Posts Tagged With: time travel

Log 31: Seeking Grace

Log

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

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

Captain’s Log

Date: 20 July I forget the cursed year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Done with this log now. Going to sleep.

Captain’s Log

Date: 21st of July, 2011

Location: Treasure Harbor, Islamorada.

Conditions: At least my head is done aching.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Log 30: Bondsman and Countryman

Captain’s Log

Date: 17th of July, 2011

Location: Treasure Harbor

Conditions: Storm, high chop.

 

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

Captain’s Log

Date: 19th of July, 2011

Location: Treasure Harbor, Islamorada

Conditions: Poor

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

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

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

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

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

I found none of it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now we are no longer poor.

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Log 29: Innocent

Log 29

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

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

The man clasped my hand. “Elliott Shluxer.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Aye – two paces back and no contact.”

He nodded. “It’ll be a minute.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I nodded. “Were any others hurt?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Though I do not know how.

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Log 28: Tantalized

Captain’s Log

Date: 16 July 2011

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Captain’s Log

Date: 17 July 2011

Location: Treasure Harbor, Islamorada

Conditions: Frustrated. Trapped like Tantalus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Can I help you?”

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

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

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

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

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

The man clasped my hand. “Elliott Shluxer.”

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Log 27: Vanity and Vengeance

Captain’s Log

Date: 14 July 2011

Location: Redoubt at the Glass Palace

Conditions: Victorious! And no longer alone!

 

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

 

Captain’s Log

Date: 15 July 2011

Location: Redoubt

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then the miracle happened.

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

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

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

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

Then we had some Lions to beard in their den.

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

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

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

Thus was justice served.

Now: to win back my ship.

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Log 27: Letter from the Gallows

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

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

Captain,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah, God, what have I done?

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

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

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

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

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

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

I cannot think how we could ha’ done differently.

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

I suppose it was, at that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tho I admit: those Potato Chips are entirely Delicious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here we are.

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

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

Ian O’Gallows, Mate of the Grace of Ireland

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Log #25: Lady of Mercy

Captain’s Log

Date: 11th of July, 2011.

Location: Alone in a place that mystifies me.

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

 

I find I have underestimated these people somewhat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Whither go we, my lady?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Nay, my lady. They call me Nate.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I saw then ruined my peace and joy entirely.

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Log 24: Clean and Clear

Captain’s Log

Date: 8th of July, 2011

Location: Redoubt at the Glass Palace

Conditions: Exhausted with hard work, but successful. Methinks things are clearer, now.

 

The Enchantress . . . is a pig.

I did not believe this position would be difficult; how much disorder could one person make? Especially one high-born woman? Now I know better.

The woman arises each morning, swims in her pond in smallclothes that would be indecent even under proper dress, and then, following her toilet (which includes still further bathing, as though she must wash off the first bath), scatters raiment like a bird shedding feathers in spring: clothing which I, as her maid, am expected to retrieve, launder, and stow in their proper cubbies in her closet. Though once that closet has been but briefly explored, it becomes instantaneously apparent why she is so indifferent to her attire as to cast it on the floor: she has more apparel than my entire village could wear, back home. And this material, strewn across the floor of the closet, and her chamber, and her bed, and the soft chairs in her chamber, and any other surface that can hold an article of dress, is not part of her attire for various occasions or functions, no: she considers it and discards it before she chooses her splendifery for the day. The apparel has not even been worn! Her maid, of course, is required to replace each piece in its proper place, neatly folded or rolled or hung or stretched, as the item warrants. It is more difficult, and time consuming, than stowing cargo in an undersized hold and lashing it tight for stormy seas.

Then there is the kitchen. Now, I am a pirate, an Irishman, and I have seen ship’s galleys that resemble the aftermath of a raging fire, sparked by a thunderstorm flooding rain, onto a battlefield churned muddy by boots and blood. But nonetheless: the Enchantress lay waste to that hearth to a degree unmatched by a score of filthy seamen. Egg shells and fruit peels, puddles of water and juice, crockery and glass containers and sliver utensils – ’twas a wasteland, a ruination, a shipwreck on a rocky shore. Which I must clean.

Two hours spent arranging women’s fripperies, another lost to hot water and rags, to crockery and kitchen scraps – I wish often for a good kitchen hound to dispose of the excess food bits properly – and then I can attend to the floors.

I have never been so happy to see a broom as I was on my first day in this role. I could not find it, at first, though Maid Flora had identified for me the antechamber where the implements of maidery were to be found; the broom, however, did not abide there, but rather stood in a corner of the large barn-shed, which I now know to be a garradge. Why did I search high and low for the broom, one might ask? Because at first I made the attempt with – the vacume. A machine risen straight from Hell, fashioned no doubt in the infernal forges of the iron city of Dis, forges sparked by the Devil’s infinite fiery hatred and fueled by the suffering souls of the damned; and that which they make there takes into itself every evil thought, every miserable suffering breath that wafts across its surface. That is the wellspring of that thrice-damned monster.

Maid Flora had instructed me to use the vacume to sweep the floors before mopping, and had shown me the beast in its den, which was the closet stocked with maid’s tools. She had pantomimed its use and pointed to me the lever that brought it awake, once it had been tethered – by something that may be a leash and may be a tail or similar appendage, I know not – to a certain hole in the wall, round with two thin vertical slots into which fit a pair of metal pieces on the appendage-leash. I did not understand how the thing was to remove dirt, but I had nodded that I understood her instructions, at least. And when the time came, I followed them: I moved its round, squat body out of the closet, uncoiled the leash and slotted it into the wall, and then I pressed the awakening lever, marked “ON.”

