the strong vessels, blinded by their greed… or will they be able to see the trap?
Meanwhile, the privateers and the Navies aren’t the only tricky ones in the Caribbean. The pirate ship the ”Caribbean Siren” has been spying on the English Navy’s moves in Kingston, as well as watching for the arrival of a rich Manila Fleet in Havana. Nobody ever knows where their informants will be hiding, and their cunning makes them just as formidable a foe as the Spanish. Information continues to change hands as the weeks go by, and no one can ever be certain who has the advantage in this war…
What’s Already Happened
Early in the spring of 1719, the French Navy ship ”Le Phenix” got lucky and managed to board, plunder, and sink the Spanish vessel ”La Princesa”, taking the Admiral’s daughter hostage. The French capitaine Raoul Duval looked forward to a sure promotion for his successful venture, as well as his valuable booty, but his luck was quick to change. His already damaged ship was boarded by the notorious pirate crew of the ”Caribbean Siren”, and not only was Duval taken prisoner, but his proud French flagship was stripped of anything with worth, including the high-born Admiral’s daughter. Yet surprising to everyone, Captain Duval, as well as the rest of his ship, were set free again, leaving his crew to wonder at what price they had been granted their liberty…
Back in Tortuga, the pirates partied the night away, celebrating the victory while the newcomers who jumped ship from ”Le Phenix” and ”La Princesa” tried to fit in with the new crowd. But somewhere in the midst of the festivities, the pirate captain made a bad bet in a game of cards, and was nearly fooled into losing his sailing master. Fortunately, the bartered man managed to get himself out of the trade with a little bit of intimate service, and returned to the captain who had mistakenly bet him away.
In Cuba, when it was discovered that the Spanish Admiral’s daughter was missing, a mercenary known by the name of El Moreno was sent to retrieve her. Though he soon brought her home to her father safe and sound, he kept to himself the information that she had been all too willing to go with the pirates in the first place, and had been reluctant to be rescued…
Through March and April, the French seamen were forced to spend a couple of long months ashore before their ship, ”Le Phenix”, was finally repaired from the damage the pirates had inflicted. But once the imposing vessel was back out on the high seas, the alliance of the English privateers, the English Navy, and the French Navy wasted no time in putting their plans of attack in motion. The three vessels assumed disguises as merchant ships, and by doing so managed to ensnare two pirate ships, when they then towed to Port-de-Paix. But much to the allies’ dismay, the ”Caribbean Siren” was otherwise occupied, and didn’t take the bait…
However, the ”Siren” crew was not able to hold onto their streak of luck much longer. After an unfortunate succession of events, the pirate ship’s sailing master suffered an intense flogging after infringing upon the pirates’ code, and then was further tormented by the boatswain’s mate, who abused the already weak man while no one else was around. Feverish and frightened, the sailing master fled to Port-de-Paix, where some friends secretly helped him recover his help. But in an attempt to find the sick and runaway sailing master, the pirate captain, Sol Galvez, ended up being captured and imprisoned on the French island along with two other pirate men taken as “trophies.”
It didn’t take long for the pirates to formulate a plan to rescue their captain, though, and after sneaking their way into the fort where the men were imprisoned, they managed to free Galvez and return him to Tortuga.
Not long before the pirates’ escape plan was put into effect, a mutiny ensued aboard the privateer ship, ”The Fate’s Hand”. The mutineers killed the acting captain and then took the ship they had captured from the pirates as a prize, renaming it as the ”Twilight Shark” and sailing under a newly elected captain. With a letter of marque from Nassau and a ragtag crew of men, the new privateer ship set off in search of prey, ready and willing to take on Spanish and pirates alike.
Fortunately for them, the privateers didn’t have to wait long before an opportunity for triumph arose. On the 23rd of June at St. John’s Festival, the Duchess of St. Albans made a startling arrangement with the pirates. She asked them to attack her husband’s ship, and kill him in the process, which the crew of the ”Siren” readily agreed to. After confronting the ship in battle, the pirates took the Duchess as a “prisoner,” killing her husband as requested.
