Posts Tagged With: Damnation Kane

Log #44: Escape

Log

August 26th

 

Blast our weakness to the darkest depths of Neptune’s realm. I should be writing this as a free man, but I am not. I bide, still, in this accursed hospital. Indeed, my circumstances have worsened: I am now prisoned in this room, with a guard at my door, wearing a pistola.

We were discovered in our attempt this latter night. We got MacManus out of his bed and into the wheeled chair that Lynch had used – the which was a most troublesome endeavor, as it obtained, requiring time and effort and quite a fair piece of forbearance through pain on MacManus’s part, particularly when he himself drew the invading tube from his manhood. Thank the gods I was shot above the waist. But he did draw it out, and bit back the screams; and we did move him into the chair, and then we made our way down the hall and along a second corridor, all without detection. We reached the dressing-rooms, and here we divided, at Lynch’s urging: with his youthful frame, quoth he, he required a more diminutive suit of livery, which he would be unlikely to find among the masculine apparel; and so for him, the distaff chamber.

‘Twas our undoing. For as MacManus and I quickly changed apparel, fitting ourselves into our assumed guises quite readily enough, in my case, and with somewhat greater effort and not a little agony on Shane’s part, Lynch crept into the women’s chamber and there was he discovered, en déshabille, as it were. Some noise of alarm was transmitted to our chamber, and so MacManus and I were largely unsurprised when Lynch came a-gallop from his dressing-room, hissing that he had been seen and that the observer – one of the nurses who had our charge, and they had each recognized the other – had eluded his attempt to capture and subdue her, slowed as he was by his injury. She had made off, back down the hall to the nurses’ station, where reinforcements awaited.

I calculated quickly. Shane was still pale and breathing harshly, clutching at his hip as he slumped over the wheel of his chair; Lynch was pallid, too, and sweating, though he bore two patches of red high on his cheeks – shame at his failure, I thought. But he crouched as well, bent over his wounded gut. And I myself – I favored my right arm, that shoulder made painfully sore by the night’s exertions, particularly the maneuvering of MacManus into his current berth. I made a decision.

“We surrender without fight,” I told them, and overrode Lynch’s outraged cry. “Stay! We surrender, and laugh at this. We wanted a drink, is all. ‘Twas but a lark.”

“But Captain, now they be aware of our intent, ’twill be the harder to find the chance,” Lynch argued.

“Aye, ’twill indeed, thou cursed scrawny pup, and whose fault be it? No matter,” I said vigorously, squelching the boy’s contradiction. “For if we but jest now, the careful watch they put over us will not be wary. That will give us our chance.”

Just as I finished, two lusty stalwarts in blue burst through the door and accosted us, followed by the nurse, hands on hips as was their wont. I threw up my hands and laughed as I gave myself into their custody without struggle; my men following my lead after a trifling pause. Good lads. But a bit unlucky. So now there is another obstacle to be overcome.

This hospital would oppose my will, would captain the course of my life. Very well, says I – Lay on, MacDuff. And damned be he who first cries “Hold, enough!”

 

28th August, after midnight

I must write quickly: we have little time. We are making good our escape – and this time, we may not retreat, for not only will we have made them wary, but full wroth, as well.

We waited a full day and night, and through a new day. MacManus needed the time to recover, and Lynch as well, aye. I spent such time chatting with my guardian – the hospital marked me as the wellspring of our rebellion, and so only I received such accompaniment – an amiable fellow named Jackson. He ushered me to my visit with Margaret in the gardens, and chaperoned our promenade along the white-stone path most politely as I regaled my friend with the tale of our escape attempt. I did try not to let my gaze linger on the trees that bounded that pleasant space, through which we plotted our course to freedom; now I would that I had looked closer!

Any road, Yeoman Jackson sat by and watched our game of draughts, participating in our conversation and relaxing his watchfulness moment by moment.

In the meantime, MacManus was declared fit enough to evacuate his own bladder, and relieved at last of his torturous tether. ‘Twas a relief to me, as it would speed our movements – but ’twas a far greater relief to poor Shane, in truth. Lynch, too, was much recuperated: he is able to move about without his sittable conveyance now, though not too far, and not too long. Long enough and far enough, for the nonce.

That night, my guard changed, and that man was less friendly. So it must be on Jackson’s watch that we made our move, I knew. I had had a visit from the Accountman Sanderson, and he had seemed suspicious of my levity regarding our first attempt, though he had not questioned me too closely over it; he still awaited confirmation of my claimed identity and station – and wealth, of course. Thus, it must be soon, or Sanderson would surely have us locked away, or manacled, or whatever else this place does to its delinquent custom.

Jackson returned this past evening. I took him for a constitutional, and we did pass by the rooms of Lynch and MacManus, where I gave my men the signal. Jackson and I strolled briefly through the gardens – Margaret was not then present – and then returned to my chamber, where we divided, I to my bunk, and Jackson to his post outside my door.

Soon enough, Lynch arrived. As we had discussed, we three all had feigned greater discomfort from our hurts than was true, so as to further lull suspicion; Lynch came in as bent over as an old gaffer with the gout, alist and shuffling like an arthritic badger. I waited as the door eased shut behind him, ere he was halfway to my bunk, and then I sat patiently as he continued to belabor his slow way to me. He arrived at last, looked up from his own feet to meet my gaze – and grinned.

“Art thou a-ready now, Master Cripple?”

He saluted. “Aye, Captain. I stand ready for all.”

I stood, and gathered my meager armament. And my will: I was fond of Jackson, and was not eager for this next task. But we must escape, so – “Then down with ye, O Maudlin Limper.”

Lynch threw himself to the floor, with a crash made largely by the action of unbalancing my supper tray and scattering its contents. He cried out as in pain, and I called for Jackson. The man came in at a rush, and I backed water away to reveal the poor pitiful wretch, who had managed tears for his eyes as he clutched at his ankle with the one hand, and the side where was his true hurt, with the other. Jackson went to him with a kind man’s natural instinct, and knelt, with his back to me. And I, who am no kind man, slipped the loop, fashioned from the ivy tube (which gave slightly when pulled taut, but had the main strength) and hid in my right hand, over Jackson’s head and around his neck. I pulled, bringing him arching back; Lynch was ready, and as Jackson’s hands went naturally to the cord about his throat, my shipmate relieved the man of his pistola. I loosened my strangle, then, and when Jackson slumped forward once more, coughing, I drew back and brought the club which the good doctors had fashioned from my left arm crashing down on his skull.

It worked, aye; Jackson was well and truly a-slumber, but he was breathing well and the blood pulsed in his neck when pressed, as I had hoped. But I was ill-prepared for the agony which coursed through me when I struck; I thought the wrapping was to protect the limb from harm! Hard as stone, it seemed! ‘Tis not. This club-arm is not a weapon I will use again.

But all was as planned, and Lynch helped me raise Jackson into my bunk and remove his uniform. Then Lynch went out, now moving far more easily and quickly, and slipped down the corridor to the dressing room once more – this time he would collect his livery from Eve’s side, once he had determined it to be unoccupied, and then move to Adam’s chamber to effect the change; it had occurred to us that the staff here are far more frequently feminine, and so the traffic through their room subsequently greater, and so too the chance of discovery. I strapped my dreaming friend into the restraints on my bunk, and then, as I had watched the nurses do to me a hundred times, I slid an ivy prong into his vein and set the liquid within on a slow course through his body – ’twas the stuff they set in me anight, to let me traipse off to Dreamland despite the ache in my wounds. So far as I know, good Jackson slumbers still.

I donned his uniform – a decent fit, for we were much of a size – and made my way, quickly but not furtively, to MacManus’s room, gathering a wheeled chair along the way. I was soon joined there by Nurse Lynch (Which name we enjoyed applying to the boy, for his face reddened each time – especially when MacManus requested a sponge bath.) and we maneuvered MacManus into the chair after dressing him in the shirt and breeches which Lynch had liberated from the tiring room.

That was when Nurse Winslow came into the room, her head bent over a clip-board – ’tis a thing they often carry and refer to its cryptic contents, somewhat akin to a pupil’s slate but covered with papers bearing hieroglyphics instead of words or ciphering – until she looked up and saw the three of us, frozen with surprise, standing in our transparent disguises before she who knew us all in an instant.

Thankfully, I recovered first, and remembered my new-won pistola. I drew same and aimed at her heart; she but looked in my eyes, and then, aye, she saw me, for the first time, as I am: Damnation Kane, scoundrel and captain of scoundrels. She did not struggle nor cry out as Lynch and I restrained her in MacManus’s bunk, after bandaging her mouth shut.