And then the beast roared. I was so startled I leapt back, striking the body with my foot and casting it away from me; the thick trunk-like appendage which one held when making use of the beast flipped about –and then it sought its prey. I know not if that thing be the bastard child of the Asiatic monster called an Oliphaunt, or if it be some strange hybrid of serpent and badger, but whatever it is, it is a predator, and it is hungry. It leapt and cavorted across the room, the end of its trunk-appendage roaring, a terrible inhalation drawing sundry bits into its maw where they were swallowed whole – a piece of paper and a pair of coins that had fallen when I leapt back and dashed them from the counter with my groping hand, and the cap for a jar of soap which I had opened in the closet, placing the cap in my pocket, from whence it now fell and was swallowed.

Then it came for me. I dodged to the side and kicked the body, hoping to stun or damage it, or perhaps, with luck, strike the awakening lever and put it back to sleep – though I confess I was too terrified to know what I was doing; that roar! That terrible roar! – but the action merely whipped the trunk-mouth around toward me again. It struck at my leg and attached itself, leech-like; its roar instantly grew more shrill, the keening of a hunting beast with its victim in its grasp. I shouted and struck at the trunk with my hands, but could not dislodge it, so strong was its grip on me. I could feel it pulling at my flesh through the cloth of my pantaloons, and I feared becoming envenomed and paralyzed and devoured at leisure, drawn slowly into that terrible, tiny maw. I grabbed at the body, lifted it over my head, and threw it across the great room with a shouted curse – and detached its tether from the wall, which killed the beast, or stunned it. Taking no chances, I drew my wheel-gun, which I have kept in my pocket at all times against an ambuscade by the Lions, and placed that monster in my sights. When it did not move, I used the handle of a mop held in my left hand to shove it before me into an empty closet in the room where we had imprisoned the Lopezes during our earliest acquaintance, my gun trained on its body the entire time lest it come awake once more and strike. In that closet, I swear, that horrid beastie will stay. I am well-satisfied with a proper broom. Even though that immobile rug makes it most difficult to sweep properly in the parlor. Who glues a rug to the floor like that, so that no one can sweep underneath? The Enchantress is most peculiar to me, and no less so is her abode.

It required all the hours remaining in the day to finish the floors, but I saw the job done properly: I holystoned the tile with fine white sand I brought in from the cove, and a scrub brush and bucket from the maid’s closet. Then I let it dry while I attempted to sweep the glued-rug rooms, which did not garner good results; and then I swept out the sand and swabbed the deck as Maid Flora had instructed me, using the sweet-smelling soap from the closet, even though its scent nearly overpowered me. Then the same treatment for the terrace, and I was feeling as though all was properly ship-shape and myself back in command – until the Enchantress came home.

“Daniel, did you hear?” she asked me as she strode quickly in her strange, precariously high-heeled shoes and her raiment that a Dublin whore would blush to wear.

“No, milady,” I replied, my eyes firmly fixed to the far wall, high above anything improper that might cross before my gaze, uncovered, and round and firm, and tanned by the sun.

“Huh – I thought Flora would have texted you, too, but whatever. Her house got shot up in a drive-by! Can you believe that?”

I could not understand it, and thus could not believe it – but I understood the operative words: Flora. House. Shot. “Was anyone hurt, milady?”

“I don’t think so – Flora didn’t say so, anyway. She said the neighbors called her and said a couple of gangbanger cars came by last night and just pulled up in front and unloaded. There’s a lot of damage. I asked her if she called the police or anything, but she said no – but undocumented workers don’t usually call the cops, do they? She said it was all right, that I shouldn’t worry about the house, that they’d take care of anything when they came back. She just said I should talk to you about it. Do you know Flora’s family? Are you going to check on the house for them?”

I nodded, after a moment spent unclenching my jaw, which had tautened with rage. “Yes, milady. I know her family, and her home, well.

“I will take care of it.”

***

 

The bike took me to the vicinity of House Lopez, and then I chained it and proceeded cautiously on foot. From thirty paces away I could see an hundred holes blasted in the wooden walls of the home, and broken glass in all the windows; I could also see the head of a man on watch in a beast-wagon just beyond the Lopez property line, his gaze roving the street most haphazardly, the loud rhythmic chanting I remembered from the Lions’ den emerging from the wagon, though again, I could see no musicians nor ritualizers. I shook my head: the man on watch was using neither his ears nor his eyes to advantage; any proper bosun would have had that man on his knees with a scrub brush, if not lashed to the mast and bleeding from his back, if he kept a watch that slipshod at sea – assuming his incompetence and imbecility did not have the vessel smashed on unseen rocks, that is.

I had taken the liberty of borrowing a length of slender but strong rope from the Enchantress’s garradge – I had noted it when seeking a broom, and a sailor never passes up good cordage – and as night fell and I observed the man’s miserable habits, I plotted my strategy. I did not know the man on watch, but he was without doubt one of my foes – a suspicion easily confirmed by the shirt he wore, a bright blue color much the same hue as the headscarves I had seen before – and I knew the man had most likely pulled a trigger and blown a hole in the home of my friends. In their home. Where dwelt their mother, and the boy Alejandro. Had he known the family Lopez was far gone when he aimed, when he fired? I doubted it.

I would ask him.

