Come morning the demoted captain was still doing helmsman’s duty diligently. No one objected. As long as Clark showed no signs of fatigue that might endanger the ship, he could sulk up there all he wanted. As far as the crew was concerned the mutiny was ended. Black had won his command. He would take the eagles down the pirate’s road, while in Clark they’d still have the best navigator and pilot among the caribbeans’s criminal outfit.
Only four persons on the Aquila actually wished the erstwhile captain dead: Viviane, for revenge, Perry, who believed that a clean cut would prevent future complications and Freddy, because he wanted to see an execution. Four out of a hundred and fourty would not have caused problems, normally, if not for the fourth being the Captain, Black Garcia. Black had taken to hate his former friend with a passion that seemed out of proportion to the veterans among Clark’s eagles.
Knowing this, Clark could not cling to hope as he could cling to the the steering wheel. All the while he and Jarundo were watching the pirates practice close-quarter combat on the maain deck. Garcia was wielding Clark’s sabre and it wasn’t the only item he had claimed from his predecessor. The never really dry wood under his naked toes reminded Clark of the fine shark leather – boots he had owned until yesterday. For reasons know only to himself and Jarundo the pair taken from him would end up in Vivianes posession or in that of men built as lighly as Migdet Mike and Doc Harris.
“It´s a small miracle that they did not share the rest of my stuff among themselves, too”, Clark mused.
“Do you think you can still sway their attitude? You know, though you may not have friends, the pirates consider you fun to have around at parties – or when you mock the enemy instead of us, for a change. I do not think you are hated.”
“That would be an even greater miracle, Jarundo. Those men are like wolves, they instinctively follow the leader, right or wrong.”
The indian nodded gravely. He understood people far better than Clark could ever hope to. On the other hand, the missionary that ran through his veins now, had spoken about hope being one of the three prime virtues, along with love and faith, and none of those needing any kind of proof backing them up. You just… sort of stubbornly decided to feel them.
The two friends continued watching the training in silence.
“Garcia always fought against his rapier rather than with it”, Clark spoke up after a while. “But my sabre won´t be of even less use to him. He never understood his blade as a sword. His is a fighting style derrived from fencing.”
“Am I standing next to Clark the shark or your uncle Rupert?” Jarundo snorted. “What Black is doing down the is far from textbook, that´s true, but he´s a dangerous opponent!”
“Black´s unmatched in a brawl, even against armed opponents, but only so-so with weapons”, Clark retorted.
“Hm. Say, eagle, when would like him to realize that? Facing one of us, like me or Whipcrack, or in real melee, when his defeat will be the death of all of us?”
“That depends. Will you set out with the Aquila again after Black is done with me in Barbados? No? Then the latter option.”
Jarundo nodded. He had expected no different answer.
The hours were slowly crouching, as was the Aquila.
“We are gaining no miles!” Whipcrack yelled. “I swear, Clark´s tricking us!”
“Come up here and make as much wind as you are doing down there!” Clark shouted back. “Perhaps then the sails will start bulging again! I cannot turn the Aquila any differently to the wind if we wish to move at all!“
“Do you even want her to move?” the quartermaster threatened. “It´s your final voyage, after all!”
That was too much for the proud ex-captain. He teared into the rudder, once, twice, thrice. The heavy wheel creaked and the Aquila performed a half-turn. Nearly everyone down at the main deck, sea legs or no, stumbled and some of those that kept their footing, went down together with those who didn’t and tried to grab their neighbors to steady themselves.
Whipcrack caught his footing quickly. He ran up the stairs leading to the helm, his namesake-whip brandished. Up there, however, he almost ran into Jarundo´s cutlass.
Werner´s choice of weapon told the carib indian that their shipmate wasn´t intend on killing anybody in this confrontation. Nevertheless he held his grip on the cutlass firm.
Garcia´s quartermaster gasped: “Heaven above, I’m not your enemy, Jarundo! All the saints can testify that I tried to warn your friend days before the mutiny! But he did not understand! Clark thinks himself so smart, but he never understood anything! If only he had listened more carefully! Taken the slightest interest in the goings on at his ship! But what are we to him? Certainly not persons in our own right…”
“And the sky is my witness that you can tell all of this to the angels, if you take just one more step towards him!” Jarundo replied.
The dutchman nodded. Before he turned around, he said: “You´ve made your point. Just do not expect the crew to elect you to second quartermaster with this attitude of yours.”
Whipcrack returned again to relieve Clark of his helmsman duty when it was time for him to determine the Aquila´s position. Severly tired Clark shot the sun. He had to pencil down the needed calculations to get them right. Since the mutiny the man had taken only a few cat-naps, none of them really refreshing. But still, when Whipcrack told him to get some real sleep, Clark answered that he could not. The thought of an election going on aboard his ship would only give him nightmares…
In the first heated moments of the mutiny Captain Garcia had gotten away with naming Whipcrack Werner his quartermaster. But the Aquila had always had two leutnants and the crew wished to stick to that. The men would choose Whipcrack´s vice-quartermaster themselves, according to pirate tradition. The election was over quickly and everyone cheered the well-liked Hank Straight when he came out as the winner.