I will say there are abundant resources in this hospital for those who would kidnap, restrain, and confine their fellow men. Most useful.

From there, ’twas an easy jaunt down the corridor with Nurse Lynch pushing Invalid MacManus, flanked by Guardian Kane. Until, that is, we came to our greatest obstacle: the stairs. MacManus was sure he could manage stairs, with the help of a rail to cling to and a shipmate to assist him, and indeed, ’twas just so that we achieved the first flight of steps, with Lynch bringing the chair; but our progress was too slow, as MacManus could not manage more than two steps in a minute, so very painful was the motion on his injury, and, we discovered, my shoulder prevented me from taking his weight over it, as I have done countless times for shipmates injured or inebriate. Too, the chair was almost Lynch’s undoing – he lost his grip upon it when his wound twinged of a sudden, and was only just able to keep his own balance as the device went crashing down with a clatter that must have woken the dead. And we faced a second flight of steps, then.

This time we put MacManus in the chair, gripping the wheels to slow them; Lynch clutched the handles in the stern and tipped him back so he could remain upright, and I crouched on the steps, set my back against his feet and braced him. Then we rolled down, one step at a time, with curses and cries of pain and fatigue from each of us growing louder and more profane with every step, every drop down a stair. That bastard kicked me in the head a dozen times, and Lynch lost his grip twice, leaving MacManus’s entire weight once on my poor back, once falling back onto Lynch, though Shane caught the rail before he slid and shattered himself.

Then, just as we reached the bottom and were panting, sweating, and cursing our way to an upright alignment, lo – the door before us opened. We three froze once more, just as we had when Nurse Winslow interrupted us, and then turned slowly to face our discoverer –

‘Twas Margaret’s buffoon, the worthless devotee of the Verizon-stone – what Margaret had most aptly named a cell.

He did not spare us so much as a glimpse. His head jerked momentarily in our direction, his eyes torn from the face of his beloved for but half an instant – long enough to recognize the shape of us, but no more – and then he turned and pressed his back against the door, and waited. Holding it open for us.

We thanked him kindly as we passed by, and made our way to the passage which led to the gardens. He did not look up, merely nodding and grunting in response to our thanks; the only element of his being in motion, his thumbs, caressing the stone again and again. Aye, a cell of the mind, it be, and that fool be well and truly imprisoned.

We won through to the gardens, after straightening our attire, wiping away as best we could the sweat and dirt of our descent – though the wheel-marks on my back were still visible on Jackson’s blue uniform shirt – and we headed toward freedom! When a voice from the shadows arrested us – and, very nearly, our hearts in our chests, so sudden and unexpected was it.

“You’ll never get out that way,” the voice said.

We must have been quite a sight, as MacManus leapt nearly out of the chair and then subsided back with a groan of pain, and Lynch spun entirely around and then fell to his knees; I reached for my pistola, but unfamiliar with the sheath that held it to the belt, I fumbled the weapon, and it fell to the ground at my feet. A proper mummer’s troupe were we, aye, ‘struth.

‘Twas the laugh I recognized, even before Margaret came out of the shadows. I introduced her to MacManus – after I retrieved my weapon and shared a look of both accusation and shame with my shipmates; some pirates, we, scared out of our wits by a sick granny – and she explained what she had meant. Out for a walk alone, as Morpheus’s kind embrace eluded her, most nights, she had watched us emerge, recognized Lynch and I and then discerned our intent from our demanor and our attire, which she knew to be but paltry disguises not fitting our station; thus must we mean to escape this place, by means of the forest that girded the gardens. But –

“There’s a wall, all around, just beyond the trees. You’ll never make it over with your injuries – especially not your friend in the wheelchair,” Margaret said. At this intelligence, we three were cast down by despair. The front entrance, we knew from MacManus’s recollection of arrival, was well-guarded, and our disguises surely inadequate to slip us past. No patient moved in this place without papers, and no staff without a portrait-card attached to their tunics, and we lacked both. And surely the Accountman had alerted the gate guards to our erstwhile escape attempt.

But then our discoverer proved to be our savior. Margaret (rather shamelessly, I thought – but then, gray hair grants great license) bid us back to her chamber, and would hear no demur. We went, having no alternative, and there that good lady made use of her telephone to contact her granddaughter, the lovely – and tractable, it seems, as she hearkened to her granny’s call after midnight; though perhaps she is simply a good lass who feels proper loyalty to her blood and respect for her elders – and providential Meredith Vance

Now we wait for her arrival, with a beast-wagon to bear us away; Margaret has made known to us that at the bottom of the stairs – alas, more stairs! But a single flight, however, and we be driven forward by the spur of freedom so close – is a door offering egress, which will, upon opening, sound a fire alarm, as Margaret called it; in the ensuing confusion, which Margaret assures us will be prodigious and profound, we will make good our escape. Fortunately, Margaret was not seen in our presence this night, and so will not be held accountable for aught, so long as we are not discovered here, or with the fair Meredith.

We have all offered this wondrous lady our most solemn gratitude, which she waves off; most humble, is she, and most kind. All she will accept in recompense is a game of draughts with each of us – and, now that she has destroyed Lynch as she did MacManus, it is my turn. I think, with my mind sore fatigued from our activities, that my only hope is that Meredith’s call will interrupt my drubbing.

 

Later

It did not. But we are free.

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Log 43: Most Interesting Encounters

Log

August the 24th

Yesterday after noontide, I had a most interesting encounter. I woke from my postprandial slumber and made my way out to the gardens for my evening game of draughts with my dear Margaret – who, like many of nature’s most graceful creatures, is most active about the hours of dawn and dusk. I found her in the gardens already, and accompanied: accompanied by a vision of beauty that set my heart to racing, and dazzled my poor rattled brain.

‘Twas Margaret’s grand-daughter, one Meredith Vance. Tall she is, for a lass, and slender and shapely, by Jove. Locks of deep red, nearly crimson, and skin of ivory, and a smile that would charm a dead man, with a voice so melodious that the birds themselves must hush to listen. I did approach, nowise showing my flusteration, and made my courtesies and obeisances; I flatter myself to think that I did detect a becoming flush in Meredith Vance’s cheek when I smiled and bowed to kiss her soft hand.

Then she crushed me at draughts. While Margaret sat and watched and the two of them laughed and laughed.

A most fetching woman, this Meredith Vance. Alas that she must see me thus, aswaddle in bandages and without my finery, my weaponry, my gold, or my ship. My humble self did seem to her liking, though, so perhaps I can impress her anon.

I hope she will visit Margaret again.

Later

Ah, and here I thought la policia would be the dread and torment of this serene place. But Drucker and Rice have been as mere gadflies to he whom I did encounter this day.

Today, at luncheon’s hour, I was visited by one Tobias Sanderson, hospital accountman. A factor, it seems. A rabbity fellow, of damp eyes and pale flesh; one more at home with books and parchment than wind and rain, or sun and moon and sky.

Master Sanderson made a brief courtesy, and then moved right to the heart of the matter: the bill for my keep. Apparently, the hospital had contacted my mother country, as Ireland now offers her aegis to her sons when they ail; something called the National Health Service pays the doctors’ wergild – the blood price, that is. But neither the consulate, an office I know nothing of, nor the National Health, had heard of an Irish son by the name of Damnation Kane.

Aye, I thought, for such a name surely vanished when I did so, in 1678.

But I smiled my most charming grin, and told Master Sanderson: Nay! Damnation be but a friend’s name for my humble self. My Christian name is Nathaniel, known also as Nate. What kind of mother, I scoffed, would name her child “Damnation?”

As he wrote this new intelligence in his folio (I have my own folio?), my mind was racing. Once he fails to find this Nate Kane, I thought – or, if one such there be, by chance, once the accountman discovers that he is not I – I feared this acquaintance would grow rapidly discomfortable. How does one dissuade and put off a functionary, I wondered. Then it came to me: like a nobleman, of course; the bane of all government.

“My good man,” quoth I, in my haughtiest tones, “There is no need to search me out in this, this – National Health. I am here. I am all that you will ever require. The Kane name is one of the finest in all of Europe; of course we will stand for our obligations. I will make good on whatever is owed; for myself and my companions, as well.”

He looked me askance, then, peering over the top of the folio and the spectacles he wore. “Well, Mister Kane,” he said slowly.

Lord Kane,” I interrupted him. In for a penny, in for a pound, so they do say.

