The Young Misery was a well feared pirate ship, so well feared, it was hardly mentioned in any record of the time. But this was also a slave ship, only her captain and crew were far worse than the usual slave traders of the time, they hunted and sold children. They did not care what color, creed, or race the children were, as long as they could work. If there were any number of young boys or girls on board a vessel they were attacking and looting, these pirates would take them aboard in chains to be sold with the rest of the merchandise. They would then sink the ship. Those few who survived to tell the tale of their encounter with these pirates all spoke of an odd white hot light that would slice through their main mast like a knife through butter and literally cut their ship in two. These tales were, of course dismissed as madness but because of the fact that they stole children these pirates and their captain, Hannibal “the butcher” Grim, became the most hated and feared in all the seven seas. It was rumored that these pirates sold the children to certain shady individuals in the Far East. The boys were to be used as cheap laborers and the girls to be used as objects of personal pleasure. The pirates were even rumored to keep a number of these children for their own purposes and pleasure. Many attempts were made to hunt these notorious villains down, none were successful. But on August 25, 1890, the hated pirate ship mysteriously vanished; she was never seen or heard of again. Some say the pirates were killed during a raid and those who had sunk them died in the process. Others say they were taken and killed by the shady individuals in the Far East they had done business with. But the truth was far, far more disturbing....
The Young Misery silently sailed towards its hidden harbor on a large island deep inside the Louisiana bayou. Her captain was in his quarters and did not see or suspect what was waiting for him. His crew on deck, however, noticed something was amiss but they too did not suspect the horror that awaited them. On the far end of the harbor, a small child dressed in rags spotted them approaching through a telescope and lit one lantern resting beside her on her high tree perch.
On the dock, at the inner most end of the harbor, a boy near the age of fifteen, saw the lantern come to life through a telescope of his own.
“They are coming.” he said.
“How many lanterns are lit, Stone?” asked a smaller boy.
Paul Stone, the leader of the slave children, lowered his telescope. “There is only one for now, Matthews.” he said. “But the ship is still a good distance out.”
The slave children were all captured and taken to the island by the pirates from a number of different raids to serve their own purposes and pleasure. Paul was once forced to act as one of the crew, using his sister’s fate to keep him in line. But that all changed when he found that the captain had used his sister as an object of pleasure. He revolted, freeing over a dozen recently kidnapped children who would have otherwise have become more of their tortured slaves.
Unfortunately, both he and his sister were captured and, as punishment, were sent to the pirate’s island hideout to be slowly, painfully, worked to death. But, after a long and trying year and six months, he, his sister, and all of the other slaves were ready to exact their revenge upon the hated pirates.
“Can we really pull this off, Paul?” asked a small girl.
“It’s the only chance we have, sis.” replied Paul. “If we fail here, Tina, we all die.”
Todd Matthew’s, the scavenger of the group, swallowed hard. “Do you think Brave will be okay out there?” he asked.
Stone swallowed a hard lump of his own. “Amanda knew the risks when she asked to be the look out.” he said.
Amanda Brave carefully peered through the telescope again as the pirate ship came closer and cursed under her breath as she spotted a small number of children in chains standing on the main deck. Knowing what was at stake, she lit the second lantern, praying the pirates would not see it, and climbed down from her high perch to aid the others. On the dock, Paul looked through his telescope and cursed as well as he watched the second lantern come to life. But, as he lowered his telescope, he knew that there was no time for anger or sorrow. The pirates had to be stopped, at any cost.
“There are two lanterns lit!” he announced to the other slave children. “You know what we must do!”
“They stole more kids and they are bringing them here!” said Todd angrily. “The dogs; they just won’t quit!”
“They brought more kids with them!?!” asked a small girl, frightened. “I thought they were just sailing out to the Far East for supplies!”
Paul placed a firm, reassuring hand on the girl’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, Grace.” he said. “We have a plan to rescue the children but we must first deal with the pirates. Just as we had dealt with the men they left behind to guard us.”
He pointed to a large pile of empty wine bottles and drained kegs of beer they had used to get the twelve pirates drunk so they could easily set them adrift. “We cannot let those monsters get away with doing this ever again.”
Grace Powers, the youngest of the group, only eleven years old, had suffered the most out of any of the other children, she was the captain’s favorite and now she feared that she was heavy with child. She bowed her head, gently rubbing her slightly rounded stomach before looking up at Paul with tears of determination forming in her eyes. “Let’s give it to them then.” she said.
“We are ready, Stone!” called a young but muscular boy, carrying a torch in his hand.
“We are only going to set off the first powder keg, Eve!” called Paul. “There are two lanterns lit and you know what that means!”
