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.
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 . . .
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.