The lingering storm clouds made way for the moon, and that was when it began.
The crew of the fluyt Eenhoorn lit lamps on-deck to throw back the darkness. The ocean nearby rippled and swooned, small waves crashing over one another. To Captain Kroeger, the phenomenon was entirely unnatural. He gave the wheel to his first mate, passed a deckhand being sick over the rail, and went into the cabin where their passenger sat, reading.
“Mister Franklin, we need you on deck.”
The American looked up over the rims of his spectacles.
“I take it the storm has ended?”
“Yes. But something else has begun.”
Franklin put his book aside and rose. He picked up a collapsing umbrella from his belongings and ventured out with the captain. He took one look at the swirling waters nearby and frowned.
“Captain, you may want to have your men man their battle stations.”
“We passed Bermuda this morning, correct? And are taking a southern course?”
“Then we are in dangerous waters.”
“We spotted no other ships nearby! Neither the English nor the Spanish are…”
The roar of the sea in upheaval drowned out the captain. From the swirling pool burst the prow of a ship. Its hull rose into the moonlight like a breaching whale, its masts hung with seaweed instead of sails and tackle. Kroeger’s breath caught in his throat when he beheld the opposing crew. They shambled rather than walked, in various states of decay, many an eye missing from its socket and those still intact smoldering with murderous intent.
“Battle stations! Run out the guns! Prepare to repel boarders!”
Benjamin Franklin furrowed his brow as he studied the enemy ship. Any colors it would have flown had long been consumed by the wildlife beneath them. Sliding the long umbrella into his belt, he climbed the rigging towards the crow’s nest. The Eenhoorn reeled under the superior firepower of the enemy vessel, despite said vessel’s cannon having been underwater moments before. Franklin nearly lost his grip more than once, but he refused to let go completely, gritting his teeth against the spray of the sea and the smell of battle. He alighted into the crow’s nest and took stock of the situation.
The enemy ship was closing in on the Eenhoorn. The half-eaten ambulatory corpses and oddly animated skeletons moved towards the railing closest to the fluyt, wielding grappling lines. Franklin knew it was now or never. He reached down the front of his shirt for the key that hung around his neck. When he freed it from the silver chain, it made his fingers tingle. He slid it around the top of the umbrella, opened the device, and held it above his head.
The storm clouds high above began to shudder and growl. Lights went off like cannon fire within the dark surfaces, and as Franklin pitched the umbrella towards the enemy ship, there was a momentary feeling that his hair was standing on end, his skin about to catch fire. A bolt of lightning snapped into existence, connecting the cloud to the umbrella as it sailed over the ghost ship. The steel spines of the device conveyed smaller bolts onto the ghost ship’s deck, catching a few of the undead crew on fire. A cheer went up from the Dutchmen as Franklin climbed back down.
“That was brilliant, Mister Franklin!”
“Thank you, Captain, but it only slowed them down. I need to find a more permanent solution, and I only brought the one umbrella with me. Hold them off as best you can. Excuse me.”
He grabbed his jar of salt from his belongings and made his way below decks, to the lowest point in the ship. He set a box down and carefully laid out the circle he’d need. Praying the Eenhoorn did not list too much, he touched the circle with both hands.
“Come up from your Locker,” he said. “Come up from your Locker, Come up from your Locker, Davy Jones, Davy Jones.”
The shadows in the bilge seem to grow longer, and in the circle, two saucer-like eyes appeared, blinking at Franklin.
“Ye be a bold soul to summon me, human.” Blue smoke wafted from the spirit’s nostrils. “Release me, and I’ll not drag your ship down to me Locker.”
“I will release you when you take back the ship attacking us.”
“Ye have no business at sea, Benjamin Franklin.”
“Shall we parley, then?”
There was an annoyed puff of blue smoke. “Go on.”
“My destination is Barbados. I have business there with a voudoun priestess.”
“I know of whom ye speak. She be a long way from home.”
“I want to offer her help. Perhaps bring her back to our colonies.”
“Two of ye at sea, then? I should indeed drag ye down now.”
“We will do no harm and work no further magic while at sea. You have my word.”
Jones reached up with a hand to stroke one of his horns. His tail swished in the dark.
“And what benefit be Davy Jones getting out of this bargain? I drown ye now, I’d have me no worries.”
“I wouldn’t go down without a fight. And if we fight, we draw the attention of ocean powers greater than you.”
Jones grinned, his eyes alight. Three rows of teeth glistened in the semi-darkness. “Ye’d lose, little wizard.”
“Maybe. But not before hurting you just in time for your king to arrive.”
The smile vanished. “Fine, then. I give ye safe passage to Barbados and back. But this not be something Davy Jones will forget, Benjamin Franklin.”
“Nor shall I.” Fingers broke the circle and the spirit was gone. He climbed through the decks to find the crew celebrating.
“The sea swallowed them up again!” Captain Kroeger slapped Benjamin on the back. “How did you do it?”
“The fine art of parley, captain. Now, let us get to Barbados with all possible speed. The less time we spend in these waters, the better.”