What’s Next?

Hello!

We have now reached the end of Book One of The Adventures of Damnation Kane. (Okay, we reached it last week; but I hate putting informational posts up directly after story posts; it pushes the story into the backseat, and I think it should always be driving. Which is probably why I’m unknown: story > marketing.) Starting next week, I’ll be posting chapters, a new one every Saturday, from Book Two, which includes a hospital, a hurricane, and a houngan; which sends Damnation to New York, into the Bermuda Triangle, and over the edge of madness.

But that’s not the exciting part.

The exciting part is that I will soon be publishing Damnation Kane, as an eBook through Smashwords.com, and as an actual paper book (I can’t tell you how excited I am about this) through lulu.com. The eBook will, for ease of use, be divided into four separate mini-books of about ten chapters each; the paperback will contain all of the chapters.

In addition, I have written nine bonus chapters, never before seen, that will only be available in the published versions, not on this blog. They will be distributed throughout the four eBooks (Three in the first mini-book and two in each of the others) and all will be included in the paperback. These chapters tell parts of Damnation’s back story, and the stories of several of the other characters, particularly O’Flaherty and Burke, the leaders of the mutiny. These chapters are no small thing; each of them is longer than pretty much all of the regular chapters; there is a lot in there. I think they’ll make it worth buying the books even if you have kept up with the blog all along. Though of course, I think the book will be worth buying anyway. Right?

As soon as I have the books ready for purchase, I will be taking the old chapters down from this blog. I’ll leave the first five or so, so that a newcomer to the story can get at least some idea of what’s going on; but otherwise, soon the only way to read Book One will be — to own Book One.

I hope to have the books ready to go before the end of 2017, and I will post updates here and on the Facebook page. I am also considering getting my own website/domain name, and combining this serial with my blog.

Thank you to everyone who has stopped in here and read my work. I hope you’ll consider buying it, as well.

For the nonce, get yourself a print of this awesome ship at sea, done in ink wash by my wife, the brilliant Toni DeBiasi (Whose work adorns the header of this blog, and will most likely grace the cover of the book). Go to her Facebook page and click on Shop Now to purchase. (Give her a Like and a Follow, as well, because her work’s incredible.) Thanks!

–Dusty

PS Ship

 

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Log 38: The End Of The Voyage

The Last Chapter of Book One

The night is dark, clouded, and in the darkness there is little more than silence: an occasional creak of wood and rope, now and then a pop as a corner of canvas flaps with a capricious breath of wind, sometimes a cough. Through the silence, something moves; it is large, and solid, and would bring notice if there were any nearby to sense its passage who were not already a part of it.

Then in the distance, like the opening of a sleeping eye, dawn begins. The growing light shows first the waves, like wrinkles in the blue-green skin of the world; and then the white sails appear, as if they catch and gather in the light as they do the wind, filling with the sun’s first gentle rays. As the light grows, the silent presence becomes the ship that rides over and breaks through the waves, now, as the breeze rises and sends the drifting water against the ship’s smooth hull, as if the dawn had woken the very air, the great ocean itself.

When the sun’s edge breaks the horizon, off the starboard bow, the man standing at the wheel squints and looks away. His eyes flash over the sails, which are buckling and heaving: the dawn has brought a new wind from a new quarter of the sky. The ships begins to slow, and its graceful motion becomes choppy – where it was a great owl, gliding through the still, dark air, now it is a jackrabbit, jouncing, jolting across the ground. The man’s eyes flick to the ladder that leads down to the next lower deck, and his lips thin. He begins to turn the wheel, then shakes his head and stills his hands. He coughs – louder than he needs to, likely.

A door opens on that lower deck, and a man steps out. He is tall: he must duck to pass through the door, and then he stands with broad shoulders and a straight back. Black hair blows on the wind, and blue-green eyes, the same color as the water below, squint in the sunlight which dazzles the ocean waves. His gaze goes to the sails, and he frowns; he crosses to the ladder and climbs rapidly to the top deck, where the man stands at the wheel, a relieved look on his face as the tall man appears. The tall man says, “Change course with the wind, Salty – three points north.”

“Three points north, aye, Captain,” the man at the wheel says, satisfaction in his voice. Even as he speaks, he is already turning the wheel to the left, and the ship shifts with a creak and a groan, and then slides into place like a lock into its groove, the sails snapping taut once more, the waves now rolling under the ship instead of crashing across it. The ship picks up speed and again glides like a bird in flight. The Captain claps the man at the wheel on the shoulder, and then stretches and yawns. He walks the ship, inspecting everything he can see and touch, now frowning, now nodding.

More men emerge as the dawn light strengthens and paints the sky bright pink and yellow and blue; the Captain hails some and orders them to the lines, to adjust ropes that have stretched and slipped, knots that have loosened in the night. Puffs of smoke begin to emerge from a small pipe, as the stove in the galley below heats up for breakfast. The man at the wheel is relieved; he hands over control of the ship with a comment on the new heading, and then he turns an hourglass set into the side of the wheel’s post just as the sand runs out. He stretches, shaking and flexing his fingers, which are scarred and gnarled though still strong, and then goes below, to the galley and food.

The Captain, having looked over the whole of his domain, now stands at the starboard rail, the bright sun warm on his face and the ocean breeze cool. He looks out at the water, the sky, the line of the horizon. Then he frowns. His body turns, his shoulders squaring, and his head leans forward as his eyes narrow. From a pouch at his belt he removes a brass tube, which he holds up to one eye.

In the lens he sees a scrap of white.

He watches it, moving only with the roll of the ship over the waves, for several minutes. He exchanges greetings with men who pass by on their tasks, several going to or coming from the head at the bow of the ship; some lowering buckets on ropes into the water, bringing them up full and splashing water across the deck, others re-coiling ropes that have shifted in the night or polishing salt spray off of metal surfaces.

The Captain lowers the glass. His expression is troubled. He begins to turn away, and then stops and looks back at the white scrap, which has grown somewhat larger, more definite, though still tiny. He glances at the men, then the scrap. Then his features firm, smoothing slightly: a decision is made. He raises his voice. “All hands on deck!” he calls, his tone strong but not urgent.

The call is repeated below, and within minutes, the yawning, bleary-eyed man who had been behind the wheel is the last to emerge. They have seen the Captain standing at the rail, and are gathered around him. The Captain looks them over, nods, and then turns and points. “Look there,” he says. “Lynch – get above. Take the glass.” He holds the brass tube out to a slender youth, who takes it and tucks it behind the wide leather belt about his middle. The youth jogs to a rope ladder and scrambles up, into the rigging above.

The other men line the rail and squint into the bright morning air. “‘At’s a sail, sure,” one says, and the others nod and mutter.

“There be some sailin’ ships in these waters, bain’t there?” asks a thin man with delicate features.

“Aye,” the Captain says. “But not with square sails. Lynch!”

The youth has reached the top cross-bar of the main mast, and now sits astride it and puts the glass to his eye, holding the mast with his other hand. He finds the white object on the horizon and frowns at it, his brows lowering as he strains to see it clearly, struggling to keep the object in view despite the motion of the ship, greatly exaggerated here, forty feet above the deck. Then he pales.

Below, another man, hard-eyed and bearded, mutters, “We be th’ only ship wi’ square sails – th’ only one for a hunnerd years. That’n can’t be such.” Another man nods, but he is frowning as he does so.

Then the bearded man’s eyes widen. “Oh, Christ in Heaven, no – “

The young man on the mast interrupts and anticipates him. “Captain!” he shouts, his voice breaking high and shrill. “It’s the Sea-Cat!

There is a brief moment of utter, shocked silence, and then a groan goes through the men. The Captain looks up and shouts, “Are ye sure? At this distance?”

“I stared at that bastard for two months, Captain,” the youth retorts. “Aye, I’m sure. It’s him. I can see the Scourged Lady on the bow.”

“And he’s closing on us,” one of the men on deck mutters. Indeed, the scrap of white has become a spot, now visible to all, and obviously square. The mutters rise, and feet begin shifting, hands clenching into fists around the hilts of swords and the butts of pistols.

The Captain wheels on them, his eyes bright, his expression determined, fearless. He speaks in a calm voice, just above quiet. “All right. He’s three, four miles off, still, and we’re running slow. O’Grady – go below and finish the breakfast, then douse the cookfire. We’ll need to eat well, so double rations. Desmond – can ye take the wheel? I need Ian on the lines.”

A man rubs at his shoulder, shrugging his right arm, testing it against pain. “Aye, Captain. I think ’tis healed enough.”

The Captain nods, then raises his voice. “All right! Raise all topsails! All canvas up! Desmond, go eat now, then on the wheel – follow the wind, wheresoever it goes, aye? We’ll sort out our course later. For now – speed! MacTeigue, with me. Go, ye sea-dogs! Hoist the sails!”

Men burst into action. Three scramble up the rope ladder to join Lynch above, where they stretch themselves out along the top yardarms, poles no thicker than a tree branch, their legs curled about to hold them up as they yank at knotted ropes. The knots loose, and sails unfurl; the men slide down the masts to the lower crossbars, and, grabbing at ropes attached to the corners of the flapping sails, tie them quickly to the crossbars. The sails fill, and the ship accelerates. The mast-climbers return to the deck, where a conversation has been rattling quickly back and forth between the Captain and MacTeigue, with much pointing of fingers and shaking of heads. The Captain finally curses and says, “Load them all anyway.” He shouts for his glass, which the descended Lynch jumps to put into his hand before going below to gobble oat porridge and sliced ham, with a cup of ale to fortify himself.

The Captain moves to the aft rail on the highest deck, where the wheel is, and looks out at the square sail on the horizon. He puts one eye to the spyglass, points the glass at the ship, and then stands there, unmoving but for the rocking of the ship beneath him, for half a glass – fifteen minutes. Behind him his men are finishing their barely-warmed food and are readying weapons, loading guns, sharpening blades, arming the ship’s cannons – twenty-four in total, twelve on each side, split evenly between two decks.

The Captain lowers his glass with a curse, rubbing at his watering eyes. “He’s still gaining on us,” he mutters. He strikes the rail with the heel of his hand. “Gods damn ye, Hobbes, ye son of the Devil’s whores.” He turns and looks at the sails above him, which are bellied full of wind; the man Desmond is on the wheel, now, a hunk of ham in one fist, and he has lined the ship up perfectly with the wind. “MacTeigue! O’Gallows! To me!” the Captain roars.

MacTeigue leaves the men loading the cannons, and O’Gallows, a tall, square-jawed fellow with golden blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes, ceases his harangue of two sailors who had apparently tied a poor knot in a line, and joins MacTeigue and the Captain on the poop deck.

“He’s faster,” the Captain says. “We cannot run this time.”

O’Gallows curses and looks back at the ship, which has indeed grown larger, the shape of her sails, her dark hull, a lighter smudge of a figurehead at the bow, all clear now against the blue sky. “If we turn now, he’ll match us,” he says. “We can’t trade broadsides with the Sea-Cat. She has more iron.”

“We can’t fight man-to-man,” MacTeigue says. “We don’t have enough men.”

“We need to cross her bow as she’s coming,” O’Gallows replies. “She’s got no fore-chasers. We can give her our broadside and then turn and run. If we hole her at the water, or break her mast, we’ll be faster, then.”

“But he’ll turn when we turn, and then it’s broadsides for all – or else he’ll follow close and grapple to our after rail, and board us,” MacTeigue says.

Suddenly, the Captain, who has been hunched over with his thumbs tucked into his sash, straightens and grins. “Not if we turn fast enough,” he says. “Go bring me the torn sail and some line, and two men to help ye,” he orders O’Gallows, who moves off with a puzzled frown. The captain turns to MacTeigue, after glancing at the sails, and then over his shoulder at the pursuing ship. “Right – starboard side first. Stagger the broadside – fire three above and three below, then shift the crews and fire the other three. Then have them cross to the port side and be ready to do the same again.”

MacTeigue is wide-eyed, mouth agape. “Nate, how, by Lucifer, are we to fire both sides at the same target? Christ’s bones, how will we manage to fire the one?”

The Captain slaps him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, cousin. The Grace will wheel and dance like a falcon in flight, I promise ye. Now go – ready the guns! Starboard first!”

As MacTeigue races off, the Captain shouts. “Kelly! We’ll be needing the sharpshooters – ready the rifles at the mainmast!” A large, one-eyed man nods and goes below, to the armory beneath the main deck. Just as he disappears, O’Gallows struggles up the steep staircase – almost a ladder – on the opposite side of the deck, with a large coil of rope draped over his shoulders. Behind him come two men lugging a long roll of canvas. They go towards the poop deck, and the Captain comes down to meet them on the main deck. He explains their orders, pointing and miming with his hands; O’Gallows’s puzzled frown turns into a mischievous grin, and he and the other two draw knives and begin cutting slits in the canvas, threading the rope through and tying knots.

The Captain returns to the aft rail and watches as the pursuing ship grows, men now visible aboard her. As he watches, the grin slides off of his face, and his eyes grow first worried, then determined. He makes a fist, and pounds it down on the rail, once, twice, three times. He strides away, barking orders as he goes.

***

She is close, now. She has clearly been battered and then repaired – there are lighter-colored boards, new wood not yet stained the dark gray of ocean-going vessels, in her hull, and her mainmast is taller, now, and raked, or tilted back towards the rear of the ship; the mainmast is also gaff-rigged, now, which it was not before – perhaps that is what has gained her more speed. They had been evenly matched in their last encounter, when the Sea-Cat had chased the Grace across the Atlantic – and, apparently, across three centuries, as well; but now the English ship is the faster of the two. She still has no cannon in her bow, but she is near enough that her men have begun firing muskets, hoping for a lucky hit; at this range, from moving ship to moving ship, there is no other kind of hit but a lucky one – but the man on the Grace’s wheel hunches his shoulders and ducks his head, nonetheless.

The Captain is standing beside the wheel, looking back over Desmond’s shoulder at the Sea-Cat. He does not duck. To his left and below, at the starboard rail of the main deck, O’Gallows and his two helpers crouch, waiting, an ungainly bundle of canvas and rope in their sweating hands. The Sea-Cat is not visible from where they are, and so their gazes are locked on their captain’s back, and the left arm he will use to signal them when the time is right.

“What the hell is he waiting for?” O’Gallows grumbles, trying to crane his head out to the side far enough to catch a glimpse of the other ship. He cannot – lucky, perhaps, as this would make him a target for musket fire – and he returns to his crouching and staring. “If they get too close, they’ll bloody well ram us and board even as we fire.” His gaze flicks to the two other men, who are exchanging worried frowns at these words, and O’Gallows falls silent and waits. Near them crouch six more men, including MacTeigue and the young Lynch, by three large cannons. They, too, wait, and stare at the captain’s back.

