Monthly Archives: September 2017

Log 29: Innocent

Log 29

I was addressed by the older man. He and the lady – likely his wife, by their clasped hands – looked on me somewhat strangely, though I wore my maid’s uniform this day, and MacTeigue wore simple sailor’s clothes, canvas pants and a brown homespun shirt. I could not have known them, of course, but still they appeared somewhat familiar.

“Aye,” I said, and extended my hand. “I am Damnation Kane, the rightful owner of that ship, which was stolen from me by those dastardly rogues.”

The man clasped my hand. “Elliott Shluxer.”

Needless to say I was taken aback. Peering closely, I could see some of the vile Shluxer’s features in these two: the mother and father of that raping, thieving, mutinous rogue. Ere I could speak again, the man said, “Elliott Shluxer is our son. Do you know him? Have you seen him? Is he all right?”

I pulled back my hand – which took some force, as he had clasped me tightly, with the strength of a parent’s desperation – and I began galloping through my mind for somewhat to say; for these people were innocent, whatever their despicable son had done, and did not deserve to share in his opprobrium; which, alas, was the entirety of what I could think at this moment. Then I was saved.

“Shluxer! Come to the window, please. Shluxer.” It was the guard in the glass box, and as he spoke, Master Shluxer turned away from me instantly, and he and Goodwife Shluxer hurried to the window. The guard informed them that the younger (viler) Shluxer would come to the barred door, and they could speak to him through it, but they had to stand back out of reach. A guard emerged from the glass box and led the couple to a spot some six feet from the portcullis, and then nodded to the two guards remaining in the box. I beckoned to MacTeigue, and we quickly withdrew to the top of the stairwell, out of sight but still within hearing.

I have not the stomach to record precisely all that this mewling, white-livered cur vomited out to his parents. He cried his innocence, of course, and begged them to believe and succor him. I took his pleas for their credulity as clear sign that he lied with every breath he took and with every venomous syllable which hissed out between his serpent’s lips; an honest man trusts in the truth, and takes his reputation, the knowledge of his character, as his only witness. But clearly his parents doted on him, and took him largely at his word. Not entire: there was some question as to how he had fallen in with – are they my crew, still? Mine enough, aye – with my crew, as he had apparently vanished without trace from his place of employment, and the prevailing opinion had been that he had simply run off, a child trying to escape responsibility, as Shluxer was apparently wont to do, intelligence which did not surprise me at all. And then – what was unknown to me previously – it came out that he had stolen from them! From his own mother and father, from his blood, from his home and theirs! I spat in disgust, hearing this new evidence of Shluxer’s corruption.

But the weak-hearted blackguard cried most piteously, and told his doting, gullible parents that he had been kidnapped and pressed into service, that he had been whipped by the ship’s master for his unwillingness to do their – our – evil bidding MacTeigue had to restrain me at these slanderous accusations, directed entirely at me, though thankfully Shluxer did not name me; in retrospect, I presume he wanted to lay the whole blame at the feet of his own erstwhile companions, rather than cast fault at some apparition the authorities knew not. I mastered myself quickly enough, aided by the disgust I felt at this mongrel’s bootlicking, at his puling, his lies, his cowardly attempts to escape all culpability for his actions; disgust which quickly subsumed my rage. To be insulted by this dog – why, that were no dishonor, at all.

Soon enough their time was finished, and Shluxer’s cries and pleas grew quiet – slowly, as he kept up his carping, like the lowing of a hungry calf mixed with the whimpers of a spoiled lapdog, even as they dragged him away to his cell. His parents called out assurances, saying they would engage a lawyer for him – at which I felt some relief; there was to be a trial, then, with lawyers and perhaps a judge, even a jury? Excellent: perhaps that gave us some time – and calling out something about bail, a term I knew only as it referred to removing water from a leaking boat. But the Shluxer elders said they would “bail him out;” was this metaphor? They would save the sinking ship of his fate? I knew not, and I determined to enquire.

The Shluxers did not look at us nor speak as they hurried past, the woman huddled miserably in her husband’s arms, with tears streaming down her cheeks. Ah, such power, such purity in a mother’s love! Alas, that such goodness should be so wasted. Once they had departed, MacTeigue and I returned to the antechamber and were hailed by the guards in the glass box presently.

“Who do you want to see?” the man asked through his metal wand, which seemed to carry sound like a speaking tube.

“Ian O’Gallows,” I answered promptly. I longed to demand Shluxer’s return, so I could slap his fat cheek and force him to recant his lies; I longed even more profoundly to summon O’Flaherty, so I could avenge myself on he who began my undoing; but I knew I would not be able to lay hands on either rogue, not with guards and portcullis between us. My next greatest desire was for the truth – and to confirm the hope that my good friend had not, in fact, betrayed me.

“Have a seat. We’ll bring him to the door. Did you hear the procedure?”

“Aye – two paces back and no contact.”

He nodded. “It’ll be a minute.”

It was somewhat extraordinary to stand there, MacTeigue at my side and the guard flanking us, and watch as Ian was brought along the corridor beyond the portcullis; I watched his expression turn from confusion – who would be calling for him? – to astonishment when he recognized me, to deep sorrow when he knew that he would now have to face his crimes, whatever they were. He came to the portcullis with head bent, and then slowly raised it and met my gaze.

“Captain,” he said, acknowledging me. Then he waited.

I gave him time to think, knowing that silence and a man’s own conscience are often the only tools needed to elicit a confession. But he neither spoke nor lowered his gaze, though I held his eyes with my own for a good minute or more. Perhaps his conscience did not weigh him down, after all – but he had shown sorrow on the sight of me; what of that?

At last I spoke. “Stand you in mutiny, O’Gallows? Or are you loyal, still?” I spat the last words, as if dubious of that remote possibility, though I had the word of Lynch and Vaughn and MacTeigue that Ian was and had always been true to me.

His eyes flashed fire, and he drew himself up proudly. “I have never wavered in my loyalty, Captain. You, and God above, be my only masters, sir, from now ’til I do rest in Neptune’s cold bosom.” Then he slumped again, and his gaze at last fell to the floor. “But I have failed ye, Captain. Failed ye and failed in my duty to the good ship we both love.”

I looked him over from head to toe. I believed him, in his protestations of loyalty; but I agreed with him in his estimations of his performance. I crossed my arms and said, “I will hear your explanation.”

He took a deep breath, clasped the portcullis with both hands, and then told his tale.

He began to describe their crime, the addlepated assault on what Vaughn’s broadsheets had called a yacht, a pleasure boat on a pleasure cruise with her wealthy owners and their guests; I cut him off, as I had known of this already from those same broadsheets, which described the boarding, murder, robbery, and the stealing away of two innocent lasses, surely bound for Shluxer’s foul lusts, and perhaps some others’ evil attentions, as well. I hurried him on to the capture of my ship, and made clear I wanted to know of her condition, and how he had protected my Grace from those who would do her harm.

He turned first to the guard. “There is a letter in my effects, which was intended for this man, and is so addressed over its seal. Can he have this from thee?”

The guard considered. “I’ll ask.” He knocked on the door to the glass cube, which was opened; he relayed O’Gallows’s request within, and was answered. He nodded and stepped back out, and then addressed me. “You can read it here, but you’ll have to put it back in evidence after you’re done. Do you want it?” I glanced at Ian, who nodded, and then I assented. The guard signaled one within the cube, who stepped out to take his place watching MacTeigue and I, and then the first guard departed down the stairs.

Ian drew in a deep breath. “All right. The letter will tell ye of all I have to say on the mutiny and the attack on the yacht.” He drew himself to attention, and then he reported.

“We were heading east, a few points north of due, clear weather, making five knots with current but little wind. ‘Twas just after dawn, and I had the watch with Desmond on the wheel. I looked to our stern, and I – I saw the ship. No sail, but it bore down on us like a falcon stooping on a rabbit, and as it drew nearer, I could make out the swivel guns on the bow, so I knew who it was, aye.” He looked me in the eye and said, “I did not raise the alarm. I knew they might fire on us, without warning, perhaps, but I did desire that they take the ship, and I sought to give her to them.” He shook his head slowly. “I’ll not apologize for it, sir. I hoped they’d keep the ship whole if we did not fight, and I deemed it better if she be in their hands, than in ours.”

I bit my tongue. I disagreed with him, for I could have taken my ship back with some ease, I thought, if my men still crewed her, if I could remind them of their former loyalty, and put the question to them as to which captain they had flourished under; but now she was out of my reach more surely than before, and only the mercy of the gods kept her afloat, rather than holed and sunk in the pursuit. But I only nodded, and motioned for him to go on.