He coughed dryly into his fist. “Excuse me, of course. Lord Kane. You should be aware, er, sir, that the American health care system is quite different from the British system you’re used to. Primarily in the matter of cost.”

I waved my hand impatiently. “Bah! Money is not a concern, I say. It matters not to me – bother me not with your pounds and shillings and pence, I – “

As I preparing to wax rhapsodic on the matter of my supposed immunity to Mammon, he flipped through the papers in the folio, and then put his finger on one and interrupted me (Clearly he has no experience with nobility; lucky to still have his head and whole skin, I should say.), saying, “Your current amount owed is just under 85,000 dollars. Lord Kane.”

Into the dead silence that followed this pronouncement, while my mind reeled – by Lucifer’s ballocks, Master MacNally asked less than a fifth that for freeing all of my men from the Florida gaol! – Sanderson looked at me again and then added a second blow while I reeled: “The balances on your companions’ accounts are considerably higher, as both required the aid of surgical specialists, as I recall.”

Were I but myself at this moment, I would have swallowed my tongue and spat fire at this highway robbery – and this man’s name is Toby, the very word the English use for such iniquity! – but Lord Kane must care nothing for amounts, no matter how exorbitant; he must not haggle like a merchant. And so, to cover my discomfiture, I put my hand to my head as though my wound pained me, and then waved him off again, repeating that money was no matter, that the Kanes ever paid their debts. I dismissed him, peremptorily, and ordered him out so I could rest. Sanderson closed his mouth – as tight as his pursestrings, I wager – bowed over his folio, and left the room, muttering about telephone calls he would make.

By Saint Patrick, what bloody money-grubbing bastard has been allowed to run rampant over the medics here? Who permits this pillaging? Have they no king, no chieftain, no man of honor to defend holy justice? I recall what I was paid for my service as the Enchantress’s maid-man; how would a working man ever earn enough to pay such a debt as this place would load onto my shoulders? Let alone a sick man, in need of such care? It was the sort of thing I might expect in my Ireland, the Ireland held firmly under a conqueror’s bootheel, and pillaged by foreign soldiers every single day; but I had thought that these people were free citizens under a sovereign state. But it seems they are in truth ruled by these avaricious doctors – or else by the functionaries who keep the books, by Sanderson and his High-Toby ilk. ‘Tis madness. Sheer madness.

And so, it seems, we will not be staying in this hospital. My lies may have earned us two days, perhaps three, but before such time passes and Sanderson returns, we must be gone from here.

I must rest, now. I will need my strength later.

25th August

I bid farewell to Margaret this morning – and in a fit of foolishness, bid her give my fond regards to her lovely and charming grand-daughter. To no good purpose, as I do not expect to see them ever again in this life. Still, she has my regard, and it is no ill thing for her to know it. Lynch, MacManus and I had laid out much of our plan, this yesternight, after I rolled Lynch’s chair down to Shane’s room and informed them of the exorbitant wealth I had purported but in fact lacked, and our need, therefore, to flee.

This afternoon, then, Lynch and I must explore these halls. I know the route we must follow to escape the building entirely, but before then, we will need uniforms for myself and for Lynch, and ordinary clothes for MacManus. We will pretend to be in service here, Lynch and I, like that simpleton attending Margaret when first she and I met, and we will claim to any interrogatories that we are taking Master MacManus for some fresh air out of doors. Lynch is sure that he can walk, though not far; he will lean on the chair as he rolls it, for support, and I will help when I can.

We must find, too, some means to disguise this stone sheath on my arm.. I have asked the doctor, and it must not come off for at minimum another fortnight, or my arm will be too weak to be of any use to me. Then, with the quiet confusion of the hours before dawn to conceal our disappearance, we hope to walk right out of St. Vincent’s hospital, and seek out my ship and our shipmates, if they still be free, and if we can find them.

Clio. Setting.

Damn it all.

Later

We have it. The attendants arrive in clothes suitable for wear in the city streets, and then re-dress themselves in hospitallers’ uniforms. There is a chamber, at the end of a hall that crosses ours, where they effect this change and then store their unused clothing. We watched two women enter wearing the blue livery of the staff here, and then depart in ordinary habiliments; at the same time, a man made the reverse transformation. There are two doors to two chambers, it seems, dividing the sexes and preserving propriety; I cannot be sure as I was prevented from entering. We will endeavor to go there undetected this night, and obtain such apparel as we need.

Later

I cannot sleep. I know I must, I need rest so that I might have all of my faculties and all of my strength, as I must not merely captain this journey, but also lend my good right arm to my companions, a shoulder to lean on and a hand to help, perhaps even an arm to shield. But I have no good arm left me.

This reminds me: I must find armament for us. La policia may pursue us, and I feel sure that the accountman Sanderson will have strongarms at his disposal, and will likely set them on our trail, considering the clink they say we owe, the which we will not, of course, be paying. I must be ready. I must be strong. I must sleep.

I cannot.

My mind will not be still. I find myself pondering the possibilities, and dithering. Me! I am Damnation Kane, captain of the Irish rover the Grace of Ireland, and master of the manly and barbarous scalawags what crew her. I am not this indecisive namby-pamby who fears to be caught on the spot without a plan formulated already. I have no need to predict and counterbalance every contingency: I will face what comes when it comes, and confront it, and conquer it! Who is this coward that occupies my mind? Who made my hands tremble when questioned – without a single threat, without one instant of torture either implied or applied – by a pair of fat, aged West English policias? Who keeps me from my rest now?

Who am I become? Am I not me? Am I not Damnation Kane, dread pirate of the Irish seas?

I know not what to do. And that, too, is not me.

Perhaps the blow to my head has addled my wits. Perhaps the long time abed and away from my ship has stolen the strength from me, has cooled the fires of my blood. Perhaps the medicaments, the potions and infusions and tinctures, and perhaps the limp and tasteless food, have all served to weaken my heart and mind.

Bah. Perhaps I just need a drink.

It matters not. Whatever fear I feel, however I may lack rest – on the morrow, I depart. Then we will see if I am who I should be, and if I can do what must be done.

Then we will see if I am still Damnation Kane.

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Log 42: Draughts

Log

The Twentieth of August in the Year 2011

My exploration met with success! Today I did find gardens, which I am permitted – though it sore chafes me to admit I am liable to be permitted anything, rather than taking whatever I want; but still I am not hale – to wander. The heat of the noon sun is oppressive, but the light falling on my flesh is most welcome, most invigorating. At last, I have cast off this feeling of entrapment, of entombment, in this place with its ever-white walls, unpierced by sight of azure sky, its air that whispers through grates rather than singing through open windows with Nature’s breath.

It has also greatly advantaged me that at last the good doctors have removed my ivies; the visit to MacManus had been made doubly awkward, and vexatious, by the necessity of hauling along my chirping fluid-filled ivy box, which at the least is on a wheeled stand and thus can be rolled (and used as some manner of support, should one be struck by a wave of weakness and wish to avoid shaming one’s self by falling to the floor like an inveterate drunkard) as one walks. But still and all, I am most cheered thus to be rid of its aid and its incessant chirruping and tugging at my limbs, tethered to it by ivy strands rooted in my flesh. Extricating these from mine extremities in a fit of pique was entirely inadvisable; and made of me a most compliant and complacent patient thereafter.

I had, as well, an amusing encounter. These gardens without the hospital are reached through a pair of heavy glass doors, which took some strength to open; I surmise it to be some form of test of one’s recovery, that if one is incapable of passing through this portal, then one should remain abed. But just without, a reward: a wooden bench, most comfortous, and which affords a splendidly pleasing view; it is flanked by large and vigorous flowering plants, the blossoms of which flood the air with a perfume as lovely as ever met my senses.

As I sat, enjoying my time in the sun (and I did vow that I would roll Lynch’s chair out here on the morrow; on this day, he slept), I heard a rattle-scratch at the door, which was astern of my left shoulder. I turned to look, and beheld two figures at the portal, visible through the glass. One was a youth in the livery of the hospital and apparently in its employ – though I question his actual capacity for such employment – who stood idle before one of the heavy doors, his hands drawn up before his face like a nearly-blind deacon holding his Scriptures, and in the boy’s hands was one of the Verizon-stones that I have seen frequently since our arrival here. This was obviously one of the god Verizon’s most devout worshipers, as he did not look away for an instant, so enraptured was he by the face of his god.