The Captain waits for – something. His eyes rove the forward rail of his enemy, seeking something, or someone, among the line of men firing and reloading muskets. Then, at last, he shakes his head and raises his hand, as his gaze flicks between his ship and the Sea-Cat, gauging a distance that has nearly become too close. But then he smiles. A man steps up to the rail of the Sea-Cat, a tall man, pale and gaunt, with white-blonde hair and deep-set eyes; from a distance, he has the appearance of a skull.

“Hello, Hobbes, you sodding bastard,” the Captain whispers. He raises his arm higher, and waves. The gaunt man lays a finger along his hat, nodding so slightly it is nearly imperceptible – then he draws his thumb across his throat in an unmistakable gesture. The skull grins. The Captain smiles in return. “Choke on this,” he mutters. Then he drops his arm and shouts, NOW!”

O’Gallows and his two men throw the tangle of canvas and rope over the rail, and then run to the lines securing the ship’s mainsail, which is gaff-rigged like the Sea-Cat’s – tied at top and bottom to a long pole that juts out to the side, rather then sitting fixed to the mainmast like the bar of a cross; this means the mainsail can be moved to catch the wind as the ship turns. The tangle hits the water and sinks, though ropes trailing from it are still tied to the ship. As the tangle is dragged through the water, it opens into something like a parachute, the corners of the square canvas gathered together and tied to the ship: a sea-anchor. Instantly, the ship begins to slow, and turn, as the sea-anchor swings wide and drags. Desmond spins the wheel, O’Gallows swivels the gaffed mainsail – and the Grace turns, as swift and graceful as a falcon, and presents her broadside to the bow of the oncoming Sea-Cat.

“FIRE!” yells MacTeigue, and almost as one, six cannons explode in red flames and black smoke. The three above are four-pounders, loaded with chain shot – a pair of cannonballs attached by a stout length of chain, which spin like a bola when fired – and are aimed high, at the masts and sails of the pursuing ship; the three below are eight-pounders firing round cannonballs aimed at the waterline of the enemy ship, intended to sink her. The chain shot strikes true, and the foretopsail is torn in half, spilling the wind and losing a fraction of the Sea-Cat’s speed, but the heavier guns are aimed too low, and the round shot splashes into the ocean.

“Raise your aim, curse you!” MacTeigue shrieks as he and his men scramble to the next three guns, their movements mimicked below.

“Ian! Now!” roars the Captain, and then he draws from his sash a pistol – a revolver – and fires several shots at the men who have been shooting at him. Now they duck.

O’Gallows leaves his companions holding the mainsail’s lines and leaps to the rail, where the sea-anchor is attached to the capstan for the starboard anchor – and where an axe lies ready. He snatches up the blade, swings it over his head, and with a single blow shears through the two-inch-thick rope that holds the sea-anchor in place.

At the same moment, the six remaining cannons fire. This time, all six hit, but again, the heavier cannons miss their mark, striking the ship’s hull well above the waterline, punching holes in the wood but doing no real harm. The chain-shot tears at the main foresail but does not destroy it.

The moment the cannons fire, Desmond spins the wheel back to the left, and with a groan, the ship begins to turn. The two men on the mainsail lines struggle to reorient the gaff to match the new heading – running with the wind again, straight away from the pursuing Sea-Cat. But they slip, their curses turning to cries of pain and warning; O’Gallows drops the axe and leaps to them; he catches at the rope sliding through their hands, and together, they get the mainsail under control. The rough hemp rope is now marked with blood.

“O’Gallows!” shouts MacTeigue. “Take the port guns here! I’m going below to aim for those blind fools!” He races to the ladder and disappears. The gunners move to the port side, which at the moment faces nothing but empty sea, and prepare to fire the cannons.

O’Gallows turns his head to respond to MacTeigue, but he has already gone below. He curses. “Captain! I’ve the gaff and MacTeigue’s below – ye must fire the guns!” He braces his back as a gust of wind catches at the mainsail, and his companions curse at the pain, but none of them lets go of the line.

The Captain curses and looks down at the sea. The sea-anchor, cut loose from the ship’s starboard rail, has sunk lower and swung under the ship – and now it comes taut on the second line, run around the stern of the Grace and tied to the anchor capstan on the port side. With a groan and a shudder, the ship, begins a second rapid turn, now to the port side. The Captain nods and then leaps the eight feet down from the poop deck to the main deck, where he grabs a slow match – a length of fuse, smoldering at one end – from Lynch and crouches by the touch-hole of a four-pounder. “MacTeigue! On your mark!” he roars.

“Aye!” MacTeigue calls from below.

This time, the Sea-Cat is not caught unaware; the pursuing ship begins to fall off, turning away from the wheeling Grace – presenting the larger ship’s port side, rather than her bow; a larger target, but a target that can also fire back.

The Grace turns, Desmond straining against the wheel, his face white with pain, O’Gallows and his two men straining against the mainsail lines, every other man straining eyes and ears, waiting for the order to fire to echo out from the lower deck, waiting for the target to come into view. As she does – and she is a large target now: the sea-anchor has slowed the Grace appreciably, and the Sea-Cat has closed rapidly even while taking fire – they can see that her side will be to them. “Prepare to fire!” the Captain shouts. “To fire stations after the broadside!” There is a chorus of Ayes in response.

Then they wait.

The ropes creak. The men grunt. The waves splash. The ships turn, and turn, and turn, and then – “FIRE!”

Six cannons blast from the Grace. The chain shot rips through the shrouds, cutting several lines and tangling others; the Sea-Cat’s sails sag and flap. And – at last! – two eight-pound cannonballs, each four inches in diameter, strike the hull just at the waterline and crash through, followed by the frothing sea. A cheer begins and is cut off as the Captain roars “PREPARE TO FIRE AGAIN!” and moves to the next set of cannons. Now is the dangerous time, when the Sea-Cat’s cannons – she carries eighteen on a side, and enough men to fire all, reload and fire again – may blast away, smashing the sails, the mast, the hull, the guns, and the men of the Grace, crashing through flesh and metal and bone, striking deadly flying splinters from the wooden hull wherever the cannonballs strike.

But she does not fire.

From below, MacTeigue again yells “FIRE!” and six cannons blast. The chain shot does little harm, flying mainly between the masts; another round shot punches a third hole in the hull at the waterline.

“FIRE STATIONS!” the Captain bawls. The men below run to the pumps; above they drop buckets into the sea and raise them on ropes, ready to douse flames; canvas sheets are lowered and soaked, ready to smother sparks, as well. O’Gallows and his two helpers tie the mainsail’s lines to cleats, all three flexing their shaking, bloody hands with hisses of pain. “Sharpshooters to the mast!” the Captain calls as he strides to the ladder up to the poop deck. “Ian – cut it loose!”

O’Gallows’s axe strikes again, and the sea-anchor slowly floats to the surface and falls behind. The Captain takes a moment to watch it sink, raising a hand in salute. Lynch and two older men move to the mainmast where they untie long rifles from a rack; they tie pouches of ammunition to their belts. Then one crouches at the rail, and the other two climb the masts, Lynch at the foremast and the other man on the mainmast; they straddle the yardarms and raise the rifles, taking aim at the Sea-Cat.

Now fire comes from the Sea-Cat – but it is musket fire, not the cannons. Their sharpshooters are in place, as well, and far more numerous. Lead balls whine and crack against the Grace, and the men duck and curse, but stay at their stations. MacTeigue begins to reload the cannons, but it is a slow and laborious process, especially for one man working alone. But he continues, undaunted.

Now the Grace’s sharpshooters begin to return fire – and it is immediately clear that something is different. The crack of the guns is sharper, flatter, and with almost no smoke; then after each shot, they move a brass lever up, back, forward and down – and they fire again. The man at the rail does not even move a lever, simply aiming and pulling the trigger, again and again, firing without reloading. Their accuracy, too, is far greater, and men on the Sea-Cat cry out and fall, one after another.

But the Sea-Cat, after the apparent mistake of turning broadside and then failing to fire any cannon, has already begun turning to follow, and now she is aimed straight for the Grace once more, and drawing closer by the second despite the damage she has absorbed, her momentum carrying her as the smaller ship slowly begins to pick up her lost speed. Not soon enough: for the Sea-Cat comes within pistol range, and then she turns slightly, presenting her left fore-quarter to the starboard and stern of the Grace.

The Captain, standing on the poop deck, locks gazes with his opposite number, who is now close enough that the whites of his eyes are visible. With a start, the Captain realizes there is another man, standing in the shadow of the Sea-Cat’s commander: he is dark-skinned, African or West Indian, and his head is shaved clean; he wears a strange robe and a brimless cloth cap. This other man is smiling, and the evil in his expression is enough to make the Grace’s captain shiver, even from this distance. The Captain looks away.

Just then, at a shouted command that is audible even on the Grace, so close are the two ships, a dozen men stand from behind the Sea-Cat’s rail, where they had been concealed from the sight of the Grace’s three sharpshooters. These men hold guns, but they are not rifles, nor muskets, nor even pistols.

They are thunder-guns.

They open fire.

A hail of lead crashes into the Grace. The two sharpshooters in the rigging are struck almost instantly; Lynch drops with a thud and a cry to the deck, and the other man slumps into the mast, dead before he falls from his perch. The men on fire stations at the starboard rail are struck, as well – how could they not be? – and one falls into the water and is gone in an instant. O’Gallows is struck, a bullet creasing his hip and spinning him about; he falls with a snarl and a curse, clutching at his injury. The third sharpshooter, the hard-eyed, bearded man at the rail, is hit when a bullet passes through the wooden partition concealing him, hitting him in the leg; splinters fly and slash his cheek and hands. He drops his rifle with a grunt, falling onto his back on the deck.

The Captain, seeing his men brought down so quickly, draws a second pistol from his sash and leaps to the starboard rail of the poop deck, firing with both hands, yelling curses at the top of his lungs that cannot be heard through the thunder of the Sea-Cat’s gunmen.

One of the men on the Sea-Cat is struck, then a second; two others shift aim and fire at this new threat.

The Captain is struck, twice, and is knocked back. He falls from the poop deck and crashes onto the main deck.

All goes black.

Ship’s Log

Llewellyn Vaughn, Ship’s Surgeon, recording.

We have escaped from the Englishman Captain Nicholas Hobbes and his Sea-Cat. That ship was slowed by our cannonade, taking on water and her sails and rigging damaged. They fell quickly behind after they fell off the line to fire on us.

Captain Kane lives, though he has not yet regained consciousness. I have bound his wounds, but he has lost some blood, perhaps one and one-half pints, judging by his pallor. A bullet remains in his right shoulder, perhaps lodged against the scapula, from the entry wound. The shot to his left arm passed through the wrist and away. Francis Murphy and Seamus O’Finnegan are lost, Murphy killed in the shrouds, O’Finnegan over the rail. MacManus, O’Gallows, and Sweeney were all wounded; I have removed a bullet from MacManus’s left quadriceps. I believe it was slowed by passing through the ship’s bulwark, and did little harm, but it may have splintered. He will have to be watched carefully. O’Gallows and Sweeney suffered minor flesh wounds, which I have sewn. Lynch is more grievously hurt, the bullet passing through his left side. I hope it did not strike the kidney. He fell to the deck and broke his arm, as well; lost consciousness when I set the bone. He has lost blood as well, and his slighter figure leaves him little to spare.

The ship is undamaged. MacTeigue has the command, while O’Gallows rests and recovers – he has torn nearly all of the flesh off of his hands, attempting to hold the mainsail as the ship turned, and Fitzpatrick and Doyle with him – and steers us for the nearest land, which is the coast of the same America we left behind. We have come some hundreds of miles north, but without the captain and after the confusion of the battle, we know not where we are, nor where we will strike land. I only pray it will be close to civilization, and we may perhaps find a surgeon who can save the lives of our wounded brethren. They are beyond my help, now.

I pray, as well, that the Sea-Cat will not find us again.

One last observation: I believe I have discovered the means by which Captain Hobbes was able to follow us across the Atlantic through the darkest night despite any subterfuge attempted by our wily and devious Captain. After Captain Kane fell, and I had performed my duty, I met with MacTeigue on the poop deck to give my report of our casualties. I happened, in my exhaustion, to lean on the aft rail, and I noticed a silvery light shining, though it was night, and there was no moon in the sky. Leaning out further, I discerned runes, old Celtic pagan script, painted on the stern of the ship. They were glowing, brighter than a lantern, with a silver light. I cannot read the Druids’ tongue, but I believe one of the runes represents the word for blood.

The Grace of Ireland is Captain Kane’s ship. His blood was spilled on the deck this day – and as I recall, the same occurred during our first encounter with Hobbes, in Ireland of yore. And again, the night we fought the Sea-Cat a second time and were hurled, by time’s tempest, into the Year of our Lord 2011.

I do not know an explanation which I can rationally accept. But three instances – hypothetical, not confirmed observationally but for this last – that makes a pattern.

I will discuss this with the Captain, if he survives. If we all survive.

Recorded this night, the 8th of August, 2011

Aboard the Grace of Ireland

Bound for unknown shores

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Log 37: Time to Go

Captain’s Log

Date: 7th August 2011

Location: Maritime Museum, Plantation Key

Conditions: Peaceful and calm

Today, all is well with the world.

The men have doffed caps and shirts – they would have removed their shoes as well, but like all sailors in warm climes, most wear none – and are lounging, idle and at peace, some on the sand, some in the surf. O’Grady is below in the galley, mixing a new grog concoction, essaying an experiment with the spirits of this age and place. He hopes to improve on the old mixture, which is ale, water, rum, and a touch of gunpowder; it is effective, but neither pleasing to the pallet nor soothing to the gullet. Vaughn, of course, is inside the museum, ensconced within Monsieur Navarre’s books – assuming he is not ensconced in Monsieur Navarre’s arms. I am glad that Llewellyn has found a kindred spirit here, as there were none among the crew. I would fear he might face harassment – sailors, I have learned, are either fire or ice, never a temperate middle ground: some are welcoming of all peoples and creeds and those who walk other paths through this life, and others are cantankerous and contentious with all but their closest mates, and will often turn on them, too, given the slightest provocation. I cannot say whether all of my men would be welcoming of a man like Vaughn if he did not hide his desires, as he ever has, until now. But then, it is possible that Vaughn will not rejoin the crew when we sail from here. I do not know what would call him home with a sweeter voice than that which sings to him now.

Of course, it is possible we will not make it home. I do not know where our course might lead, once we reach Ireland; I know not how it led here. I recall the strange storm, the light, the shaking, the surge of the water and the burst of shrieking just before we came to these shores; was that when it happened? If it was, how do I find those same conditions? And will it send us back, or – somewhere, or somewhen, else?

