"Sound the alarm!" yelled a young cat as he slid down the foremast and sprinted across the wooden deck to rouse those at the feast. "They've found us! Those filthy mongrels are-" but his cry was cut short as a blast from a cannon hurtled a ball that just barely sailed over his pointed ears and into a crate behind him. He vowed he would never complain about his height ever again. If he came out alive, that is. "Everyone to arms!"
Claw toppled the chair over as he sprang to his feet and raced up the stairs to begin issuing battle commands. How could they have snuck up on us like this?! he thought angrily, but his real frustration stemmed from allowing this to have happened at all. It was just as much the fault of the watcher as his own, for he had been too cocky and ordered everyone below deck for a small celebration. Thus, he saw this as a personal failure.
Another mass of iron soared and nearly destroyed the crew's black flag. But, as he set foot on the main deck, five of his ship's cannons retaliated against at the opponent. Two hit the rear of the ship, but the rest simply plunged into the ocean. He cursed those merchants mentally and tried to assess a plan to save them all. The head of the Cocker-Spaniard Armada was a finely crafted vessel with competent sailors and four sturdy masts, each equipped with the best sails gold and silver could buy. "Shit," he swore under his breath as his gaze fell upon the King's second in command, a certain greyhound that had hunted him for the last three years. Their eyes were locked in a personal battle of strength and hatred, both unsure of how the victor would be determined. Almost languidly, the enemy's commander raised his sword in the air, smirked at the captain, then gave the order for another round.
"Take cover!" Claw warned, though for some, it was still inescapable. A series of seven cannonballs tore through the air and buried themselves into Claw's love and pride. A stray hit a barrel full of gunpowder and exploded, causing three nearby cats to be thrown into the sea, a poor tabby to break his back against the main mast, and a fifth one to scream as his being caught afire and his clothes melted to his skin. He blindly leaped into the ocean to extinguish the flames. But about a second after his body became airborne, he realized cruelly that his foot was entangled with a rope tied to the fore-mast. His body crumbled within him as he smashed into the boat's side, knowing that if the fire didn't burn him alive, the unbearable, searing pain from his broken bones would be the death of him. The blaze from the blast reigned fire over the ship, slowly burning holes into the second main sail and the fore-mast. Moments later, another feline shrieked as a metal sphere stuck his chest, silencing him forever.
Irate, Captain Claw bellowed above the clamor, "Everyone man a cannon! Let these miserable curs feel our wrath!" Within seconds, pirates were preparing the devices, shoving the powder and heavy, iron globes down the turrets as swift as possible, then fired. Some balls missed and crashed into the water, merely drenching the dogs, but one lucky shot blasted a hole in the bonaventure mizzen. The column cracked loudly and swayed dangerously in the wind. Canines scurried out of the way as the pole tumbled into the butt of the ship, destroying everything beneath its fall. James, Claw's best mate, shouted "They'll never take us!" and a round of cheers followed.
Yet even over the cries of his men, Claw could still distinctly hear "Fire!" from across the waters. He jumped down to the lower deck to avoid a near hit with the ranged weapon. It was complete chaos and the boat shook as the metal balls lodged themselves in wood. Screams and smoke surrounded him and dread crawled into his thoughts as he began to grasp the gravity of the scene. They were outnumbered three to one, almost a fourth of his crew was either dead or thrown overboard, and his ship was afire and on the verge of sinking.
Suddenly, the opponent vessel began to turn toward the pirates and ceased their assault. After a moments thought, the terrible realization donned on the captain, and he grabbed both pistols. "Prepare for an onboard attack! Continue firing upon them until the last possible moment! The more we damage them, the better our chances!" the great cat leader ordered. He knew in his heart there was no way they were going to come out alive, but he couldn't take away their hope, their morale. It was what kept their fighting spirit up. The ship drew closer, and then a volley of cannonballs shot at the enemy. Close ranged attacks with such weapons furthered the destruction of the boat, but the mongrels' direction did not alter.
Mere meters away, several dogs gathered on the main deck while another scaled the central mast. Two ropes were thrown down and caught by a pair of hounds. With a running start, they leaped off the ledge of their boat and swung to the feline's vessel. Claw fired his pistols with distinct precision, and the dogs yelped as the bullets pierced their bodies. They fell into the ocean facedown and could not even bring themselves to turn over. Without a second's thought to their fallen comrades, others stepped into place and took a hold of the ropes. Sheathing his guns, he withdrew his sword from its scabbard, declaring, "They'll never take us alive!" and his friends shouted in agreement.