The other personage, clearly a fellow sufferer come here for succour, was an elder woman, her hair white as thistle-down, her face a map of the passage of many and many a year, but her back straight and her eyes clear. She pushed lightly at the heavy door as I watched, the which did make the rattle-scratch sound I had heard; then she turned and stared at the youth, clearly waiting for him to break the chains of inhuman stupidity that kept him from realizing: not only was she a lady of some dignity, not only was she a grandmother and deserving of great respect, but she was a weak and injured patient of his employer, and obviously he had been assigned to see to her needs. Yet there he stood, unmoving but for his thumbs, which caressed the Verizon-stone as obsessively as a friar with his rosary.

I made to rise and carry out the fool’s proper duty, but ere I could do more than stand, the lady threw up her hands and shoved her way through the portal – showing an impressive vigor for her age and condition. The lad, still without looking up – his hair, which fell foolishly before his eyes, may have served as a second barrier to observation of the world, just after his ape-like imbecility – stepped to the side and then quickly through the door which the lady had opened.

Shaking my head and gritting my teeth, still I must first offer the lady some courtesy, as it was so sorely lacking from other quarters. I bowed to her, and gestured to the bench beside me.

The boy sat down. “Let me know if you need anything, okay, Mrs. F.,” he mumbled.

The cast on my left wrist, it obtains, is a fair club: it made a most satisfying thump on the back of the imbecile’s head. He cried out and at last – for a wonder – looked up. I struck down at his god, then, and sent it rattling across the ground – broken into pieces, I saw with no small satisfaction. “Hey!” he yelled, stretching his hands out toward his broken stone, like a child deprived of its sugar-sop.

“Aye, the lady doth need something, in truth,” I growled at him. “She needs to be treated with due reverence, and some semblance of manners. But not nearly so much as you need a drubbing for manners’ lack.”

He opened his mouth to protest, surely, but then a toss of his head cleared the hair from his vision – and perhaps the shaking of his rattling-dry walnut of a head cleared some of the cobwebs from his brain, what little there be of that organ – and he saw my expression. His mouth closed and he slunk off to retrieve his broken stone, which he proceeded to manipulate mournfully, clearly unable to return it to its proper shape. I shook my head once more, muttering a Gaelic imprecation, but I wished to help the lady more than I wished to beat the lad. Though ’twas a slim margin, in truth.

“Please, Madame, I beg thee to join me. This pleasant garden lacks but gentle company – a dearth I vow thou canst most ably fill.” With a flourish, I bowed the lady to the bench, where she sat after placing her dainty, wizened hand in mine and murmuring a delicate thanks for my humble assistance.

“Nay, milady, thou hast my gratitude for thy fair presence, which doth make this good garden all the more lovely.”

The lady arched a brow at me and then laughed. “Well, aren’t you the honey-tongued devil,” she said.

I bowed my head at the compliment. “‘Tis only meet to whisper sweet words into this well-perfumed air, and only a gentle manner should greet such a rare and beauteous lady as yourself.”

She snorted (in a most unladylike manner, though to say true, it made me glad, for though I can don a semblance of manners, ’tis not to my comfort, who am happiest with my salty brethren and the buxom tavern-wenches who keep us company) and said, “Too bad I have to be followed around by Justin Beeber over there, then. Though his manners are about what I expect from his generation, in this country, at least.” She shook her head at him – I would swear she spat! – and then turned to me. “You’re from Ireland, unless my ears have finally gone on me. I thought I heard you use a touch of the Gaelic to that hairy dullard.”

I bowed my head once more. “Aye, milady. I find my mother tongue to be unmatched in the application of vigorous insult. And if I may, I am Damnation Kane, of the Ireland of old.”

She held out her hand, and I took it and brushed a kiss across her knuckles – gnarled they were, but her grip was strong. “Margaret Boyle Flanagan, born in Dublin but raised on these barbaric shores. A pleasure, Mister Kane.”

“Nay, the pleasure is mine, milady, especially knowing thou to be of the right and proper blood.” I winked and placed another kiss on her hand, and she laughed. A proper laugh, too, full-throated and honest. A tavern-wench’s laugh.

“Tell me, Mister Kane. Do you play draughts?”

This was a good day.

 

Log August 22nd

This place, this hospital, has at last become hospitable. Though the food remains questionable – ample in quality but sorely lacking in savor – all else is grown most comfortable. La policia did return to question me once more, but the same application of hand to head and furrowing of heavy brow did foist them off once more. I feigned to remember a detail or two, selecting the most apt of MacManus’s tale; ’tis to be hoped they will be satisfied with this narrative, and be off to find an imagined ship and imagined enemies, and leave us in peace. The medicaments given me by the doctors have greatly eased the pain of my wounds, and my strength returns rapidly; the bedchamber and washroom adjacent are small, but adequate to my needs, and clean and well-maintained by the staff, who are numerous and generally quite solicitous. Now that I am ambulatory and can visit my companions at will, and with access to the gardens and my newfound and most delightful friend Margaret Flanagan – I find these accommodations most satisfactory. We will stay here, I think, until our hurts are well healed.

Margaret (as she insists I call her) is a woman of grace and gentility – though not, I must hasten to add, in the manner of one of those insufferable noblewomen, haughty and priggish. We have spent much of the last two days in company in the gardens; we found the means to play draughts, and with this and with conversation were thus occupied for many hours, though the time seemed far shorter, in our tranquil and enchanting amusement. Between games we walk through the gardens, her hand on my arm for support, and talk endlessly. I had her cackling like a hencoop over the exploits of my young self; particularly the occasion when my cousin Colin and I determined to set a trap for a giant, an endeavor that ended with a sheep bleating piteously, a-dangle from a tree limb with a rope about its middle, and Colin’s Da flat on his back in a mudpuddle, as Colin and I hied for the hills. Margaret, in turn, sang me a ribald song about a Scotsman which I must learn to heart so I may sing it for O’Gallows, that half-Scotch bastard.

Aye: with Margaret and the gardens to fill my days, and restful sleep o’nights, I find myself – happy.

 

August the 23rd

Today I met with Lynch and MacManus. I had woken in the night from a dream of the Grace, and bethought myself to read again the letter I have from Vaughn. This sparked my curiosity, when I read of how my companions held clues to the whereabouts of our beloved ship – or rather, the means to ascertain such knowledge. I called Lynch to come to MacManus’s room, and we discussed the matter.

They had clues, indeed, but none of us knows the meaning of them. Lynch had been told two words, which had been repeated often enough to root them well in his fevered memory, though the lad knew but the syllables and not the sense: the word “setting,” and the name Clio. I wonder if my educated friend Llewellyn meant to refer to the Muse of history. Or perhaps it is the name of a person, or an establishment hereabouts; I recall seeing taverns and eateries with similar names in Florida, while we sojourned there.

MacManus, who had maintained control of his faculties despite his wounds, had been given directions. He had been told, by Vaughn, to return to the point where they had docked the Grace – an old and unused pier in a quiet harbor not far from here – and then proceed, with his back to the ocean, for 100 paces, there to turn left and walk 30 more. Simple enough, but as these instructions had been withheld until after arrival at this hospital of St. Vincent, MacManus had no idea where they would lead. I hope then when we stand at that spot as directed, the words given Lynch will reveal their meaning, as well.

But this can all wait for another time. I must eat, and then sleep, and then – draughts!

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Log #41: Meetings

 

When I woke once more, it was to the feel of tears on my hand, and warm fingers clasping mine tightly. I opened my eyes and saw, to my joy and surprise, a pale and drawn Balthazar Lynch seated in a strange wheeled metal chair by my bedside, weeping softly over my hand. Even as I watched, still somewhat befuddled by sleep, I saw him place a gentle kiss on my palm. Poor lad! I have been his only father since his parents’ death in a fire, the which drove him to life on the sea.

I moved my fingers then, gripping his (though without any strength), and he started and straightened, releasing my hand as though burnt by it. He winced, pressing a heavily-bandaged arm against his side, and dashed away tears with the other hand before he met my gaze. Then, as he saw my smile, his face burst into dazzling joy, and he caught my hand once more in his.

“Oh, Captain,” he said, “thank God you’re alive, sir. Thank God in Heaven.”

“I’m glad to see you, too, lad. Are you well?” I asked him.

“Aye, sir, well enough. I cannot yet walk far, but this chair gives me the run of the floor.”

“There is another of us here?”

He nodded. “Aye, sir – ’tis MacManus. He were shot in the leg, and splinters went into his gut. He cannot get out of bed yet, and it chafes him sorely.” He squeezed my hand. “But he’ll be joyed to hear that ye are awakened, Captain. We’ve been most fearful for ye, sir. Most fearful.”