I find myself thinking of something which Monsieur Navarre brought to my attention as we were cruising through the Keys and he had loosed the hounds of his curiosity. On the stern of this ship there are runes painted, each a foot or more in height; Monsieur Navarre had noted them during his initial inspection of the Grace after the Coast Guard brought her to him, and he inquired of me as to the language and meaning of the script. I told him that my dear mother, who has great knowledge of the old ways, had performed a rite when my ship was new, blessing the Grace and asking the gods to protect the ship and her captain and crew. The runes are ancient Druidic writing, and read – if memory serves – “Name of my Name, Blood of my Blood. Blood of the Earth, Breath of the Earth, Flesh of the Earth, Spirit of the Earth, carry my Blood and my Name, and shield my Blood and my Name, safe through all time.” The bit about the blood and the name is for my great-great-grandmother, Gráinne Ní Mháille, called Grace O’Malley, for whom my ship is named and from whom I claim all of my abilities as captain and sailor – and aye, as a pirate, as she were one of the greatest who ever sailed the seas and raided the damned English. All that blather about the Earth, that is the usual Druidic folderol – I confess I kept very little of what Mam taught me of her faith.

But it is the last part which strikes me. “Through all time.” It seems a strange phrase – especially since we have indeed come through time.

Then there is Monsieur Navarre’s second question about the runes, which regarded the paint Mam used to apply them. Monsieur Navarre said that it showed some luminescence at night, especially by moonlight, but that he had scraped a small portion to examine carefully, and it appeared to be, or contain, blood. He asked what might make up this strange stuff, but I know not. ‘Tis Druid’s stuff, that’s all. They were, and are, over-fond of both blood and moonlight. I recall bleeding as a part of the ritual, but I did not know that Mam painted my blood on my ship, nor have I the first inkling as to why it may glow.

Mam – what did you put on my Grace?

I think I will go put the men to work. I have purchased a great swath of canvas and a spool of good rope, and I want spare sails made and the cordage stowed properly against any future need.

Later

We weigh anchor. Now. Vaughn overheard Navarre on the telephone, reporting that our ship and crew were all present and accounted for. Vaughn said Navarre exclaimed “They left him on an island?” and asked, “Which of them will be charged?”

Morty has been found. They come for us. We go now.

Last watch. 7th August.

We are twenty miles away and sailing well. We are not pursued; if we are sought, they do not know our position. I do not know how long it will take them to find us, with their magic windows and telephones, or to catch us with their iron beast-ships and thunder-guns. I do not know if they will seek to capture us, or merely sink us. We did not kill the Coast Guard men who stood watch over the ship, so as not to incur further wrath; a blow to the head and ropes and gags, that is all.

Vaughn is despondent. I am sure now that he did mean to stay, in this time and place and with Monsieur Claude Navarre. My sins have harmed my friend. It stabs at me.

We did not have opportunity to take on supplies for a voyage across the wide ocean, so we will make a landing and revisit the place we know, rather than hope to find that which we need by dumb luck – the risks are less in the familiar place, despite the difficulties.

To market, to market, to rob a fat pig . . .

Captain’s Log

Date: 8th August

Location: 15 mi. off shore, bearing North-East

Conditions: Fine sailing, ship well-stocked, men in good spirits.

We landed yesternight at the Glass Palace, anchored in the cove and made shore by boat. Though we had but very little time, as we wish to avoid discovery and pursuit, I felt I must pay my respects to the lady of the house, and so I crept in upon the sleeping Enchantress (Praying that this old title is as misapplied as I believe, for if it is not, I will no doubt be transformed into swine along with my men for this, as this Circe will have less mercy for her Odysseus, methinks) and wakened her with a kiss – and then had her chamber door guarded, so she could not alert the Coast Guard nor la policia. She is not pleased with me. But I remain unswined.

I took nearly the whole crew with me, as we must transport goods and supplies back to the ship. We were not an unobtrusive group, fifteen pirates creeping along the side of the road with pistols and rifles and swords – but the night cloaked us well. We had to make our way on foot – curse these people for abandoning horses for these bloody beast-wagons! – but we could trot, most of the way, and the road was familiar and so required no consideration as to route even in the dark, so we made good time.

We reached the Piggly Wiggly with the dawn.

I let Ian take the lead, as the man has held something of an ill wish for the master of the market since his first visit here, when he was all but named drunkard and thief. Ian bore a wide grin when he thrust a pistola in the same man’s face and inquired if the good sir remembered him. He did.

We got quickly to work, then. There were but half a dozen people in the place, four of them women, and so two guards sufficed, with another man crouched by the entrance should other shop-goers or clerks arrive. The rest of us dove into the treasure trove, the endless bounty, the horn o’ plenty that was the Piggly Wiggly. Food and wine, ale and spirits, even tools and implements – sewing needles and soap, string and a large rack of very convenient gunny sacks, printed with the name Piggly Wiggly and with handles attached. We took it all. Every man of us filled one of those wheeled metal carts, with hams and beans, beef and pork and fowl and even fish, lemons and limes, oranges and apples, flour and rice, salt and pepper, oats and cheese. And wine. And ale. And rum – a generous plenty of rum. We were joyed when O’Neill found a shelf filled with tobacco, tubes of rolled leaf as the Indian savages of legend smoked as well as the strange thin white tubes that O’Flaherty discovered when we first came here, and even some proper pouches – we filled four of the gunny sacks with the stuff, and a few of the men capered with glee at our haul.

We pressed all of the people into the back storerooms and bound and gagged them there. Then, not a turn of the glass after we arrived, we were leaving, making off into the dawn’s rosy light with a caravan of metal carts piled high with goods. ‘Twas a fine raid, aye, ‘struth.

I was somewhat anxious that we would be noted and pursued on our way back, slowed as we were by the booty, and made even more noticeable as well; but these folk do not keep farmer’s hours. No more than a dozen beast-wagons passed us on the road to the Glass Palace and the cove where our ship awaited us. Though we garnered a number of strange glances, no one stopped to question us.

We returned and loaded the ship. I refrained from stealing one last kiss from the now-enraged Enchantress, instead calling her guard away from her door in silence; she would soon enough realize herself to be alone and free in the house, but by then we would be gone. And indeed, we were.

This place, this time – it is the greatest temptation the pirate in me has ever known. They are so docile! So complacent and innocent, so unprepared for the invasion of armed ruffians; and so willing to give over all of value that they possess at the first threat of violence to their persons. Or else, like Morty, so brash and arrogant that they believe themselves invincible, which makes it ever so simple to prove, like Morty, that they are but men, and their tools and the wonders of this age do not keep them safe, not from us. We could have our way with these people, carve a swath along this coast like a scythe through a wheatfield; we would be rich. We would be legendary.

But there is a hidden danger here, far greater than any British man o’ war, than any bounty luring privateers to our wake. Though this land be rich, it is the richness of a bee’s nest: full of golden sweetness, but swarming with a thousand stings that might do anything from annoy a man to strike him dead. The coast Guard, la policia, the courts, the beast-wagons, steel ships, thunderguns and pistolas – the danger of capture or outright destruction is staggering. We would never survive, if we turned pirate in this place. That is the trap.

Nay: we must leave. We do not belong here. We must be in a place that we understand, where the risks and the rewards are familiar, and can be weighed properly, one against the other, and a happy balance struck. We must go home.

Captain’s Log, August 9th

We have made 166 miles thus far, though our course is somewhat skimble-skamble; we sail north, then east, then north; we see the line of the coast off the port side, and turn away from it, but we use the land as our guide and so do not drift too far away, tacking and turning our way home. Thus far, still no pursuit.

Captain’s Log, August 10th

We have decided to sail away from the land. We have a good wind moving us north-east, which way we mean to go, and Ian and MacTeigue have convinced me that we can find resupply anywhere we make land in Europe, either with the money-papers we possess or as we took the Piggly Wiggly. It stands to reason that if one land in this time is as we found Florida, settled and well-populated, somnolent and ripe for the plucking, but with a sharp sting waiting when roused, then other lands to the east would be similar. So as long as we are quick to strike and quick to withdraw, we should be able to have our way.

Thus we bear out for the open ocean, and Ireland. And home.

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Log 36: Filling in the Holes

Captain’s Log

Date: 31st of July in the year 2011

Location: Plantation Key

Conditions: Hopeful.

Two good men were released from their bondage, today: Ceallachan Ó Duibhdabhoireann and my friend and first mate, Ian O’Gallows. We met them at the gaol when they came into their first sunlight of the last fortnight, we having been alerted to the happy occasion by its architect, Master McNally. As they emerged, we gave them three rousing cheers, a proper welcome for heroes. Aye, heroes: they saved my crew from descending to the vile depths of Shluxer’s lusts, and then spared these men, and my ship, from destruction at the hands of the Coast Guard. Heroes they are, and so I named them – and then I named Ian to his former post as First Mate of the Grace, and Kelly to Bosun in place of Burke, which met with a roar of approval. I have also named my good cousin Owen MacTeigue to Gunner, replacing Hugh Moran, who met his doom and found justice for his crimes.

After we returned to our camp, and the welcome feast which O’Grady had prepared, Ian and Kelly soon heard of the events occurring in their absence, including the oaths sworn on this beach, on my sword. They instantly clamored for the chance to swear their own oaths, which I happily granted and accepted their sworn word to serve me and my ship. I swore to them, as well, so that now I bear a cross on my breast to remind me of my duty to my men.

I have all of my crew, now. All that remain worthy of trust. All that I need to do is what must be done: to get us home.

Captain’s Log

Date: 1st August 2011

Location: Plantation Key

Conditions: Busy

Vaughn has managed to gain us access to the Grace! That silver-tongued devil, who knew he had it in him?

But indeed, Monsieur Navarre has come to see that we, the captain and crew of the Grace of Ireland, were best suited to see to her repairs and proper maintenance: to replace her yardarm, patch the many holes and tears in her canvas caused by the thunder-guns of the Coast Guard (In truth we could not patch it, and were forced to make new sails; Monsieur Navarre was able to find us new canvas, which the men sewed under Vaughn’s supervision. The old sail I had stowed for future use; we can cut it down or use it for scraps. Foolish, perhaps, to save it; but it came with us from home.), as well as splice new line to replace the cordage similarly destroyed, and craft a new rail and wheel. Yes, and repair the gouge in her flank – aye, my fine lass needs a fair bit of doctoring. We have no carpenter, but seeing how well the last replacement carpenter worked for us, I think we will muddle through on our own. Monsieur Navarre and his fellow scholars may prove able assistants in this, and they are certainly eager to serve.

I have paid McNally for services rendered, and promised him a cruise on the Grace in respect of his kind friendship to us. Some 25,000 dollars remain in our treasury.

Captain’s Log

Date: 2nd August

Location: By the Nautical Museum of Monsieur Navarre, and close to the Grace.

Conditions: The repairs proceed rapidly. But one thorn remains.

I am unsure how to resolve the issue of our hostage. Morty has proved a simple enough matter thus far: we simply dug a thieves’ hole on the beach, shadowed by the cliff and bordered by the surf, and placed him in it, covered over with palm fronds – this, it obtains, is the name of the tall slender tree, the palm. A man or two to guard, armed with the very pistolas we took from that foul-mouthed rogue, and some small food and water tossed in, generally the scraps from the crew’s meals. And there it is: a kept man.

But he lives in town, and runs a shop. He must be missed. How long until someone finds his way into the pawn shop and discovers it ransacked, with the proprietor’s blood on the glass countertop? Are they looking for him even now?

The easy solution – simply to fill in the hole, with or without a pistol-shot first – calls out to me. Its song sounds sweeter by the day.

Captain’s Log

Date: The Third of August, in the year 2011

Location: 30 mi. South-Southwest of Plantation Key, in open water

Conditions: She sails!

There are a myriad of sights in this world to make a man feel small. The sight of a tree standing proud and strong and two hundred feet tall: crouch under it – for even at a man’s full height, one is crouching under that enormity – and know that it grew when your father’s father’s father was but a babe, and back before that, and that it will live on, and grow taller still after you are dust – and you will feel small. Stand beside a mountain, or under a cliff; swim in a river’s current, or cower beneath a storm’s sky-tearing fury, and you will know how insignificant is this thing we call a man. The glory of God’s creation? Perhaps, and perhaps not. Withal, just a man.

Too, there are a thousand means for a man to feel like a giant, to grow prodigious and glorious. Cut down that great tree, hew it and shape it into a house or a church, a fortress or a ship, or a bridge; then stand on what you have wrought – ah, then is a man grown tall. Climb the mountain, scale the cliff, bridge the river or swim up the current, thews and sinews straining, challenging the mighty rushing water, and laugh at the storm raging without while you sit comfortable and warm and dry by your hearth, under your strong roof – then you feel a match for the world, then you feel deserving of God’s special attentions. Nature makes us small – but by conquering it, we grow large again.

This is never more true than now, for I sit at a table in my cabin aboard my ship, the Grace of Ireland: a masterwork of wood and nails, canvas and rope, held on course no matter how the wind blows or the currents press by the minds and muscles of men – and yet, what are we but ants on a cork, adrift in that endless expanse of water, immeasurable, inconceivable in its whole, its breadth, its depths that may hold wonders and terrors undreamt of? Even now, in this time that is my own distant future, men do not truly know what lies beneath the waves. I have asked Monsieur Navarre, and though men have now ways of seeing deeper than my own people ever could, still they cannot see all. If I traveled forward – Gods forbid! – another three centuries, or six, or more, I do not believe men would know the sea as well as we know the land. Beneath the waves is not our world, and we are not welcome there, below, in the cold silence.

So am I small, for being one speck on this world of the ocean? Or am I large, for sailing across it, for making use of it, turning its incalculable might to my advantage? Who is mightier, the steed or the man atop it?

I know not. I know this: here, on my ship on this mighty ocean, I am alive.

We have taken Master McNally and Monsieur Navarre aboard and set out on a brief pleasure cruise: thus do we pay our debts to these good men. They are well-satisfied with the arrangement: Master McNally has spent much of this past day at the ship’s bow, feeling the wind and the spray in his face, his eyes roving the boundless horizon and a smile creasing from ear to ear. For some strange reason, he has a penchant for standing on the rail and shouting, “I’m the king of the world!” Well, it is his first time aboard a proper sailing ship, and the speed and power, the freedom and the grace – ’tis a glory to behold.

Monsieur Navarre has not stopped asking questions. He is fascinated by every step we take, every line we pull, every knot, every shout, every chantey – not one aspect of a ship’s sailing or the men who crew her is beneath his notice, or free from his probing mind. I now know how an animal feels when it is captured and examined by a natural scientist, like Vaughn: we are the curiosity that drives Monsieur Navarre. Still, he seems most entertained, to judge by the sparkle in his eye and the spring in his step.