I crept up behind his beast-wagon, my wheel-gun in my hand, and around to the side opposite his post. Then I lay on one shoulder, my legs under me so I could move with rapidity if he did so, and, reaching under the belly of the beast, I aimed and fired a shot at the house. This brought a most satisfying response from the man, who cried out like a small child startled awake by nightmare and then leapt and stumbled out of his wagon, cursing and brandishing a pistola of his own. He had heard the shot strike the house, had heard the blast somewhere close, but he knew not where – and in his confusion, he simply ran to the house and stood staring, dumbly. It was child’s play to come up from behind and lay him out with a blow to the back of his head. A glance up and down the street showed that we two were alone; I took up his pistola, dealt him a blow or two with my heel – for the honor of Lopez – and then trussed his arms and legs. I dragged him to the small meadow behind House Lopez, where we might converse unseen by people on the street, hidden as the meadow was behind a wooden fence. I left him under a tree, and then opened the heavy garradge door to gain entry to the house and gather the other materials I required. Then I prepared him and waited for him to awaken so we could begin.

He woke soon after, and when he did, I hauled away on the rope which I had tied to his thumbs; he was soon standing on his toes, his eyes wide, his head shaking – any shouts silenced as I had bound his mouth shut, at least for the nonce. I tied off the rope on the fence, and then I aimed my wheel-gun at his left eye, and waited there until his entire body was shaking and the beads of sweat ran down his face. He had tried to let his weight back down onto his heels, and had learned what it meant to be strung up by one’s thumbs – and then he had raised up onto his toes once more, to save his thumbs from being pulled from the socket, or off entirely. This same fate had maimed my traitorous former bosun, Ned Burke, when the tribe of maroons he had been preying upon after escaping into the jungle of Hispaniola from his indenture had captured him and strung him up by his thumbs, leaving him hanging until, after days, he had – fallen down.

I put the barrel of the pistol into the hollow of my man’s throat. “Do not shout,” I said quietly. He nodded. I removed his gag.

“Please, man,” he began, but a thrust of the gun barrel into his throat stopped the words there.

“Did you fire at that house?” I asked, pointing.

I saw the lie begin in his eyes, but he saw me recognize it, and he swallowed it untold. He nodded instead.

I laughed, darkly. “So have I. Only their cowardly surrender kept me from putting a shot into the brothers themselves, when first they came against me.” I turned the smile into a snarl, and pressed close, bruising his throat with the pistol. “You insult me when you presume that these dirt-faced peasants are my allies. My – friends. How dare you think that this, this filthy scum could be the bait in a trap for me. For me!” A blow to his nose with the pistol’s butt set the claret flowing down, and surprised him enough to fall back off of his toes – stretching his thumbs agonizingly, though as of yet his hands stayed whole. He opened his mouth to scream, and I shoved the pistol into it.

“Be. Silent.” I ordered him. He followed orders. When he recovered his balance and eased the pressure on his thumbs, I removed the pistol’s barrel and asked him my questions.

“How many of you are there?”

“Nine – eighteen. Eighteen since Francisco got fucked up in that alley.”

“And your leader – is it Agro?”

“Yeah. Man, let me down, man – shit!”

“Agro is the one I stabbed in the hand at the market, yes?”

“Yeah, man, he fucking pissed at you, essay.” (Perhaps the last word was the letters S.A., but that holds no clearer meaning for me.)

“Do you know who I am?”

“Naw, man, we call you the Sparrow, after Johnny Depp, you know? Fuck, this fuckin’ hurts, essay!”

I grabbed his chin, pressed the barrel of the gun against his broken nose, which brought a shudder and a groan. “My name is Damnation Kane. Remember it. Tell the others.

“And watch your step.” I lowered my aim and fired into the ground. The shot struck his pistola, and scattered sparks, which ignited the circle of rum-soaked rags with gunpowder sprinkled o’er (gunpowder gathered from the cartridges that had been in the gun) that lay under the tree’s limb from which his rope descended. I pulled on his rope until his feet lifted free of the ground, and he swung directly over the flames, which tickled at his toes and his heels, even up to his ankles, but no higher. I tied it off there, and then dealt him a mighty blow to the belly, setting him swinging like a pendulum and silencing his cries for a time. I left him there and walked to the street and his beast-wagon. I splashed it with the remainder of the rum, and fired one more shot, my pistol laid flat on the puddle of liquor, which ignited and began to burn merrily.

I went back to the bike and rode to my redoubt at the Palace, confident that my message would be received. I would be alert for the response, whatever it may be.

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Log 23: To Safety. To War.

 

Maid Flora and I rode her beast-wagon back to the House of Lopez – now become the Infirmary of Lopez. The moment we arrived, she dashed within to check on her brothers; I followed more slowly to allow them some time as an uninterrupted family. I walked the perimeter of the house, seeking any enemy, any watchful eye that might be seeking me – that might have used those men as bait to draw me out, those men who were beaten but, strangely, not killed, not dropped in a river or a marsh to be seen no more outside of Hades; no, these men had been left alive in the street, and I could not but think this was done to a purpose. For the moment, I saw nothing – but I would need to take steps to ensure that the only traps sprung from here onward would be those I set.

I went within and found young Alejandro standing guard bravely, a wooden club in his hands and a look of grim determination on his face which almost, but not entirely, hid the terror in his eyes. I nodded to him, and he squared his shoulders, stood straighter, nodded back to me. “Be steadfast,” I said, and barely bit back the “lad” that wanted to follow these words trippingly from my tongue; but this would not have improved his confidence. I went on: “Your family needs you to protect them, now. Keep a weather eye and a ready shout, should ye see aught of the foe. Aye?”