“But fortune failed me, and O’Flaherty rose then. As he came out of his cabin, he did look astern, and spied our pursuer. Aye, one could hear it, by then, too, and perhaps this is what roused him at that poor moment. He did raise the alarm, and men leapt to stations. A great, booming voice blasted to us across the waves, ordering us to surrender without resistance. But O’Flaherty ordered us to come about and fire the starboard cannons into their bow. Desmond began to spin the wheel, and the men jumped to the shrouds – and then they did open fire on us, aye.”
He shook his head, ran his hand through his hair. “I have never heard nor seen the like. It sounded something like thunder, with storm-waves crashing on rocks below. It sounded like an avalanche of iron, if such a thing could be. And we took fire as if a thousand swivel guns were aimed at us, rather than the one. It chopped up the sails and the shrouds, and we lost the wind. Then it paused and a single rifle shot rang out, and Desmond fell, wounded – a miracle of marksmanship, to hit a man on one moving ship from another with a single aimed shot – and then the thunder roared again, and the wheel just – disappeared, in a hail of splinters.” He showed a gash in his forearm, now partly healed. “I dove to the main deck, but a splinter caught me in the air. ‘Tis a wonder that Desmond survived.” He looked me in the eye again. “It confirmed for me that I had chosen aright. We could not have resisted that assault. Perhaps our cannon could have disabled them, but as that ship was solid steel, I think not – but damn me if they couldn’t ha’ sunk us without breathing hard.

“They came up to our stern, and raked the sails once more with that thunder-gun. They grappled and boarded, their booming voice calling again for our surrender. O’Flaherty and Burke had mustered the crew on the deck and were shouting at us to fight to the death. But just as the men of the steel ship began to leap aboard, I struck.

“I grabbed a hold of the chain on Burke’s wrist and clubbed him with my sword hilt. I swung him, half-stunned, into O’Flaherty, felling them both. Carter spun about with a snarl, but I flung my sword and fouled his aim before he could fire at me; then I was on him, and laid him out with my fists, the slack-brained lout. The men knew not how to respond, to take my side or O’Flaherty’s. I heard a shout and spun about to see Kelly, who had been below guarding the two lasses; he had come above and was just finishing off O’Grady, who had leveled his aim at me and was now off to a pleasant nap with something of a lump on his skull. Then men turned to look at Kelly, then back at me, and by then the steel ship’s crew had all of us in their sights.”

He sighed and dropped his gaze, wrapping his hands around the bars of the portcullis. “‘Twas then, and I’m right sorry to bring ye the news, Captain – aye, and you, too, Owen – but your cousin, Hugh Moran, did draw and aim with a shout. They cut him down. I ha’ ne’er seen the like: every man had a thunder-gun, and ’twas not as if he were shot, but rather like he exploded like a grenado, blood spraying from a hundred wounds in seconds. He do be dead, Captain.”

I nodded. “Were any others hurt?”

“No, sir. The rest of them surrendered, following my lead, and Kelly’s – aye, and Shluxer, that milk-hearted coward, though he was crying and begging for mercy when he threw his weapons down. Our men kept their pride, even in defeat, sir.

“They manacled us and put us below. They towed the Grace back with us, and docked her at their fortress. I think – I hope – she be there still. They ha’ taken Desmond to a surgeon, and put the rest of us in these cells.” He spread his hands. “And here we be.”

I nodded. The guard returned then with his letter, which I read on the spot. I looked Ian over, and then closed my eyes and took as deep a breath as lungs could hold. Then I let it out, and pronounced my judgment.

“Ye have not failed in your duty to the ship. You protected her as well as you could, and I have no doubt she still rides on the water instead of resting below it because of you.” He straightened with every word, as if heavy weight fell from his broad shoulders. But I raised a hand. “But you have failed me, O’Gallows. For you put my ship out of my reach, and though you did not steal her, still you could not bring her back to me, nor remind my men of their loyalty to me and not O’Flaherty.” He hung his head, nodding once as he acknowledged the truth of what I said.

I turned to MacTeigue. “Come, we are done here.” I nodded to the guard. “We are done. Put him back in his cell. He can think on his actions there.” And without looking back at my friend, I strode out.

Of course it was but posturing. I knew it unfair, even absurd, to hold O’Gallows responsible for the way I had lost my ship. If I should not blame those who took her – and aye, I blamed them – the only other fault must be mine own. I kept secrets from my men, and thus lost their trust, and then I let those bastards trick me and steal from me. But absurd or not, I could not but feel a deep, burning anger at all those who lost me my ship – of which Ian was one. Thus, my childish tantrum.

I will get him out, aye. I will get them all out. With a lawyer and this bail of which the Shluxers spoke, if possible. But if not that, then I will use force. Mutinous or not, they are my crew, my countrymen, the only others of my time in this peculiar world, and I will have them back by my side.

Though I do not know how.

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Log 28: Tantalized

Captain’s Log

Date: 16 July 2011

Location: 50 mi. south of Glass Palace, camped on sand-beach

 

Conditions: Joyed to return to the sea, though my ship is uncommonly shrunk. Weather is glorious for sailing, if rather hot for breathing,

We have come a decent distance along the coast today, thirty miles in my estimation. The boat sails nicely, for a ship’s boat. The prevailing winds are largely against us, but I have three stout, lusty companions and four oars, and we make headway even against the wind. We are determined, aye, fixed on our goal.

Our leave-taking was rapid, even somewhat abrupt, but ’twas better so. I spoke to the Enchantress in the morning, before she could depart for her day of law-warping; I asked her for assistance in sending a message to Maid Flora. She looked at me most peculiarly, and then stepped to a smooth white gewgaw I had oft polished, but had never recognized as having a useful function – but lo! She lifted a raised, rectangular block, which revealed several bumps on its underside, numbered one to nine and naught, some others bearing symbols and strange words, Mute and Talk, and Ready-all (No, I think perhaps that was Redial, a word I am unfamiliar with. But this state of confustication is becoming most familiar indeed, the longer I abide in this time and place). The Enchantress pressed several of the bumps with her thumb, and then held the object to her ear; then it was that I understood: this was akin to the tellafone, like the Verizons my friends the Lopezes carry, oft staring into them in meditation, sometimes communing with each other through its magic. Indeed, in mere seconds, the Enchantress was exchanging greetings, and then she handed the tellafone to me, and I found myself speaking to and hearing the words of Maid Flora, though she were far, far away at that very moment.

I will remember, now, that tellafones come in various guises, shapes and colors; the key is the holes by which voices enter and exit, and the numbers in that strange pattern: three across, three down, and the naught below 8.

I told Maid Flora that her family could return safely – though I had to apologize profusely for the damage done to their home; I assured her that all the villains responsible were now utterly destroyed, and her family’s injuries all well avenged. She expressed gratitude most becomingly, which I demurred, of course. Then we said our goodbyes and her voice vanished from the tellafone, which I returned to its mistress, who set it back in place atop the smooth white box-piece. She said, “So Flora’s coming back? Then you’re leaving?”

“Aye, milady. My task here is complete, and Maid Flora’s family is again safe, and hale. I must sail on.”

She made a pretty pout. “Too bad. I was getting to like having a handsome houseboy. I was going to get you a nice Chippendale outfit for a uniform, so I could sexually harass you all day.”

Though I comprehended little of that, I did grasp her main thrust. I stepped close, seized her in my arms, and kissed her passionately. When I took my lips from her soft, sweet mouth, she sighed most prettily, and said, “Oh, my.” I kissed her brow and said, “I must go, milady. But I am not glad of it.”

I strode out of the room, then, to mount my steed, which I meant to return to House Lopez ere we departed. The Enchantress – a name most apt, in more ways than I knew! – came running out after, calling my name. I stopped and turned to her, and she took my hand and filled it with the paper money of this time. “Here,” she said, “You earned it. And this.” And then she gifted me with one last, sweet kiss, one I will carry with my fondly.

I returned the steed to its owners, and placed a letter of thanks and farewell on their doorstep, and then I walked back to the Glass Palace (Now that the Enchantress was gone for the day, I had no fear of being seen and questioned crossing her demesne), to the Redoubt, where I found my men ready to depart. I exchanged my maid’s clothes for my proper finery, heaving a comfortable sigh of relief as I armed myself anew, with sword and wheel-gun firmly in my sash where they belonged. I did keep the servant’s togs as a useful disguise, though. And with water casks filled from the magic tap and some last few bottles of wine gathered from the galley, we bid the Glass Palace a very fond farewell. It was our first refuge here, and served us all a great kindness; we owed it a debt of gratitude.