Unwavering, the canines jumped ships, trying to overwhelm the pirates with numbers. One fool tried to take on the captain himself. Even midst the crisis, Claw flashed that arrogant smirk of his as he dueled with the inferior. He parried the thrust to his chest with ease, and already began his own feint to the dog's thigh, then suddenly changed and headed for the neck. The sailor stumbled out of the way and tried to continue the offense, but with his lost balance, the captain effortlessly took to it. All the man could do was defend himself with the skills he had been taught, though poor against an opponent like the head pirate. Claw could read his plans like an open book and quickly accustomed himself to the fighting techniques. He was a simple sailor holding a sword, nothing else. Triumphantly, he released a small chuckle as his sword grazed across the cur's throat, and he staggered to the ground.
He turned to see his crew each locked in a personal battle of their own, but with each fall, there was another to step in place. There were just too many of them. Claw's paws slid down his sides to retrieve his pistols again. Perhaps if he could just shoot the commander at least... As he took aim and his finger barely twitched against the cold, metal trigger, a deafening crack sounded above the cat. Part of the main mast burned away from the pole, and tumbled to the ground. He didn't have time to react beyond gazing up at the falling debris. It struck him in the back and skull, and he felt the cool, damp wooden pressed against his cheek. He lay beside the man he killed moments prior, and was still disgusted. His last thoughts were dedicated to hatred as he lost consciousness.
He felt himself drifting in the darkness, and wasn't so sure he wished to return. It was so comforting to be numb, to not move, to not think. Maybe he could stay for just a bit longer...
A sudden jerk and something bit into his wrists, rousing him to consciousness. His eyes slowly fluttered open, and he tried to take in his surroundings. He tasted the fresh ocean salt in the wind, inhaled air tinged with smoke, and he recognized the mahogany hues to be wood, so he must be on a ship. His vision was still blurry, and his head ached terribly. Perhaps I have a concussion? he wondered. But how did I-? and in a sudden rush, he remembered the moments prior to his fall. The Armada! His mind raced into action, and he tried to draw his pistols, only to find his paws bound together behind his back. His guard kicked him in the knees, and Claw fell to the deck, face first. He uttered an inarticulate sound of pain and attempted to sit up on his knees. His weary eyes darted around him, still unable to see more than colors and simple shapes.
"Sir, we have captured Captain Claw," a voice to the side of him spoke. Captured? Me? A slight panic threatened to overtake him. He was on the dogs' ship! And even with the partial loss of seeing, he already knew that the cockroach of a canine that stood before him was, in fact, Sir Ivor LeRauxe. He always appeared at the worst of times, and never seemed to take a hint and die.
"Well, well," the greyhound began, his thick French accent already irritating Claw with the first two words. "This is a rare treat: Captain Nathaniel J. Claw." Out of mockery, Sir LeRauxe removed the great feathered hat that rested on his head off and bowed low with perfected elegance. The pirate desperately held his self-control to keep from spitting on the mutt. Smirking cruelly at the captain, he replaced his hat and continued. "I'm sorry but I must inform you that your ship is lost and your crew was left, how shall we say this?" he asked himself, his lapis lazuli eyes shinning with delight and malice. "Indisposed?" Instant rage flared through the feline and he tried to break through his restraints. His guard shoved a boot to his back once more.
"You can't hold me for long. I'll have my vengeance!" he cried, shooting his nemesis a glare that, if looks could kill, the greyhound and his pups for the next four generations were already considered dead. The sailors surrounding the cat growled lowly, voicing their presence, and held their claws ready to trip the trigger on their guns. The captain strained to sit up again and seethed silently.
"Oh, I doubt that. You see, you are a gift for the king, and will be publicly executed upon our return," the commander told him with cheer. With Claw's returning eyesight, he finally saw the cause of the smoke. His ship. A few hundred meters at least, but he could see enough. And the only remains of his love was the fore and main masts sticking out from the watery abyss below. Somehow, that scene alone made the situation more real. He finally came to an end. He lost. He was stripped of his pride, his self-worth even. This was it. "Brining scoundrels like yourself to justice makes people feel safer, and enforces the might of the Spanish Armada, and the will of the king," the infernal hound plowed on. Claw chanced one more glance to his home, and saw its final seconds as it faded from view. He had nothing left now. His family abandoned him. His friends, presumed dead. His one and only haven, destroyed. It numbed and angered the complex man at the same time.
"We'll see," the once great captain snarled, though he had nothing to be captain of anymore, he thought bitterly.
"Indeed, we shall," the French snob replied lightly, and gave a fake little laugh. "Oh, this is a very happy day for me, Claw. I'm sure you will find your quarters at the prison most uncomfortable and the guards especially hostile." He chuckled again. The pirate wriggled against the ropes that bound him, and hissed. "Oh, after all, we can't be too careful with our prized trophy, now can we? Take him away," he ordered, as if bored. Two rough paws grabbed Claw's shoulders, and another dog appeared in front of him. A sudden blow to his stomach, and the ex-captain was overwhelmed with pain and lapsed back into that dark, numb, free-floating world.