PLUNDER: Origins - Henry's Story

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I wrote this short backstory about reader-favorite Henry from this book for the talesofthedeep Sands of Time anthology that was originally published in March. This takes place about a year before PLUNDER begins ...

At eleven years old, Henry Avery was shorter than average for his age. Being an only child and also having lost his mother to typhoid as an infant, Henry didn't think his life could get much worse. It turned out he was wrong.

His father had played cards for as long as Henry could remember, but what had once been an idle pastime for the Earl of Cranborne recently turned into an irresistible obsession. Weekly games of poker that initially served as the backdrop for entertaining gentlemen of like stature became more and more frequent. The stakes also rose from symbolic fistful of pennies to bags of sterling silver, overshadowing talk of politics and gradually depleting the family savings. Barely able to afford upkeep on the ancestral home let alone pay the elite school tuition to properly educate his son, James Avery turned to an old friend for a favor.

"Alestair Kincade is an honorable man. You'll do well to learn as much as you can from him," James said, looking out the window of their speeding carriage. "Apprenticing under him is a privilege."

On the seat beside him, the boy nodded. "Yes, Father." The clickety-clack of the horses' hooves on the packed dirt road nearly overshadowed his words, but Henry knew that even if he objected, his opinion did not matter. If it had, then his father would have been able to look him in the eye in spite of the lie.

"Why, I'm not even sure I'll recognize you after a year on the high seas." James turned his head, forced a smile, and tousled his son's wavy blonde hair. "You're leaving a boy and will return to England as a young man."

Henry balled his fists

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Henry balled his fists. "Yes, Father." It was now his time to look away. Concentrating on the scenery to keep his mind off crying, he watched the late spring fields of clover and immature wheat pass by. As the carriage neared their destination, farmers' cottages and eventually Southampton's distinct row houses came into view. When the smell of fish hit his nose and he could see the tops of sailing masts peeking above the rooftops, Henry shifted in his seat.

"What if I am not cut out to be a sailor?" He asked the question most on his mind since his fate had become decided.

"Nonsense!" James gently slapped his son on the back as the carriage came to an abrupt halt. "An Avery can do whatever he puts his mind to. Besides, there is no such expression as cannot on the Phoenix Rising. She'll chew you up and spit you out before that word could ever leave your lips." He opened the door and jumped out.

Intent on following, Henry froze in the jamb as his eyes landed on the ship docked before them.

He'd heard tales of the vessel's adventures – whether it was procuring sugar cane from the island of Cuba or transporting cocoa beans from deep in Amazonia – but this was the first time he'd seen her in person.

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