We found a secluded beach to make camp that first night, and leaving MacTeigue and Lynch to set a fire and watch the boat, Vaughn and I made our way to a 7-11 shop we had spotted a mile or so northwards. There we exchanged some of my maid-money for victuals – I must say, maids are quite well-paid in this place! I seem to have earned a 50-paper every day I worked at the Palace, and only half of those days did I work a proper servant’s watch, from near dawn to near dusk; those same twelve hours in Ireland would have earned me a crust of bread, a bowl of milk, and a soft kick out the door! But perhaps I was given a gift, rather than wages – and perhaps it was not by maidish prowess that I earned it. Any road, while culling out our foodstuffs, Vaughn found a rack of broadsheets, several of which featured prominently a remarkable etching of the
Grace of Ireland, and portraits of O’Flaherty and Shluxer – whose name is spelled Schluchzer, it seems, though for this record I intend to use my own spelling for simplicity’s sake. Vaughn gathered them up and added them to the purchase. As the clerk evaluated our goods and named me a price – which he would not dicker over, not even a cent! – Vaughn scanned one of the broadsheets and spoke most excitedly to me: the pamphlet reported a location for my ship! I told him we must seek out a proper map if we could locate a cartographer – at which point the clerk pointed and said “Maps over there, dude.” (The last word is unfamiliar, but I have rendered it here as similar to “duke,” which title it did resemble in sound. I thus take it as compliment.)

Apparently ’tis not only the Enchantress and her wealthy peers who can acquire such wonderful maps as she showed me; they are for sale at the local shop, and far less than the cost of a meal. (Though I must then question the price of their food, for surely a bag of those potato chips, no matter how delicious, isn’t as valuable as the assurance that one never need be lost and wander aimlessly to one’s doom, as has been known to happen on the moors and in the deep forests of home.) Any road, Vaughn and I pounced like hungry dogs on the rack of maps the clerk indicated, and took one of each thus offered us. We made our way back to camp with our booty – in strange bags, made of stuff so thin and strong it resembles spider-silk, but which the clerk, when asked, named “plass-tick” – and there we ate, and read, and plotted our course on our new maps.

This day was spent making headway on that same course. We should reach our destination on the morrow.

 

Captain’s Log

Date: 17 July 2011

Location: Treasure Harbor, Islamorada

Conditions: Frustrated. Trapped like Tantalus.

Like Tantalus indeed: standing in a stream of cool water, beneath an apple tree heavy with fruit, starving and thirsting both; this was that Greek tyrant’s curse in Hades. When he reached up for the fruit, the bough would withdraw, and the water below would rise; he would then crouch down to drink, and the water would recede, and the branch then come lower to tempt him with its bounty – hence our word “tantalize.”

Not a mile to the south-west of our camp, the Grace of Ireland sits at anchor. Perhaps two miles to the Northeast, my men may all be found, both the good and the bad, the penitent and the insubordinate. Yet neither crew nor ship are within my grasp.

My ship is at the Islamorada Coast Guard Station. By land, she is guarded by locked gates, high fences, and armed men; by sea she is even more unreachable, as a constant stream of beast-ships come and go all day long, all grey steel, with cannons and swivel-guns visibly mounted in the bow; not a sail among them, but all moving as quickly and easily, and loudly, as do the beast-wagons on land; and every one manned by generous crews of proper military sailors, alert and disciplined. This coast be well-guarded, indeed. And so too is my ship.

I did not intend to steal her. On the journey down, Vaughn pointed out that, her reputation as a corsair notwithstanding, the Grace is my ship, bought and paid for, with my name on the bill of ownership as well as the logs and charts. He argued that I could simply claim that my ship was stolen from me – as indeed it was – and with three stout men (and the Lopezes, should the word of four Irishmen insuffice) to swear to my identity and the veracity of my claim, I might just be able to take back my ship with a smile and a handshake. Thus, upon our arrival at this tiny island south of the mainland of Florida, we beached the boat and left Lynch, as the youngest and least credible witness, to guard, and then Vaughn, MacTeigue and I went forth to press my claim.

Our first gauntlet was the thick-skulled cretin at the gate – thick-skulled he must have been, for surely that rock atop his shoulders was not full of brains. He could not understand my accent, first, though my brogue is negligible – gods, some of my men speak Gaelic as much as English. Never in all of my travels have I failed to make myself understood with the King’s English, until now, and I vow the fault was not with my tongue. When I had slowed and emphasized my words sufficiently – approximately what I would think a drunken Ourang-Outang would require for comprehension – then the man could not grasp my name. When I shortened it to Nate, and this abbreviated moniker sunk through that ponderous browbone, then he could not understand my mission and purpose for requesting entry.

Thank the gods, Vaughn was there to stop me drawing steel and running him through, and thank all the saints and devils as well that I did not need to treat with that imbecile after I had won entry to the station, or even Vaughn could not have restrained me.

But ’twas all for naught, even so. My name on the logbook and ship’s papers, and my intimate and minute knowledge of my ship did not serve to establish my ownership of her; according to Lieutenant Danziger, the stolid, middle-aged officer with whom I parlayed, I must have a “registration.” Even my identity was called into question, and indeed our word was not good enough – though the man was clear that he did not name us liars, and I believed him; the Lieutenant was a man of morals and sober intelligence, unlike his buffoon of a watchman. He called it “red tape,” and when that mystified us, he explained it was a colloquialism for rules and regulations and laws, Byzantine in their complex convolutions, but inviolate nonetheless. Apparently I must have a birth certificate – though I would think my birth could be stipulated without witnesses, since here I am – a social security card, and a drivers license or some other – I believe he called it foe-toe-aye-dee; perhaps this means “identification,” another term he bandied about in our fruitless negotiation. As I do not understand what these things even are, I know I cannot procure them.

I must wait for another path to my ship to appear.

Stymied in that direction, I asked Danziger where the men were who had stolen my ship from me, and was directed to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office on Plantation Key, to the north-east. We reported our failure back to Lynch, and then MacTeigue and I made the trek on foot – all of these islands are connected by a series of bridges the likes of which we have never seen, nor even imagined, stretching for miles across the ocean itself. How could anyone sink piers so deep? Not even the Romans, nor the druids of old could have matched this feat, and I do not believe these people even notice this wonder. The Lieutenant simply instructed us to follow the road, neglecting to mention that said road crossed a mile or more of deep blue sea.

We reached our destination and were greeted by another guard at the front gate, though in this case he sat behind a large table inside the building’s entrance – though the edifice resembles a strong fortress, such miserable laxity in security means it would not withstand the rudest assault, if the enemy may simply walk in through the doors, to be confronted by – a single clerk scribbling on papers behind a table.

I will remember this if we decide to take this place by force. The initial approach will not be difficult.

This uniformed functionary directed MacTeigue and I to the detention block, on the building’s third floor. This was a tighter ship: three men in a locked and inaccessible chamber watched over the antechamber at the top of the stairs, with no cover anywhere that was out of their sight, as the chamber had immense glass windows on two sides; their pistolas were prominent on their belts, and the only way past them and to the prisoners blocked by a steel portcullis.

This is where the challenge would be, but still: ’tis only glass, and only three men.

MacTeigue and I entered the antechamber, which had benches along the walls, one of them occupied by an elder couple, most fretful in their demeanor – perhaps they knew one slated for execution soon. MacTeigue and I approached the glass and hailed the men within loudly; they nodded, and one spoke into a black metal wand, which magically transported his voice to us as though he were in the room and standing at our shoulders.

“Can I help you?”

“Aye, gratefully. We are here to see the men taken by the Coast Guard – the crew of the Grace of Ireland, if you please.”

The man nodded. “Have a seat.” He turned away from us and spoke to the other two. I looked at MacTeigue, who shrugged, and we moved to the nearest bench and sat.

“Excuse me – did you say you’re here about the pirate ship? The men on the ship, I mean?”

I was addressed by the older man. He and the lady – likely his wife, by their clasped hands – looked on me somewhat strangely, though I wore my maid’s uniform this day, and MacTeigue wore simple sailor’s clothes, canvas pants and a brown homespun shirt. I could not have known them, of course, but still they appeared somewhat familiar.

“Aye,” I said, and extended my hand. “I am Damnation Kane, the rightful owner of that ship, which was stolen from me by those dastardly rogues.”

The man clasped my hand. “Elliott Shluxer.”

