This is a work of fiction. Characters, organizations, places and events are either products of the author’s imagination or when factual, used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Please scroll down to earlier chapters as needed.
Copyright © 2019 Theodore A Henning II
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Raakman Sindjab methodically rubbed the finishing stone along the sharp edge of his scythe. It was his weapon of choice. Fashioned of fire-hardened iron it took on a curved, crescent-like shape. Inspired no doubt by the symitar the Ottoman Turks wielded long ago, the representation was near identical. If that weapon ever failed, there were the two crescent bladed kris knives kept close to his body under a wide waist belt. Keeping his weapons sharp was an everyday observance for Raakman, much like facing East when kneeling in bowed prayer upon his rug. It was a routine, his routine bound by tradition.
The other men of his camp were similarly involved. All needed their weapons kept ready. Their two wood-plank sailing vessels were moored out of sight in one of the sheltered inlets of the island. Here, near to the north coast of Sumatra there was a forest of small rising, atols. Emerging from the waters, some with steep clifts and jungle vegetation, miniature islands not much bigger than dots on a map. These rising mole-hills in the ocean were similar but different to the ones they called home, further south along the Strait of Malacca. Their watery territory lay within that narrow ship lane between Singapore and Sumatra. The hidden inlet, actually a small cove barely large enough for their two junks, was the water sanctum of Raakman and his cut-throat pirates.
He and his crew had successfully eluded persuit by the Dutch Navy on at least two occasions, and the other foreign vessels broached the same difficulty. The Dutch vessels were larger and cumbersome, unequipted for persuit within and around the difficult small islands. In contrast, Raakman’s vessels were shaped more like an Asian junk and highly maneuverable, even in the tightest of situations. It was on the open sea that the junks were most vulnerable to being overtaken.
This was already the third week of December. He had hoped two months ago they would sail home to Batam in time for Ramadan. But that was out of the question. Forces had worked againt that then happening, but now, a plotted course for home was in the making.
“Berangkat, nggak?” One of the men yelled over to him questioning if they should leave or not..
“Sebentar lagi, dik. Sabar dulu.” Raakman barked back. It was a bright sunny day with the winds aloft. Although he intended they board and get an early start to the open waters, he needed to feel that he was in control, calling the shots. Barking orders in a respectfully demeaning sort of way was how a pirate leader like Raakman communicated.
‘In a moment, be patient!’ he had told him.
As he ran his fingers over the hardened, sharp iron blade he thought of the men he had killed. They all fought valantly but futilely, he remembered. His had been the element of surprise. The pirates didn’t attempt to assault the larger vessels, the steamers. They posed too much of a challenge for his small band. However, the smaller vessels, the wooden sailing ships of Asian origin succumbed to the likes of evil men bent on stealing and killing. And Raakman little cared if they lived or died. It was their kebendaan he and his men were after.
Consequently, his pirate band was keen not to attack any of the Dutch or European vessels. They set their aim on those smaller merchant ships and did their worst. His junks blended right in with others that trafficked the waters in western Indonesia between Malaya and Sumatra. The Chinese vessels are all quite similar. That’s what made his small band so dangerous. Raakman’s junks appeared Chinese and non-threatening.
For almost a year they had been swooping in and out of the shipping lane, plundering and scuttling however they could. Taking their time, allowing the trade winds to work in their favor as they forayed. They stock-piled many goods and treasures. Now, the men were growing homesick. All the men seemed eager to venture homeward. More lush and inviting than their present hideout, with wives and families waiting.
Marauding pirates had been a constant threat in the Straits for hundreds of years. It was the primary occupation of whole clan groups in that western part. Such was a pestilence the Dutch Navy just didn’t have enough resources to abolish. And so, as long as Dutch VOC ships were not attacked, cut-throats like Raakman Sindjab sailed about mostly unhindered. And this aspect had not gone unnoticed.
He and his ruthless band had ventured many miles in search of new pirating opportunities. Momenterily, his plan to attack one last time before loading their treasures and sailing home would soon be realized.
Raakman’s face smirked an evil grin as he envisioned the booty and the blood. He was ready, it was time. Through the smirk, he barked the command to get underway, quickly, “Mari! Kita berangkat s’karang! Cepat!