He nodded, a bit of color returning to his face. It does wonders for a young man when he is treated as if the “man” matters more than the “young.” I was glad to see him move purposefully to the front window, where his eyes and shout might do more good than would the club in his small hands. Ye gods, the thing was half his height – what sort of combat weapon was that? A bludgeon should rarely be more than a belaying pin in length, else it is too slow and unwieldy to make good use. I noted the words “Louisville Slugger” on the smooth, polished wood, but it meant nothing to me. I moved past him and along the corridor to the sickroom.

Both men were asleep, and obviously should remain so. Were that not true, I fear the profanity I would have uttered upon seeing their wounds would have shamed the sun behind the clouds, chased the moon out of the sky, and brought a blush to every tender, innocent cheek for miles around. In silence, but with those terrible curses ringing in my head, I swore on my mother, my ship, and my own honor to avenge every hurt on these two innocent men.

Then I must leave that sorry sight before my anger overflowed and whelmed my sense. I have never sat easily when an innocent is harmed. What man could? But the cruelty and savagery exercised on these two men – these two faultless, guiltless men – was not only beyond what I might perchance accept done to a child-beating English rapist, but far worse, ’twas all done because of me. ‘Twas done to them because those filthy mongrels could not reach me. Those wounds: they are my wounds.

I suppose I made some sound in my retreat, or perhaps his injuries kept him from resting easy, but Ignacio stirred then and woke. I confess I would fain have slunk away, too craven to face his accusing eyes, but as I could not bear to increase my shame, I stepped to the side of the low bed and knelt, gently taking up his hand in mine. When his gaze cleared as his mind rose from the realm of sleep, he recognized me. “It didn’t work,” he said, and I could not but smile – though keeping that smile longer than an instant was impossible as I looked on his eye swollen shut and split at the brow, on his nose bent to the side, on the broken teeth barely visible past his torn and bloody lips.

“Nay, it did not. My fault, lad. I overestimated them, thinking them human.” I tried to chuckle as if this were witticism rather than barren truth, but not much more than a wheeze emerged from my tightened throat. Still, Ignacio smiled at the corners of his mouth, and squeezed my hand.

“They didn’t – we didn’t have a chance,” he said, the words slurred by his accent and injuries so I could barely comprehend – but damn me if I would ask him to repeat himself. “We got there, and showed them the – ‘Lito, and Juan started to say we were sorry. But Agro hit him and he fell, and then he kicked him in the head – and then the others got me. And I try to say, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t do it,’ I try to say, ‘Please –’ But they no listen. Then I no can talk or do nothing. They kick me until it all go black.” He pulled his hand away from mine, turned his face to the window beside him and away from me.

“Do you remember the faces? Any of the ones who kicked you?” For the bloody rage which I felt building in me would best be unleashed on those who shattered this boy’s teeth. Fortunately, he nodded.

“Two of them at the market yesterday – the tall one and the one Mama hit.”

“I remember them,” I told him.

Then his gaze went flat. “Si – and they remember you. Now they will find you and kill you, and then they will kill all of us, too, so we no talk to la policia.” (I had learned in my time here that la policia were a sort of civil guard who sought out and apprehended malefactors. I had also learned – with absolutely no surprise – that these men could not be trusted, that they could be bribed, or swayed by their own loves or hatreds, and that they sometimes did more harm to innocents than to the rogues they hunted.)

I stood then and settled my weapons in my sash. “No, my friend. They will not kill any of us. And they will not need to find me.” I leaned down and placed a hand – gently – on his shoulder. He turned to look at me with his good eye.

“I will find them.”

***

When I emerged, I sought out Mistress Lopez and Maid Flora for a council of war. The first task must be to move this poor family past the horizon and out of the range of my enemies, for the span of time whilst I am working to destroy them all. This was, therefore, the first point of contention: Maid Flora did not want her brothers moved, and Mistress Lopez would not surrender a foot of ground to such scalawags. I did manage to convince them that great danger awaited both of the brothers here and now – far greater than the danger of moving them. My assurance that I would swiftly distract the Lions’ cretinous, half-formed thoughts from the House of Lopez was sufficient to overcome Mistress Lopez. A happy chance, as I could not assure her that I would protect her home, nor that no harm would come to it once they left; I thought it highly likely that the Lions, seeking me, would burn this place to the ground.

But no harm would come to the family: on that I was determined. We came to the knowledge that another city to the north, one Orrlandoh, had friends the family could visit, as well as a place called Dizz Knee Whirled which Alejandro would gladly see. The inevitable monetary objections were quickly overcome when I pressed the eleven remaining gold coins from the seam of my vest on Mistress Lopez, accepting no argument nor polite refusal. These refusals fell away when I told them to seek a surgeon for the two brothers; this use of my money seemed fitting to them – as indeed it was, as was the conversion of any excess into funds for the maintenance of these kind folk.

The only concern that remained was Maid Flora’s position at the Glass Palace, which she would not surrender and was most loath to abandon. But we arrived at a solution for that, as well.

I straightened my new shirt and dusted off my new breeches, as we stood at the door, waiting for our knock to be answered. Maid Flora smiled anxiously at me and patted a stray hair into place. The door opened, and there stood the Enchantress herself.

Maid Flora explained, as clearly as she was able, that she would need to leave her post for at least one sevenday, perhaps two, in order to nurse her sick brothers. She offered an alternate servant in her place: myself, whom she introduced as Daniel Kane.