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Log 27: Vanity and Vengeance

Captain’s Log

Date: 14 July 2011

Location: Redoubt at the Glass Palace

Conditions: Victorious! And no longer alone!

 

Mine enemies are SCATTERED, my companions RETURNED – this night is a BLOODY DAMNED GOOD NIGHT! The BEST since we left Ireland, auld Ireland, alas. I believe I will have another drink. Ah! Sweet nectar, staff of life, blood of Erin renewed! Ha ha haaaaa!

 

Captain’s Log

Date: 15 July 2011

Location: Redoubt

Conditions: No longer drunk. All else continues as before.

 

Yesterday did not dawn presaging victory. I had at last eased my limp, and was all but recovered from my smashing by the Lions’ beast-wagon; while recovering, I had plotted a new course from Palace to den, and had discovered the means of my vengeance, and the tool to end the threat of the Lions entirely. But I had no hope of accomplishing my goal, and so the speedy recovery of my corporeal health – aided, no doubt, by the kind ministrations of My Lady of Joy – gave way only to a deep spiritual malaise, as I rose and gazed at the sun dawning bright and clear over the ocean, rising on another day when my vengeance and justice both, would again be frustrated ere sun’s set.

The seed of my plan began humbly, even inauspiciously. The Enchantress – who saw my several hurts, surely, but said nothing at all, did not ask after my welfare nor express sympathy (Though I admit I would not have been pleased to have a comely woman such as she commenting on my weakness or defeat. But she could have excused me from my maidish duties, blast the luck.) – had requested that I clean a locale she termed, quite without irony, her “vanity.” This, as it obtains, is a table and chair set hard by her bathing-room, equipped with a massive mirror and the brightest lights I have ever seen outside of the sun itself, and covered, from table’s edge to table’s edge, with an alchemist’s wildest and fondest imaginings. Or perhaps ‘twould be his worst nightmare: it was nearly mine. Bottle after bottle on top of bottle beside jar behind phial before box between piles, of perfumes and powders and paints and – only the Devil knows what else. I could not fathom where the Enchantress applies these concoctions to her loveliness; I have observed some small difference in her appearance, though solely due to the Enchantress’s penchant for swimming. I would have thought I could see her as her true self in the early morn, but by the time I arrive for my maidery, she is already adorned for the day – surprising, that, as I come somewhat early and she is rich, which led me to believe she would stay abed; but nay, every morning, my arrival at the door is greeted by a perfumed and painted Enchantress, looking as lovely as a flower at dawn and smiling a welcome. ‘Tis only after the greeting and some polite conversation that I descend to the status of servant once more, and am quickly forgotten. But even that painted face was but little different from the natural physiognomy I was wont to observe after her exercise in her terrace pool; surely there was no call for the sheer quantity and variety of materiel she possessed, and apparently utilized, as all of the containers were stained and smudged, often with caps and lids loose or misapplied, and all of it covered with a fine powder in various light hues; damn me if I could spot a tenth of it anywhere on her lovely face, though in truth I did not make a frequent and minute inspection of such. And the tools! The brushes and combs, the pincers, the calipers, the razors, the trowels – God’s mercy, but I would not find such equippage unusual in the possession of a surgeon – nay, nor even a torturer in the employ of the dread Inquisition. There was one silver device that, I swear, looked to be intended for prying open eyelids in order to remove the ball itself, or perhaps merely to stab it with one of the sharpened instruments that abounded there.

I am so sublimely relieved that I am not a woman.

Any road, this vanity and its witches’ brews were my task, and I set to it: I removed and cleaned, with cloth and water, every bottle and jar, and polished every implement I could, setting them all aside so I could swab the table itself, once cleared of its mighty burden. But there were some articles, and, as I discovered, some areas of the tabletop, that were stained and marred with splatters and spills the which a wet cloth simply could not remove. The Enchantress had already departed, leaving me on my own with this conundrum. I considered the soaps and tinctures in the maid’s closet, but I did not believe they were equal to this task – and as the table was of fine, polished wood, I did not want to holystone it clean for fear of damaging its surface. I had already been taken to task for marring the gleam of the galley tabletops in just this fashion, though as they were granite, and my abrasive merely fine sand, I think it the fact of the Enchantress witnessing me at this task rather than any permanent harm I did which brought me this chastisement. How do the people of this time bring such surfaces clean if they do not abrade them properly? Filth must be scoured away! (Ha: a good lesson for the confrontation with the Lions, as well, not so?)

So I went in search of turpentine. Among the elixirs and salves on the vanity I had found several which resembled paint, and I knew that turpentine acted as a solvent for such. I presumed it would not be stored in the house, if such were kept here at all, for the sake of its powerful odor, and so I investigated the garradge. I did indeed find a metal jar – most odd; like a box with a round spout in the top, and a lid that screwed on over it – with a clear liquid inside, most pungent, and the words “Paint Thinner” on the jar-box. This finally proved most efficacious on the vanity, though the resultant stench required that I leave all of the Palace windows open for the day, and still earned a light rebuke from the Enchantress, who claimed it gave her a headache. Though I must boast she was most pleased and impressed with her vanity; perhaps she is not alone in that sin, though I think my own pleasure in a job well done, no matter how seeming trivial, be not wrong. I am only glad she did not notice the stains made in places by the paint thinner on the wood of the table, though since I had covered them carefully with the myriad jars, I am not surprised.

But in the course of examining the various containers in the garradge, opening each and peering within at its contents, inhaling any vapors exuded, I found another liquid, with a similarly pungent smell – though this one was far more sweet – in a red box with the words “Caution – Flammable” on the side. Intrigued, I poured a small amount, no more than a sip, from the large jar-box into an empty glass from the galley; then I used the Enchantress’s magic firebox (Have I not recorded this ere now? The Enchantress, most strangely in my mind, prepares her own meals rather than employ a cook – though she does leave all of the washing-up for me, of course. She makes use of a device in her galley which, when a knob is turned, summons a clean blue flame from nowhere, like a fairy light. I have been using this to light a candle, taken from a box of clean white tapers marked Emergency Candles in the maid closet, and then using that candle to light my fire in the Redoubt. A wonderful convenience.) to light my candle, and, placing the glass of sweet liquid on the terrace, I touched the flame to it.

And it burned. Oh, how it burned! Indeed, the heat was so intense, and lasted so long, that when the flame was finally exhausted, I lifted the glass and was burned by its touch; a second attempt shielded by a cleaning rag was more successful, but when I brought the glass to the galley water tap in order to cool it, the rush of water touched the glass with a hiss, and then cracked it so deeply that it fell into shards at my wondering touch.

Thus did I find my weapon against the Lions. As for my approach, which must be changed now that the Lions have discovered my route and my means of travel, as well as my vulnerability atop my steed, I had asked the Enchantress the day before if she could descry a path from her home to the Lopezes’ village some miles to the northwest; I told her the press of cars (the local term for the beast-wagons, and a most peculiar one) was too great, and I sought a quieter, less-traveled road. She amazed me when she went to her own beast-wagon and returned with a map – a map such as I have never seen before, of such infinitesimal detail and mathematic precision that it makes every chart and log-book I have seen or made look like a child’s scribblings. I should not wonder to hear that these people never get lost, if they have maps such as this – though, of course, that may be the Enchantress’s particular boon, like her private cove and Palace and the like.

So now I had a way of once more reaching the Lions’ den undetected – it took only an hour’s exploration with map and steed to find a road well-suited to my task; my leg made it a painful hour indeed, but this merely served to whet my appetite for vengeance – and a way to wreak havoc on it once there. Yet had I no hope: for I could not destroy the Lions alone.

Then the miracle happened.

Around mid-day, as I emerged from the Palace onto the terrace by the cove, taking a moment’s ease after swabbing the floors, I heard – a signal whistle. A sailor’s whistle, that is, which is three notes, low, high, and low again, with the middle note held longest. My eyes, half-closed with a comfortable lethargy in the warm air, snapped open, and my jaw dropped. I stepped out to the sand, looking to the forested strand from whence I believed the whistle had come – and what should I spy but the most-welcome figure of Balthazar Lynch, a wide grin on his thin face, as he stepped from the greenery, waving with the vigor of a young child whose father has returned home. “Ahoy, Captain!” he cried out, a greeting I returned with equal vigor and joy. A joy which was doubled, and then trebled, when the flora behind him parted to disclose first my good friend Llewellyn Vaughn, and then my cousin, Owen MacTeigue, over whom I had fretted much, as I feared either his loyalty or his life lost to the mutiny, and neither could I well abide.