I thought of the kiss, and looked at the lad – so young, he was. “Aye. Howbeit, I’m awake now, young Lynch.” I pulled my hand from his, touched at the place the doctor had shown me, and raised my bunk into a chair, so I could look at Lynch properly.

“Now we must plan our escape from here.”

 

Log August 18

 

Unfortunately, our escape must needs wait. We are very weak and in pain that, while not so great as experience tells me it should be, is still more than can be easily borne, especially if we must live the life of the pursued, with the hounds baying at our trail, as we might: Vaughn did not know the fate of Hobbes and the Sea-Cat, nor his devilish Shadow, but the foreboding of my dreams prevents me from thinking them vanished or purged from my world.

But despite pain, and worry of impending doom, I am grateful to our fates. Surely our wounds would have been fatal, had we remained in our natural time, or had my crew not found their way here and known to deposit us three at this place, where we recover our strength – albeit slowly – instead of mouldering in a grave.

It has taken much of yesterday and this day to be able to stand and walk once more; my legs were unhurt, but rising to stand on them sent such roils and twists of dizziness through my poor broken head that I could not remain upright for more than a few breaths at first. But with time and custom, the dizziness has lessened; I have regained my sea-legs. My shoulder requires that I wear my (elsewise healthy) right arm bound to my chest; the good doctor tells me the bullet broke a rib and then grazed and chipped my scapula – the shoulder blade, that is. My left arm, fortunately, is functional in the main; I have the use of all of my fingers, though I cannot bend the wrist, as the bandage encasing it is a hard as concrete. ‘Tis called a cast, as a plaster sculpture before the bronze – but ’tis a singularly ugly sculpture, as such. I am able to brace this logbook – the which was brought to me through the kindness of Miss Winslow, who has been most accommodating, her brusque manner notwithstanding, as I dreamed delirious and, apparently, called out for pen and paper  – with my cast left arm, and write in it with my weak, but dextrous, right hand. It will serve.

I will rest now. Tomorrow I will visit MacManus, who cannot yet leave his bunk.

Later:

Had a refreshing and exhilarating visit this afternoon. (To say true, I do not know the time, nor the day, but for the testimony of my caretakers; without window I have no inkling of the sun’s place, nor the moon’s color, and I am not allowed to rise and perambulate. More, I am not yet capable.) Aye, if I am to say true, ’twas not a visit, but an invasion, and ’twas not refreshing, but rather – terrifying. Perhaps it is my hurts which make me vulnerable, which makes me so womanish; I have never played the coward ere now. I admit, here in this log (which may never meet another’s gaze but mine), that I did fear that they might take me and abscond, and none might ever know of it, nor come to my aid. Lynch would know something had chanced, aye – but the boy’s gut-shot. These doctors may have worked miracles, with their white rooms and their ivies, but that? They can repair him, in truth? Or have they merely stretched out what few days remain to him? I bethought myself, while they stood there and looked down on me with eyes as cold and lifeless as those of a fish – or of a dead man – that perhaps Lynch would flag and fail, and MacManus might be quick to follow him to the grave, and then, as the Grace could be lost to storm or taken by Hobbes, there would be none to know of my fate, or to care. I thought that, and I trembled.

But I have pulled at a skein, and lost the pattern of the weave. I was visited, not half an hour gone, by la policia. They were polite at first, and as long as pleasantries were exchanged, so was I too. But then they began to inquire as to my injuries, and the events and causes and culprits thereof – as though I would forego mine own vengeance to them! Then I did recognize them as threat: then they became to me West English, as Ian O’Gallows has well-named the people of this place and time. The same sort of poxy bastards as those I had encountered in Florida, set in the same mold as the English soldiers who oppressed myself and my countrymen, who tortured us and beat us and cheated us; then did I know them for untrustworthy rogues, and then did I stop answering their questions, schooling my face to stone.

As it obtained, however, I had a rescuer: my new friend Doctor Kelashnikskaya. He had come in with la policia – there were two, named Drucker and Rice – and as they asked their questions, standing at the foot of my bunk, the Doctor stood by my right side, and examined me. Needlessly, methinks, as he had done a more cursory check not an hour before, but while he there stood and twiddled at my ivies and dithered at my bandages, it kept la policia mindful of my ailing condition, and kept them courteous. And then, as soon as they started in on who shot me, and where was I, and what was the name of the ship and where was she now (They obviously had some intelligence from Lynch or MacManus or both, which I dared not contradict but did not know what had been said, and so I said nothing at all.), Doctor Kelashnikskaya interjected with this pearl: “Gentlemen, Mister Kane’s head injury will very likely have caused some memory loss, and confusion, particularly about the time when the incident occurred.”

Aye: I grabbed at that lifeline, I did. For the rest of that encounter, I frowned and looked befuddled; I put my hand to my head as though it pained me, and I remembered nothing. Nothing at all. At long last, they departed, unsatisfied.

As he ushered the West English out of the room, I caught at Master Kelashnikskaya’s sleeve, and when he paused and looked back at me, I said, most sincerely, “Thank you, Doctor.” He nodded, and flashed just enough of a smile that I wot he knew the boon he had given me. A good man, he is.

I do not doubt la policia will be back, but perhaps it will not be soon: perhaps we will have sufficient time to do what is needful, ere they return.

 

August the Nineteenth

I have been humbled, this day.

I gathered all my strength and fortitude, screwed up my courage ‘gainst agony and travails, and made my slow and clumsy way down the hall to the room where lies my shipmate, Shane MacManus.

And there he lay, his leg wounded, his pelvis damaged by the bullet’s passing and the surgeon’s cutting. He may not rise from the bed – not even to relieve himself. I will not speak of the vile contraption with which these people invade a man’s body in order to evacuate it; suffice it to say that its discovery, upon waking from a long sleep, is horrifying in the extreme (most particularly when one has been told that there are ivy strands attempting to take root in one – and for one such strand to take root there, oh, gods and devils forbid it!), and its removal a torture which shames the cruellest gaolers of the English king. I cannot imagine how Shane survives its continued emplacement. Of course I did not ask, but only clapped his shoulder and gave him my deepest sympathy, in very truth.

Lynch had said he chafes at his state, and ’tis true. I have this log to occupy my time, and I have been spared many hours of inaction by my broken crown, for which I am now oddly grateful; the concomitant dizzy spells necessitate many hours of rest, which do nicely to fill the time – and defy the questioning of la policia, of course. Lynch has survived with some of the same medicine: the surgeons did invade his core to repair the bullet’s invasion and the terrible havoc it wreaked on the lad’s innards, and thus did he spend some days entirely in slumber. Then, when he woke, he had permission to move about, cautiously, and so was able to explore and exercise, to increase his strength and decrease his time as invalid abed. Too, ever since Vaughn taught Lynch his letters, the boy has spent hours reading all he can; he tells me that this place has something of a library, which he has availed himself of. Though for myself, I confess I wish that my companions, or indeed anyone, would let me prevail on them for a game of draughts; I have been so used to enjoying a game in the evening, even when all else had gone askew, these past months, but have lacked a fair match since losing Vaughn’s company to Monsieur Navarre, and now again to the vicissitudes of injury and pursuit.

But MacManus, though capable, does not enjoy reading nor writing (nor draughts, more’s the pity), and so rather than pass the time, such pursuits do stretch the time out. He is a man of action, one who would hunt throughout the day, and then spend the night carousing in taverns, be it drinking, brawling, dancing, or availing himself of a harlot’s generosities, it would matter not. Just so long as he was not as he is: trapped, immobile, damaged in such wise as worries him deeply regarding his future capabilities. He was too afraid and ashamed to inquire of the physician as to the subject of his possible gelding, but he was able to hint at his fears to me, and I did so inquire – and was able to reassure him fully, which I think did bring him some peace. Seeing that strong, good man so trapped, so enfeebled, and yet still and all a man of courage and tenacity, I know that I cannot complain of my wounds nor my discomfort. Not in the face of his so much greater suffering.

Lynch arrived in his wheeled chair as I sat with MacManus, and we did have a jolly time of it for a short while, ere the nurses chased us all back to our rest; I for one was glad of the excuse to return to my bunk, as weakness had crept up on me rather faster than I would fain show the lads, if I can so hinder their knowledge of my incapacity. Perhaps I worry overmuch, but I wish to have their confidence, and not their pity.