The young man started his career with unfazeable optimism: “Do not let your friend do anything unchecked” he told Jarundo, just to see how it felt to give an order. The older pirate felt something like regret for what had happened the day before in Hank´s voice.
Over Straight’s head Jarundo fixed his gaze at Black Garcia. The newly appointed second quartermaster quickly dodged away from the duel of wills, taking it on his own to escort Clark from the quarterdeck to his cabin.
Not breaking eye-contact, Garcia took a few steps towards Jarundo.
“Is there really need for us veterans to tip-toe around each other like tomcats when their bitchs are in heat?” he challenged the shipmate.
“Clark was your friend, too, captain”, Jarundo answered, wisely ending his sentence with Black’s new title. “What has changed? Why…”
“This is not about something Clark has done, but rather what he is“, Garcia cut short Jarundo´s question.
An uneasy presentiment dawned in Jarundo. Should the captain have uncovered what Clark had managed to hide so well all those years? But how? And why Garcia, of all people?
The captain took from Jarundo´s expression that he was not the only man aboard who knew the secret.
“I see. He´s told you.“
“No, he didn´t. I found it out on my own, shortly after I joined the crew.”
“And you kept it a secret, because he had cut you from the gallows. I understand.”
The carib indian nodded.
“How exactly did you find out, Jarundo?”
“Well, not by rumaging through his drawers. But it was pretty obvious…”
Again Garcia cut short Jarundo: “Indeed! It is in his gaze, in the way he´s walking, in his bearing, in everything he says and how he says it! You just have to read the signs. But I fell for the charade, as did all of us. Say, it´s not what one expects, right? I mean, they usually give themselves away pretty soon. Not so Clark. But on Escapio Domingo he made the crucial mistake.”
Jarundo remembered the occasion well. On Escapio Domingo Clark had rejected the english lady, who had made Garcia her bedmate in turn…
“Are you going to tell the others?” he asked in a low voice.
“No, I don´t think I will. Word could get around and spoil the bounty. Worse: whoever we sell him to might decide to let him live. But let Clark believe I would tell the whole world!” The new captain laughed hoarsely. “Going through his clothing chest! No, even Clark isn´t that thick to maintain a keepsake of the crown! He knows damn well that officers are first to go overboard in a mutiny!”
Jarundo did his best to turn his face into a mask of stone at these words…
Clark allowed himself four hours of sleep before he straightened out his nautical charts on the table in the captain´s cabin. Only that it wasn’t his alone anymore. The navigator had to share his living space with whoever was assigned to keep watch over him.
“Nice. Colorful”, Christopher commented. Together with Miget Mike he was loitering in the cabin, watching Clark do his magic with protractor, ruler and a bunch of tables.
“In my time the rabble would not have been allowed to the oficers´ cabins or the quarterdeck”, Clark commented on the seamen´s presence when Jarundo entered. “And now indians, too? What’s the world come to!” He smirked, then motioned for the newcomer to find himself a space to sit down.
However, Jarundo had other plans: “Out!” he bellowed at the younger pirates.
After the two had left, Jarundo flat out told his friend: “Captain Garcia knows your secret.“
Clark raised his head, eyes narrowed, lips pressed together tightly.
“I was”, he eventually replied, “doing a good job forgetting it myself, you know.”
Clark leaned back, playing absent-mindly with the protractor in his hand. Then he spoke again: “Naturally that makes it impossible for him to comply with my leadership. This is why he wants me off the ship, too?”
Jarundo confirmed the guess: “Yes. Because on Escapio Domingo he realized that you were an english naval officer once.”
Their eyes met. Then Clark laughed out loud!
“It really took him that long?! I mean, it was obvious when we raided Eleuthera and I raised the english flag over the place, was it not? And that was even before your time with us!”
Jarundo joined into the laughter.
“The military and me, well, that´s a long story that can be told in a gratifyingly short manner”, Clark said. “We were in the middle of a battle, my men lay in their own blood and not nearly enough spanish blood had flown. Out of the blue a shabby blockade runner joined the scene, signaling to cease the hostilities on the crown´s orders. Both crowns, actually.
I took the only possible course of action: Ignoring the message, sinking the enemy ship and making my escape as not having to face court-martial. That´s how I became a… well, yes, a pirate. But I turned to privateering soon as I could.”
Jarundo had never before heard this story. It did not surprise him in the least. There was no peace with the spaniards in Clark’s eyes.
Someone else had listened in from the other side of the cabin door: Midget Mike and Kid Christopher.
“My ass! Officer!” Christopher exclaimed. “That means… that means… that means Clark´s a nobleman or something!”
“I´d say ‘or something’”, Mike grinned.
But the rumour was born and could not get silenced again.
Ship´s cook Tom Fishfry was tapping yet another beer, offering it to Viviane. The woman needed all the aid she could get to get over her defeat in the recent election.
Black Garcia had promised her the rank of second quartermaster! Her! Had she not been the only mutineer brave enough to actually stick a weapon against Clark´s back? But, no, that wasn’t good enough to get voted for. Hank Straight was probably considered cuter or something. Garcia had not even granted Viviane the post of chief gunner. “If anything should happen to Brady, and I don´t care what or how”, he had made a new promise to her, “then you can fill in.”