But before the noblewoman could even be brought to solid land, the pirates found themselves in an encounter of a very different kind. On their way back to Tortuga under the cover of night, they were attacked by the ”Twilight Shark”. Although the details of the battle aren’t known to many outside of the two crews, the fact of the matter is that the pirates invoked the right of parley, and a truce was reached between the ships. The privateers took the Duchess with them and returned to Kingston, where they were received as heroes, and the pirates went home to fight another day…
After the ”Twilight Shark” captured a Spanish galleon as a prize, they weighed anchor only to realize that Captain Sharky, as well as his trusted man, Kemba, were missing. Investigations made them understand that their captain and fellow crewmate won’t return anymore, since they had been sold to a slaver. So, they had to elect a new captain, who started gaining new prizes for them due to an original way of gathering intelligence.
After a string of victories in battle, the ”Caribbean Siren” set out yet again on an expedition at the beginning of August of 1719, not knowing that it would be their last aboard the ship. They encountered the vengeful allied English and French Navies all too quickly once at sea, and the resulting clash came with disastrous results. How many of the crew survived this battle, which ended finally in the sinking of the ”Caribbean Siren”? It’s up to you to count them… But like the legendary bird getting reborn from its ashes, the remaining crew got regrouped again around their captain, gaining a new ship, the “Rising Sun”, new members and new victories… Will they win also against the forces of nature, as hurricane season is ongoing?
The Navy forces are regrouping too after the taxing battle. There is a new British ship, HMS “Sovereign”, with a new captain, ready to fight pirates, and the known French flagship, ”Le Phenix”, has a new captain, since the former one has been promoted to rear-admiral.
A new governor arrived to Saint Domingue, the former one being recalled to France after having married away his daughter to the new flag captain. This means the complete end of the “closing eyes” policy against pirates selling their loot to the local merchants, and enhancing the war against piracy.
Times are changing, and weather too. A strong hurricane hit all the islands and all the ships in the open sea at the beginning of October 1719.
It took a great toll, both at sea and on land. At sea, our four ships had found themselves stranded on the same desert island in the Bahamas, where they had sought shelter from the storm. The pirates and the privateers had been forced to conclude a truce and cooperate for the time of their stay on the island, otherwise none of the two ships could get repaired and sail off. The Navy ships cooperated too, but they were allies anyway. And an alliance comes with a price – including the one of sharing the treasure discovered on the island… Only if the island of Inagua could tell us about the secrets it had witnessed during those days! Friendships forged between people who might find themselves, next month, exchanging broadsides in a battle, brothers found on opposite sides, and many more…
Both on land and at sea, the survivors are facing reconstruction problems, mourning their dead and working to repair their possessions.
Hispaniola was hit by an epidemic and it was in quarantine for most of the month of October. The rear-admiral and the captain of ”Le Phenix” had risked on several plans when entering the harbour despite the yellow flag.
In Kingston, there was famine until the next convoy of ships with supplies arrived from the Windward Islands, as the previous ones had been not only hit by the hurricane, but also destroyed by a Spanish armada, against which the Vice-Admiral had sworn revenge. Said and done! A blockade against Cuba happened in November and December, with the help of the French allies and of the privateers.
In Tortuga, the inn “Elixir d’Armagnac” was attacked and looted by pirates remained shipless after the hurricane. Will the owner and the tavern maids succeed to regain the inn’s good reputation after having got the revenge, but not recovered the lost valuables?
Once the ships returned to their home ports and their repairs finished, people attempt, more or less successfully, to pick up their lives and go on. The treasures found by seamen while stranded on Inagua will definitely help some of them cope with the aftermath of the hurricane. Others need something else than gold to soothe their grief… Some people are making plans for the future.
