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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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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