The Enchantress eyed me most suspiciously. “You’re supposed to be my maid?”

I made a passable leg, knuckling my brow in manner I hoped fitting. “Milady, I would not ask you to open your home to a man without scrap of introduction or recommendation. I would never ask you to trust a stranger to care for your environs and property without any knowledge of his fitness for the task. I ask only that you continue to trust in the good heart and wise discernment of your servant Flora, who verily doth recommend myself and my skills to you – and that you trust, as well, your own natural womanly intuition, which surely tells you that I mean your kind person naught but comfort and joy, as I most sincerely do.” I crafted my winningest smile for her, then.

She did look askance at me when I bowed: then when I spoke was she taken aback. At the last, she began to smile. When I finished with the matching expression on my own physiognomy, I hoped it was not too bold of me to presume my place at the Palace was assured.

It was not. The Enchantress looked me over from stem to stern, and then said, “Well, you’ll certainly be decorative to have around the house, won’t you?”

Thus did I become a domestic.

We returned to the House of Lopez, and Maid Flora joined her mother in preparing for their journey to Orr Land-Oh – which preparations gave the appearance of twin typhoons, two waterspouts circling through the house, sucking up and belching out clothing and necessaries and ephemera in staggering quantities and with much sound and fury. I, in the meantime, asked for and received the assistance of young Alejandro. I faced one more impediment: though the Lions’ den, a ramshackle house and garradge which the rogues claimed for their base of operations, stood near the House of Lopez, the Glass Palace was some ten miles away – too far to walk back and forth while in pursuit of justice. But I would never master the beast-wagon in time, nor did I wish to make the attempt. Fortunately, there was another solution: a thing called a “bike,” a staggeringly uncomfortable seat and a strange handle atop a pair of wagon wheels, which one moves forward with a sort of walking motion on two levers called “petals,” though they resemble flowers not at all. Over the course of that afternoon, Alejandro taught me to ride it; I found that my experiences riding horses, combined with my years of keeping myself upright aboard ships in stormy and wanton seas, made it fairly simple to master the balance needed to keep the bike upright. Moving my feet on the petals but not actually walking was far more difficult, but I persevered, and found success.

I asked for and received detailed instructions for locating the den of the rapscallions from Ignacio, and then I bid the Lopezes a fond and heartfelt farewell, and sent them off. Then I mounted the bike I had the loan of from Ignacio, and set off to work.

The Lions’ den itself was simplicity to identify: it was the shabbiest, most dilapidated house on an otherwise tidy and ship-shape little road. I secured the bike nearby with chain and a most ingenious little lock-and-key provided by Ignacio, and then I walked the streets all around the den, observing the movement of the local villagers, the paths by which one could approach the den, both openly and surreptitiously, the local tavern and shops where the Lions surely procured their necessaries. Then I returned and found myself a sheltered place from which I could observe the house and those coming and going.

Their time was spent largely in the garradge and on a sort of open porch appended to the front of the house. The entire time I watched, which comprised several hours, I could hear a strange rhythmic chanting over a drumbeat and an assortment of weird and eldritch noises, shrieks and whistles and thrums and others I could not begin to name. I never saw the ones doing the chanting, so I had to presume that there were people inside the house performing weird incantations or rituals; though strangely, no one seemed to react or even acknowledge the noise other than occasionally bobbing their heads up and down with the drums, perhaps agreeing or approving with what they heard. As for the words, they were all Greek to me. The garradge and the paved area before it was glutted with beast-wagons and various associated equippage; they had the maw of one beast propped open and several of them spent much time with their heads thrust deep inside the gullet. I wondered if they were feeding it, or killing it? I know not.

Several of them took their ease on the porch for the entire afternoon and evening; they talked and laughed and drank and smoked, and shouted at each other and at the passersby. I did note that several passersby approached the men seated on the porch, talked to them briefly and then made some kind of quick exchange, but I could not see what was given nor received. The visitors always left quickly, after. I know not the meaning but I wonder of the possibilities regarding my intentions.

Once dusk fell, they began to depart, mostly in groups in the various beast-wagons drawn up by the garradge. The house did not empty, and the lights that shone through the windows implied that it would not – some number of Lions must abide there, and the others gather round during their idle days.

And then, near the end of the evening, a happy chance: one of my known and sworn enemies, the tall ruffian from the donnybrook at the market – that same one whose pantaloons I had untethered, and whom Ignacio had identified as one of his tormentors – departed on foot and in my direction. I drew back and watched him pass, and then I set off in pursuit, keeping my distance.

He headed toward the row of shops I had observed in my explorations, perhaps meaning to visit the tavern close by; and in the dark alley behind the shops, I saw my chance. I sped my pace, approaching closer – and then, only a few paces from where I meant to strike, the rogue heard my step and turned. His eyes widened in recognition even as I leapt forward, hands outthrust to grapple and choke him. He leapt back from me, hands reaching to his belt for his pistola – and he stumbled over a pile of refuse on the ground, trash brought down by trash. I was on him before he recovered, and struck once, twice, thrice, once into the hollow under his right arm to stop him using his weapon on me, and then to the throat and last to the temple, which incapacitated him.

I took his pistola – ‘Struth, these dogs do grant a veritable armory unto me! – and dragged and shoved him, groaning and coughing, into the deeper darkness of the alley, where none would disturb us. I found there a large metal box, on wheels, which reeked of filth; apparently a receptacle for rubbish and kitchen leavings. I observed that it had short metal poles, like spars, outthrust from the uppermost corners on one side – and that these were very nearly the same distance, one from the other, as my foe’s widespread hands.