We did find a chance to discuss our tales for la policia: apparently their earlier visits had focused on MacManus, the only one of us to be cognizant when we arrived and remain so for those first hours and days. Even when Lynch had awoken, he said that they had been merciful and delicate, even solicitous with him; perhaps his youth and the severity of his injuries softened their hearts. Any road, Lynch was allowed to give little response, and so MacManus’s account has stood as the official record, thus far. We had been sailing on our pleasure boat, the Courser, when we had been attacked by pirates; our captain – one Hugh Moran – had sailed on to Jamaica, our original destination out of Dover, England (MacManus had rightly surmised that these strange-speaking West English would not be able to place the sources of our accents, though MacManus is as plainly Northern Irish as Lynch and I are southrons). We could not contact him aboard ship, but he would return for us on the way back to England. So shall we all say.

Now: to regain my vigor, I will now eat – though the food here, while largely satisfying, is most bizarre: the meat is both limp and burnt, the accompaniments are over-sauced and strange to the tongue, and the dinner and supper have both been companioned by a strange substance, of a violently brilliant hue, carved into cubes like dice, slick and taut to the touch, like the skinned flesh of an animal, and which wiggles most disturbingly when provoked. The nurses call it Gee-Yellow, and seem surprised that I will not consume it. It appears too much like jellied blood, which somehow still clings to life, and I am nauseated by the thought of it wriggling in my gullet. But apart from the gelatinous cubes, I will eat all I can, and sleep all I can.

Tomorrow I will explore.

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Log #40: Hospital

Log August 17

 

I will not say my situation has improved over what I found when first I awoke in this place, but at the least, I do understand it, now. Howbeit, I understand this place just so well as I understand any place in this world of 2011; that is to say, not so very well at all.

I drifted rudderless, in and out of my dreams, for many days. I remember seeing this place, the white ceiling and walls, the strange pipping of a tiny bird, slow and stately and regular as a funeral march, as if a sparrow were singing me to my grave, myself flat on my back and unable to move; I had some recollection of waking and choking on a thing which passed through my mouth and down my throat into my gullet as it was being removed, but the memory was strange and befuddling. I felt no pain, but I could not grasp and hold a thought, not a single one; and often I heard a quiet susurration, a whisper as of words spoke just beyond my hearing.

Aye: in my dreams, I did think this place to be Heaven, or Avalon, or Elysium, I know not what awaits us in that far-off country. But I bethought myself there, aye.

And then I woke, truly woke, and felt my mind catching hold; like an ox pulling a cart through spring mud, the great hooves slipping and sinking, and slipping and sinking, and then, at last, the hooves strike ground just firm enough beneath the muck to press back, and the cart begins to move: thus did I arise to the waking world. I knew myself alive, then, and in pain. My arms were strapped down, and my legs, as well. I had strands of clear stuff attached to my arms and my face, below my nose, and thin strands of white like spider’s webs or thread ran to my chest and brow; following them back led my eye to a tall white box, on a metal stand, with a quantity of depressions and obtrusions and dark places, numbers and letters and strange words written around and about, here and there. Above it on metal hooks hung two sacs of fluid, like wineskins made of glass; from these ran the clear strands to my arm. I felt a terrible thirst.

I attempted to call out, but could do no more than croak weakly. I fain would struggle against my bonds, but my strength had fled. Then the tall box gave a louder chirp, and then – cool, soft peace stole over me, starting with my right arm, spreading quickly across my chest and shoulders, my neck, my jaw, my head – and then again I slept.

When next I woke, the mud enmiring my brain was drier, easier to pull through and then out of. My pain was back, and the thirst; I bit at my tongue until I made enough spittle to swallow and ease my aching throat, and then I called out, “Hallloooo!” Soft at first, bare more than a whisper, but then a bit louder and stronger, and then a bit more with the third repetition.

After my fourth call, a door opened behind me, and soft footsteps padded in. A woman appeared at my right side, and smiled down on me. Neither young nor old, her golden hair tied back from her face, she wore a strange tunic and loose trousers, brightly colored and bearing images of – were those kittens?

Her cool fingers touched my arm, then my brow. “Are you awake?” she asked. “More than a quick breath before you go back under, I mean?” I frowned at her and tried to speak, but coughed through my dry throat. “Thirsty? Here, let me get you some ice chips.” She vanished. I croaked after her and struggled weakly, feeling like a toad tied to a board by a cruel boy. Did they plan the same sorts of childishly evil tortures for me as that toad would suffer of a heartless lad? I strained, but I could barely make a fist, let alone loosen my bonds.

The woman returned, a small cup in her hand. She touched something on the side of the bed near my hand, and suddenly the bed moved beneath me, lifting my head and trunk until I sat nigh upright. She held the cup to my lips, and when I opened, tipped it so that many small fragments of ice fell into my mouth; ’twas not unlike eating snow. They melted on the instant, and brought blessed relief to my raging thirst. The lady gave me a second and a third mouthful ere I pulled my lips from the cup.

She placed the cup on a tray and turned to the chirping box whereto my strands were tied.

“Where am I?” I asked in my toad’s croak.

“In St. Vincent’s Hospital,” she replied.

“And where be that?”

She looked somewhat strangely at me, and thus became familiar; now I knew myself to be, still, in the world of 2011, in the land of America, where all my questions are met with that same look. I could not suppress the sigh which escaped me at this revelation.

The woman returned to my side, placing cool fingers on my wrist. “It’s in Charleston.”

I said nothing.

She looked to my eyes and saw my befuddlement. “In South Carolina? In America? The United States?” When I showed no particular response, she put a hand on her hip, tipped her head to the side, and asked, “Say, where are you from?”

“Ireland,” quoth I.

She shook her head. “First time I ever met a white illegal,” she murmured. She had a pleasant accent, somewhat English, but softened in a way that seemed French to my ear.

My initial query answered so well as it could be, I moved to my next most pressing ignorance. “Wherefore am I bound?” I strained lightly against the strap crossing my forearms in illustration.

“You were struggling, flailing your arms all over. You kept pulling out the ivies.”

I looked wide-eyed at the strands attached to my arms, and I saw now that they pierced my skin – as if they were taking root in me. “Ivies? Why are there ivies planted in me? What hell is this, woman?” I began to struggle against my bonds, but I had not strength; the slight woman took hold of my shoulders and pressed me back against the bed-chair, restraining me with shameful ease.

“Calm down now, you just calm down. You need the ivies to get well again. They’ll come right out when you don’t need them any more.” I fell limp once more, already exhausted, and she released me. She arched one brow, hands once more placed on her hips. “And my name is not ‘Woman,’ it is Julie Winslow, RN.” She tapped at a card pinned to the breast of her tunic, which bore a tiny portrait of her. “You may call me Miss Winslow, for now.”

I turned my head away, shamed by my weakness and dulled by despair.

“I’m going to get the doctor now, all right? He can answer any of your questions.”

My innards growled then. “Will I be fed with more than mouthfuls of snow?”

“That’s up to the doctor. Just a moment.”

She departed, and then my throat informed me that it would appreciate another mouthful of cold relief. I looked down at the cup, placed on a tray that was easy to hand – or would have been, were my arms unbound and uninvaded. I looked more closely at my hands and saw that I was held only by wide leathern thongs, without locks; perhaps I could get my fingers to the clasp . . .

The door opened, and a manly voice said, “Well now, I hear someone’s finally had enough napping.” A man appeared at my bedside then, with white hair and beard. He wore a white coat over a blue shirt and a brightly colored neck-scarf; I had seen similar attire on Master McNally, and so took this man to be a gentleman of breeding, as well – as befit a medic.

“Aye,” I spake, my voice coarse. “How long did I sleep?” There was no window, no way to read the hour – or season, for that matter. By my dreams, it had been days, but what truth is there in dreams?

The medic repeated many of Miss Winslow’s motions, examining the ivy-box, placing fingers on my wrist while staring at an ornate golden torc on his own wrist, which resembled a compass. “What do you remember?” he asked me.

The shuddering blast of cannon. The stench of smoke, and salt spray – and blood, the corrupt stink of death. Hobbes, grinning like a skull, with a shadow-man at his back. Men rising from behind the rail of the Sea-Cat, thunderguns bursting, and screaming – my men – I fired and –

“I was – shot?”

The man nodded, his bright, intelligent eyes meeting my own. “Twice, once in the right shoulder and once in the left forearm. Both bullets passed through, but left you some fairly severe damage. You also suffered a fractured skull and a serious concussion, so I would expect your memory to be a bit fuzzy.” He drew a metal tube from his pocket, and with it, beamed a searingly bright light directly into my eye. I cried out, partly with shock at the brightness of the tube-torch, and partly with outrage at this imposition, and drew away. He frowned at me and at his tube, and then placed a gentle but firm hand on my brow, holding me like a fractious child, and moving more carefully, shone the light into my eyes for but an instant before releasing me, murmuring comfortingly all the while, to wit: “Don’t worry, I just need to examine you, only take a second, that’s it,” and so forth.