A joyful reunion had we then. I fed them well from the Palace’s stores, and gave them each a chance to bathe – something they had not done in the fortnight since my ship was stolen from me, cleanliness being neither near nor dear to those faithless swine who stole my ship. They told me the tale I had largely expected, though I had never known if it would be confirmed for me: that the mutineers had put the Grace out to sea after telling the crew that I slept in my cabin, much the worse for wine – and Vaughn agreed that he and I, and Ian O’Gallows, had been drugged by a conspiracy made up of the other men at that last dinner: O’Flaherty and Burke, O’Grady, Shluxer, and Hugh Moran – the last I declare to be my cousin no more, as I disown the traitorous serpent – and Donal Carter, as well. The three prodigals were quick to assure me that my friend Ian remains loyal, and stayed with the Grace to try to ensure her safety; I said a brief prayer then for the safe voyage of both good ship and good man, a prayer I have oft repeated, and do so again now. They told me of the petty thefts that marked the height of ambition of that verminous carpenter, and of their own theft of the boat and subsequent journey back, using a chart made by Ian ere they left the Grace; they had sailed with the boat’s small mast for three days before reaching the cove and quickly finding evidence of my habitation in the Redoubt, which gave them reason to wait and watch – a course amply and quickly rewarded when they sighted me on the terrace not two turns of the glass later.

They did swear their loyalty to me as captain of the Grace most vociferously and eloquently, and offered me their good right arms in whatever course I plotted for them – even the pacifistic Vaughn, clearly angered by the loss of the ship he loved too, to such small-hearted pilfering to line the pockets of blackguards with chaff no more valuable than their own tarnished souls.

I ordered that first they must rest for the remainder of the day, and recover from their difficult journey.

Then we had some Lions to beard in their den.

Once I had my loyal shipmates, the doing of the deed was largely simplicity. I distributed to them the pistolas I had collected, keeping my wheel-gun for my own use, and then we set out after sun’s set, walking by my newfound and less-traveled road. Two hours’ journey found us near the Lions’ den, and close to the hour of their usual dispersal, leaving perhaps a half-dozen within the house. I set Lynch and MacTeigue to watch the exits fore and aft, leaving Vaughn to watch the street, alert for la policia. Then I crept about the house, splashing it with the sweet fire-juice from the Enchantress’s garradge. After I painted the foundations thusly, I gathered my men to the front, the only portion I had not imbued with the liquid, and then I used flint and steel to strike a spark and set the flame. It caught, and spread, and soon roared hungrily, belching smoke as it devoured the dilapidated wooden dwelling. I would have been content to cook them all within, but soon a ragged shout was raised and Lions came stumbling out the front door.

And there we shot them all down. Six men, felled in barely twenty seconds as they gathered in a knot before the house, and we four rose from the darkness at my signal like avenging angels, and opened fire. We approached once they had all fallen, and I saw that one was still breathing – ’twas Agro, the leader and instigator of all of this. I aimed at him, and waited until he saw me in the light of his burning home, and knew me. Then I shot him dead.

We departed quickly, to the sound of a banshee wail that I knew, from young Alejandro Lopez’s magic window, signaled the approach of la policia.

Thus was justice served.

Now: to win back my ship.

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Log 27: Letter from the Gallows

Date Unknown: The 9th Day after the Cursed Mutiny.

A Letter to my Captain and the Man I once called Friend, and would give my Right Hand to call such again: Damnation Kane, EVER AND ALWAYS Master of the Grace of Ireland.

Captain,

I do beg ye not to misapprehend the apparent Coolness of my Address. ‘Tis not because I love ye any the less than when I called ye Nate, and thought of ye as my Brother. But I ha’ failed ye so utterly that I cannot speak ye familiar until I ha’ redeemed myself. I may ne’er do so. I will not ask Forgiveness, for how could any Man of true Heart and hot Blood forgive Betrayal so base as ye ha’ suffered? Na’theless, I do, ‘pon my knees, offer to ye my humblest and deepest Apologies and Regrets. When ye did set me Mate, an honor that warms my Soul e’en now, in the black depths of my despair, ye gave me the task of preserving your command, your fine ship, above all else. And now I do fear she will be lost.

Curse me, ye will ne’er forgive me. Curse me to the end of days. And curse that gut-worm Shlocksir thrice again. Ye ha’ ne’er failed as Captain, sir, but perhaps that once, when ye allowed that Spawn of Corruption into our company, whate’er our need may ha’ been. Aye and perhaps one other time, when ye let those pestilent mongrels O’Flaherty and Burke take authority that ye should ha’ kept. Well I know that the men did give ye little choice. But blast me, Captain, better ye had taken on whole new crew than keep those two aboard with daggers e’er pointed at your Heart, and Lust for your Ship in theirs.

But whate’er missteps our twisted and malignant Fate has pushed ye into, ye ne’er lost our Ship. Nay, that sin be mine, and the fault lies in me that landed those poxy fools on the poop deck in your place.

‘Twas Shlocksir’s plan, Captain, tho I know O’Flaherty and Burke and Carter all pressed for a Sea Battle. The land-grabs we ha’ done e’er since stealing your Grace ha’ brought a fine heap o’ paper, and little else besides, pleasing no one but our ferret-eyed whore’s son of a Carpenter. Too, the loss of the boat means we can no longer anchor the Grace and reach the shore at our Leisure, and that too pushed us into this ill-fated Folly.

We did try to take a Ship, this day. A Ship bearing passengers, as Shlocksir avowed that our sweet Grace could not threaten the cargo vessels that sail these Seas, so large as those Ships be. But Shlocksir told us of the Ships of the wealthiest merchants, Ships he called yots, if that were his word aright. These yots sailed Unarmed and Unsuspecting of Attack, and we could hail the yotsmen as if in Friendship, or perhaps as tho we were in Distress, and we should find Riches aboard.

We made South-South-West for a day, headed for the Keys, as Shlocksir named them, islands where the yots made passage to and fro. We sighted a Fine Specimen, a Ship twice the Grace from stem to stern, with three decks, white as snow and with music and good cheer pouring out to our ears e’en a half mile distant. Shlocksir called it a “party boat,” a “day-tripper,” and said we could handle it with ease, may the Devil gnaw at his greedy heart.

Shlocksir ordered us to come alongside and board her. Why that bag of rancid suet fancies himself capable or deserving of command, I ha’ not an idea. And less why O’Flaherty and Burke allow it. But they do, for Shlocksir is e’er shouting commands, e’er the wrong ones, and they ne’er gainsay him but when the Ship should sink if they held their tongues, as when he ordered us to come to port when he meant starboard, and there were rocks to port. Yet all other orders we follow, in our Folly and to our Doom. We did so now, tho he railed at the slowness of our approach for some minutes, until Burke took him aside roughly and pointed out the direction of the wind, which was against us, but apparently past the understanding of a calf-brained lubber such as this.

But he was not the only calf-brained lubber, it seemed, as the Captain of the yot did nothing to stem our approach, nor to escape. He came to the rail and bespoke us through some Magickal Device that made his Voice boom like storm waves crashing ashore. All vile Shlocksir spake in return was that we be Pirates looking for a good time, and bearing Grog. He did ask for permission to come aboard, and had me and Sweeney smile and wave. Certain ’tis that we two looked less Forbidding than Burke or Kelly. And that, it seemed, were enough, as we were able to come alongside and make Fast to their rail.

Then we climbed aboard, and the time for smiling was done. We went armed, secured the Men, there being but ten aboard and eight Women, one lass in uniform, which did Mystify us, but Shlocksir claims ’tis the way of things here. Tho I know not why we do continue to take his word, the Mendacious Idiot. They did not believe our Menace until Carter, who has been almost continually drunk these past nine days, shot the Mate, killing him on the spot, his blood pooling on the deck making a most Persuasive Argument. The Captain then, too late, did raise a Shout, but Burke beat him unconscious and then heaved him o’erboard. All was silent but for Tears after that.

We searched the Ship, finding little enough of value. Some Spirits, some Victuals, a fair quantity o’ jewelry on the passengers, some strange objects Shlocksir claimed valuable, naming them selfowns and laptops. Nothing worth the hanging we surely now have waiting for us ashore. We trussed up the remaining passengers and crew and made to Depart. But then Shlocksir said that we should take hostages.

I did see his eye fall on the comeliest female passengers, both wearing little more than skin, both young and shapely. I knew he did not mean to keep them as hostages. I saw other men, Burke, and Carter, and perhaps more, grin at Shlocksir’s idea. I did speak against it, Loud and strong, aye. I named Shlocksir a Vile Rapist.