Perfect.

I introduced his brow to the metal box – twice, as the first meeting did not make a sufficient impression – and then drew my boot knife. I removed the rogue’s shirt by means of the blade, and cut the cloth into two long pieces. Then I tied his wrists to the two poles, with his face pressed against his new and odiferous acquaintance, and his bare back presented to me.

How I wished then for a cat-o-nine-tails, or even a tarred rope end or cane, but alas, I had naught of the kind; not even my sword, which I had left with my servant’s clothes in a sea-bag borrowed from the Lopezes and now concealed in the shrubbery outside their house. The flat of the blade would have sufficed, though I would not want to sully my new-polished blade with this cur’s flesh.

Fortune provided, however, and I observed a number of wooden platforms stacked on the ground, perhaps something meant to display goods at market, though they were rough-made and dirty. They might be used as on a ship, where we place bags of flour and salt and the like on raised wooden platforms to ensure that seawater does not ruin the dry goods. Any road, they were constructed of a wooden framework to which were nailed wooden laths – and those would do just fine. I broke one free and swung it through the air to get its feel.

My man began to regain his wits, then, and some amount of spluttering and cursing and threats emerged – the last rather laughable, considering our relative circumstances. He was still too stunned to test his bonds, though I would trust my knots against his outstretched arms for as long as I needed him held; still, ’twas time to be getting on. I took a moment to remove his headscarf, from which I fashioned a gag against his impending cries.

Then I pronounced his sentence. “For every mark you left, with your coward’s boots, on Ignacio Lopez, you will bleed. And another stripe for every mark your cursed mates left on Juan Lopez, too. We will set the number of lashes, then, at one hundred.”

He grunted in surprise when I began.

He was screaming against the gag when I had to replace my lath, which broke after thirty.

He was unconscious before sixty.

He received the full number, nonetheless.

I left him there tied to the metal box with his back awash in blood, for his mates to find. I retrieved the bike, and then my seabag, and then I rode to the Glass Palace. I crept beyond the darkened house to the strand and my redoubt, where I have kindled a small fire on the seaward side, eaten the bread and cheese from House Lopez that I had in my bag, and now I complete this log. Now to bed: and I shall sleep well.

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Log 22: Taking a Dip in the Ocean of Time

Captain’s Log

Date: 7th of July in the year 2011

Location: The Glass Palace

Conditions: At heart’s ease, but with blood high and passion enkindled.

 

Since last I was able to keep this log, while waiting for Maid Flora to return home for our parlay and then in the minutes before we departed for the disinterment, there have been developments. Now I find myself once more at the Glass Palace in the Matheson Preserve, and now I am in the employ of the Enchantress, Lady Elizabeth Cohn. And I am at war.

The recent course of events began with our quest to recover the mortal remains of one Manuelito Nieves, known as ‘Lito to his fellow Latin Lions. ‘Struth, it did seem like a fine stratagem at the time, howsoever gruesome it was.

There is truly something unnatural in digging up a corpse. Even if one has the finest intentions. In my nineteenth year, back in the Ireland of my birth, my cousin Conor O’Malley was taken by the damned English and hanged as a cattle thief. He was guilty, of course, but only of the crime of being Irish and hungry. Any action which follows from that may be forgiven, but will surely not be if ’tis English mercy one seeks. The English threw his body into a shallow and unconsecrated grave outside the black and infernal prison where stood the gallows, and so his brothers Steven and Brian, along with myself, must needs creep under the watchful eyes of the English bastards standing watch on the walls of the keep, to bring Conor to a proper kirkyard for a burial that would grant him rest, rather than the everlasting torment granted him by the English, may all the curses ever cursed light on their black souls. But when we began to dig, even though our hearts pounded with fear and excitement with the thought of the English nearby and the blood that could be spilled if we moved too quickly or too loud, the overwhelming feeling when the shovel bit into the earth was one of wrongness. I wanted to apologize to Conor, and to the earth that held him, and to all the ghosts and spirits and gods that roam the aether all around us, even though I knew our intentions were just. I knew, and Steven and Brian knew as well, that this – this was something one simply does not do.

And here we went, the Lopez brothers and sister and I, to do it once more, and the same feelings all came along for the cruise. Though discomfited by our purpose, I was somewhat gladdened to be returning this man ‘Lito to his shipmates. He was a rogue who died honorably and was treated honorably by his foes, with words of prayer spoken over his interment; but nonetheless, a man should never be placed in the earth by any but his kith and kin. Even rogues have mothers, and should feel the tears shed over them by such, instead of gruff words spake by reluctant tongues. Enough that we took his life: we should not steal his fare-wells.

Maid Flora assured us that the Enchantress was away from her Palace; she was, it seemed, a lawyer, and thus frequently in distant cities to attend to the needs of her clients. At first I was somewhat aspraddle that a woman could be in such a profession, but then I bethought myself of my own mother and her strength of spirit and of mind, how she has led the clan ably for all of my life; then I recalled a lawyer’s need for deception and artifice, and how that is not foreign nor even difficult for most women, and I understood. I was not for a moment surprised that this world, so strange and complicated and absent of any reason or sense, would have a wealth of opportunities for lawyers, nor that the resultant lucre could purchase a Palace. We paused outside the Palace’s gate while Flora proceeded in to confirm the Enchantress’s absence, and then we three, Juan, Ignacio, and myself, brought their beast-wagon as close to the spot as possible. They revealed a small cargo-hold in the rear, lined with a strange shiny cloth – it looked to me like sailcloth, though it was a blue bright enough to shame the sky, and had that strange wet-seeming sheen that I have observed to be most popular and beloved amongst these people (Truly it brings one to wondering: have they never heard the wisdom that not all that glitters is gold? Do they care nothing at all for aught that lies beneath the surface? Sure and their possessions would say: Nay.). Juan called it a tarp, and said it was made of “plasstick.” Any road, ‘twould serve to enwrap the carcass – though we had shrouded the man when we planted him, to be sure.