Tom nudged Viviane.
“Did you hear, lass? About our Clark being a noble born gentleman?”
“I have trouble picturing it”, Viviane murmured. “A soldier, yes, that much he never made a secret of, but not an officer. Has he not stolen his first ship from the english? You know he has, Fishfry. And there´s spanish blood said to be running in his veins, too.”
“Clark is half a spaniard? Strike me with lightening! Wouldn´t that be…?”
Viviane shrugged. “I don´t care.” She gulped down her beer, wiped the foam off her mouth and added: “He´ll be a goner soon anyway.”
“Just because!” Fishfry stressed his point. “It´s time for a mighty good legend!“
Located a bit more to the east than the other caribbean islands, Barbados was known as the place where one might think to be in the New World no longer, but once again back in England. On the shores of Barbados young Clark had set foot in the New World for the first time and now it would become the place where he would have to lay down his life.
The island was already in view, and those who had been to Barbados town before thought they could make it out on the edge of their vision. But before the Aquila could eventually sail into port there, young Alfred cried out in the crow´s nest: “Sheeeeeeeeep! Coming into vieeeeeeeeeew! It´s the englishman!”
“Heave to! Set a course to intercept them!” the captain shouted.
His helmsman, Clark, had already innitated the maneuver after he had identified Fred´s “sheep” as “ship”. Rather then unquestioning obedience in this case it was more like a little rebellion.
“Arrogant officer-scum”, Perry remarked. “Even the devil does not want them. We´ve got to sent them to hell singelhandly to make sure they end up where they belong!”
The english ship, by name of Plough of the Ocean, was approaching the Aquila innocently. It kept the eagles under the impression of being intend on nothing else than exchanging news with an ally. Then it happened almost too fast to follow and suddenly the Aquila was facing a full-scale boarding troop!
The Plough of the Ocean withdrew, leaving the field to her marines. And none other than the envoy was leading the soldiers into battle!
“What´s this supposed to mean?” Garcia screamed. “We are carrying an english Letter de Marqe! Keep your fucking Civil War east of the Line where it belongs!“
“Not you are in posession of this letter, but Captain Clark”, the envoy shot back. “But your ship´s bell has been moved from it´s place at the quarterdeck to the bow and that tells me that the Aquila is a pirate ship. I am forced to assume that Clark is no longer in command.”
Obviously the man had informed himself well about his contact before setting off to the caribbean, if he did not even consider that Clark could have turned to all-out piracy.
Garcia cursed under his breath for giving himself away so thoughtlessly.
“And yet you came to the rendzevous point, Captain Black-of-beard”, the english diplomat went on. “To capture me for a ransom, I pressume. But from whom would you have collected it? The french, or one of the factions in the civil war? And if the latter, then which one?”
The english marines and Garcia´s pirates remained content to stare down each other for the time being. Often enough that was how the soldiers earned their pay, something they had in common with pirates. It made them even less liked by the seaman than they were anyway.
Clark strolled down from the helm into the ring.
“Your timing is perfect, Sir”, he adressed the envoy with a broad, sincere smile. “Time to reinstate the normal order to this ship.”
“I don´t think so”, Garcia hissed. “Whipcrack!”
At the command, Werner emerged from the crowd. He seized Clark by his arm, dragging him towards the lower deck. In almost the same instant Garcia lashed out against the english diplomat with Clark´s saber!
“If you prefer it the hard way, all the better for me!” the gentleman laughed. “Why not clear up with the pirate-scum in one go, if it was my intent to capture Clark all along?”
“No! No!” Clark screamed when a bloody battle erupted around him and Werner. But very soon his blonde mop disappeared below decks and with him Garcia´s quartermaster.
Werner did not display the slightest intention of joining the battle after locking away Clark. He stayed where it was safe for the moment while above his head the battle was raging.
“Indeed!” Garcia laughed, locked into duel with the english envoy. “What has my prisoner done to get the government so rallied up against him?”
“Not the House of Lords”, the gentleman answered with a gentle scolding in his voice. “Just Sir Rupert of Gloucester.”
The name rang no bell with Garcia at all. His movements slowed not in the slightest, instead he pressed on his attack. But the envoy was an expert fighter himself. Maintaining a defence that seemed unbreachable to Garcia, shooting forth for the occasional pincer attack only, he kept talking while dueling the pirate-captain: “Clark – has become – too – close – to – Sir Rupert´s – beautiful – niece – in – the – Ouch! Take this! – colonies – but – whoevercaptureshimalive – Ha! Do not rejoice too soon! I´ll get you still! – hasbeenpromised – There! First blood! – the maiden´s hand!”
Garcia decided to remember this information well. He harboured no doubts that his side would win the duel and could profit from what he had heard.
But someone who had been watching the fight from a higher vantage point could not share Garcia´s optimism. Too balanced for her taste the battlefield appeared to this pirate, making it impossible for her to believe in the eagles´ victory as steadfast as her captain did.
The weapons under her command, the swivel gun battery, were useless while friend and foe were swarming at the deck undistinguishably.
Viviane Bridgers hesitated not one second. Deserting her post, she broke into a mad dash. Nobody held it against her. After any battle the women of the defeated party would become very interesting to the winners. Because Viviane knew this well, she jumped overboard to trade a grim fate and humilating end for a quick one – or so it seemed to the casual onlooker.