I do not doubt that my own eye and step have the same joy and light. I am where I belong, aboard my ship with my crew, and what’s more, I am at last free of O’Flaherty, and of the noisome Burke, ever lurking about and leering, the black-hearted bastard. There are no Englishmen aboard the Grace. My heart is full.

Captain’s Log

Date: 4th of August

Location: 60 mi. due East of last position.

Conditions: Weather remains ideal, ship is hale, companions are stout-hearted, amiable, and true.

Master McNally made an intriguing suggestion last night at dinner, the which we ate on the deck under the velvet sky. He paid the ship and crew – and the captain, as well – the very kindest and most eloquent of compliments, which dazzled me so that I find I cannot recall a single moment of it, and would not try to re-create his words with my own humble pen. But the thrust was that this cruise has been one of the great joys of his life. Then, after he raised a glass and we all gave a huzzah to honor him and his words, he sat and told me that I should consider this as an occupation for my ship.

“You could build cabins in the hold – maybe take out the guns on the middle deck and build them there, or use that as a dining area – a galley, right? Because the gun ports could let in light and air. I’m telling you, people would pay hundreds, maybe even thousands, for a nice, quiet, intimate cruise on a beauty of a ship like the Grace. With the way pirates have gotten popular lately, thanks to Johnny Dep and the Caribbean Muveys –” (I did not slow him to ask for clarification of these strange names, but have simply rendered here his words as he spoke them, to be understood perhaps another day.) “– you fellows could really draw the crowds in. I could get you all set up with a business license, handle the paperwork and whatnot; it could just – well – sail! All the way to the moon and back!”

His excitement was infectious – and the idea is sound. If the people here feel as he does, if they spend their lives – as they seem to do, from what I have seen – locked inside houses, trapped in enclosed beast-wagons, surrounded always by noise and stink of their metal constructions and their glassed windows, rarely breathing the free air, then a proper cruise on a proper ship would indeed be a joy, a fine way to spend a day or three, and worth remuneration.

Perhaps this place and time need not be so hostile to us. Perhaps we could – stay.

Captain’s Log

Date: 5th of August

Location: Plantation Key, at our camp on the beach.

Conditions: Complications arise.

On our return from the joyful cruise, we were welcomed by news somewhat less rapturous. I had left MacManus and Sweeney behind to watch Morty in his thieves’ hole, but they instead watched a bottle of rum vanish down their gullets. Morty very nearly escaped – prevented only by his own clumsiness, for he fell back into the hole as he was climbing out, and injured his leg; he cried out and roused the somnolent MacManus, who found the wherewithal to aim a pistola in Morty’s general direction and halt his rambunctiousness. The vile-mannered shopkeep had stripped his own clothing off, used it as a flail, weighted with sand in the pockets, and knocked the palm fronds down into his hole. Then he used these to fashion a ladder of sorts, stout enough to propel him up the sloped sides of the pit. A fine plan, had his weight not smashed through his improvisation at the critical moment.

MacManus and Sweeney have had their five lashes for drinking and sleeping on watch, but the problem remains. Thus, this night we will take Morty out in the boat, bring him to a sandbar or small deserted island somewhere in the Keys, and maroon him.

I should shoot him. Somehow, I cannot. This will have to suffice.

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Log 35: The Gallows Log

Ian O’Gallows

19th of July

When first I was put in this place, I feared I would ne’er see the Sun, nor breathe Free Air again. I feared I would ha’ my neck stretched ere a Week had passed. In Truth I was somewhat stunned that the Cap’n o’ the Coast GuardShip what took us did not hang every man Jack of us from the yardarm, and send us with our Ship to Davy Jones, with a Curse to chase us down to Hell. Sure and he had evidence enow to know our Crimes and our Guilt.

Now that I ha’ been here three days, I fear only that tiresome hours, without any employment, amusement, or e’en punishment, will pile up so high they smother me. So, to avoid this fate, I ha’ requested paper and pen from my captors, so that I may follow the lead o’ me Cap’n, Damnation Kane, who doth keep the log faithfully.

So here be me log.

They did capture us on July the 15th, four days ago. They made it back to shore in two or three hours, with us all manacled and sitting on the stern deck o’ that thundering steel Hell-ship. That devil’s boat made thirty, forty knots, without sail nor oar. At least that many! Methinks I did not need to do what I did, and give them the Grace’s heading. Sure and they could ha’ found us as easy as they took us, as easy as they brought us back.

They kept us from talking on the ship, tho speeches were made with the eyes. If O’Flaherty could ha’ killed me with his glare, I would ha’ been spared these empty days in this cell, aye. Burke, as well. Tho the opposite do be true, too: if my hands had been free, them two mutineers would lie flat wi’ wrung necks and black tongues by now. Aye, and perhaps a puling pissbucket of a rapist, as well, tho that tub o’ maggoty fishguts Shlocksir be barely worth the effort to strangle. But he be worth it, na’theless. He cried, the suety fop, like a bairn without his mam’s teat to fill his mouth. Fair made me sick.

We made the Keys ere night fell, and they put us into three cells at the fortress. And they took off the manacles, and left us unguarded. Ha! The minute the door shut behind the guard, I took hold o’ that damned O’Flaherty and flung him into the bars, head-first. He reeled back, stunned and bleeding, but he be an Irishman, and he put up a fight, aye. But tho he be the stronger, I be younger and faster. And smarter and prettier, while we be talking on it, ha ha! Burke he would ha’ come to his man’s aid, but he were in another cell, as was Carter, who might ha’ done the same. Burke roared at me, laying on the curses like mortar on a wall, until Kelly, me good mate Kelly, took it in his mind that Burke should be hushed, and then he made it so, wi’ but three good blows of those cannonballs he calls fists. Burke be paid back for what he did to Kelly back in Ireland, when Burke took the Bosun’s Whistle from Kelly.

O’Flaherty took a bit more convincing, but soon enow he was down for a wee nap, too, and sleeping like a babe, aye. I could ha’ strangled him then, but I had cooled a mite. Too, I felt that killing a man while in gaol and about to be tried for my life would be somewhat rash. I but gave him a kick in the teeth to remember me by. Then I spoke wi’ the men.

“Listen, all o’ ye,” I said. “I don’t give a fig for who ye would ha’ for Cap’n o’ this crew, or if ye think ye be a crew at all. I say we be the men o’ the Grace o’ Ireland, and o’ the blood o’ Old Erin herself. We be the wolves o’ the Irish seas, sons o’ Lugh and Cormac, Cuchulain and Fionn MacCumhaill. Aye?” They growled and grumbled an Aye to that. Then I lowered my voice and looked every man in the eye. “Men o’ Ireland ha’ nothing to say to the men o’ the law. Not to the gaolers, not to the judges, not to the headsman, if it come to that. Nothing but our names, that they may remember us, and a curse for them to choke on. Be we agreed?”

And they agreed, every man. Then the guards came in, saw O’Flaherty and Burke unconscious on the floors, and asked after the events leading to such a state. And the men, they did me proud. Not a damned word did they give those bastards. Naught but a hard stare and a few mouthfuls o’ spit cast to the floor at their feet. Good men, they are. All but Shlocksir, o’ course. He opened his gob and drew breath to squeak like the bilge rat he be. But Arthur Gallagher, old Lark, as we call him for his singing, Lark threw a punch, quick as a fox, into Shlocksir’s ballocks, and knocked the traitorous air right out o’ him, without the guards bein’ any the wiser.

In an English prison, they’d ha’ every man of us flogged for fighting. Here they mere posted a man outside our cells to watch us. The men grew confident at that, for sure and we’d all expected the flogging, and the air eased somewhat. We stayed silent for an hour or more, glaring at the guard. Then Lark started singing. Soon enough we’d all joined in, and we sang down the moon and up the sun.

Then they came for us. Manacled, led into a great beast of a wagon, like a tinker’s house on wheels, but with two long benches the only furniture in it. Half the men in one wagon, half in another just like the first, and they drove us to another gaol. This’n be larger, but with smaller cells. The cell where I lay now and write these words be three paces by four, with two bunks stacked on one wall. I share with Lochlan O’Neill, him the men call Salty for the white in his hair and whiskers and his thirty years before the mast, which ha’ pickled and tanned his hide with sun and sea air. Salty be a fine bunkmate, aye, quiet and thankfully free o’ stench. Sure and these bitty cells might weigh on many a man, but for tars like us, who would sleep six men in hammocks in this same space when the ship be full o’ cargo and the weather bad abovedecks, this be a fine cabin for two.

Naturally I figured that once we met the local Inquisition, they’d drag us out o’ these fine quarters and lock us in the dankest pit they had. These cells must be the reward they hold out for waggling your tongue, I thought. That and the food, which is better than what I’ve eaten on most voyages once the fresh grub be gone. Yet they ha’ not taken these luxuries away. Not yet.

They do not torture, either. Or they be right slow in getting to it. That first full day, they came for each o’ us, three at a time, tho they put one man into one room, sitting at table with two men dressed like merchants, with open coats and neck-scarves, clean white shirts and shoes which shone. They asked us questions for an hour or two. And that’s all: they but asked. They did not even strike us. Not even Salty, tho he told us later in the galley (Aye, the gaol has a galley, where all the prisoners sit and eat together.) that he had cursed them till his tongue was raw. But nothing, naught but question after question. Soon I found I could simply ignore them as they blathered on at me. Made me feel quite like a married man, ha ha.

Nay: my difficult hour came when I had to face my Cap’n, my friend and the man I had betrayed, when I gave his ship to these men with their soft hearts and their thunder-guns. Cap’n Kane came the second day we were in the small cells. The guards summoned me out and brought me to the main portcullis, at the end o’ the corridor lined by our cells, and there, two paces from the bars, stood my Cap’n, his brow thundrous and his eyes flashing lightning.

I made my report, and he responded as a cap’n should. Enough said o’ that. I am right glad that he be wise enow to see where fault truly lies, for while I ha’ surely sinned, I be no cursed mutineer. I ha’ failed. But I did not betray.

Then, yesterday, a man came to us, starting with myself, and said he be our lawyer, name of McNally. He said he were engaged by Cap’n Kane. He bore proof, a note in the Cap’n’s hand which instructed us to listen to this man’s advice, and I did so. McNally heard the whole tale from my lips, tho he knew much of it from the Cap’n, including my own hand in our capture and in protecting the virtue of our hostages from the yot. Instead o’ callin’ me traitor for giving up the Grace, McNally told me this was a good thing, that my actions were – laudable, I think he said. He complimented us too on not speaking to the law in our questioning sessions, which earned a laugh from me. “Does anyone?” I asked him. “Why? For fear of their foul breath?”

But now McNally says I need to talk to them, and tell them everything. He says the law needs a sacrifice, a patsy, he called it. Someone to point the finger of justice at and proclaim There be the guilty one! A trophy for the wall, that’s all it is. But McNally says we must give them this. And what’s more, he says that the Cap’n has ordered it so, has ordered us to talk to these bastards, these – they’re not English, but they might as well be for the way they treat us. Not cruel, no, but like we be beneath them, like dirt, or spittle under their bootheel which must be scraped off and washed away. As tho we be filth to be cleansed, instead of men. Aye, they be English, in truth. They be West English, that’s what they be.

And I am to confess to these West English? To the law? Aye, Nate ordered it, I believe McNally’s word on that. I see the Cap’n’s reasons, too. If we talk, it be O’Flaherty and Burke, Carter and Shlocksir wi’ the noose about their necks. Them what led, and them who did the killing. And for their mutiny against my Cap’n and friend, they should do the Devil’s dance at the end of a rope, aye, for certain sure, and I’d watch ’em and smile, for what they done.

But he wants me to talk to the law. He wants me to cooperate, and turn on my fellow pirates. Aye, it be an order, but we’re not on ship. And curse me for it, but Cap’n’s been wrong afore – ne’er should ha’ hired on that Shlocksir, ne’er should ha’ whipped him just for trying on that girl. Turned the men against him, and look at us now.

I don’t know what to do.

20th of July

McNally came back again today. He told me the men be waiting on me to talk. All except for Shlocksir. That whoreson be singing hymns from the choir loft, all about his innocence and all our evil ways, how we forced him to do it all against his will. Figures that even in saving his own greasy skin, he comes out a coward and a weakling.

McNally told me too that the West English all but promised that if we tell the tale, and if it be true, then we’d go free. He says they don’t believe Shlocksir, for the witnesses from the land-grabs and the yot tell a tale somewhat different from the one that poxy bastard be spinning. A tale what our story will line with right fine, methinks. McNally’s not sure about me, nor Kelly. I was on the yot, with a cutlass, and Kelly broke in doors for the land-grabs. We may have to stay in here. Tho he swears we will not swing for what we done, even if they hold us to our crimes.

After he left, I had other visitors. The two lasses we took off the yot, who Kelly and me stood guard over. They came to – to thank us. For protecting them. Christ.

I’ll talk. There be good men in this crew, in this gaol, and they shouldn’t be here. Perhaps I can talk them out of here, even if I can’t find my own way to freedom.

26th of July

No need to write in this of late. I been busy reciting my lessons for the West English, and I don’t want to recount that tale. Damn me, but they want to hear the same story over and over and over, like wee bairns at bedtime. “Tell us again, Uncle Ian, about the yot. Tell us the one about when the Coast Guard caught ye.” My tongue be tired of it.

But it worked. The men’ll be released today, all but Kelly and me, and the four bastards who be our scapegoats, our sacrificial lambs. Tho really, they be more weasels and mongrels. Our sacrificial mongrel-weasels. They be staying here.

McNally says, and the West English agree, that if Kelly and me agree to stand in court and testify against the four mongrel-weasels, we’ll be set free, too. We’ll plead guilty to theft and the like, and leave wi’ time served and parole that would keep us here in Florida. West England, says I, whate’er flowery name they write on the map.

Be it too much? To stand before a magistrate, point my finger, put the noose on them myself? I sailed with those men, whate’er they done. Carter was a good man, too, a good tar, and Burke ha’ fought many a battle for us. O’Flaherty, too, standing side by side with me with lead flying and steel singing. Can I do that to them? Can I kill them with the law?

27th of July

Aye, I can. Hurts to write. With the men gone and Kelly elsewhere, Burke and O’Flaherty caught me in the galley and tried to beat me to death. Did a fair job of it, too. And all the while cursing me for opening my gob to the law.

Damn them anyway, I be no coward. If I clap shut now, they’ll think they beat a fear into me. I’ll not have that.

I’ll tell myself we’re on ship. They be mutineers, and I be the first mate. I’d be the one to tie the knot on their necks and cast them off the yardarm, asea. So aye, I’ll do it here, too. For my Cap’n, and my – is it honor? Is it? Do I have any of that? Will I still, after I do this, after I help the English to kill Irishmen?