His response? Naught but a grin and the words, “No, man, I’m a pirate.”

I moved to strike him then, but he drew his pistol on me. I had no doubt he would use it. I might ha’ charged anyway, for I could ha’ had him o’er the rail e’en as he killed me, and then he would drown and save the women, but I could not abandon the Grace. And so, to my Shame, I backed down, and let Shlocksir and Burke haul those poor screaming lasses aboard our ship, our ship blessed by your own Sainted Mother and baptized in your Blood.

Ah, God, what have I done?

I could not, Captain. I could not let them get away with this, not this. As we were departing and preparing to cut loose from the yot, I did loosen the bonds of one of the Crewmen. I did whisper to him that we would likely head East, as Shlocksir had mentioned afore, aiming for Bermuda or a similar port of call.

I gave him our Ship, Captain. I know that, even as we sail away filled with good Cheer at our Success, the forces of Just Retribution are descending on us. I know that the Magick of this day, of this place, can surely find us wheresoe’er we go, can surely outrun and outgun us. Shlocksir has said this many a time, making much of our ability to Surprise as our Greatest Asset, and our ability to sneak away and vanish in the vasty Ocean.

But now they know where we are. They will find us. They will likely destroy us, and your Ship with us.

I am sorry, Nate. So very sorry. I will await your Forgiveness, or your Vengeance, when I am in Hell, my corpse dangling from a gibbet.

I be standing guard o’er the hostages. Kelly is with me, and sober for a Wonder. We are agreed that Blood will spill afore we allow Innocents to be despoiled on our Blessed Ship. Kelly rests now, and I write so that I may stay awake. It has been two days, and hard days, since I did sleep, and ten since I did sleep well.

With each Sunset I do gain another day’s doubts. Every night, I lay in my bunk, for I be demoted from Mate, o’ course, and broken down to a sailor’s berth, and as I lay I do cast back o’er the last day, the last two or three or ten days. Did I do all that I might? Did I choose aright, this day? These last ten nights, the Question that consumes my Mind is this: did I do what I could to bring back the Grace? To bring her back to her Owner and Captain, to bring her back to the course she was meant to sail?

I cannot think how we could ha’ done differently.

That first day we thought ye in your cabin. I swear that to be God’s Own Truth. I remember drinking too much Wine and falling asleep at table the night afore; Master Vaughn feels sure we were drugged, as he also fell unconscious in his cups tho he had but one or two glasses of Wine, and for myself, I ha’ not lost my wits to drink since I was a wee lad. In the morning, my head pounding like the Devil’s dancing hoofsteps, I asked after ye, and O’Flaherty said ye were sleeping off the Wine and should not be disturbed. He did say we should make way, tho, so as not to lose the Tide; he said that ‘twould be a fine Surprise for ye to wake and see the Grace far out to Sea already.

I suppose it was, at that.

Ye ha’ been in the habit o’ staying in your Cabin of late, and my head Ached so that I could not but wish I was asleep, myself. Surely I could not, did not think straight, else I would have, I should have!, checked to see ye for myself. But I did not, to my Shame, both as Mate and Friend. Instead I did take Command in your Absence from the poop deck, and got us out to Sea and running well.

‘Twas then, four bells through the midmorning watch, that the Truth was Revealed. O’Flaherty put Carter on the wheel and called all Hands on Deck. Then he told us that ye had been relieved o’ your Command. He told us that ye had not only Beaten and Whipped a man Unjustly, and tho Shlocksir be unfamiliar to the men, his crime is not mysterious to their thoughts, and so they fear his Fate for themselves, as I did try to tell ye then, Curse me, but also he did say that ye had Lied to us. Ye had withheld vital information, because ye did not trust us to take it like Men, and, he said, ye likely had some Villainous Plot in mind, perhaps to Betray us and take on new crew, men more to your way o’ thinking. I stood to defend ye and your decisions as Captain, but was Silenced by what O’Flaherty said next. We ha’ traveled through Time, he said. Three hundred years, he said, and more. All that we did know then, all is now dust and ashes, and Relicks in a Museum.

We were so stunned by this that we did not object when O’Flaherty took Command, naming Moran as Mate, Burke to Gunner, Carter as the Bosun and Shlocksir as Navigator. He told us his intentions: we would find our way back to our own Time, but first we had to do what ye, in your Cowardice and broken-minded befuddlement, Forgive me for repeating his words, what ye had failed to do. We must take advantage of this strange Miracle which Providence had cast in our way. For we do be the only Pirates in these Seas, the only Pirates in Two Hundred Years! He said the people here do be soft and trusting as Lambs. He did not even need to look at Shlocksir to make his point, for we all knew that he was right. He said we did not even need to Pluck this ripened Fruit that hung all around us; all we need do is open our mouths and let the rich Juices run down our gullets ’til our bellies be filled. Then we would find our way home, and live like Kings.

‘Twas a masterful job, Captain. He scattered our wits with his Revelation, like a grenado cast into our midst, and then in one stroke, he blamed ye for the Devastation he had wrought and also gave us a Way out of it, one which appealed to our Greed as well as offering a chance to not feel the Terror of being 300 years Lost.

Ye should ha’ told us, Nate. Tho the result be not deserved, still ye should ha’ told us. It went poorly when I asked after ye. The men shouted me down and named ye Traitor to the Company for keeping such a Secret. When Moran stood and did swear that ye lived and were unharmed, that he would ne’er spill the blood of his own Cousin, the men were well satisfied, and agreed on the spot to follow O’Flaherty as Captain o’ our Grace.

There were Three, tho, who came to me later and did express deep Misgivings about your loss and O’Flaherty’s gain. We met again, often, o’er the next few days, as our Misgivings grew under O’Flaherty’s Command and Shlocksir’s guidance. When we saw the heading they intended for us to follow, we decided to take Action.

‘Twas miserable, Captain. The only one excited was Shlocksir, who sweated and capered about so you’d think him a young Horse, new-broken and ridden hard and let to Pasture. The crew did question the value in such a simple and unambitious Assault, for we put four men in the boat and rowed ashore at night, and robbed a Store, something named Seven-Eleven. We took their paper money and some small supplies, and Naught else. Aye, ’twas easy and free o’ Risk, but where were the great Rewards promised us? That were the grumbles.

Tho I admit: those Potato Chips are entirely Delicious.

The next night, to Silence those grumblings, our Target was a Grog Shop. Along with more paper, of which Shlocksir seems inordinately fond, we captured crates of Liquor, and had a fine proper Drunkening. The next night we waited until later, and then took a Tavern, just after it closed, using Kelly to burst the door in. We took a grand lot o’ paper that night, aye, and more Rum to keep the crew jolly.

We saw then, myself and my three Companions in Misery, that this would be our Fate: we would run up and down the Coastline, Robbing local shopkeeps o’ paper and Potato chips and Grog. Shlocksir would be happy with his piles o’ green scraps, O’Flaherty with his usurped Command; Burke would surely find opportunities to Exercise his Cruelty (He has already flogged two men, and Savagely), and the men would merely stay drunk, and Complacent Thereby.

We four could not Stomack this. What Pride was there, what Glory, in Midnight raids on unarmed townsfolk? We are Pirates, by God, Gentlemen of Fortune! And Irishmen, too! Half of us joined this crew because we did know that Damnation Kane would give us the chance to spill English blood, and to Fight, in some small way, for our Country against her Oppressors. Who were we fighting now, Seven-Eleven? We found it less than satisfying.

But the men were Drunk. And the course we followed was, if nothing else, Supremely Easy. We made out to Sea at night, fished and lazed during the Day, then sailed to shore after nightfall, cruising until we spotted a Target, when we would anchor and send out the boat, with Shlocksir, Burke, and two men to row. Why would the crew Rebel against that?

We needed our Leader, the Man who could wake up their Blood and give them Purpose again. We needed ye, Captain.

So finally, we four decided to steal the boat, and Make our way back to ye. I agreed to stay aboard the Grace, to watch out for Her so Well as I could. Three nights ago we had our Chance, when O’Flaherty found a quiet cove to anchor in after our petty theft, and Declared we would spend the night at rest, without a watch, so that all could Celebrate the ease of our Success. They did get Masterfully Drunk, and we did steal their boat.

In the morning, when they did find the boat gone, and with it their ability to make these easy raids on townsfolk, our Leaders decided to make an Assault on a Ship.

And here we are.