No loud splashing sound heralded the she-pirate´s end. To the contrary she felt life more intense than most of the time: In the form of pain. Viviane was holding fast on to one of the half-opened gun hatchs. She was aware of every sinew inside her arm.
“Must… pull myself… up there. Mus…st get inside…” the woman groaned, as if that helped her manage this feat. But since she had come down quite hard against the Aquila´s hull, Viviane had to battle not only her own weight, but also the pain.
The hatch opened compelety. A hand and a rather hairy arm appeared. Viviane recognized them and the voice as Whipcrack´s.
Inch by inch the pirate pulled herself up, assisted by her shipmate. When she had clambered through the hatch, not just the dutchman, but her old captain, too, welcomed her there.
“The two of us have been down here for a good while, but I must confess your route had more to offer to the eye“, Clark teased the she-pirate. “The vast, vast ocean, romantic sailships, hungry sharks…”
“While I had to deal with filthy rats in the meantime”, Werner added, kicking one especially sassy specimen of the four-pawed variety away with his foot while the two-legged one spoke.
“Seagull droppings!” Viviane cursed, but not at the male pirates´ words. “I slit my skirt at one of those damn nails! Have you got any idea how hard a skirt is to replace?!”
Indeed a male pirate had an easier time rolling a captive for his clothing when his own was ragged beyond repair. But there were only a rare few skirt-wearing sailors under the caribbean sun.
“It´s just not done! A chief gunner in a patched skirt!” Viviane went on. “How would that look?!”
“If the question is of that much interest to you, I`ll have the enemy gunner dress up in one after the fight”, Clark offered.
“No, you won´t, helmsman”, Whipcrack hissed. “You are no longer our captain!”
Clark shrugged, then rose from the sack of ballast he had been sitting on.
“Let´s get to work!”
Viviane did not let the sounds of battle detain her from her job. Down below among the favourite of her “children” she felt at home. The cannons here were far too heavy for the Aquila´s upper deck. Normally some well placed shots from the four or eight pound guns were sufficient to intimidate a typical trading ship into surrendering. The twenty-pound cannons and the privateers´ pride, one thirty-six-pound gun at each side, only rarely came into play. Those heavy guns were what Clark´s saber had been to Garcia´s rapier: What they were lacking in finesse, they made for up in raw destructive power. And that was exactly what Viviane needed now while Brady was playing with the lighter guns up there.
Working together in a unison practiced over the years, the three of them prepared three guns, one at a time, then took position each at one of the cannons.
“You are going to raze their mast?” Clark inquired.
“No. This is not the time for male boistering“, the gunner replied. “We´ll slam them three shots below the waterline into their hull and that will be do the trick. Now take up positions, men, and do as I do! Sincerely, at this range ´t will suffice to hit anything and you cannot even miss a target that large. Leave the precision work to me.”
Three shots resounded as one. Had the three not protected their inner ears with cotton, the sound would haven deafened them.
“Viviane, really, you are a witch!” Whipcrack murmured apprecciately while pulling out the cotton from his ears.
“No, that was my mother”, the woman answered, stepping back from the hatchs very pleased with herself.
Whipcrack sought Clark´s mimic in the darkness. “Just how serious…?” he started, but Clark only laughed, not in the least interested in an honest answer.
Three direct hits had done the trick, but it took the severly damaged Plough of Ocean a while to sink entirely. Much, much quicker the realisation that they had lost their “home on the waters” dawned to the english marines. Instead of fighting even fiercer, the soldiers allowed their movements to become sluggish. Their fighting spirit sapped they offered little resistance.
They had survived the long and dangerous journey from England, only to witness their ship sink so close to their destination? To fall into the hands of pirates?
The end of the world had been determined long ago in advance by the good Lord, or so the men had been taught. The knowledge that the outcome of this battle depended on their own skill and willpower had somehow fled from their minds. Some cast down their weapons at once, others kept fighting half-heartedly and those that still kept to their sanity were cursing the others under their breath, equally helpless without their comrades’ assistance.
In the end Garcia´s pirates remained victorious in this lopsided battle.
Wasting no time they took captive the surviving mariners, seamen, officers and passengers from the Plough of the Ocean, among them her captain. Every single man meant a good profit on the slave markets scattered all around the New World.
“Deserting crew – nothing unheard of”, Clark adressed the english envoy after the battle, a wide grin on his face. “But your own ship being fed up enough with you to make it´s escape, well, that must be a tough bit to chew on, Sir Bluff of the Ocean! So perhaps now I´m going to sell you to Sir Rupert instead of the other way around, hm?”
Garcia was looking from his former captain to the captive. Feeling strangely elated, Clark pressumed that Black was trying to tell the one from the other all the while working hard not to forget his own name or that of the ship he stood on. But Garcia´s next words sobered him.
“Looks like the devil has sent me a new navigator”, Garcia remarked.
He pointed at the english captain who was held by Hank Straight and Jarundo.
“I don´t need you any longer as navigator, Clark! – Stow him away with the rest of the ballast, Whipcrack, but this time for real!”