“Unhand me, sir!” I said then, and he did. When he was finished gentling me and prodding at my very sight.

He stepped back and put his hands in his pockets. “Do you know where you are?”

“Aye, the lass told me where I am. A hospital of the order of St. Vincent, though I do not know those monks.”

He frowned at me. “Do you know who you are?”

I stared for a moment. “Aye – I am Damnation Kane, captain of the good ship the Grace of Ireland.

Christ! I had not thought of her afore now; my brain still wallowed half in the mud of sleep. “Where is my ship? My crew?” I had a new thought, then, an explanation for my bonds. “Are you holding me captive? Are ye in league with the Devil’s Lash?”

He held up his hands placatingly. “Hold on, hold on, simmer down, now. You’re not captive, you’re not under arrest, and I’m certainly not in league with the Devil. We’re here to help you. The restraints are only so you don’t hurt yourself, and if you’ll promise me you won’t struggle or try to get out of the bed, I’ll take them off right now.”

I relaxed my limbs. “I am not held for Nicholas Hobbes? Nor for la policia?”

He shook his head. “The police will have some questions for you; we had to report your wounds, as they were gunshots, and the whole story isn’t yet clear. But you are not under arrest, or any suspicion, and you are free to go as soon as you are physically healthy enough.”

“I have your word on that?”

He paused, frowning slightly. Then he nodded. “You do.”

“Then ye have mine. I’ll not struggle nor fight you.”

He nodded again, and then he released the leather thongs that held my arms and legs. I tried to stretch my limbs, but was hampered by the strands of ivy. “Will ye take these out of me, as well?”

Now he shook his head. “I’m afraid you still need those. We are giving you fluids and antibiotics. You lost quite a bit of blood, there, and there was a fairly serious infection in the shoulder wound. Your friends bound it, but their materials were none too sterile, it seems.”

“What of my friends? Where are my shipmates?” I coughed at the last word, and the doctor took up the cup of snow and placed it in my hand; I emptied it gratefully.

“I’m afraid I don’t know anything about a ship. You were brought to the hospital, along with two others, who were also shot. They’re still here, and you can visit them when you’re feeling up to it. The men who brought all of you here left as soon as we took custody of you. The police have spoken to your two friends about them, but I don’t know any more than that.”

I returned to an earlier question. “How long have I been here?”

He paused, then said, “You’ve been here for seven days.”

Gods! I’d been shot twice, broken my head, and been feverish and delirious for a full week – and now I felt nearly hale, though weak and in pain. Not nearly so much pain as I would expect, howbeit. I nodded to the medic. “Thank you for your good care for myself and my compatriots.” I attempted to place the cup on the tray, but could not reach; the man took the cup from my hand.

“I want you to rest now,” he said. “In a little while I’ll have Miss Winslow bring you some soup to eat – and maybe a little surprise, if you’re feeling up to it.” He touched the side of the bed as had Miss Winslow, and I found myself reclining again. “Now you should try to sleep. It will help you get better.”

If he said more, I did not hear it. I fell into a deep and thankfully dreamless slumber.

I woke but slowly; as I lay dozing, the door opened and another woman came in, this one younger and darker-hued than Miss Winslow. I wakened further as she came to my ivy-box and examined its lineaments – why did they all stare at that box? And where was that damned cheeping bird, or the whisperers behind my head? – and gave her greeting. She smiled at me most prettily, and soon enough I had been brought upright once more – and the means of so adjusting my position shown to me – and she brought me a bowl of broth and a glass of golden juice, most delicious both, and surprisingly filling, though my gut did rumble ominously as I ate.

The doctor returned as I broke my long fast, and introduced himself as Albert Kelashnikskaya, a name I had to see writ on his portrait card ere I could repeat it. After a cursory examination and some idle questions regarding my mental state, he drew a folded paper from his pocket and gave it me. Then he politely withdrew – a man of quality, indeed.

It was a letter, from my good friend Llewellyn Vaughn, and reading it gave me more peace than even that good soup.

***

Captain Kane,

It is my fondest wish that this letter will soon find you hale and well, once more. My deepest regret is that I could neither return you to health myself, nor be present when these kind folk do so; but my own skills are far too meager for the first task, and our situation too dire for the second.

As of this morning, we are free of the Devil’s Lash. The Grace sustained but minor damage, apart from our casualties, and we had soon sailed out of sight of the Sea-Cat. O’Gallows has command, and after we are assured that you will be safe, we will sail elsewhere, to escape and perhaps draw Captain Hobbes away from you. I will not say where, as I cannot be sure Hobbes will not retrieve this letter. If you wake (and God will it so!), inquire of your companions, who will have the means to guide you to us.

God keep and preserve you, Captain, and us as well.

Llewellyn Vaughn

***

My ship was safe. My crew were safe, but for the casualties – and those were not so many that my dear friend Ian could not sail my ship to safety. Satisfied for the nonce, I held the letter to my breast, and thus slept.

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Book II: Chapter 1, of The Adventures of Damnation Kane — Log 39

Captain’s Log

But am I still captain? I am not on my ship. Where is my ship? Am I even myself?

I have slept long and dreamt – strangely. How long? How strange!

I dreamt that I was home, in my mother’s house. I awoke in her bower, the carved oak bench she was wont to recline on, the which I would steal for slumber whenever opportunity arose. And the dawn sun shone through the flowers that grew there, up trellises and down walls so that within the bower, all seemed a fairyland, without hint of human corruption in the sweet breath of nature. The perfume of the flowers drifted to me, and the birds gently chirruped, weet, weet, weet.

My mother came to me, moving slow as the tides, the sun shining on her face, her golden hair. She wore a gown of blue, and with gold shining at her wrists and her pale throat, she seemed the very sky itself, the heavens come down to bless me and ease away my cares.

“Are you home?” she asked with a warm smile.

“Aye, mother, I have returned to thee,” I said. I tried to arise, but – could not.

“Are you home?” she said again, and her smile faded. The bright dawn did as well, and a shadow crept into the bower. Again I tried to rise, but could not. Something held me to the bench, flat on my back. Helpless.

Then my mother raised her hands from her sides, and I saw she held an athame, the druid’s dagger, the weapon used for rituals. For sacrifices. “Are you home?” she hissed, and now her lovely face twisted with anger. Of a sudden her slow, tranquil movements flowed as quick as thought. And my mother stabbed me, and stabbed again. Behind her, in the leaves and vines and blooms, the birds chirruped on.

***

I dreamt I walked a road in the night, the moon bright above and a thousand thousand stars that danced musingly across the sky. From a thicket nearby came the slow sound of an owl hoo-hoo-hoo in the darkness. And as I walked, I felt a hand slip into mine, a hand soft and cool. I turned to look, and beheld – Genevra. My Genevra, alive again, in the perfect blossom of youth and health, as she had been once, but was not, that last time I looked on her. She smiled at me and said, “Hello, my darling devil. Give us a kiss, and then dash us away to your fiery pit.” ‘Twas such she ever said to me. I caught her up in my arms, laughing with her, her voice ringing like bells, like bird’s song, and I kissed her, aye, I did.

And as I drew back, her face looked as it had when last I looked on her: pallid and drawn, her eyes shrunk into her skull, her sweet lips drawn back from her teeth by the pain, her soft white throat swelled up like a frog’s by the buboes, her flesh blackened by that bloody English plague. They brought it to us after their city burned (When God wreaked his vengeance on them, aye, did he.) and they took my Genevra from me, and drove me thus to a life at sea.

That dying, agonized face looked back at me from my embrace, and now her grimace seemed a smile, and she licked her lips with blackened tongue and said, “Welcome to Hell, my devil, my Damnation.

“Give us a kiss.”

And she laughed like bells.

***

I dreamt I stood on the deck of my ship, my Grace, and the wind filled the sails and carried us over the waves. From somewhere far off, gulls cried, their harsh voices softened by distance into a gentle, regular note, repeating every second or two, Ha! Ha! Ha! As always, I looked to the sails, the lines, the coursing of the sea: all was as it should be, and I smiled as my heart swelled with joy, to be where I was. Where I belonged.