Now my three Compatriots, young Lynch, your cousin Owen MacTeigue, and Master Vaughn, are gone with the boat, and I know not what has become of them. And I squat in the companionway outside the Mate’s Cabin belowdecks, and listen to the Wailings and Whimpers of two Terrified and Innocent women who are prisoned where once I made my berth. I hope it will not come to Blows if they come for the women, for Kelly and I will stand Honorably, but we will not win, and I hate that Blood may be spilled on our lovely Ship. And I hope that the local Navymen will find us, but will not sink us, for I Dread most of all if these Serpents in the shape of men be allowed to Pillage and Plunder at their will. If they earn some ill Repute for their Beastly deeds and Savage treatment of Innocents, then what show of force, what sort of Ship, what manner of destructive Magick incomprehensible and Terrible to us will be brought to bear? We must not risk that. This cruise must be Stopped now.

God Almighty, let the Risks I take be for the best for my Ship, my Captain, and my Friends. I Beg of Thee.

Ian O’Gallows, Mate of the Grace of Ireland

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Log #25: Lady of Mercy

Captain’s Log

Date: 11th of July, 2011.

Location: Alone in a place that mystifies me.

Conditions: Have suffered from some small injuries; but far worse, from despair.

 

I find I have underestimated these people somewhat.

The Lions did their level best to lure me into complacency, simply by doing nothing at all that was of any import. I have watched them for the past two days, after my last capture and chastisement of one of their crewmates, and prior to this day’s events, and they never once perceived me, never detected my malignant presence so close to their home. As far as I could discern their actions, they also never sought me out: did not speak to those who might have seen or spoken to me, did not endeavor to uncover my whereabouts, and happily but most inanely, they did not wind and follow my clearest trail – clearest still despite all my efforts to confound it – my connection to the Lopezes. I presumed these Lions were made kittenish by fear, and thus I grew o’erconfident myself.

Then, this day, as I rode my steed (I find the local word “bike” too grating on tongue and on paper, so it will be my steed henceforth in this record.) toward the Lions’ den, I was utterly startled to hear the sudden growl of a beast-wagon, accompanied by a shout. Now, I am surrounded by beast-wagons whensoe’er I make my way along the roads and byways of this place, and so here, too, I grow complacent, inured to the beast-wagons’ stench and the cacophony of their incessant growling and gurrumbling as my steed carries me along the edge of the road beside them, often close enough to touch.

But this growl was louder: hungrier. Angrier. As was the shout, which comprised an epithet so foul, and so insulting to my noble and beloved mother, that even my sailor’s tongue dries up at the thought of repeating or recording it. When I heard these noises, I cast a glance back over my left shoulder – but it was too late.

The Lions had found me, or had followed me, perchance. Even as I recognized them behind the glass eye of their beast-wagon, the monster struck me, struck my steed’s wheel, and cast me into a most ungainly flight. I landed, all a-sprawl, atop another beast-wagon, one of a line sleeping by the side of the road; I struck my head and crumpled, stunned, to the ground.

I had shot all the way across and fallen on the far side of the beast-wagons – which may have saved my life, for the Lions came about and bore down on me once more, while my wits were still addled; I shudder to think what would have become of me had they been able to strike me anew with yon growling metal behemoth. Even without that, I was in danger enough: they drew arms and blasted a broadside at me as they drew abreast the beast-wagon I had struck and behind which I crouched, struggling to rise to hands and knees with head twirling and limbs as weak as a newborn babe’s, with blood pouring down from a wound on my brow and blinding my right eye.

Had I thought the growl of the beast-wagon loud? Or ominous? It was as nothing to the wave of thunder that split the air as the Lions opened fire. ‘Twas louder than an entire firing line of a score of British soldiers, and the shots went on far longer than I could expect, three and five and ten and fifteen seconds without cease, without pause to reload, seconds that each seemed an hour. The lead poured into the beast-wagons between me and the Lions, shattering windows and holing the metal flanks; but they did not penetrate to me. The plastered stone wall on the other side, perhaps the back wall of a row of shops as it was unpierced by window or door, rang with ricochets as holes appeared and shards of stone flew as though goblins swung pickaxes, digging for gold with supernatural vigor and avarice. The shards struck me, gashing my cheek and my right hand; this fresh pain awoke me sufficiently to crouch and cover my much-abused head. I tried to reach for the pistol in my pocket – for I wore my maid’s clothes in the name of camouflage on the streets of Miami – but I could not control my limbs well enough to do so; my arm felt encased in hardened pitch, weighted with lead.

Though it seemed forever, ’twas not, and finally the Lions’ wagon growled and squealed as they spurred it for home. I could do no more than rise to hands and knees and then collapse, eyes shut against the spinning of my dizzied head, my back against the beast-wagon that had shielded me from certain death. I patted its metal flank and gasped out a grateful thanks to its sturdy protection.

Thus, when the voice spoke to me, I thought at first that the beast was responding. I opened my eyes, felt my stomach lurch as the world turned topsy-turvy once more, and closed them again – but not before I had spotted the very human person who knelt before me, and who had spoken – though I realized then that I had not made sense out of said speech.

“I must beg your pardon, but I fear your words lost to my befuddled ears. Wouldst speak again, I pray?” While speaking thus – and stumbling slightly over my words – I had managed to open one eye, the left, and force the spinning world to stand still enough for me to make out the person who addressed me, though my stomach heaved like a boat crossing a ship’s wake.

It was a woman, I saw – though her hair confused me at first; ’twas as short as a man’s – with a kindly face, concern in her eyes as she looked at me through the spectacles I had but rarely seen in Ireland but frequently here. I could not discern her age: her hair was grey tending to white, but she had all her teeth, and her skin, though wrinkled, was smoother still than any other white-haired woman I have ever seen. She wore a loose frock, open from neck to waist, with a thin blouse beneath, both in jarringly bright colors; I was surprised to see she wore short britches that left her legs bare, and I averted my eyes for propriety’s sake.

My speech had made her smile – ’twas a fine smile, one that lit her whole face (and the gaps ‘tween her front teeth bespoke a lusty and adventurous spirit, a most popular and sought-after feature in a lass back home in the Ireland of yore) – and now she repeated herself more slowly. “I asked if you needed an ambulance, but if you can talk like that, you might not.” Her smile faded to deep solicitousness once more. “You’re bleeding pretty bad, though. Why don’t you just stay right there and relax until the police come. Whoa!”

This last word came as her mention of police – la policia – brought me to alert and I began to stand upright. But quicker than my dizzied head and shaking limbs could heave me upright, her hands caught me at shoulder and knee, and with surprising strength for such a small woman – she would have stood no higher than my shoulder, had we been upright – she pushed me back down to the ground.

“Don’t move,” she said, in a voice accustomed to command. “You hit your head, you’re bleeding and you probably have a concussion. You might have been shot, too, and not feel it. The police are already on their way. You need to stay still until they come, and then if we need to, we can call an ambulance or they can take you to the emergency room.”

“No policia,” I said, panting as my head spun anew from my exertions. “I have no wish to make their acquaintance. I am hale and whole, I assure you – their cannonade struck the beast-wagon, not me. My injuries are from my fall alone.” I managed to raise my bleeding right hand and place it atop hers, which was still on my left shoulder. “Please, my lady – if you will but help me to my feet, I will take my steed – my bike – and depart in peace, I assure you. I have a safe place to recover my wits and tend my wounds.”

She looked at me for a few long moments – nay, she looked into me, and through me; rarely have I seen such a piercing gaze, such a wise and perceptive mien, and I began to think her a druid as of old – and then she rose to her feet. “Tell you what,” she said, her voice showing a pleasant rasp. “If you can get up by yourself, I’ll take care of the rest. That sound fair?” She crossed her arms calmly over her middle and waited.

It only took me three tries, and then I was standing. Out of breath and panting like a blown horse, to be sure, but I had not allowed myself time to rest in between attempts, as I felt the imminent arrival of la policia, and I most assuredly did not want to make their acquaintance. As I understood their usual role, they would choose a side to take: the Lions’, which would not bode well for me; or mine, which would likely rob me of my vengeance. So I rose to my feet and stood, listing slightly to one side as my knee throbbed and my head spun. But I met the small woman’s gaze, and raised an eyebrow, daring her.

She laughed – a splendid laugh, one with that good rasp that spoke of long, rich life, full of many laughs before, as well as shouts and songs and tall mugs of ale and glasses of whiskey – and shook her head. “All right, tough guy, let’s go.” She turned to lead the way, but I stumbled as I made to follow her; she caught me, and served as my balance until I caught my own once more. “Come on. Around the corner, there’s a little cafe we can sit in and stop your bleeding.” She wrapped one thin, strong arm around my waist and held me up as I made my dizzy, halting, humbled way to the place she described.