Jarundo opened his mouth, but Clark was faster: “Let him play, brother. We both know he´ll have changed his mind by tomorrow or the day after at the latest.”
“What course?” the english captain briskly asked, intent on proving his usefulness as soon as possible. He did not particularily like the idea of serving in a pirate crew, but it deemed him preferabe to the fate that awaited his subjects.
“We were headed for Barbados”, Garcia mused. “But considering that I wish to fleece the english a bit for their wealth… probably Tortuga.”
Chatham Creed raised his voice unbidden: “That´s quite a journey, captain! We need to stock up on provisions before we undertake it. Especially with all those additional mouths we have to feed now.”
A vague hope had risen in the man. If the people of Barbados had taken notice of the battle, and if the governor´s soldiers would intercept the Aquila while she was trying to enter port as had always been her right… If only they’d make short work of the mutineers! Perhaps then everything that had happened during the recent days would vanish like a bad dream.
Certainly there would be mercy for any seaman who sincerely demonstrated the proper remorse for not coming to Clark´s aid or speaking up against Black Garcia during the mutiny? Jarundo, Chips, Chatham and even Hank Straight – they were not talking about it openly, but none of them liked the course Garcia was taking them down. Especially not the young quartermaster, who had hoped to carve out a a solid existance for himself by joining the independant semi-military unit, as the eagles were called in the official documents.
But Captain Garcia´s thoughts seemed to run along the same lines, for he said: “We´ll take our grub from the next ship that crosses our way! And that´s how we´ll make do all the way to Tortuga! And one week later I´ll make my entrance at Sir Rupert´s fine sugar plantation with Clark´s still living body in my tow. Because I´m going to get married!!!”
“One week? But this is not possssss…” the newly appointed navigator started, his last word coming out as “posh” on account of Garcia having stuffed the man his own wig into the mouth.
“Oppose me again and it´ll be your cut off toes I´ll have you chew on!” the pirate captain threatened. “Now do your work!”
In the dark, damp belly of the ship the english seamen and soldiers were held captive. For most of the time the men did not seem to notice each others´ presence, brooding silently all by themselves. Whenever Jarundo, Whipcrack or Straight fetched a handful of them for work, they were given a little food afterwards
The meals brought to Aquila´s ex-captain by Jarundo, however, were in truth the pirate’s own rations. Sometimes the friend stayed for a while.
“It´s not the first time I get to see you locked up or in chains”, Jarundo remarked one of those days. “But usually it´s part of some elaborate plot of ours.”
Clark managed to crack a smile.
“This time I thought to do it the other way around”, he said. “First the chains, then the plan.”
“Ever since the re-unification in St. Kitts Garcia has toyed with the idea of taking over the command”, Jarundo told his friend. “That much he told us. He was never truly at ease with your loyality to England. But only after he uncovered your secret at Escapio Domingo he had a steadfast reason for going through with his plan.”
Clark nodded and Jarundo went on: “Garcia doesn´t really hate you, you know? He loathes what you represent. It´s difficult to explain…” Jarundo paused. The ‘especially to somebody as thick as you when it comes to people’ he left hanging in the air between the two friends, unspoken. Then he started again: “This one Rupert´s niece…”
“Cousin once removed, actually. His late cousin´s daughter.”
“Doesn´t matter! All I want to know is: Is she y…?”
“As you can see”, Clark said, “all we have to do is waiting it all out and have a good laugh in the end.”
It took more than the two days prophecied by Clark, but Garcia indeed had his captive fetched from his cell again.
For many days Clark had not percieved the smallest hint that the Aquila might have engaged in battle with a prize. The larder was emptying steadily and since the same was true for the beer barrels, the pirates´ mood wouldn´t be the best.
Clark squinted into the sun – or rather towards the point where the sun should have stood on his account, but did not. Jarundo allowed the prisoner no moment to pause and re-orientate. The two of them were expected at the quarterdeck where the new navigator had to bear Garcia´s wrath already.
“Well, it´s not my fault if your former captain has encrypted his navigation tables!” the man tried to defend himself. “And those few maps I managed to rescue when the Plough sank, just cannot compare with ones actually drawn in the New World!”
“But even Freddie ought to find Tortuga of all places blindfolded!” Garcia shouted back.
“We have not seen a coastline or other ship for what feels like an eternity”, Jarundo whispered to his friend.
“That´s no surprise considering the course the englishman has set. It´s a hunch I´ve got, that he does not…”
Garcia raised his voice: “Where´s Martinique?! St. Kitts?! San Juan?!”
“Far away, you fool”, Clark answered, then asked the captain: “Garcia, why are we travelling south?”
“Well, towards Tortuga, as you commanded”, the navigator fell in, shrugging. “Soon as we reach the coast of Terra Firma we are going to turn west. It´s safest this way.”
Clark´s suspicion confirmed, he spoke up to all men present: “He´s refering to the Isla de Tortuga. In the Spanish Main. One of at least three islands in the New World that was named after the tortoise. But how is an Oldworldling supposed to know this? When even we heard the rumours of the french Tortuga starting to become a pirate-haven only so recently?”
Captain Garcia let out an angry howl!
“I did not want to sail right into the spanish Mainlands! Who would? This is all your fault, Clark!”