“Steady as she goes, Captain?” called a voice, and I turned to see my friend and shipmate Balthazar Lynch at the wheel. Gladly I climbed to the poop deck to stand beside him, clapped him on the shoulder and said, “Aye, we sail fine and true, and naught is ill in all this wide world.” The boy smiled at that, and I noticed the gleam of his white teeth, hale and straight and true, and the blush of health in his smooth cheeks – still too young to shave? – and the sparkle of his green eyes. He’ll reap through the lasses like a very scythe, I thought, as I have many times before, they’ll fall before him and aye, beneath him, too.

Then I noted a tear, bright and full, trickling down from the corner of his wide eye. “Why weepest thou, my lad?” I asked him.

He smiled bravely, though his eyes were full of suffering. “Because it hurts, Captain.” He looked down, and I followed his gaze to where a blade was sunk deep into his chest, and on the hilt were curled my own fingers. Blood burst forth from the wound then, hot and wet on my hand. I tried to release the dagger, but could not. I looked into Lynch’s eyes once more, and I tried to speak, but my tongue cleaved to my teeth, and my lips would not open.

“Please stop killing me, Nate. Please stop killing me.” And his face became Genevra’s face, and then my mother’s, and still the blade in my hand, in her heart, ran red with blood, and I could not let go.

***

I dreamt that I sat in a tavern, in a dark corner by the fire. I looked around the room – ’twas a fine place, a proper Irish pub, with smoking torches in sconces and warm smells thickening the air, though a cool breeze from the open door cut through the room and freshened a man’s breath. In the corner, on a raised platform, three musicians stood, tuning their instruments, fiddle and flute and drum, and the fiddle and the flute played a single note back and forth, back and forth, while the drummer tapped gently at the skin, a slow beat like a heart’s.

I looked to the bar, and behind it stood a man I knew, though he was dressed as an innkeeper, in an apron and shirtsleeves stained with food and ale: ’twas Sean O’Flaherty, my Quartermaster that was. At the bar sat Edmund Burke, who raised his mug to me, and I saw a long chain dangling from his wrist, and blood dripping down its length. Beside him was Donal Carter, sawing at a hunk of meat with a great, curved blade, and Elliott Shluxer, who had a barmaid pinned against the bar, hemmed in by his arms, though she laughed and tickled his cheeks. She glanced back over her shoulder, and I saw ’twas the Enchantress. She winked at me most saucily.

And on top of the bar, laid out like a roast goose at Christmas, was my cousin, Hugh Moran. And all of them sliced and tore at Hugh’s flesh, thrusting dripping chunks into their gaping, bloody mouths, and laughing as they swallowed. Hugh struggled, and tried to scream, but he had an apple in his mouth, and O’Flaherty held him down. Hugh looked at me, his eyes pleading.

I turned away.

“Would you care for a plate, Master Kane?”

The voice, mellifluous of tone and refined of accent, came from my table companion: Captain Nicholas Hobbes of the Sea-Cat, known as the Devil’s Lash. He sat in deep shadow, though I could make out the outline of his thin features, and the shine of his white teeth, the gleam of his eyes. He smoked a pipe, the white plumes curling idly between us.

I shook my head. “‘Tis not to my taste, sir.”

“Then perhaps a draught, to quench thy thirst?” From the shadows that enwrapped his side of the table, he pushed a goblet brimming with a red fluid. Wine? Blood?

I demurred once more. “I do not thirst,” I spake, but I lied – my throat was a fire, my voice cracking like a pine log on the hearth. I strained my eyes, peering through the smoke and darkness, and I saw that there was not only one smile, or one man’s eyes agleam in the dimness, but two: behind Hobbes lurked another, lost in the shadows but for the white of his smile and his gaze, the which gleamed hungrily.

“Then mayhap this is what you seek,” Hobbes said and across the table he thrust a pistola. As he leaned forward, he came into the light, and I saw that his face bore the waxy yellow pallor of the dead, and around his throat I saw two hands wrapped tight and squeezing, the fingers dark and scarred.

“Aye, I thank thee kindly, sir,” I heard myself saying. And I took up the pistol from the tabletop, pressed the barrel against my head, and pulled the trigger.

***

***

I am thankful that I have never been press-ganged. I’ve known men who have, and I have spoken with them about the experience. Some were pressed into a better life than that they left, for all that it was the British navy they now must needs serve; still, a British seaman gets food and clothing, a berth and companions, and if he serve loyally, mayhap even the gratitude of the Crown. And some, of course, were stolen away from happiness, from hearth and home, companions and kin, to be flogged like brutes and treated like beasts. These latter had escaped, while the former were generally released from service after some years before the mast.

But for all, that first waking was a memory that haunted. That first moment of awareness, when the last thing you recalled was a walk through dark streets, or perhaps a drink of ale or wine in a tavern by the docks, and now you find yourself with aching head in a hammock, or sprawled across the rough planks of a deck, on a ship at sea, moving with the waves when last you stood on solid land; in your nose the smells of salt air and a ship and men, and in your ears the sounds of wind and waves, sails and shrouds, and chanteys and shouted orders to rise and work – perhaps punctuated with a kick, or a blow from a belaying pin or marlinspike: every man to whom I spoke of it said that the confusion, the bewilderment of such a change, from landsman’s life to the world of a ship at sea, all of the world altered in the single closing and opening of an eye, had filled them with a terror and a despair that none had otherwise known. Their lives had gone, and they had no memory of the going. The sensation did not last long, but those moments were sheer and absolute Hell.

And now I know what they meant.

I am in a room with white walls, without window, with one door. I am in a bed, clothed but in a thin wrap like a robe made of parchment or threadbare linen. My arms are tied by leather thongs lined with some soft material, bound to the rails that run on both sides of this bed, and thin tubes are – attached to me, somehow. The tubes lead to a contraption of metal and white-lacquered stuff, with clear sacs like wineskins made of glass, filled with variously colored fluids. The thing chirps like a bird, though more regular-like. My left forearm is well-bandaged, as is my right shoulder, and both pain me severely. My head seems awash in porridge: somewhat thick and warm and impossible to grip are my thoughts. I have slept and woke and slept again, sometimes dreaming, sometimes aware, even as I have written this. I write these words on a bound sheaf of paper which rests on my hip, with a pen I found alongside the sheaf when I woke.

I do not know where I am. I do not know the fate of my ship, or my men, or even myself. I do not know how much time has passed, or what has befallen us since – I do recall the battle, though I know not how it has ended.

Aye, this confusion is terrible, in truth. I am adrift, and alone. It would, like those press-ganged men I have known, be the worst sensation I have ever felt in this life; except for that I have felt it before. When my ship sailed through time, stranding my crew and I three centuries lost from home.

Has it happened again? I do not know.

Sleep pulls me down. I fear my dreams.

Gods and saints preserve me.

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Log 38: The End Of The Voyage

The Last Chapter of Book One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the lens he sees a scrap of white.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Aye!” MacTeigue calls from below.

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

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

Then they wait.

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

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

But she does not fire.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They are thunder-guns.

They open fire.

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

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

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

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

All goes black.

Ship’s Log

Llewellyn Vaughn, Ship’s Surgeon, recording.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recorded this night, the 8th of August, 2011

Aboard the Grace of Ireland

Bound for unknown shores

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Log 37: Time to Go

Captain’s Log

Date: 7th August 2011

Location: Maritime Museum, Plantation Key

Conditions: Peaceful and calm

Today, all is well with the world.

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

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

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

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

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

Mam – what did you put on my Grace?

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

Later

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

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

Last watch. 7th August.

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

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

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

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

Captain’s Log

Date: 8th August

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

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

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

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

We reached the Piggly Wiggly with the dawn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Captain’s Log, August 9th

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

Captain’s Log, August 10th

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

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

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Log 36: Filling in the Holes

Captain’s Log

Date: 31st of July in the year 2011

Location: Plantation Key

Conditions: Hopeful.

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

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

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

Captain’s Log

Date: 1st August 2011

Location: Plantation Key

Conditions: Busy

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

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

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

Captain’s Log

Date: 2nd August

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

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

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

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

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

Captain’s Log

Date: The Third of August, in the year 2011

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

Conditions: She sails!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Captain’s Log

Date: 4th of August

Location: 60 mi. due East of last position.

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

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

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

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

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

Captain’s Log

Date: 5th of August

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

Conditions: Complications arise.

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

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

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

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Log 35: The Gallows Log

Ian O’Gallows

19th of July

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

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

So here be me log.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t know what to do.

20th of July

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

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

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

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

26th of July

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

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

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

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

27th of July

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

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

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

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

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