It was like an open-air tavern, a most pleasant place with tall shrubs in pots and bright paint on the walls, many tables with tiled tops in bright colors and silver edges, the chairs silver as well, with cushioned seats of red-dyed leather. My kind helpmeet steered me through the tight spaces between tables to a larger, rectangular table set against the wall in the back of the tavern, with two long benches instead of individual chairs. She let me fall into one of the benches, and then grabbed a square of white – was it paper? It did not feel like cloth – from a black-and-silver box on the table top, and pressed it against my head. “You O’Kay?” she asked. Why was she asking about my clan? I was not of the O’Kays, but I had heard of them, I thought. Perhaps not – there are many clans, and my head had now begun to throb instead of spinning. “Are you all right?” she asked slower, and at this I nodded, slowly.

“I am as well as can be, my lady, I assure you.”

“Hold this,” she said. She took my hand from the table top and placed it on the paper square, now wet with blood, pressed against my brow. “Order some coffee. I’ll be right back.” She went out, pausing to speak briefly to the barmaid, who nodded and came back to the table.

“Your friend says you fell, and you need a minute to sit down. Are you O’Kay? Is there anything I can get you?”

Why did all of these people want to know my clan? “I am well, and my thanks to you for your kindness. I wish to have coffee, if I might.” After a moment, likely spent staring at the blood on my head and hands, she walked away, to return in a few moments with a small cup full of dark, steaming liquid. I took a sip, as I was parched from my ride and exertions, and found it hot and bitter and distasteful. The Lopezes drank this stuff by the gallon in the morning, but I found I could not stomach it. Still, I had not the strength to ask for ale or tea, and so I bit back my tongue’s protests and drained the cup. It heartened me, somewhat, though coming back to myself made me more aware of the pain in my head, my hands, my leg. I put my elbow on the table top and lay my head in my hands, holding the paper on my wound and taking a moment to rest.

The moment did not last long. “Come on, Irish – we gotta go.” I looked up and saw my helpmeet coming quickly toward me. Her mien was focused, but not panicked: thus I stood as quickly and smoothly as I could, but did not draw the wheel-gun in my pocket. She withdrew a piece of green paper, the local money, from her britches, and tossed it on the table, and then beckoned me out of the tavern. Once back on the street, we turned away from the direction of my crash, and walked as swiftly as my aching head and limping leg allowed.

“Whither go we, my lady?”

“That’s a good question,” she said, scanning the street ahead, turning back to check behind us and then speeding our pace slightly. “The cops will be here any minute, and people are talking about you as someone involved. Apparently the people around here know the gang, they’re local – ”

“Aye, they are – the Latin Lions, they style themselves. They den not far from here.”

She looked squarely at me. “So you know them, then. This wasn’t an accident, I assume? They were after you?”

I started to nod, but my head was aching rather fiercely, so I spoke instead. “Aye, we have had a difference of opinion these past few weeks, the Lions and I.”

She stopped dead, and drew me back into the mouth of an alley. She turned to face me; I did the same. “All right. So here’s the thing. You need to convince me, right now, first that I should help you, rather than turn you over to the police, and second that if I do help you, it won’t put me in any danger.”

I drew myself upright and made as deep a bow as I could – not deep enough to do proper respect to a kind and gentle lady, but deep enough to show my intent. “I thank thee, my lady, for the assistance you have already provided. I will trouble you no further.” I turned on my heel to walk away – and my damned leg collapsed under me. Once more, I was caught and held upright, like a babe in arms or a doddering bloody drunkard, by a woman who weighed half as much as I.

She helped me upright and then shook her head. “You need help, Irish. Decide if you want it from me or the cops. And if it’s me, convince me.”

She was right. I took the wheel-gun from my pocket and presented it to her, hilt-first. After a moment she took it, opened the wheel, and examined the six shot-thimbles inside. Then she nodded, closed it and tucked it into her belt at the small of her back. “All right. You didn’t shoot, so I’ll accept that you were just the victim of a drive-by. Do you have any more weapons, or shall I begin to feel safe around you?”

I made another shallow bow. “My lady, I am now entirely at your mercy. My name is Damnation Kane.”

She smiled and shook her head. “Nice to meet you, Damnation. I’m LaDonna Joy.”

I raised one brow. “LaDonna? Is that not Spanisher for The Lady?”

She shrugged, raising one hand, palm up. “Close enough. Do your friends call you Damnation?”

“Nay, my lady. They call me Nate.”

She nodded. “I like that much better. All right, Nate, come this way – my hotel’s down the block. We can get you fixed up.” She turned to go, after scanning the street once more for danger and checking the pistol in her belt, and I followed, comfortable in the merciful hands of the Lady of Joy.

We won our way to her rooms without further incident; she sent me into the washroom to clean my wounds, and went out to gather medical supplies. Then I was placed in a chair while she stood, not much taller than I was while seated, and cleaned my wounds, declaring the head wound not so serious, after all. She applied first a clear, scentless ointment and then bandages to my hurts, and I must confess they felt markedly better for her kind ministrations. Then she brought us food – a strange round bread she called bagels, with thin slices of a fish called locks and a thick butter-like spread she said was creamed cheese – all of it most delicious. I told her something of my history, though I was vague as to my origins and how I had arrived here, saying merely that I was a sailor and had been stranded on strange shores by my crew, who had betrayed me. I told her the tale of the Lopezes and the Lions, saying merely that I had incurred the blackguards’ wrath and then pledged to avenge their assaults on my person and the innocent family I had befriended and endangered. She told me she was a teacher, which interested me when I asked after her students and she told me she worked in a public school; apparently these people send all of their children to school for twelve years– twelve years! What could there possibly be to learn in that time that could not be better learned in an apprenticeship, or better still, at sea, the place that best teaches a man how to live? She was on a vacation, she said, a concept I did not quite understand – but I was more mystified still when she told me she lived in a place called Orrigun, that was better than three thousand miles away. I tried not to show how dubious I was at this – surely the New World is not so large! That would make the equivalent of all Europe! – but she laughed at me, knowing I did not believe her, sure nonetheless that she need not convince me to win my friendship and trust. After all of her kindness, she could have told me she lived on the moon and flew down to the Earth to gather these bagels once a month, and I would have nodded and wished her a fine trip back into the sky. We pirates, and even more we men who must live under savage and contemptible oppressors, do understand the importance of withholding the truth of one’s origins and vulnerabilities; we know a lie told to protect is no sin at all.

After an hour in this pleasant company, seated in this remarkably cool room with this fine companion, I felt much relieved, and begged her leave to return to retrieve my steed. “Oh, I moved it. It’s in the alley next to the cafe, behind a dumpster. If nobody’s stolen it by now.”

I thanked her again. “If they have, I feel sure I have the strength now to walk to my lodgings. I will impose upon your kind hospitality no further. My great thanks, again, for all of your help, dear lady. Please, if you ever have need of my assistance, do not hesitate to send word: the Lopezes will most likely be able to get me a message; ask for Flora Lopez on Nightingale Street.”

She nodded, and patted my shoulder. “Thanks, Nate. And thanks for the conversation – it was getting a little lonely, without somebody to talk to. That’s the only problem with taking vacation by yourself. I’ll actually be glad to go home again, even if I will miss all this warm sunshine. Well, maybe the rain will have stopped by now – though I won’t hold my breath. Look me up if you ever get to Orrigun. Little town on the Columbia called Saint Helens, north of Portland. Find the high school, and you’ll find me.”

I gave her a proper bow, which she returned – along with my wheel gun, which I took with a nod of thanks – and then I took my leave of my newfound friend.

I found my steed, unmolested behind the wheeled metal box – a dumpster, she had called it; very odd words, these people have – and though it was somewhat bent and wobbly, slatting like a sail in a contrary wind, I made it back to the Glass Palace. The Enchantress was gone, apparently for the evening, as the sun was setting, and so I took advantage of her absence by resting myself on her reclining bench, helping myself to a bottle of wine from her galley; I lit the magic window to keep myself entertained, pressing knobs on the wand until I came across the scene Alejandro Lopez had called “news.” It spoke of the weather, of the strange activity the local men pursued, running about in their undergarments, which was for some reason called “sports” though I saw little in it that would amuse anyone over the age of five – and then something appeared called “Breaking News.”

What I saw then ruined my peace and joy entirely.

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