Clark let Black go on ranting. He looked around. The eagles had grown lean and hollow-faced. Days filled with nothing but growing despair were behind them – with more looming before them. Clark had expected nothing else to happen under the rulership of Black´s. Getting straight down to business he asked: “How long will our provisions last and where exactly are we?”
The englishman showed the Aquila´s position in the sea chart while Jarundo went to inquire about the other question.
“The closest port is Trinidad”, Clark thought aloud. “but the spaniards there aren´t that smuggler-friendly as they were in our time… in the thirties, I meant to say. And, as you know, Black, even smugglers rank above a squalid – even above a successful! – pirate.
Well, the next secure port would be Barbados. Provided, of course, word of our little firework with the Plough of the Ocean has not gotten around already…”
Clark asked the english navigator about the weather just when James Perry and quartermasterWerner re-appeared at the quarterdeck. In grave silence the three men gave their answers.
Clark nodded solemnly. “That´ll last you ´till Martinique. French Martinique.”
“What about Barbados?“ the captain demanded.
“A game of chance I would not risk under the present weather conditions, Black.”
Garcia bared his teeth. “Then Martinique it will be! Set a course, navigator! I´m positive we´ve got something that will gain us safe passage in and out!”
The captain pointed at Clark.
“Chain him to the mast, Whipcrack! I want him alive when we reach Fort-de-France.”
Clark said nothing. Would Garcia ever tire of his stupid game, he wondered? Rotting away slowly underdeck suddenly seemed the preferable option to him…
Clark´s forehead and right cheek were rubbing against the wood of Aquila´s main mast. Rarely had the privateer come that close to his ship, even though it was the one of his posessions he was most fond of.
His shackles left the man enough elbowroom to alternate between standing, kneeling and cowering. Clark did not want to entertain the pirates by struggling and so he stood still. Several hours into the torture he learned that forcing him to maintan his discipline this way was what made it all the more fun to Garcia.
In truth, Captain Black did not feel much better than his prisoner. Bereft of any sense of guilt or pity that man was, but he felt his command slipping already and that was what made him sick. His quartermasters were of no help to Garcia. Straight was too inexperienced and Werner had turned out equally unfit. Ever so often when his new position proved too demanding for the dutchman, Whipcrack sought counsel from Jarundo. As Garcia´s leutnant his responsibilities were reaching much farther than they had been under Clark´s command and that was troubling the pirate. Deep in his bones Werner knew that he was a follower, a man for carrying out orders, not giving them. Just like Garcia, Whipcrack could intimidate people quite well, but not really lead them.
But Black Garcia was seeking no advice. He simply could not trust anyone.
Even Viviane and Brady had laid aside their differences for now, watching the new captain together. They came to the same conclusion as most of the pirates: “He was a friend of Clark´s and he´s as bad as him.”
A small minority even went as far as saying that they had been better off with Clark. Garcia tended to use people to his own ends and had coaxed several of them into mutineering by means of false promises. Clark looked down on everybody, but at least, the men said, he had led an open and honest tyranny.
Garcia was standing close to his captive, lost in his thoughts for a good while by now. In his hand he still held a compass, though what he had wanted to check with it had long since vanished from his mind.
The man chained to the mast sneered.
“What are you trying to think about, Black? East is starboard-side right now, but there are three more interesting primary directions. You should be able to memorize them even if you cut off one of your fingers with my saber!”
Angrily Garcia tossed away the compass. Had Mighet Mike not sat on the rail and caught it with a mongoose´s reflexes, the expensive instrument would have went overboard for certain.
Worried and uncertain what was expected of him now, the teenager presented the compass to James Perry. Should the scribe suffer Garcia´s displeasure! He was the wily one among the eagles, after all and be able to wiggle out of anything!
But some of the pirates had witnessed – and laughed at – the little scene and so Garcia ignored Perry, striding over to Clark instead. His fingers bore into the fabric of the man’s black coat. Only Jarundo´s firm grip around Garcia´s wrist kept Black from tearing the garment apart.
“Do not gamble away your place on this ship for a dead man!” Garcia threatened. “Your friend´s due a sound thrashing right now, no matter how much you plead for him! Try to stopp me and it´ll be the last thing you ever did in this world!”
“He´s talking in long sentences, but don´t worry”, Clark told his friend. “It´s still our Garcia.” But Jarundo did not reply. Wordlessly he forced the prisoner into a kneeling postion.
“On his feet, Black”, he adviced the new captain. “Not only is it much more humilating this way, he’ll also be forced to decide between staying on his knees or standing on sore soles… Might be fun to watch and the good lord knows we all could use some innocent fun these days.”
Garcia grinned, very pleased with how things were turning out. So the cannibal had not wanted to challenge his authority at all, but rather demonstrated to anybody´s eyes which captain he was serving now!