Don Eve, the strongest of the slaves, nodded and stood firm in front of a fuse which led under the ground to a powder keg they had secured to the ceiling of a huge, cavern sized sink hole beneath the swampy floor of the pirate’s boxed in dock.
The slave children had discovered it and one other less than four hundred yards inland, beneath the large marsh island, shortly after the pirates left for the Far East. The two apparently ancient sink holes were connected by a narrow channel, just wide enough for a child to run or swim through, depending on the tide. There was a large, deep hole near the center of the floor of the sink hole found inland. It was both this hole and the connecting tunnel which allowed the high tide from the ocean to flood the two sink holes. That was which had inspired their revenge.
They had talked the twelve, already half drunken, pirates to allow five of the children to drink with them. The five children, who possessed an unusually high tolerance to alcohol, challenged the drunken pirates to a drinking contest and soon managed to cause all twelve of them to pass out from over drinking. Once the pirates were all sound asleep, due to the alcohol, the slave children securely tied the pirates’ arms and legs then dragged them to the dock where they piled them all into a large rowing boat. Their cruel captors had used the boat chase down and capture any slave who would dare try to escape them. The children removed the oars and set the large boat adrift in a current they knew would take the twelve drunken pirates out into the open ocean. That was six months ago. None of the children took any pleasure in sending twelve men to an almost certain death, but the pirates had to be stopped once and for all so no one else would have to suffer what they and a great many others had so long endured.
Once their captors were gone, the children then carried on with their last, desperate plan. They shored up the two sink holes as best as they could so they would not collapse before their revenge was complete then placed one full keg of gun powder in each of the two sink holes. Finally, the children painfully dug out a long, almost random, twisting maze of tunnels which were just big enough for a child to run or swim through. This maze branched out from a main tunnel, which fed tide water to the two sink holes and doubled back to the sink hole inland so they would all flood with the high tide. The children built the maze to hide the ruby crystals the hated pirates had used in their cannons after they were dealt with so they would never again be used to hurt people again. This was all a part of their plan for revenge, not just for them, but for all who had suffered at the pirate’s hands.
The plan was simple, the first powder keg, secured to the ceiling of the sink hole beneath the dock, would blow away the floor of the small harbor, sending the pirate ship crashing down to the jagged floor of the ancient sink hole. Inside the sink hole further inland, a second powder keg, secured to the high ceiling by a rope and pulley, would be lowered into the deep hole in its floor with the fuse lit. The explosion would completely collapse the hole, forcing all of the high tide water to flow through the connecting tunnel into the sink hole beneath the dock. Finally, the slave children would completely seal the hole in the harbor floor using fallen trees and large rocks, blocking any means of escape. Come the high tide, the sink hole would quickly flood entirely, eventually drowning all of the pirates.
Once all of the pirates were dead, the children would hide the laser crystals inside their make shift maze and finish the digging so they too would flood with the high tide.
“Do not light the fuse until I say, Eve!” ordered Stone.
“You just point at me and I will light it!” said Don.
“The rest of you know what to do!” called Stone.
“Remember, they have showed us no mercy, so we shall serve them nothing less than the same!”
Two long wooden piers stretched out from the dock at a forty five degree angle to over one hundred yards into the harbor. On them, spaced out by about fifty feet, were ordinary, iron loaded cannons, placed there to give the ship cover in case the captain and crew needed to leave the harbor in a hurry. The Young Misery pulled in between the two piers and slowly sailed towards the dock. As the wind pushed it along, the crew on deck spotted a number of the slave children on the piers, each standing dead fast by one of the cannons, only the guns were pointed inward. As they passed, the children crossed their arms, glaring at them with a certain coldness that made them nervous. But the children had been placed on guard duty before, so they soon dismissed it.
“What are you looking at, stupid?” asked one of the pirates to the children.
The child responded by giving the pirate a sort of evil grin which forced the man to take a step back.
“There’s something amiss here, mate.” he said to another. “I don’t like it.”
“Oh, get off it!” laughed the other pirate. “They’re kids! What could they possibly cook up in their tiny minds?”
Seeing the ship approach, Paul pointed at Don and he lit the fuse. The thick, black string burned quickly and brightly, the flame following the string through the small hole dug into the ground towards the powder keg. As the pirate ship lightly bumped with the edge of the dock, Paul pointed at four other children who madly turned two wheels, causing two huge, heavy, steel gates to slowly swing closed behind the Young Misery. Both the pirate crew and their child captors jumped, startled, as the locks of the gates slammed into place with a loud, hollow clang. Immediately upon hearing it, four more children feverishly worked a number of manual pumps, quickly leaving the Young Misery resting perfectly in a massive metal frame which held the ship above the muddy floor of the dock, placed there so any needed repairs below the water level could be made to the ship. The pirates, sensing a revolt from the slaves made a dash for the cannons but froze dead in their tracks upon seeing a child behind one of five crystal cannons resting on the dock.