The British Navy ship HMS “Sovereign” arrived, in November 1719, to Port de Paix with a delicate mission for which it needed the help of the privateers and of the French Navy… They left, all allied ships, to blockade Cuba, as retaliation for the cutting out of the supplies for Jamaica by the remains of the Spanish convoy – which, if the hurricane didn’t side with the British, would have attacked Jamaica too…
They got some blockade runners, some escaped them, but deep in the night, the French Rear-Admiral was hit by a crossbow bolt, the assassin succeeding to disappear in the waters. According to the message he left, he had been sent by the Spanish Admiral, not only with the intent to stop the blockade the hard way, but also as a revenge for the way he had taken prisoner the Spanish Admiral’s daughter, back in February…
The pirates left on a new expedition too, as the freshly repaired and strengthened ship has swallowed a lot of money. And most expeditions come with a blood price…
Relationships and Intrigues
Love and romance abound in the Caribbean, and it is a well known fact that sometimes, the relationships, the scandals, and the gossip – both true and fabricated – can become as complicated as the bloody battles themselves.
The tavern keeper from Tortuga, Maribel Vargas, fell in love with the most unlikely suitor, a young and innocent French pirate, without knowing that he wasn’t the only one pining after her. But a few months later, when learning the whole truth of the other man’s love, she made a painful decision, and broke the heart of her French courter to follow truer love with the pirate master gunner. (Said Frenchman got soon comforted by a lovely naïve Mulatto, whom he not only swept away to Tortuga, but he married her officially, circumventing the Code Noir interdictions.) Would the lovers of the Tortuga women be so strong and understanding to help them get over the attack on the inn, happened in their absence?
The French Navy rear-admiral Raoul Duval continues to stir up the Caribbean with his highly secretive and intriguing love life, which rumor has it consists of an ex-pirate male lover as well as a pretty mistress who is carrying his baby – or so he thinks… To keep the affair out of the way of gossip and scandal, the captain has arranged a marriage for his mistress, with no intention of letting her, or his child, out of his life anytime soon. Will the birth of his first son, in October 1719, influence him in any way? (Not too much, since at the New Year Masquerade he is finding a new mistress, of higher status than the mother of his child).
Over the time, the French Governor’s daughter, Marie Josephine de la Bastide, has managed to raise the interest of not only two French Navy lieutenants, but of an English one’s as well. In the end, however, only one of them had the courage to ask her father to give them his blessing, and he obtained it. The wedding of Marie de la Bastide and Giles Laurent took place in early September, much to her father’s happiness, as he had to return to France soon, and Laurent has been promoted in recent months to a captain’s position.
The noble ladies of Saint Domingue raise the interest of many men, not all possessing the blue blood and family fortune needed to court them. Helene de Croismare had found herself prey of nasty rumours affecting her reputation, following unchaperoned discussions with a few Navy men. Would her fiancé believe in her innocence and not break the engagement? And who else would believe her?
The New Year Masquerade, celebrating in style the arrival of the year 1720, is also prone to secret negotiations and confusions of all kind… Anything can happen behind the masks! From new relationships to negotiating secret exchanges of prisoners… or even trying to seduce a mark in order to apply the coup de grace!
And the intrigues are never ending…
What’s Happening Now
A new year is dawning. Peace is to be signed soon, and the former enemies will get allied against the common enemy - pirates, looting indiscriminately. Privateers remain in the business only for hunting pirates. Will our pirate crew survive?
For a start, there is discontent aboard the French Navy ship. Mutinous thoughts are passing through some sailors’ minds. Will they dare to actually do anything?
As for the British Navy ship, it is going to be sent on a special quest… where only seagulls dare… Will they come back safely?
What happens next? Who will be fighting whom, and who will find death before the mast? Whose lovers will weep somewhere ashore, and whose will celebrate, showered in gold and gifts? That’s entirely up to our players… and to you! Sharpen your blades, load your guns, drain the last sip of rum, and raise your sword to swashbuckling adventure!
Feel like joining us and continuing the story with us? You are welcome!