Clark, however, let out his breath in a moment of relief. Parts of his body not fit for public viewing would stay covered now, thanks to Jarundo´s quick reaction. A few whip weals on the soles were a small price to be paid for this. Besides, the privateer had endured worse lashings than those even Whipcrack could administer from the spaniards´ hands when he had been a child, had he not? Clark had to cling to this conviction to keep himself from screaming when it began…
Garcia had not really been able to enjoy the ex-captain´s punishment. His thoughts were still circling around the compass incident. The nautical instrument could not help him getting his thoughts straight, focussing them to a single direction. So he had stood there, staring at nothing in particular, completely oblivious to the fact that his physical eyes had still been resting on the compass. Naturally many of the men who had laughed at Clark´s words did not know where east was or why they would have to tell it apart from west. It fell into a captain´s duty to know what all those lines and angles were good for. And however fiercely Garcia wished to immerse himself in nothing else than the lines, angles and curves of the girls from Cayonne at Tortuga island, wishing alone would not get him there. Especially not since the Aquila had been, until a few hours ago, on her way to the Spanish Main…
“That man´s going to spark a full scale muti… rebellion!” Garcia snarled. “He´s got to go overboard!”
“No”, Perry said, reminding his captain of the bounty waiting for them. “We´ve got to offer the french something real good, for them to let us re-supply in their port!”
“Clark would have seized the town, bottled it and put it up on his shelf for display!” Garcia spat. He knew only too well that he did not enjoy the crew´s trust enough to risk such a stunt. The men´s respect as well as the required tactical knowledge he had to gain slowly by means of smallscale ship-to-ship battles. But being told so by James Maria Perry of all men really irked Garcia. Perry, who was either diving into hiding or attacking from an ambush during fights!
Garcia spat out again. Perry didn´t care. He knew how to lead people without them noticing it. The scribe spoke appeasing words to his captain. He even had a useful suggestion and Garcia kept listening. Consulting with Perry instead of the two officially appointed quartermasters felt good. Young Hank was much too friendly with the crew and for Whipcrack his new responsibilities proved more than he could handle. But Perry was there for him as Jarundo had been for Clark, or so Garcia thought. He did not notice how the command of the Aquila slowly slipped out of his hands into the scribe´s. And Perry was secretly chuckling to himself. “Clark or Garcia” just wasn´t the question anymore…
At the end of the day Garcia was sincerely and truly happy. His former captain had finally given him the excuse he needed. Clark had yelled at one the enslaved english seamen to take more care at cleaning the deck of his, Clark´s, ship. Such a tone, even directed at a mere slave, Garcia said, he could not tolerate. For his irreverence the ex-captain was to be executed.
“Since you are standing at the mast already, all you have to do is name the executioneer”, Garcia told his predecessor. “Choose whomever you like – except for Jarundo. You´ve got one glass to decide.”
The pirates spent the half hour making bets about who would be Clark´s second-best friend at the Aquila. Shipwright Chips, an unobtrusive, almost invisible, man despite his size, was topping the list and feeling very uneasy about it.
Eventually Garcia announced that the time was up.
“Well, who´s it going to be?”
That came as a surprise to all but one man: Only James Perry had just gotten a good deal richer from his bet.
“But why in all the world?” Hank Straight moaned.
“She has reason enough to want it – from her point of view at least”, Clark explained patiently. “And she´s the only one here who can aim. A stationary target at seven feet? I´d be more frightened should I have to stand behind the marksman concerning the rest of you!”
“That was the last time you insulted us!” Garcia shouted. “Got a final wish, rat?”
“Yes. Have Brider use a cannon.”
Garcia did not recognize the remark as sarcasm. He only knew that granting this wish to the death-candidate, he´d condemn had his men to slow death, as a cannon shot would have brought down the mast along with Clark.
“So sorry having to refuse”, he said.
The captain gestured for Viviane to step forth. He handed her Clark´s precision flintlock pistol.
When the woman took aim Clark looked up. The sun was sinking into her wet grave already, but the stars kept hidden from man´s sight. They would not dance for him today or ever again.
Viviane pulled the trigger – and nothing happened.
“Missed a bound man at seven feet!” Christopher laughed.
“Thanks for not hitting one of us!” little Alfred added and Fishfry, who had stood right behind the woman theatralically stepped away from this “dangerous” place.
Viviane pressed her lips together tightly. Her male shipmates completely ignored the fact that she had not missed her target – that she simply could not have missed it on account of not having fired any shot at all. For a moment Viviane pondered using her own pistol, the twin of Clark´s, but then decided against it. Again she pulled the stubborn trigger.
This time the shot made more than up for the last one! Powederstench filled the air and splinters were raining into all directions when the pistol exploded!
Viviane cried out. She dropped the sorry fragments of the pistol. Blood was all over her hand.
“Did you think Old Black Garcia predictable?” the pirate captain roared. “Who´s going to live and to die at this ship is mine to decide! Mine alone!”
Aberforth Harris hasted to Viviane´s side. He grabbed her wrist, checking on the wounded hand.
“You could have lost it”, he told her in a whisper. “No, you should have lost it and your whole forearm with it. Luck was really with you today.”
“Yes, I know”, Viviane whispered back. “Whomever Clark would have named – Garcia wanted him to die or get maimed.”
“For me alone it is to say!” Garcia continued his chant. “Lord over life and death!”
No one dared to contradict the man. Non one even found the gut to call him crazy.