I think I need not record at length the details of that gruesome and horrific chore. Suffice to say that we removed him from the embrace of Mother Earth, that we assured ourselves that he was still recognizable, and was not so rotted as to make the looker incapable of gazing on his features – ’twas I who pulled back the shroud to confirm this, while Juan looked away and Ignacio retched in the bushes – and then we placed him in the beast-wagon’s hold, wrapped in the tarp to prevent corruption from marring the wagon-hold. Then Juan and Ignacio were off to deliver their grisly burden unto the only inhabitants of this Earth who would want it.

Maid Flora made an honorable attempt – limited, as ever, by her insufficient command of my only tongue and my even greater incompetence in hers – to offer me lodging in the Lopez home for another night, but I would not hear of it. This endeavor may have been doomed from the start, and myself inextricably linked with this humble family in the reddish eyes of the Lions – indeed I did fear that to be the case, though I placed responsibility not on any misstep or poor stratagem of ours, but rather on the notable dearth of either perceptiveness, or the reason and sense which nature gave a hedgehog, on the part of our adversaries; but if our attempts were to prove futile, still I would not be so foolhardy as to give the cads a single target encompassing myself and five innocents. I refused her kind offer, though I did allow myself to be cajoled into surrendering my finery for laundering in her capable hands, my best alternative to this being wearing shirt and vest and breeches and boots while bathing in the cove. These items were in certain need of unfilthing, owing to the soileous nature of my activity this day, a perspiratious fight in hot sun and an unearthing of a rotting corpse and its consequent enearthing of mine own carcass. She offered the Palace’s bathing facilities, as well, but I told her I preferred the infinite clean water of the ocean rather than stewing in a tub full of my own filthy skin. I accepted a robe and loose drawers for the nonce, being assured of the return of my finery within an hour’s time.

Thus did I find myself swimming naked across the blue water of the Palace cove and back, across and back, glorying in the salty taste and pure smell of that water, scrubbing myself with handfuls of white sand and sluicing clean liquid over me to wash away the stench of combat and corruption. ‘Twas relaxing to such a degree that I would swear the water in this cove had wafted here, driven by current and wind and tide, straight from Ireland, solely for my benefit. When this fancy struck me, granting a laugh and a smile, ’twas followed shortly by another cogitation: this water could even have come to me from my native time – for was not the ocean now the very same ocean then? Was not the earth that held it and the wind that drove it – were these not the same, then and now? Perhaps this breath of air, that splash of water – perhaps they began when I did, and have circled the world entire an hundred times, only to waft here, to me, and be the balm I most need. My heart was much eased by this thought. My people I have left far behind me: only bones and dust mouldering in the Earth remains outside of my heart and memories; my country, my struggles, and my enemies are all lost to time’s changing course. My home, my possessions, all that which I coveted and longed for, the world over – all this is passed, now, passed and past.

But this good Earth, this clear water, this soft wind and bright sun, the lovely glimmering of stars and moon in the sable velvet night – those all remain to me, all familiar, all mine, as much as ever they were. My Ireland is gone, but the Earth is still my home, and I am welcome here.

My bath and gladdening ponderations done, I was glad to accept my finery and a hearty plate of food and drink from my kind friend Maid Flora – once I had covered my nakedness with the borrowed robe, to be sure. I made much first of the snowy whiteness of my shirt, the pure crimson of my vest and the deep black of my pantaloons, all as bright as new cloth and without a hint of mark or stain. They smelled of flowers, too, which was an additional kindness; one thing I will say of this time and place, it is strangely perfumed: the stench of the beast-wagons is as noxious as any bilge or city sewer I have encountered, yet the people and their clothing are almost miraculous in their clean, lovely aroma, without whiff of sweat or the stink of sickness anywhere. I could not be quite as complimentary of the food, though it was a satiating repast, to be sure; still, I could not understand why she did not simply give me a proper hunk of bread, slice of meat, and lump of cheese, rather than assembling them all together into this thing she called a sanwitch (Perhaps San Huiche? Her accent makes a literate rendering most difficult.), combined with a piece of green leaf I had rather she fed to a cow or pig and then given me the cow or pig, and some sauce she called moose-tard which I would fain have removed, except it covered the strange taste of the bread, which was rather off-putting. She did give me a bottle of ale to wash it down, which was most welcome. When I had finished, I bade her back to her maid’s duties, though she assured me laughingly that her day was most often idle, as the Enchantress was rarely at home and even more rarely demanding of any especial service; Flora was most complimentary to her kind mistress, and grateful for her employment here. Once she had left, I took the time to clean my boots, polishing them with the tail of my borrowed robe, before I returned to my proper attire.