“Don’t even think about it!” challenged Paul. “All of our lanterns are lit and we are ready to use your own hot light cannons against you at any time. Your lanterns are not.”
“What the devil is going on out here!?!” demanded the captain, emerging from his cabin. “Can’t you bloody swabs properly steer a ship into...”
The words died in his throat as he spotted a number of the slave kids standing firm on the dock with his own hot light cannons pointed at the ship.
“So, this is a revolt, is it?” he asked, staring at the children angrily. “Do you youngsters think you are going to take the ship?” He sneered. “You will have to kill us all to do that and, with these kids standing in the way, I do not think you will dare.”
Paul shook his head. “This is not a revolt, Grim.” he said, coldly. “This... is... revenge.”
It was at that moment the flame finally reached the powder keg, causing it to explode. The swampy floor beneath the pirate ship, which was barely strong enough to support her weight, gave way and the Young Misery fell into the depths of the cavern like sink hole. Grace cringed, holding back the tears, hearing the screams of the children on the deck as the ship fell but she managed stand firm.
Wooden planks flew out from the ship as the bottom of the hull literally exploded upon impact, throwing a number of pirates off of the high deck. The children, shackled to the deck were spared the fate of the pirates who were catapulted out to their deaths, onto the sharp, jagged rocks of the cavern like floor. A ton of treasure spilled out from the gaping holes in the hull, covering the sand bar the Young Misery was now uneasily resting upon. Many of the rubies inside the hot light cannons on the deck were shook loose from the jolt of the ship striking the sand bar and fell into the large pile of treasure, where it would be impossible to find them. One pirate jumped to catch one of the rubies but missed.
“We’re doomed!” he whispered.
“What now? On the dock, Mathews asked.
Paul swallowed hard. “Open the gates.” he said.
Eve teared up. “What about the kids?”
“The only way to rescue the children without freeing the pirates is through the narrow passage that connects the two sink holes.” said Stone. “The deck of the ship is too high off the cavern floor of the children to safely jump off; the sink hole must be at least half flooded for those kids to even have a chance.”
“But the only way we can get to that passage is through the maze.” said Mathews. “With high tide only minutes away, it is not going to be an easy task. It’s hard enough to find that tunnel when you are not holding your breath.”
“We will only have one shot to rescue those kids.” said Stone. “It’s risky but I will not stand by when there is even a remote chance they can be saved. Who is with me?”
“We’re with you, Stone.” said Todd and Don in unison.
A number of other kids also voiced their readiness to join Paul’s rescue attempt and he nodded in satisfaction. “Let’s go then.” he said.
Grace crocked an eyebrow. “What about the pirates? Surely they can swim and eventually climb out of that hole.”
“They are not going anywhere.” said Amanda, approaching the group. She walked up to Paul with an ax in her hand and gave it to him. “I think the honor of chopping down the first tree should be yours, Stone.”
Paul shook his head. “There is no honor in any of this.” he said. “Besides, I must lead a team down into the sink holes to save those kids. The others can cut down the trees.”
He turned towards the mouth of the dock. “Open the gates!”
Four kids again frantically worked the two wheels, opening the two heavy gates, allowing the water flow in and slowly flood the sink hole. Once the gates were completely open, Paul gave a loud whistle to a small group hiding in the woods just beyond the dock and they began chopping the trees. In less than a minute, the first heavy tree fell, covering a large section of the gaping hole in the swamp floor.
“Those trees will cover the sink hole, keeping the pirates inside.” said Paul. “The trees will then be buried under all of those rocks.” He pointed at a number of heavy boulders resting at the edge of a small cliff overlooking the dock. “It will seal the sink hole, and the pirate’s fate.”
“I suggest we get on with our rescue attempt.” said Todd. “In less than a half hour, the high tide will roll in.”
Paul nodded. “Let’s go then.” he said.
The small group walked away from the dock as the trees and boulders continued to fall, eventually sealing the opening of the sink hole along with the fate of both the pirates and their captors. Grace stood and sadly watched as the water from the bayou continued to flow into the large sink hole.
From its darkened depths echoed the screams and pleas of the captive children, still trapped on board the pirate ship. As they reached her ear, she could not help cry for she feared there was nothing they could do to save them.
“Pray the Lord forgives us.”
Elsewhere, at a small row of ragged tents, Tina reached into one of them and retrieved a small, torn book. Upon its cover were the words, my journal. Her brother had had kept an account of their plight with the pirates, hoping it would, somehow, help them later. She was relieved that the nightmare was finally almost over, yet fearful that it has, somehow, only begun.