Perry clenched his fists, angry at himself for not smelling the rat before it was too late. He had adviced the captain to give the crew a display of power. An empty pistol, Clark perhaps wetting his trousers for fear of death and then Garcia showing mercy along with the “Lord of life and death”- line – that was how the plan should have unfolded. Perry cursed under his breath. He hadn´t told Black to manipulate the pistol. The man was still too independent for his taste.
“Pretend-execution”, Clark murmured. “Didn´t think Garcia knew about it.”
“It was Perry´s idea”, Jarundo explained.
As he had done for so many nights now, today, too, he kept watch after – and over – his friend. The stars were dancing above the two of them. Why should they not indulge themselves in this fashion? They had noticed nothing of the drama playing out down there earlier, after all.
“I watched Black removing the ball and manipulate the pistol, so it had to go boom”, Jarundo went on. “He really had to use all his dexterity, you know? The cheaper models blow up all by themselves…”
Clark was not in the modd to discuss contemporary powder weapon technology.
“You could have warned me beforehand!” he accused his friend.
“I wanted to see your reaction.”
“Did I mention how I despise the recent attitude on this ship?”
“Did you?” Jarundo smirked. “Could be.”
Clark sighed. “And did I pass your little test?” he asked.
“You prayed. Silently.”
“Yes. Please don´t tell anybody.”
Clark cursed. His all-too perceptive friend knew him well. For some reason Jarundo had guessed that Clark had not sent his prayer to his chosen patron, Saint Nikolaus.
“My parents”, he admitted. “I know it is heresy, but you know, people say your closest relatives will come for you when you die.”
“And you wonder what they might think about that life of yours?”
“Hm… I don´t even remember what they looked like anymore. But when they come and I know it again, then I won´t forget it in all eternity.”
Clark did not fear the anihilation of his self after death. He believed. But his faith held no comfort for the privateer captain. He had killed and sinned and enjoyed it many times. In his case death meant eternal condemnation. Clark did not doubt that the devil gleefully would have him tortured by every spaniard he had ever sent him in his life. Some of those were quite experienced at it already.
“Try to get some sleep”, Jarundo said softly. “I´ll think about a way of sparing the poor souls your entrance into the afterlife.”
Come morning Perry and Christopher took over guard duty. Perry had instructed Garcia never to let down his guard where the valuable hostage was concerned and so the captain had tasked him with it.
“You were startled, yesterday”, Perry spoke up. “When you thought Garcia would have Clark shot dead.”
The younger pirate nodded.
“Right. I remembered how I met Clark for the first time, when I was a small boy.”
“Yeah. I admired the ship! It was an older Aquila, and her name I could not read. ‘Is this your ship, mister?’ I asked Jarundo and he answered: ‘I’m sailing with her.’ When I asked him about his name at first I didn´t understand it. ‘Gerraint?’ I tried and he laughed and said: ‘Good enough’. Then I told him I was christened just the same as the island and he asked whether my name was ‘Kidd’. That was shortly after the english had re-named the french town of St. Christophe to St. Kitts, you see.
And then I asked permission to come along, too, and suddenly Clark was standing there. He had just appeared out of nowhere! An´ he wore the jacket of an english uniform and I was just a common boy from an occupied town and was kinda afraid… But he smiled and said: ‘Not this time, lad. When you are old enough to kill spaniards.’. When I heard that, I knew who he was and what the ship´s name was. I reckon they´ve been legends even back then…”
“And now you are sailing with the man who has brought down the legend”, Perry eventually managed to cut short Christopher´s flood of words.
“Yes, that´s even better, I suppose. I wonder what kind of captain Black Garcia is…”
Perry said nothing. He already knew the answer. Garcia was an idiot and a cruel one, to boot. The kind of person wanting to come out on top, but unwilling to work for this position.
But he was also the kind of man who was oh-so useful as a figurehead by those really in power. Clark had known this, too and made use of this knowledge. Clark was a good deal saner than his successor, but to the scribe´s dismay he had never been able to control Clark the way he was doing now with Black.
Clark´s voice. Christopher jumped up! What would the captive want? Perhaps water?
“The fact that you are a lousy person doesn´t negate the fact that you have grown into a capable seaman”, the erstwhile captain said.
Christopher had to unscramble the words at first, then he replied happily: “You are too, Clark! Both of what you said!”
Clark smiled back. There was a kind of bandit´s kinship between them, that left out the scribe. Perry´s face darkened. What did Clark have, that he could easily get from this spindly youth what Perry´s own smooth words could not achieve?!
Clark nestled his face between his arms, trying for some much-needed rest of mind at least, if he could not make his body more comfortable. As a slave boy he had often stood like this for public display after a whipping. Flys had crept over his bare back and mosquitos sucked his blood, leaving his skin itchy. And he had been afraid that some of the crueler overseers would scatter the insects with a few more whiplashes, but never had he had to fear for his life back then. Adult Clark tried to concentrate in Martinique, where, one way or the other, the torture would end.
Oh, how Sir Rupert would love humilating the proud privateer by buying him free from the french! But for this he would at first need to know where Clark had ended up and Black would not play courier for his rival. Into death or slavery again, one way or the other Martinique would be his final destination.
And this concludes „Mutiny on the Aquila“, the first quarter of the tale. I had almost forgotten just how long this exposition was.