I know not. I know nothing. It all hurts.

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Log 34: Free Men, Bound Men

Captain’s Log

Date: 26th of July in the Year 2011

Location: The Redoubt, for the nonce

Conditions: We make ready to sail for Plantation Key. Wind and weather fair and calm.

Huzzah! My men are freed! Or will be soon.

This morning, after my spyglass told me the Enchantress had left for the day, I hied myself to the Glass Palace and renewed my acquaintance with Maid Flora; a most amiable reunion it was, indeed. After I had heard the news of the Family Lopez – Juan had lost his place at Squire McDonald’s tavern, but he and Ignacio both had found employ as gardeners – and given a vague recounting of my own exploits, one which glossed over or expunged the assorted violences and robberies and the like, I introduced the Maid to my companions (with whom, of course, she was familiar, having been held captive by them and the rest of my men for many days, but she had never been properly introduced, which I did now, out of respect for her kind and unexpected assistance after the mutiny) and begged use of the washroom and telephone. These kindnesses being extended, I cleansed myself thoroughly and then made contact with Master McNally, who tendered his most welcome report: lacking evidence of direct involvement in any wrongdoing, the charges were being dropped against the bulk of my crew. Burke, Carter, and O’Flaherty, the instigators and actors of the most heinous crimes – for Burke and Carter had committed the two murders aboard the yacht, and O’Flaherty had spoken for the crew there – and of course the vile Shluxer, thief, kidnapper, and would-be rapist, would remain in the gaol awaiting their time before a magistrate. I saw this as further welcome intelligence, though not as a surprise, as I had instructed McNally not to intercede on behalf of these four, the cause of my overthrow and theft of my ship. The only troubling news from McNally was that my first mate and friend, Ian O’Gallows, and Kelly, who had stood by his side against the mutineers at the last, were to be charged and tried, Ian for participating in the raid on the yacht, Kelly for breaking in doors and aiding Shluxer and Burke with the robberies ashore. These last, McNally told me they had on viddy-oh; it took some time before I understood that this was a way of saying they had seen Kelly’s face on their magic windows.

But as for the rest, as soon as Master McNally got through with what he termed “red tape,” they are to be released, free men. Most likely it will be on the morrow. And so we have readied the boat, and rolled our hostage in a large sheet of blue plass-tick which I discovered in the Palace’s garradge, with his arms and legs bound by cords, so that Morty the Shopkeep now resembles a mere bundle of goods at our feet. Now we will set sail for the gaol and our glad reunion.

Gods send that it be so.

Captain’s Log

Date: 28th of July

Location: Plantation Key

Conditions: I have my crew. I but lack my ship.

There was gladness indeed when my men came out of that gaol and stood once more in the bright sunlight, blinking and grinning. We had sailed through the day and night, and with a favorable wind had arrived in time to stand waiting to greet them into the free air. But in truth, my expression was not one of pure delight – though when I saw their joy at being free turn to chagrin and remorse when they saw me, when their eyes dropped to their feet and they doffed their caps and stood round-shouldered, like guilty boys before a stern father, my heart was lifted. Perhaps their loyalty is not wholly lost, I thought then.

I approached closely and stood face-to-face with each man, lingering longest over those who should be most ashamed at their dishonor, namely mine own kin, my cousins and clansmen Liam Finlay and Malachy Rearden. I saved another glare for Abram O’Grady, whom I still suspected of complicity in the conspiracy, for the drugged food that had laid me low when they stole my ship had been prepared by O’Grady’s hands. Not a one of them met my eyes, a wise choice for them all. But I only said, “Let us leave this place and its watching eyes,” and led the whole shuffling, downcast troupe to the beach where we had landed, on the south side of Plantation Key – the same beach where we had raided the noise-wagon – and where Lynch and MacTeigue had laid out the makings of a fine feast, bread and cheese and meat and ale in good quantity, along with several bags of those delicious potato chips, purchased from a nearby shop called a grocery.

The walk had done the men good, as they had been locked away out of the fresh air for many days and unable to stretch their legs properly, and they raised a cheer when they saw their welcome. But I gathered them round, first, and spoke, to this effect.

“All right, lads, you’re free, now, thanks to the efforts of Master McNally – returned to a proper Irishman’s state, aye, for such as we are not meant to be held in irons. And as your friend and countryman, I mean to offer you all a proper celebration of this happy event, and break bread and empty a mug with you all.” They raised a fine cheer at this, though the tone of my next words sobered them again.

“But be warned: I am your friend, aye, and your countryman – ’tis why I engaged Master McNally on your account, for I could not stand to see you all behind bars and at the mercy of the courts of these lands, which may indeed have stretched every one of your necks for your crimes had I not done this – but I am no longer your captain. You are not now my crew. I cannot be your captain, you see, because I do not have my ship: it was lost to me when you mutinied.” I threw the last words at them like a blade, like the crack of a whip, and they flinched back from them, and from the fire in my gaze. As I expected, one of them stepped forward to protest that they never had turned on me – ’twas MacManus, who has ever had more steel in him than most men – but I shouted him down. “Aye, Shane, ye did, all of ye. I know ye were not the ones who poisoned me; I know exactly who was behind that foul and cowardly attack –” here I stopped my pacing and stared directly at O’Grady, who paled and shook his head, but said nothing – “but I also know that ye all were told that I lived, and had been marooned on these strange shores. And ye left me there! Ye took my ship and sailed on, under other men, under mutineers and betrayers and poisoners! Ye followed that mongrel Shluxer, and ye did it as free men!

I paused and allowed that to hang in their ears for a moment, as it had weighed down my heart for weeks now. Then I lowered my voice and made my confession. “I know that you all doubted me, and I know why. Because I brought you – here. I lost our way. And then, when I discovered the truth of where we are, of what has happened to us, I did not tell you. I did not trust you all to hear the truth. That was my sin – and I believe I have paid for it. And perhaps, in these last weeks in that prison, you have all paid for your sins, come right with the gods and your own consciences. I would expect so.

“But you have not paid me. You are not right with me.”

I raised my voice again, my tone brighter as I spoke now of the future. “I hereby swear that I will never again keep anything from you, or from any man, that you have a right to know. I have seen what secrets may do. I mean to regain my ship, and I mean to find a way back home, to our proper world and time. I do not know how this will be accomplished, but I intend to make the first step: the Grace will sail for Ireland.” A buzz of whispers raced through them then, and I looked each man in the eye when it had subsided – and I saw hope there. I went on.

“Because I brought you here, I will take you back with me, if I can. But for now, you have berths only as passengers, not as crew. I mean to recruit new crewmen from among the locals here to help me sail home, and to have a share in whatever profits there may be from this voyage.” There was another murmur at that, this one louder and more grumptious. I raised a hand, and it silenced. “Unless,” I said, and paused again. “Unless you can prove your loyalty to me. Unless you can accept me as captain, as master and commander and sole authority over this ship and its crew, and convince me of your sincerity. Know now that this quartermaster foolishness is over – over and done, and I will never hear of it again. I will never allow another man even a sliver of authority over my ship. I have learned that lesson, oh yes.

“But know as well that I will be open and honest with you, and will listen to your advice when you have it to give, and will follow it when it be wise.”

One last pause to let it sink into them, and then I said, “Think on it. Think on what you wish to do, if you would sail my ship with me, or go as cargo – and if you would join me, how you will win my trust once more. Till then, let us eat.”

We fell on that feast then, and filled our bellies and our hearts, with food and ale and glad shouts and songs and dancing, and many a cup was raised and drained in my honor and Master McNally’s as well. I sent Lynch to find a telephone and invite that worthy to our feast, but when he accomplished this task, McNally refused, with regrets, claiming he was too occupied with O’Gallows and Ó Duibhdabhoireann, whose continued incarceration frustrated him mightily and made him even more determined to free them. Lynch bore back Master McNally’s request for parlay with myself on the morrow, which I agreed to, and will go to attend in an hour or so.

But first I must recount the events that greeted me this dawn.

I was roused, gently, by Lynch; though I had drunk my fair share of ale the night before, I had not had more than my fair share, and so had no regrets nor any difficulty in waking this morn at Lynch’s quiet hail. When I met his gaze, I saw that he was smiling, his eyes bright and shining. “The men wish to see you, Captain. They are waiting at the water’s edge.” I rose quickly and followed him, rubbing sleep from my eyes and combing my hair with my fingers as I went.

Until I saw the men. Then I stopped in my tracks.

They knelt, every one of them, in a line behind MacTeigue – and Lynch hurried to a spot directly behind my cousin and fell to his knees as well. MacTeigue held my sword, unsheathed and gleaming in the dawn’s pearly light. I approached and stood before him, and he offered me the hilt, keeping his fingers on the blade. When I took it, he pressed his left forearm onto the edge and drew blood. Then he spoke these words clearly:

“By my blood, my freedom, and my life, I swear my loyal service to Captain Damnation Kane, for as long as he will have it. And if I break this oath, may this sword take my blood, my freedom, and my life.”

He released the blade and bowed his head. I said proudly, “I accept your service, Owen MacTeigue, and I thank you.” I tapped the blade on his shoulder, and my cousin rose with a smile and took my hand gladly, before taking his place on my right, facing the line of kneeling men. I stepped forward to where Balthazar Lynch reached out his hands for the blade, and soon young Lynch stood at my left shoulder, a thin cut on his left wrist and a proud gleam in his eye.

The next man was Shane MacManus. He slashed open his left palm, and his right, presenting the wounds to me as he swore his loyal service to me. I paused and considered them, and then I nodded, tapped him on the shoulder to accept his oath, and bade him rise.

And so it went: the deeper the shame the man felt, the deeper the cut he gave himself on my blade. I accepted their own estimations of their guilt and their penitence, and their oaths to serve me, bound by my sword and their blood. Until I got to O’Grady, who knelt awkwardly with his wooden leg, at the end of the line. I had heard the night before that the guards in the gaol had taken his wooden leg from him, leaving him to hop around his cell, offering him a beggar’s crutch when he was brought out for meals. I knew this shame was penance enough for following along with the mutiny – but what of the poison, and the plot?

O’Grady took my sword in his hands and placed it against his cheek, under his one good eye. Slowly and deliberately, he cut himself three times, until the blood ran down his neck and dripped off his chin to the sand below. Then he pressed the edge against his own throat, and lowered his hands.

“I swear my service to thee, sir, and my undying loyalty, whether thou want it or no. I swear to thee, on my soul’s salvation, that I did not poison thee, or O’Gallows or Vaughn, and I did not know those bastards did so. I swear I thought thee to be in thy cups, as they told me that thou and the others had been drinking before dinner.” He swallowed roughly, the motion moving the cold steel against his throat. I saw a tear roll down his cheek, mixing with his blood. He closed his good eye. “I wait your judgment, sir.”

I bade him rise, and join the others. I had suspected O’Grady was innocent of my poisoning, as the man has not a deceptive bone in his body, and because the drug they used was likely one from this time, as I had never heard of a potion with those effects from my own age, and this pointed the finger at Shluxer, not at any of my men. Still, ’twas better to be sure, and now that I had heard and seen his sincerity, I was.

I turned and faced my men, with their blood on my sword. I pulled open my shirt, and with the tip of the blade, I cut my breast over my heart, and added my blood to theirs. Then I swore my own oath.

“I swear, by my blood, my freedom, and my life, that I will treat you honorably and lead you as wisely as I can, for as long as you choose to sail with me. I hereby set all of you free, to choose your own course, whether it follow mine or not. And I swear that, as I brought you here, I will bring you home, or die in the attempt.”

I raised my blade to the sky and cried out “To Ireland!” And every man there echoed me.

“TO IRELAND!”

I have my crew once more.

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Log 33: Pain Shop

Captain’s Log 

Date: 25th of July, 2011

Location: Redoubt at the Glass Palace

Conditions: Complicated.

A man might wonder, were he to come across my tale at a bookseller’s someday – gods, do they still have booksellers? – or hear my exploits recounted in a tavern over mugs of ale: whyever did I become a pirate? I may flatter myself that I am a man of parts, of some good education, of courage and determination: what turned me into a rover of the infinite seas?

There are many reasons, as there are with any single moment in a man’s life: as when one comes to a crossroads and must needs take one fateful and decisive step, there were innumerable steps before, and every one a necessary predecessor to the one moment we isolate and ask, “Why that step?” But there are indeed some steps, some causes, that I can identify as weighty in the scales of my life’s measuring.

Any man who turns pirate must love the sea, and I do. The wind and waves, the graceful motion of a ship that can turn in any direction, course to any horizon and beyond, that freedom and beauty, the bright sky above and dark depths below, they wait behind my eyes when I sleep, and they bring me out to greet the morn again. Too, a gentleman of fortune like myself must have some love of gold, an appreciation for the finer things in life, or joy wrought simply from the clink and shine itself; and aye, I have a touch of that curse of Midas. Though for myself, as for some of my crew – Ian O’Gallows be one such, and young Balthazar Lynch – it is more than love of gold: we have a thirst for adventure, and our true reward is glory, a name which echoes and resounds through the ages and strikes fear, or admiration, or – well, something. But this, too, is a kind of greed.

Ere a man joins this Brotherhood of the Coast, he must have a reason in his heart to do violence, to spill blood and still breath. Llewellyn Vaughn lacks this, which is why he sails with us but is not of us. Some, like Ned Burke, are cruel, and relish the infliction of pain on those weaker than themselves; some, like Kelly or MacManus, have a gift for mayhem such that it clears away all other paths in life: they would march as soldiers did they not sail as pirates. Many of us, including myself, have a burning anger in us, a desire for revenge that drives us to draw sword and pull trigger – or a temper hot enough and quick enough to make a man an enemy with but one irksome encounter. Aye, I have that, in truth.

But the one quality that every man jack of us carries, that every corsair shares, is this: impatience. A man who loves the sea can always find a place on it that suits him, if he but takes the time to cast about for a good berth on a good ship. Gold can be earned thus too: many a man’s fortunes have come from simple trading and transport across the waves. And any score that needs settling can be done over the course of years and lifetimes without danger; or even better, it can be forgotten.

But damn me, I cannot wait. I have no gift for it. And so, ’tis a pirate’s life for me.

And because I be a pirate, and have a lust for gold, and for adventure, and a hand ready to become a fist when my blood is high, and because I cannot bide my time, I have made our lives – passing convoluted. Alas, ’tis my nature.