Then I moved out to the end of the strand, to the redoubt constructed by that capable traitor Moran – a refuge as yet undiscovered by the Enchantress, it would seem and was surely to be hoped – and lay down for some rest. The clean sea breeze and warm sun, both contradicting and complementing one another, made for a most wondrous atmosphere, made only finer by the shade cast by the dense greenery. I slept for some hours, my head pillowed on the robe, and woke most refreshed. Maid Flora had supplied me with a small bottle of clean water, made of some strange clear material far more flexible than glass, which I drained and put aside, intending to refill it from the Enchantress’s terrace pond, once darkness came to cover my movements.

For I had determined that, for the nonce, this was to be my berth. I could ask for no better bed than the sand and soft pillow-robe, no better blanket than my own clean and flower-scented finery, no better security than all-concealing forest and the ocean on three sides, no better safety for my new friends than my own disappearance to this place unbeknownst to the Lions, and our hopes placed on our plans to sever our ties. With the kind Flora to give me sustenance, and the loving embrace of constant and eternal Nature to give me peace, I was as happy as I could be, thrown out of my time and off of my ship.

Rested, refreshed, and revitalized, I had to see to my last necessity then: my armament. I had a honing-stone in my pocket, and I gave my boot-knife a brief polishing to return its fine edge, and then I turned to my new sword, the aptly-inscribed Blood, Death, and Liberty – apt for in shedding the first, it had prevented the second and preserved the third, at least for now. The fine white sand brought a proper color back to the slightly tarnished steel; I would remember to beg oil from Maid Flora to protect the blade’s surface properly. Then I carefully and meticulously honed the edge to a razor’s sharpness.

My blades thus seen to, I turned to the greater puzzle: my guns. I was now in possession of three pistols, my own recent purchase and two taken as spoils of battle. The pair of looted weapons were similar to each other, but unlike mine own: mine had a round wheel-piece, set side-to and pierced with six holes that held shot, if that’s what the amm-owe I had purchased was intended to be, yet I could not find where the powder and wadding were to be placed around that shot. But as an experiment, I placed six of my new-purchased brass-ended shot-thimbles into the holes, closed the pistol and then pulled the trigger, aiming idly at the bole of a tree – and I was rewarded by a sharp report and a hole appearing where I had aimed. In amazement, I opened the weapon again and found a mark on one of the brass thimbles, as if someone had taken hammer and awl to it; upon removing it, I found that the thimble was now hollow and empty, the interior blackened and smelling of spent powder; the round tip was gone, presumably now residing in the tree.

I realized that the amm-owe thimbles are cartridges, not unlike canister shot for ship’s cannons. They hold the ball in place, and contain the powder, as well. The spark is made with a sharp strike of metal on metal, much like a flintlock but even simpler. Most amazing is that the weapon seems able, owing to these cartridges and the wheel mechanism, to fire six shots without reloading. Six shots! I was stunned and amazed.

And ready to find those mutinous blackguards who stole my ship and give them what-for.

The pistols looted from the rogues in the market were much like that we had taken from their dead shipmate. That weapon had proven most mysterious to us, with its trigger that would not pull and its unfamiliar shape and mechanisms, until Kelly, who had had its keeping, had thought to ask Shluxer about its use. Shluxer had called it a Nine-mill O’meeter, had showed us how the small lever which, when pressed, revealed a minute red dot, was called a Safety, and would lock or unlock the trigger and firing mechanism. He showed us how to remove the box of shot from the handle, what he called “bullits;” I had not been watching his demonstration carefully enough to identify them as being akin to my amm-owe shot-thimbles, though I recognized them now, in examining my looted pistolas – and how to handle and fire it. We had scoffed at the thing then, with its quiet sound and the weak recoil of its firing, almost without fire or smoke compared to a proper powder-and-shot pistola, but Shluxer assured us it was sufficient unto its purpose. I presumed these two would be as well, and I made a place in my sash for all three of my shooting irons.

The sun was setting, then. I returned to the Palace and refilled my bottle; Maid Flora appeared, having seen me from within, and at my request brought me a proper loaf of bread (the which was still largely tasteless and strange, as if uncooked but rather allowed simply to stale to some hardness above that of dough and below that of proper bread) and a lump of cheese, three good pickles and a bottle of ale. I assured her my needs were well-met and I would not disturb the Enchantress, who was due to return soon, and then I bade her good-night and returned to my redoubt. I supped, dipping bare feet in the cool blue water and watching the waves ripple to me and away again, the eternal heartbeat of the ocean, writ small on this shore and large on another where waves crash against rocks with the roar of thunder, but always present, never-ceasing. What need have we of God? If thou seekest something infinite and eternal, and spellbinding and breathtaking in its glory, its generosity and power, its boundless gifts of life and the pure hell of its rage – look no further than the ocean.

I watched the water until it was no more than reflected starlight sparkling on a field of black, and then I lay down once more and slept well. I dreamed of home.

 

*****

 

I was shaken out of my sleep, and sprang up, bared blade in hand, before I recognized Maid Flora in the gray light of early morn. Tears streaked her cheeks and fear hollowed her eyes, so I did not need to wait for her broken English to explain why she had come for me. Still, once I calmed her slightly, I learned somewhat.

Our plan had not worked. Juan and Ignacio had suffered the wrath of the Lions, and had been beaten savagely. A kind neighbor had gathered them from the street and brought them home, where they lay even now, delirious and in great pain and risk of death. Flora feared the Lions would return again, seeking my humble self.

But I would seek them out first. And they would learn that Hell itself hath no fury so black as that of an Irishman.

And no Irishman wreaks vengeance half so terrible as doth Damnation Kane.

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