Title: The Butcher’s Daughter
Author: Mark M. McMillin
Genre: Historical Fiction
In an age ruled by iron men, in a world of new discovery and Spanish gold, a young Irishwoman named Mary rises from the ashes of her broken childhood with ships and men-at-arms under her command. She and her loyal crew prowl the Caribbean and prosper in the New World for a time until the ugly past Mary has fled from in the old one finds her.
Across the great ocean to the east, war is coming. The King of Spain is assembling the most powerful armada the world has ever seen - an enormous beast - to invade England and depose the Protestant “heretic queen.” To have any chance against the wealth and might of Spain, England will need every warship, she will need every able captain. To this purpose, Queen Elizabeth spares Mary from the headman’s axe for past sins in exchange for her loyalty, her ships and men.
Based on true historical events, this is an epic story about war, adventure, love and betrayal. This is a timeless story about vengeance. This is a tale of heartbreak…
I stopped along the narrow path for a moment to catch my breath after the long and strenuous climb. I could see my ship peacefully riding anchor in the cove below. Phantom was a five hundred ton, French-built nao, ships renowned for their strength and speed. She was both square and lateen-rigged and carried eighteen great guns cast from solid bronze - a mix of falconets and sakers mounted on rolling carriages stood neatly against her bulwarks like soldiers on parade. And fixed to iron pedestals mounted along her rails were another thirty swivels for close-quarter fighting. Sitting next to Phantom was Dowlin’s larger ship, a fine, Dutch-built man-o-war displacing six hundred tons or better, not as swift as a nao but she was well-armed and built for rugged war. The sight of the stubby noses of her guns protruding through the open gunports - a mix of periers, sakers and falconets, twenty-four great guns in all - sent a tingle up my spine. She too carried a goodly number of swivels. What a handsome sight both ships made together!
The man-o-war had been Dowlin’s flagship. Now Dowlin’s flagship was my flagship. Under Dowlin, men knew her as Medusa’s Head. And just to make certain that any who laid eyes on her knew exactly what ship she was, a hideous replica of the witch’s head, with deadly snakes for hair and sharp fangs for teeth, adorned her high prow. No sailor roaming across the open sea could ever gaze upon that carved monstrosity without freezing in their tracks. As I resumed my climb up the cliff, I decided I would rechristen Dowlin’s ship. I would rename her Falling Star after the shooting star I had seen streaking outside my father’s butcher’s shop at the very moment my father’s assailants had pried my legs apart and deflowered me. And then I’d pitch the witch’s grotesque likeness into the sea.
After we reached the summit of the cliff the land flattened out before us and we could see the Irish Sea in all directions for miles. Visibility was excellent. There was not a single sail in sight.
The island was little more than a desolate pile of rock and sand covered over in wild grass and patches of scrub brush. The only inhabitants we saw were small lizards scurrying about and seabirds, birds of many kinds and colors. Countless numbers of birds squawked and chirped at each other all across the island.
Armed with shovels and pick-axes, my new recruits led the way under a bright and sizzling sun. They were clearly fidgety and reluctant to press on, fearing I suppose that they were marching to their own graves. I gave them no reason to think otherwise. We marched in single file towards the southern tip of the island until we came upon a cluster of boulders surrounded by a thicket of scraggly thorn bushes.
“This is the place?” I asked the lead man after he stopped and surveyed the area around us. I addressed this man first because I had seen the deference the others had given him. He had also been the first to tell Gilley where we could find Dowlin’s treasure.
He hesitated before answering me. I gave him a hard look and then took a moment to consider his men. “Did you, or did you not all swear your allegiance to me?”
“We did, Mum,” the lead man answered.
“What is your name?” I asked.
“Flannigan, Mum, Joseph Flannigan from Kinsale in County Cork.”
“Well, Master Joseph Flannigan from Kinsale in County Cork, I did not come all this way, I did not go to all this trouble, just so I could kill you. I don’t need to kill you. And besides, I don’t murder unarmed men.”
Flannigan lowered his head. “Beg pardon, Mum, but Dowlin was unarmed.”
“Ah, a fair point you make there Master Flannigan,” I said. “Touché. But you are mistaken. I didn’t murder Dowlin. I executed him.”
I turned to address Flannigan’s men. “I know Master Gilley explained things to you the other night and explained them to you clearly. Killing or harming innocent or helpless men, women or children is strictly forbidden. It is a violation of our Ten Rules. Now it is hot and this island is no paradise. Let us to business shall we? You can help me recover Dowlin’s plunder - and take your rightful share - or I can leave you all here to live on birds’ eggs until some fishing trawler happens upon you. But I will not kill you.”
Flannigan shook his head. “Even if what you say is true Lady Mary, we are still all dead men. Dowlin has two brothers, the Twins. They know us and they will find us and kill us all for helping you.”
Hunter took a step towards Flannigan and rested his hand on Flannigan’s shoulder. “Lad, you and your mates are most likely dead men already even if you don’t help us. Once you reach home, Dowlin’s brothers will find and kill you all just because you didn’t die with Dowlin.”
Flannigan’s men exchanged looks all around. Heads started bobbing up and down.
Flannigan clenched his teeth; he stared at me with eyes as cold as stone. “We won’t be the only game the Twins will want to feast on, Madam.”
I answered Flannigan with a bold and cocky smile. “Aye, the Twins, the Devil’s own offspring to be sure and far more dangerous than Dowlin ever thought to be. They’re more dangerous because they’re smart. The Twins and Dowlin were only half-brothers I hear, same she-bitch mother but begotten from different seed.”
“You know them then?” asked Flannigan.
“Not well. I saw them once tie a man down and slowly skin him alive. The poor devil’s only crime was to prudently pitch some Dowlin cargo overboard during a treacherous gale to save his ship and crew from foundering.”
Flannigan nodded. “Aye, I’ve seen some of their grizzly work up close.” Then he baited me. “One brother is a big, ugly bastard, strong as an ox. The other is a bit prettier, but just as big and no less strong.”
“Ah, Master Flannigan, you wish to test me? I respect that. No, the Twins are nearly exact copies of each other. One is challenged to tell them apart even close-up. They’re both huge, a head taller than any man I’ve ever laid eyes on. But one brother is a half hand taller than the other and as for appearances, well, not my taste, but they are hardly ugly.”
“Apologies, Mum. Right you are. I fear your man Hunter here is right too. The Twins will come looking for us even if we refuse to help you. What then?”
“You let me worry about that. First things first. Now, shall we dig?”
Flannigan pointed to a pitted, reddish brown rock in the middle of patch of wild flowers that seemed somehow out of place. The rock, I soon realized, was not indigenous to the island. I grabbed a shovel from Flannigan’s hand and started scooping out the first shovelfuls of dirt and sand myself.
Mark is an attorney by day and an author by night. He has always had a passion for history and writing. The Butcher’s Daughter is his fourth book. Mark began his career with the military. He is a veteran of the “Cold War” and served with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Germany. Mark currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia and is the general counsel for an airline and freight forwarding company.