When we sailed from Key Largo with the dawn, we sailed without Llewellyn Vaughn. I confess that in the excitement of the raid on the people of the noise-wagon, I had forgotten that Vaughn was not to accompany us, and he, caught up in the brouhaha as well, did not think to mention it. But it was well: Vaughn was eager to travel on foot along the roads and byways of this place, to cross the bridges that somehow traverse the ocean itself between these southern islands, these Keys; he said it would give him an opportunity to observe more of this world where we find ourselves. We gave him fair share of the booty, some thousand dollars, as these money-papers name themselves, for his keep, and fond farewell wishes and friends’ embraces. Then we three pirates sailed for the Redoubt, which we struck a few hours before night fell. ‘Twas a fine homecoming of sorts; my spyglass gave us a clear view of Maid Flora and her mistress the Enchantress, at their ease in the Palace; these familiar faces, these familiar surroundings where I write this – they put smiles on our faces.

But then, this morning, the reason for my meditations on piracy and my own nature arrived. I took my men creeping to the road before dawn brought Maid Flora, and we made our way to town. I sought to sell the jewelry we had captured, and thought of the shop where I had traded my ruby ring for a wheel-gun and a license for same, and my first money-papers.

I could not at first recall the course to reach it; I had traveled it before in the back of the Lopez beast-wagon, and it amazes how different the landscape looks on foot. But I found it, as much by chance as by recall, and about midday we crossed the threshold of Morty’s Pawn Shop. There were customers within, and as we sought privacy for our transactions, we passed the time in looking over the stock and the prices, affixed to each piece in ink on a slip of white paper tied with string. I saw chains similar to those we had from the pill-man, with “200-” tied to them, even 275-, and a pair of earbobs priced at twice that with diamonds less fine than those in my pocket. I grew eager thinking of the profit we stood to make here.

Aye, a lust for gold, indeed. A pirate I be.

When the shop had cleared but for the three of us and the corpulent fellow behind the cases filled with goods for sale, I hailed him pleasantly, asking if he recalled our prior encounter and exchanges; he gave me naught but a cool stare, at first, but then admitted some small acquaintance with my rather unforgettable self. I produced our booty with a showman’s flourish, and laid it all out on the glass counter top, for his appraisal, and praise, I expected.

I did not get what I expected.

Morty – for this was the shopowner himself – snorted a derisive laugh, poking at the booty with one grimy finger. “What’s all this crap?” he sneered.

I knew not the term he used, but I could not mistake his tone. Still, I assumed it was merely a haggler’s opening ploy, however insulting it sounded. “We wish to offer these fine pieces to you, to enrich your stock in exchange for enriching our purses.”

He looked the three of us over, again with an insulting and contemptuous air about him. I began to feel my temper, that piratical anger of which I spoke, rise behind my eyes.

“Your mother get tired of standing on the corner?” he asked, his lip curled and one brow raised sardonically.

I took this to mean that he thought my family owned a market stall, or perhaps simply stood on corners hawking our wares; I presumed he insulted me by implying that at my age, I still found employment only with my mother, incapable of finding my own trade, and I swallowed my pride again. I forced a smile on my face, over the protestations of my lips. “Nay, my good man, we traded for these.” Aye – the jewels in exchange for a lowered pistol, a blade sheathed unblooded – a fair price for some shiny baubles, not so? “What will you offer us for them?”

He snorted, and poked at the chains, flicking the diamonds with his fingertip. “Twenty bucks.”

I remembered the bucks from my first visit here, but surely he could not mean a mere twenty dollar-papers? “Twenty dollars? For which?”

“For all of it, ya dumb mick,” he barked, and then sat back and laced his fingers over his belly.

I took a deep breath, and the ire subsided slightly. For a moment. Somewhat like the trough before the great wave crashes over the rail. “Come, my good sir: you have similar goods on display and costing better than a thousand dollars, all told; surely you will profit from these, as well? Profit enough to offer a fair price for them?”

He shook his head. “You want a fair price? Show me the receipt. Show me the insurance valuation. Hell, show me the gift card that says, ‘Happy Birthday, enjoy your gangster pimp bling.'” He leaned forward, thrusting a finger at me like a fat, stubby rapier. “But you can’t. because that shit there is hot. It’s stolen. So a fair price for you is whatever the fuck I say it is. You get me now, shit-for-brains?” He sat back once more, shrugging his shoulders with his hands spread wide. “Twenty bucks. Or shove that stuff back up your ass.”

Now the wave crested, and I could not hide my anger. I placed my hand on the wheel-gun in my pocket, an unmistakable signal of intent, but did not draw. “I will take an apology from you, sir. Only after that will I and my companions depart.” I waited.

He snorted a laugh again. “Go fuck your drunk mother, mick.”

The moment that word “mother” left his vile worm-lips, I reached across the counter and seized hold of his shirt, intending to drag him bodily to my side of the display cases. But with a shout, he fell off of his stool, his weight tearing away my grasp. He landed heavily on his knees, and bent forward, scrambling under the counter, presumably for a weapon to defend himself.

We didn’t give him the chance. Lynch snatched up a heavy gold filigreed box, the sort of thing a lady keeps her jewels in, and flung it at the cur, opening a gash in his forehead and knocking him back on his heels; he clapped both hands to his head with a cry, giving up his attempt to arm himself. MacTeigue vaulted the counter and seized the man’s right wrist, which he twisted while dealing him a kick to the right leg that sent him a-sprawl, all his weight falling on his badly-angled arm in MacTeigue’s grip, eliciting a high, womanish shriek of pain.

“Lynch, the door!” I shouted, and the lad slipped past me to the shop’s entrance, which he pressed his back against, and, drawing his pistola, he scanned the street over his shoulders, keeping a watch. I leaned over the counter and grabbed the man’s bent arm from MacTeigue. “Get him up,” I ordered, and MacTeigue hauled on the man’s belt.

He came up swinging, his left arm flailing about and smacking MacTeigue weakly on the shoulder and chin. My cousin responded with a sharp, hard blow to the man’s kidney, which turned the pig a pale green and left him whimpering in pain. I hauled up on his arm then, pulling him forward into my fist, which turned his Hebrew nose into an Irish one – flat and bent and bleeding. I pressed his face onto the counter and leaned on the back of his neck as he spluttered and coughed out blood, and MacTeigue took hold of his left arm and put it on the counter as well, looking to me then for orders.

“Look for the key to the door. Rummage his pockets.” As MacTeigue did so, a look of distaste on his face at having to reach into the fat man’s pants, I ordered Lynch to turn the sign on the door so that it read “Closed” rather than “Open.” MacTeigue found a ring of keys, which he tossed to Lynch, who quickly found the right one and bolted the door, barring any interruptions.

I had MacTeigue right the bastard’s stool, and then place that massive posterior onto it. Then he and Lynch ransacked the shop while I kept the shite-pile’s ugly face pressed to the glass and gave him a lesson in humility. He struggled mightily as soon as I drew my boot knife, and I was forced to have MacTeigue hold his head still while I carved my mother’s name into his scalp. Fah: I didn’t carve deep, only deep enough to let blood flow, and I did it under his greasy hair, so he need not be disfigured at all – but perhaps he would remember my mother’s name, and the reason why he should not say such things about that sainted woman. He flailed at me with both hands until I put his right hand on the glass pane beside the one that held his head, and then struck a sharp blow to the back of his hand, shattering the glass and slashing his skin in several places; after that he held still but for the whimpering. It would have been vociferous cries for help, had we not gagged him with a wad of cloth from his wares.

Lynch collected the pistols and jewelry on display, and found the man’s money-drawer, adding its contents to the impressive pile of dollars MacTeigue had drawn from his pockets. But it was when Lynch stepped through a curtained doorway to the storehouses in the back of the shop that he came across a locked metal chest, bolted to the floor, with a keyhole in the front; that was when I realized that this might be a more profitable day than I ever expected. But experimentation quickly showed that none of the keys on the ring fit this metal chest. A simple query as to the proper key’s whereabouts elicited only a spat curse, mixed with blood from the broken nose.

So we must needs ask more vigorously.

Lynch found a coil of bright-blue rope with some sundry goods, and tied the cur’s wrists behind him, his fingers interlaced and shoulders twisted back. Then, with the aid of a strong hook in the ceiling in the back portion of the shop, we introduced Master Morty to the strappado, the favorite torture of the Inquisition and the cause of many a confession: the rope binding his wrists was brought up to the hook and through, and then MacTeigue and I hauled the prisoner upwards until his feet left the floor, all of his weight pulling his shoulder blades back and his arms nearly out of their sockets – especially as much weight as this slovenly mongrel carried. ‘Tis nearly the equal of the rack, and far simpler to carry out; had he not told me the location of the key then, we could have pulled down on his legs to pull his arms out of joint entirely, or slashed at his feet with a thin metal rod, or perhaps set a fire under him as I had done to the Latin Lion at the House of Lopez. But the first lift of his body was enough, and soon we had the key and opened the chest to find treasure within: stacks of money-paper in bound bundles, totaling more than thirty thousands of dollars.

But the avaricious joy of our success soon gave way to chagrin. Though the black-tongued rogue had denigrated my honor and that of my blessed mother, he had made me a most eloquent and sincere apology for same, and so I considered the matter ended. Thus I could not justly kill him. But left alive, he would soon have brought la policia down on our necks, and we should find ourselves in gaol for this and other crimes.

This, then, is the price of that impatience I have told is the hallmark and signet of piracy. Were I a patient man, I would have walked out of the shop when he insulted me, and planned my vengeance carefully and properly, so that nothing would set la policia on my trail. Or I would not have come here at all, preferring to sell my wares in the marketplace – earning perhaps even more money than this man would have given me in fair trade (Though not so much as we have taken from him now – there do be rewards with the pirate’s life, aye.). But I would not wait to sell, and I would not wait for satisfaction. Now I have possession of a man whom I would not kill, and I cannot allow to go free.

We took the only option available: we kept him. We waited until nightfall, and then we left the locked shop by its back door, with the fat shopkeep bound and gagged and stumbling between MacTeigue and I, as Lynch led us along back alleys and dark streets to the Redoubt, at last. Here we will hold him hostage until I think of a way to solve this conundrum to our advantage.

Aye, a pirate I be. Impatient, intemperate, lacking foresight.

But wealthy.

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Log #32: Muse and Rave

Captain’s Log

Date: 22nd of July, 2011

Location: Marathon Key

Conditions: The Grace is well, and apart from my longing to sail her once again, so too am I.

We departed Treasure Harbor and Islamorada this morn at dawn, and sailed the boat to Plantation Key, four miles to the northeast. Vaughn and I disembarked at the first pier we found, and ordered MacTeigue and Lynch to sail about until they found a decent site for a camp, then claim it and send one or the other to the museum to find myself and Llewellyn. They made off to the east as Vaughn and I walked by the dwelling to which the small pier belonged, making no particular effort at stealth; and yet we remained undiscovered. It amazes me how unaware these people are, like falcons in hoods. Or perhaps frightened tortoises is more apropos, since they often do not come out of their shell-houses.

Once we were to the road, Vaughn’s maps quickly led the way to the Museum of Nautical History, where, before we went in and introduced ourselves to the master of the house, Vaughn led me down a path of white stones to the harbor, where I clapped eyes once more on my ship.

She looked well. A touch battered and bruised, my poor lass, but no worse than when we sailed here to these shores dragging the Sea-Cat behind. Her rail was broken and a terrible long gouge marred her smooth side above the waterline; this was likely where the Coast Guard had boarded her. The broken mast rumored to me by the drunken sailors was indeed Shluxer’s spar, as I had surmised and hoped; a simple enough repair, and one that could be taken on after she sails once more under my command. To say true, I will be glad when there is no part of my ship that bears the taint of Shluxer; I resolved then to tear out and replace the boards he had shaped and placed for us, as well. I was only glad it was not my cabin which had kenneled that mongrel; I could stand to sleep where O’Flaherty had been, for while I would never forgive him his betrayal, at least he was an Irishman, and one of my own time; and a mutineer is not so very far from a pirate, if we be judged by our actions. Had Shluxer’s foul carcass begrimed my cabin, I would have been forced to burn all the furniture, and even then the stench might have clung to the walls and the floor, and ne’er come out but at night, when it would creep into my nostrils and make me dream corruptions, visions of his vile physiognomy and noxious deeds.

McNally told us that murderers face death if found guilty in court. I pray that Shluxer will swing.

Vaughn and I could not approach the Grace, as the pier she was anchored by stood barricaded and guarded by two sailors of the Coast Guard – fortunately not those I knew from the tavern nor my visits to their fortress on Islamorada, so I remained unrecognized. I might have fought my way past these two: I had my wheel-gun in my pocket, and their alertness was no keener than that of the house-dwellers on the shore, though in these two that same lack was less forgivable. But to what purpose should I fight? I could not sail the Grace, not with only Vaughn to help me; and even if I could, such an act would make it impossible to help my men, as I would most likely be joining them soon after in the gaol. These be no waters for a pirate, not with the iron ships of the Coast Guard and their telephones and magic windows and thunder-guns.

I will be glad to return home. Christ, to tell the truth I will dance a jig for a year. I will light candles in church and slaughter a bullock in the fairy-ring near Mam’s house, and sing praises to any other god or devil who might have brought me home again.

Vaughn and I returned to the museum door and entered; he led the way to another door, discreetly tucked away to one side, which read Offices; we went through this and were greeted by a comely lass seated at a table, who smiled and asked if she could help us. As this was Vaughn’s terrain, he took the wheel, then, making our introductions and proper courtesies to the maiden – who seemed somewhat bewildered when Vaughn asked, quite politely, after her parents and the place of her birth. But we won a bright smile again when Vaughn asked her to tell the Director that Llewellyn Vaughn had returned with a companion eager to make the acquaintance of Monsieur Navarre. She rose and departed with this message, soon returning with the man himself.

The morning which followed is something of a haze to my memory. Navarre, a Moor or African of late middle years and a most noble bearing, hails from a land called Haiti, a large island to the south; he and Vaughn spoke French to one another often, though only after I assured them that I took no offense. I did not, in truth, for even when they spoke English, the conversation traveled a path I could not follow: all scholar’s lore and the truth found in the pages of a book. I do not belittle this; the people of Ireland have ever cherished wisdom and the prodigious strength of the written word; this is why I keep this log, that I may someday offer my own experiences as knowledge that will serve to help others, to warn them or inspire them; and I am able to keep it thanks to my own schooling in letters, which was not brief nor simple. But my life since boyhood has been spent on ships, not in libraries, and my proclivities do draw my hand to sword-hilt and ship’s wheel more than to pen and paper, these pages notwithstanding.

But I could see that Navarre and Vaughn are already fast friends, as both grew animated as they spoke, and even after a mere two days’ acquaintance, they laugh at one another’s jests, and kissed one another’s cheeks in farewell. I am gladdened that Vaughn has found a kindred soul; I at least have my crew, who are my countrymen, my kin, and like-minded to myself; Vaughn is the sole Welshman in our company, as well as the only scholar, and now that we are three hundred years from home, his loneliness must be sharp indeed.

For myself, Vaughn introduced me to Navarre, who shook my hand; the man believes I am something called a “reenactor,” and rather than inquire what this is, I merely agreed, as it seemed to explain both my finery and manner, as well as the strangeness of my Grace in these waters. In talking about the Grace, I found my common ground with Navarre, for he finds her as wondrous and beauteous as I do, or nearly so. He inquired if she was a replica, and at Vaughn’s wink, I agreed that she was; when asked then from what land and time, I told him the truth: she was put into the water in 1673 in County Cork. He smiled and nodded, so I presume this was a proper response.

The man won my friendship when he offered to take me aboard. I had to contain my eagerness as we approached – and my disdain as the guards admitted us without challenge merely because Navarre nodded; though ’tis true, these people do not live in a conquered land, nor suffer the depredations of sea raiders as Ireland has done for nigh a thousand years – but once we climbed aboard, I worried not at all, as Vaughn drew Navarre into an animated conversation, and left me the run of my ship.

She is well. And I am well once more, now that I have laid hands on her timbers and felt her beneath my feet. I still find a smile on my face and in my heart, even now.

I did slip into my cabin to check for despoiling, but no harm had come to my effects. O’Flaherty apparently had not found my secret cache, where I keep my most precious things, including my private logbook; I left that where it was, but I put into my pocket the gold chain my mother gave me when I first commanded the Grace, and my spyglass, which I have wished for many times in these past weeks away from my ship. I returned quickly to the deck, where Navarre and Vaughn had not missed me; we completed our tour, thanked Navarre profusely, and then parted ways. We found Lynch waiting for us by the road, and he brought us to the camp where MacTeigue was roasting fish for our luncheon. In all, a fine, fine morning.

Captain’s Log

Date: 23rd of July

Location: Key Largo

Conditions: Waiting for dawn’s light so we may sail easier to the Redoubt. Wind and waves light, sailing is pleasant.

 

Lord, what fools these Floridians be!

We spent the afternoon discussing our course. Now that I have touched my ship and met her caretaker – a man worthy of trust, at least in this matter of my Grace – we would depart, Lynch and MacTeigue and I, and Vaughn would seek lodging here on Plantation Key. But before we would leave these waters, we wished to make one more strike, giving Vaughn a stake for food and a roof, and leaving the local authorities seeking fruitlessly for three blue-clad highwaymen hereabouts. But Islamorada is awash in Coast Guard sailors, and Plantation Key similarly inundated with sheriff’s men from the gaol; neither struck us as fertile waters for casting our net. So we determined to sail for the mainland and seek our victims there, or perhaps in Key Largo, the long island we must sail past to reach Florida’s eastern coast.

But then our victims came to us.

It started well before the sun struck Earth at close of day, and so we decided to delay our departure and observe these peculiar happenings.

First came three men with a large white beast-wagon, taller than a standing man. They drove it onto the sand at the far end of the cove where we were camped, where a cliffside rose above the shore, creating a space enclosed on two sides of a triangle. Then they placed wooden posts in the ground and used rope to close in the third side, leaving but one easy entrance – although ’twas a most flimsy barrier. From their beast-wagon then they hauled out three silver barrels, which they set in large tubs filled with ice – which would have seemed a miracle to me, on these hot shores, but a month ago, before I had lived in the Glass Palace and eaten from the Enchantress’s magical cold-cabinet.

Then from that same beast-wagon, whose hatch doors they left propped wide open, began to emerge the most god-cursed ear-stabbing cacophony I have heard in my life. It had something of a rhythm, but no sound-minded person could have identified it as music. Until I saw with my own eyes people arrive and begin to dance.

And by Lucifer, how these people danced! We Irish have always known the joy of dancing, and known it for a good thing, unlike those Puritan fanatics of Cromwell – but none of us ever saw dancing like this. Christ almighty, ’twas jarring enough to see what they wore: these were young women, lovely young women, in less clothing than a swaddling babe! And the way they gyrated and writhed and spun, and pressed themselves, rump and thigh and belly and breast, against the loins of the men, clad only in smallclothes, as well – well, it was quite the show. I was very glad for my spyglass, though I kept needing to fight MacTeigue for it. It all made me remember how long it has been since I have had a woman – aye, three centuries it has been; no wonder I am so filled with lust! But if the way these lasses dress and dance be any indication, it should not be hard to find a maid happy to roll in the clover, and it should be quite a ride indeed!

Damn me, but I have got off the course. Aye, though the dancing whores – I mean, lasses – and the infernal gut-twisting music were fascinating, even more so was this: as people arrived, they were met at the gap in the rope by two of the men from the noise-wagon, who collected a sheaf of money-papers from each person, handed them a bright red cup, and waved them past the barrier. As the sun began to set, they drew together a large bonfire, and when the sun touched the ocean in the west, a score or so arrived and joined the bacchanal, swelling their numbers to at least a hundred. MacTeigue and Lynch and I exchanged grins and nods and then made our plans to take advantage of this bounty placed on our very doorstep.

I approached the men at the gap in the line, with MacTeigue to my left, twenty paces away, and Lynch to my right, midway between myself and the ocean. I smiled and nodded as the two men – barely more than lads, they were – looked up at my approach. I beckoned them close, as though I wished to speak quietly under the thunder of their horrid music, and when they brought their heads near mine, I presented to them my wheel-gun, and the sword I had kept concealed behind my back. They were entirely unarmed, and proved most willing to be led; soon I had emptied their pockets of a most impressive packet of money-papers and sent one of them up the beach to where Vaughn kept watch on the road, and the other, with my sword at his back, walked with me to the noise-wagon, which he at last, blessedly, silenced.

It was the easiest raid I have ever had. Meek as rabbits, these people were; not a weapon among them. Not one. Most had no money – certainly the lasses had nowhere to keep it – but those who did had much, and gave gladly, once they saw my compatriots and their own hopelessly trapped and exposed position. One fellow was more reluctant than most, and when I saw the thick wad of folded money-papers he produced from his pockets, I understood why he hesitated to surrender it; but when I passed over the strange packet of tiny pills, held in what I believe was more of this plass-tick I have seen before, he seemed most relieved and less grieved by the loss of his money. Though he was saddened once again when I demanded his jewelry, a pair of gold chains as thick as my thumb, three gemmed rings and a pair of diamond ear-bobs. Still he gave them up without a struggle.

We bade them all lie on their bellies, eyes shut and hands on head, and then we four raced for our boat and were off to sea before the first of them moved – perhaps because we fired shots over their heads as we departed, which arrested all motion for some time.

What a haul! Some 5000 in money-paper, plus gems and gold from some of the lasses and the wealthy pill-man, and not a scrap of trouble nor of searching and seeking for a target. Perhaps there is room here to be a pirate, after all.

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Log 31: Seeking Grace

Log

My ship is gone! Gods damn them, did they sell her? Sink her? Was she turned merchant, or guardship? No – surely not, not in these waters, not these people, with their bloody ugly iron ships and their thunderous flatulence, that deafening growling cough like an ox with consumption –

Christ and St Patrick, Lugh and Goibniu, Manannan Mac Lir and aye, Morrigan, ye hag, I beg you all: bring me back my Grace. Bring me back my Lady, my – mother.

Captain’s Log

Date: 20 July I forget the cursed year

Location: Treasure Harbor, but no bloody treasure here, is there?

Condition: Somewhat endrunkened, but fires blaze within undamped. We are on the course!

We know where she is. The Grace, I mean, the last piece of home, she that carried us here and will protect us now if only we can find our way back to her. Oh, alas that she has gone! Damn them all – curse the sailormen of Florida and their Coast Guard, damn the storm for its wind. And blast those black-souled, bloody-eyed shite-mouthed bastards who took my ship from me at the first: a curse and a pox and all the furies of Hell descend on those God-rotted, devil-fucking mutinee

Damn, I broke my pen. Perhaps a curse on the drink, too – it be strong rum they have here. Well: just the necessecerariess – just the facks. The facts.

Yesterday when the sun rose we broke our fast, and went to Master McNally’s offices. When he arrived, we gave him the money-paper, and he thanked us and excused himself to get to his task. He gave me a small card with a telephone number on it (and the proper writing of the word, too, hah). We left and took the boat back to Islamorada, to Treasure Harbor again. Then I walked to the fortress of the Coast Guard, because I wanted to look at my Grace, my beloved, beautiful, perfect, wondrous –

She was gone. I tried to ask the guard, but he would not tell me, the damned imbecile. I looked for Lieutenant – whose name I misrememember – but no, he’s gone, I can’t see him, I can leave him a message with my telephone number but I don’t bloody have one, do I, ye sodding lump, and where’s my blessed ship?! Couldn’t find out. Got physically thrown out of the fortress, banned from returning, as if I want to. Wanted to draw and fire right then, challenge them to a duel, they don’t even wear swords I could cut them down with an eye shut and a hand tied to a foot, like I saw that man, that one man – a Gypsy, that’s who it was, aye! Gypsy did that to all comers back home, when Uncle Seamus took me to town. Home. Gods, will I truly never see it again? Never? But Mam – she’s alive, back then, alive. I can’t lose her. She’s all – she’s all I have, all my family, only one.

Can’t lose her again here. Can’t lose her now.

Right: they threw me out, I did not kill them. I came back here and talked to my men. We made a plan, a good one. These are sailors, yes? Then there must be taverns nearby where they drink, and mollyhouses for the whores. So we found a tavern, already had a sailor in it while the sun was high and hot – Christ, it’s hot here. Already drinking at noon – he must be Irish, ha-haaaa! – and we waited.

That night, this night, some bloody night, the sailors came in, we sat with them and bought them drinks, said we were sailors, too, from Ireland, o’ course. Got them drunk – took a while, and I barely had my wits left for matching them, and Lynch, he passed out, poor little puppy. Though we had to buy his whiskey for him and give it on the sly, for the barkeep said he was too young to drink – what in the name of Lucifer and St. Patrick is that? If he can hold the mug, he can drink the drink, ye bastards! And Balthazar Lynch may be young, but he be twice the man as that tub of guts behind his bar, with his smug stupid face of his. But we got them to talk, MacTeigue and me, about the ship, about my Grace – said we heard gossip about sailing ship, and that she had sunk, broke my heart to say it, aye, but they shook their heads No and all was well again.

Three – two? days ago, there was a storm. Bloody cack-fisted baboons could not handle the Grace’s lines and sails proper, and the wind broke the mast, he said, but we think only a spar. Probably the one Shluxer made, that daft cur, all he touches turns to shite, why not my ship, too? So they gave her away – no borrowed, they borrowed – no, lent her to a man, a man who cares for ships, a scholar of the seas, can’t think of his name, but they told me where to find him, where to find my Grace.

Then MacTeigue and me, we beat them to a bloody damned pulp. Ha.

Came back here, made MacTeigue carry Lynch. He wanted to shave Lynch’s belly and, y’know, farther down, to pay the boy for falling to drink and needing to be carried, but I wouldn’t let him. Lynch’s a good man, good lad, shouldn’t be manhandled by drunk Irishmen. So MacTeigue asleep and snoring, with Lynch in his arms, after he apologized to the sleeping boy, and embraced him, and fell asleep thus. He be a maudlin drunk, aye.

Done with this log now. Going to sleep.

Captain’s Log

Date: 21st of July, 2011

Location: Treasure Harbor, Islamorada.

Conditions: At least my head is done aching.

When morning came, this day, none of the three of us were capable of greeting her. The sun was well overhead before MacTeigue and I could stir our bruised bodies and pounding heads, and though Lynch had risen earlier, he was still green and vomitous, sitting in the shade with his back to the ocean, for the motion of the water made him sick to watch it.

Though I did not recall it, I had apparently waked Vaughn when we returned from the tavern last night, and despite larding my report with many furious drunken ramblings, still I managed to relay to him what we had learned of the fate of the Grace. And good Llewellyn, my true friend, he left this morning, ventured forth to find her, trusting to the luck of the Irish to keep we three drink-addled sots safe, e’en in our stupor.

And he did. As I wrote last night in this log – though much of my script is illegible, and the rest is as maudlin and pathetic as I accused MacTeigue of – the storm that passed four days ago, now, did some damage to the ship, for she was never properly battened down after her capture, and the men of this Coast Guard know not the handling of a proper masted ship, as they ken only their great grumbling iron monsters. So the Grace was buffeted about, and Lieutenant Danziger brought in a man he knew, an expert in ships of the Grace’s form, what men here and now call tall ships for the height of the masts, to look her over. This man, whose name we got as Napier, though in truth it is Navarre, Claude Navarre, is the master of a house of ship’s lore called a museum, Vaughn says. Vaughn seems much enamored of the place, and of the man; I think my educated friend has grown tired of the poor conversation we simple sailors can offer him.

We knew the location from the sailors in the tavern, and Vaughn was able to sort our description – addled twice, I am sure, in the hearing and the retelling by the drink that soaked both our ears and our tongues – and he found it, this museum, and Navarre, and my beloved Grace. He made his way to Navarre’s presence, professing great interest in the ship which he could see anchored in a small but well-guarded harbor beside the museum, which held several other ships – some passing strange, Vaughn told me on his return – but I had ears only for news of the one. Vaughn, with an educated man’s tongue and manners, even if three centuries out of date, was able to inquire of Navarre about the Grace and how she came to reside there. Navarre had convinced Danziger that no one could, or would wish to, steal this tall ship, not in this age of single-masted pleasure boats, and yachts and guardships without a foot of canvas anywhere about them. Therefore the best place for the ship was somewhere she could be cared for properly, and also studied, with security being but a minor concern: at this museum place, where the scholars learn the lore of the sea and the vessels and men who sail it. Danziger agreed, and while we were on the mainland engaging Master McNally and collecting his retainer, the Coast Guard towed my ship to this museum and anchored her there, with locked chains attaching her to the dock and stopping access from the land, with two Coast Guard sailors standing watch on shore.

Vaughn has convinced me that Navarre is correct. For the nonce, until I have a crew once more that can sail her, the Grace is truly best left where she is. The museum’s harbor is better protected than that of the fortress, as there are trees to act as windbreaks against any future storm, and Navarre and his fellow sea scholars know how to rig her properly; Vaughn reports that she has now been battened down as well as we could have done it ourselves.

What is more, Vaughn has told me that he wishes to leave our company, and remain in proximity to the ship, and perhaps eventually in the employ of this place of learning and this Navarre, who has apparently become Vaughn’s friend already. Well, there is sense there: Master Navarre studies men who sailed the seas in the past, and Vaughn is one such, as well as being erudite himself. I am sure they will get on famously. And as MacTeigue and Lynch and I have work to do to find the cost of Master McNally’s services, and it is such work as Vaughn should prefer to avoid and I prefer to separate from him both for his sake and the work’s, I have agreed that Vaughn will split from us and find lodging on Marathon Key, where this museum is, and my beloved Grace. Vaughn’s eyes verily sparkled when he mentioned the library he found within those walls; I believe he will do little but read, eat, sleep, and converse with Master Navarre, for as long as he may. I wish him well of it.

As for we three, we will seek other lodging as well. As the Grace be not here on Islamorada, there is little reason for us to remain. There is also reason for us to go: I do not wish to encounter our two informants, since this log has confirmed my drink-addled and fog-bound memory which says that we and they raised a proper donnybrook in the tavern once we had that knowledge we sought. And withal a tavern brawl is but a tavern brawl, no matter what land or age you be in, still I know that the light of day and the pain of bruised faces can change willing participants into aggrieved victims. Too, in any conflict or fractious negotiation, I know well that we, the outsiders, would soon find that all the rest had closed ranks against us, and we would bear the full brunt of whatever censure might result.

And I shudder to think what would occur if they found our highwaymen guises. I have no wish to see that gaol from the inside.

But first I must see my Grace. On the morrow, Vaughn will take us to the museum, and no guard shall stop me from walking her decks once more. Then we will depart, for calmer waters and broader horizons, for a place more familiar, and therefore both safer and more to our advantage in the search for and capture of funds. We return to the Redoubt.

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Log 30: Bondsman and Countryman

Captain’s Log

Date: 17th of July, 2011

Location: Treasure Harbor

Conditions: Storm, high chop.

 

We intended to travel today in pursuit of the bondsman, but weather prevents. We know not if this be a storm, or weather familiar to these seas but strange to us, but the waves are the height of a man even here in this small bay where we camp, and the sky is bruised iron above. So we stay, this day. We take the opportunity to practice with the pistolas, to mend tears in clothing, to sharpen blades and make small repairs to the boat and her single sail. Perhaps the sky will clear and the seas calm tomorrow. If not, the men will abide where they are another day, or more.

Captain’s Log

Date: 19th of July, 2011

Location: Treasure Harbor, Islamorada

Conditions: Poor

I do not mean that our situation has worsened; rather, it has largely improved. But it has become apparent that we desperately lack the funds to do what is needful; hence we are now poor men, in the simplest sense of the word.

Upon leaving the prisoner’s level of the keep, MacTeigue and I returned to the man of the watch at the front door. We inquired of him for advice as regards the hiring of lawyers, and the meaning of bail as it relates to these incarcerated men rather than to a leaking boat. He did look at us most strangely, of course (I believe I should include this as a caveat whensoever I speak to a native of this time at any length or penetration: “This will cause you to look at me quite strangely, but . . .”), but he did answer. As to the meaning of bail that pertains here, he informed us that such was a monetary bond used to ensure a prisoner’s future cooperation if paroled; this struck me as a most civilized manner of behaving with accused men, allowing them the dignity of freedom on the strength of their honor, while it was also an entirely prudent strategem to buttress that honor – which after all, is passing weak in many and many a man – with the strength of their avarice. I have always known that what a man will not do for honor, he will do for gold. The watchman elaborated by saying that the greater the crime, the greater the risk that the prisoner would violate his parole, the higher the price of the bond. This, too, is most reasonable, though it puts us in something of a pinch, owing to the number of bonds we must provide for, the severity of the crimes, and perhaps the somewhat less prodigious honor of those same men, the relative fragility of their sworn word.

He pointed out a large board made of some extravagantly soft wood, with placards and broadsheets and pamphlets affixed thereto, and advised me to look there for both a lawyer and a bail “bondsman,” apparently one who would lend the money for bail at sometimes usurious rates. Examining these, I found a mystifying array of these bondmen, and a plethora of lawyers, every one of them offering fast help and cheap rates – but not a one professing great learning, nor knowledge, nor expertise. No, I am incorrect: some of the lawyers admitted to several years of experience, which, one supposes, is equivalent to expertise. But even those thus qualified featured the seemingly magical words “Fast” and “Cheap” far more prominently than aught else.

What sort of a place is this, where people value time and money more than ability or virtue? Especially in this instance, when the commodity to be treated this way is no less than one’s liberty. Why would a man seeking succor in the face of blind, heartless justice turn to one whose heart beats with the clink of coin on coin, or whose veins run not with blood, but with the hourglass’s sand? Is this world naught but a market, with all the people crying their wares from birth to death? Are we men, or pins on a hawker’s tray?

Beggar them all, with their Fast and Cheap: I looked for a placard pledging the one quality I have learned to seek out before any other, and treasure most dearly in a man: loyalty.

I found none of it.

There were a number of pamphlets, as well, which offered proper money in exchange for jewelry and valuables; I took some note of these moneychangers and merchants, as one presumes they who display their wares before criminals in this gaolhouse would be ready to consort and conduct business with men who lack honest reputations – or, perchance, who lack proper proof of ownership of the goods to be sold. It is always in a pirate’s interest to know where to find men of this type. It is a pirate’s blessing that there are always men of this type to be found.

MacTeigue solved the conundrum of the cornucopia of bondsmen for hire when he found one who, though his pamphlet cried out “Fast” and “Cheap,” those were emphasized less than were “Trustworthy” and “Honest.” That was our man: Honest Avery. We took his pamphlet and returned to camp, to report to Lynch and Vaughn, and to use Vaughn’s maps to find the place of business of this bondman, this Jonas Avery. By the time we had done so, the march of time had brought the close of day and the unfurling of a deep velvet sky of purple and black, sparked with silver stars uncountable, every one a glory and a joy to behold. We sent a prayer to these stars, and whatever gods do look down on us from those skies, to keep and protect our friends locked in iron cages, and to guide our future steps to find their freedom, and keep our own.

And aye, I sent another prayer winging above, or perhaps below. For there is something e’en more inexorable than the turning of the stars through the sky, or the sands slipping through the glass. We never know how many turns of the glass, and of the stars, we have before us; we know not how many days will rise between now and the end; nor if those days will seem too many or too few. But this we many know: any who cross Damnation Kane may hear, if they but listen, the iron hooves of Vengeance bearing down, bearing down on them, and that dread charge – it comes soon.

Two days later, delayed by the storm, we made an early start in the boat, as Bondsman Avery does business on the mainland. It did not take us long to reach the shore, and there we beached the boat and covered it with limbs cut from the tall, spindly trees that stand and wave all along this coastline; the shorter of these trees have fronds as wide and stiff as a windmill’s sails, in easy reach of a blade in hand, and these made excellent camouflage. We walked from the beach to a road, which we then found on the map, and made good time from there.

But alas: our journey was very nearly for naught, as we discovered once we arrived at Honest Avery’s shop – a small, dank, space, where Bondsman Avery labored within a pile of paper that might smother a man, with but one other to assist him, and that a woman; it seemed the only aspect that the man cherished in these offices was the sign outside, which proclaimed “Honest Avery Bail Bonds” in glowing red letters three foot high. This did certainly attract one’s attention, but what good is it to bring in custom without any decent room to entertain or hold discourse? Fah – I am no tradesman, and know not their secrets. We did speak with the Bondsman in that inhospitable room, and soon he understood what we sought – he was a man of some substance, though without cleanliness. He picked up his tellafone, which was black, grimed and cracked, and covered with far too many bumps and tiny glowing red spots, like the eyes of miniscule imps; he pressed many of the bumps, which seemed to irk some of the imps, for their eyes blinked, and it chased some of them away. He spoke then, haltingly, in rapid bursts broken by pauses both brief and lengthy, occasionally interrupted for the pressing of more bumps and more angry imp-eyes. At one point he began to speak to us, with the tellafone still pressed to his ear, and then turned his eyes downward and spoke into the handpiece again. I found this at first confusing and then, strangely, impolite, like a man wooing a lass at a tavern, but who pinches the barmaid’s bottom in passing before returning to the girl on his knee.

But at last the Bondsman found what he sought – and after observing the road he traveled to reach that destination, I was both relieved that we had found a man who could make his way through this convoluted labyrinth of words for us, and despaired by the knowledge that, should we ever find ourselves sailing with our own wind, without a pilot to guide us, we will be lost – and then he listened at length to the tiny squeaking that was just audible to us from his tellafone handpiece. He wrote some words and numbers down, and then blotted them out; then he thanked the squeak and put down the tellafone, slowly. Whereupon he gave us our sad news: my men were charged with armed robbery and kidnapping, and for those serious crimes, there was no bail. They could not be freed without trial.

Howbeit, as I intimated, the morning was not fruitless; for even as we four looked at one another, entirely lost and rudderless, Bondsman Avery hauled us back on course. “What you guise need,” he said – I know not why he used the word, unless he knew somehow that I was not in my usual finery – “What you guise need is a lawyer. D’you know one?” We demurred, of course, and then the Bondsman, who was a kindly-faced fellow with far more jowls than hair, smiled broadly and said, “I know just the one. Let me call him and see if he’s free.”

He was indeed, and within two hours we were seated at a table in a quiet tavern, discussing the matter of our imprisoned brethren with one James McNally, Esquire – a man whose suitability as our guide through the arcane halls of law was made clear from his first words, which revealed an accent that warmed our hearts. At last, on these strange shores, we had found a fellow Irishman!

Master McNally felt as full a comfort in our presence, as when he heard my brogue – after a blinking pause at my name, the which I have been accustomed to all of my life – he smiled grandly and said, “Ah, you boys are from the Old Country, are ye?”

I nodded slowly. “Aye, from the Old Country, in truth. God’s truth, that is, sir. God’s truth.”

We shook hands, Master McNally hesitating not for an instant at taking the rough hand of MacTeigue or the young one of Lynch – ’tis the sign of a good man, that, of a decent man – and then sat and shared a fine repast with us while we spoke of our situation. Master McNally listened and asked questions – many of which we did know the answers to, and some we could not even understand the question itself – and wrote down many of our responses in a small logbook he produced from a pocket in his coat, a book which I much coveted, I confess, as this log I keep grows both ponderously long and also truly precious to me. And by the end of our parlay, and our luncheon, Master McNally had – well, less bad news than Bondsman Avery, any road.

“I think I can help you,” he told us. “I can certainly try to help your friends through the process. Though they have probably been assigned public defenders by now, perhaps they’ll trust me more, once they know I have been engaged by you. Are you sure they would not have told the police anything at all? None of them?”

We exchanged a glance. “Are you certain that la policia would not have tortured answers out of them?”

He blinked several times and then shook his head. “Sorry,” he said. “Hearing you say ‘torture’ and ‘la policia‘ in an Irish accent put me in mind of a band, an Irish band – the Pogues, d’you know them? P-O-G-U-E-S, that is?” We shook our heads, and he discarded the issue with a wave of his hand. “Doesn’t matter. I am sure the police will not torture your men, not beyond keeping them in a small room for several hours and asking questions all the while. Not under any circumstances.”

My heart eased to hear it. I believed these people to be civilized – perhaps even too much so, in some ways – but the English were civilized too, and the English did not use torture; except on Irish prisoners, of course. “Then aye, I am sure they will say nothing, not a word, not a sign. Even admitting your name is sometimes enough for a conviction, back – where we come from.”

“Shluxer,” Lynch murmured to me. “Aye,” I said, nodding. “Elliot Shluxer might talk. Probably will talk. And he will blame the others, for all of it.”

Master McNally nodded. “That’s where they’ve gotten the charges from, then. But if the men haven’t confirmed or denied anything, then I can speak with them first about what they should or should not say, and maybe we can cut this off before it really starts.” He replaced his logbook in his pocket and withdrew a tiny wallet, well-worn; from this he took several green money-papers, which he placed on the table. “Now, lunch is on me, and happy I am to pay for men of Erin – but there is the matter of a retainer for my services. Let me give you a number, and we’ll see if we can go ahead from here.”

He named a figure. I bit my tongue, and nodded. “Aye, that’ll do.”

It would not: it was ten – fifteen times over again what I had in my purse. But this was the lawyer we needed, the only one I would engage; I believed we could trust him, and that is more precious than gold or green paper.

We shook hands on it, and then he raised one finger. “But one thing I will require as payment. For now, I know what I need to know to speak to your men, and to the sheriff. But before this goes to the end, wherever that may be, I will need your whole story. I need to know why twenty-some Irishmen were sailing a tall ship through Floridian waters, and why you have no definite address, and look and sound like the pirates your men are accused of being, only three hundred years out of date. If I earn your trust, will you give me that tale?”

I thought. I nodded. We shook again. He went off with purpose in his step, to see to our men.

I turned and looked at my three companions, and said, “We are poor.”

It took some hours of parlay, of conversation and wrangling, cajoling and argument, but at last we had a plan. Vaughn left to purchase more broadsheets and guard the boat, and I took Lynch and MacTeigue in search of a market. This took some time to accomplish, and the sun was halfway to the horizon before we found a local man who could direct us to that we sought, largely, it seemed, because the people of this time name it a “flea market,” for reasons I cannot fathom, and when I asked passers-by for a market, they inevitably shrugged or pointed to a shop which sold foodstuffs. Then another hour passed before we arrived at the “flea market,” and our time was growing short.

But fortune was with us, and we quickly found a woman selling clothing of the type and, more vitally, the hue we sought. Soon we were all clad in what we have come to call our highwaymen guises.

That was the spring of it: Lynch mentioned, as we discussed how we could achieve our goal without suffering consequences even more dire than those awaiting our shipmates, that highwaymen covered their faces with scarves and hats pulled down low o’er their brows; and some of the boldest had been known to commit their thefts, travel to the nearest inn, and there have conversation, even drink, with those whom they had robbed mere minutes before. Then as we discussed where we might procure such hats and scarves, so that we too might escape recognition and subsequent infamy, it came to me: how we should dress and where we might find the necessary articles. Now, all was prepared, all was in readiness.

That night, after the sun had set, a small corner market, occupied only by the Oriental proprietor at the time, was robbed of all of their money-paper, both that kept in a drawer and that held in a strongbox (the which was not locked! It swung open with the mere twist of a handle!) and some of their food, particularly their potato chips. Said money-paper proving insufficient, a grog shop was next – and aye, they lost some few bottles along with the paper. None were hurt, both clerks being most cooperative with their heavily armed assailants.

The culprits? A trio of men, all wearing cloth caps, scarves over their mouths and noses, and tartan shirts. They said nothing but a gruff demand for money, and ran away into the night once the paper had been surrendered and some small plunder collected. Based on the blue color of the shirts, and the scarves over the men’s faces, one might think these three were members of the Latin Lions.

Now we are no longer poor.

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