The Errant Eagle had a definite destination, the english colonial capital city of Providence. But since arriving at the trade centre with an empty hold made no sense, the eagles aquired some goods on their way there. They made sure to keep their cost as low as possible, preferring the good old “our threats for your cargo” – method of bartering.
Bob Benson regained his shipmates´ favour when during a battle with spanish bounty hunters the Badluck Bait met her untimely end. The rowboat´s hanging in just the right place saved the Errant Eagle from a direct hit that would otherwise have cost several men’s health, if not lives. The more superstitious of the eagles now reverentially evaded Captain Clark, what irked Martin in turn to no small degree.
Bobby did not know what to think about the incident himself, but he immedietaly got granted “command” of a new rowing boat. Since the fateful night the seaman served as cabin steward for the two captains, where he enjoyed their protection. Bob was planning to leave the ship in Providence and start a new life there, a plan Clark and Martin supported.
Jarundo spent less time with his friend than before during this voyage. His new partner occupied most of the man’s freetime. The couple had a good time, thinking of the Eagle’s journey as their honeymoon, and tried to stave off the realisation that their relationship would inadvertantly make them into a family.
The growing friendship between the english eagle and the black dog did it’s own to help Jarundo and Clark become more independent of each other.
For probably the first time in his life Clark had a companion whom he percieved as his equal, someone he could challenge himself against anew every day, but who could also stand next to him in silence for an hour or so and then finish Clark´s chain of thoughts with a single word. He needed the carib indian as his conscience and advisor and the french renegade as his whetstone. Soon Clark could no longer imagine a life without those two – but not every day the two captains´ relationship proved absolutely friendly. There were days when Martin wanted nothing more than tossing the rival overboard. And one day he got his wish granted…
Clark dangled a few man’s lengths above the water, swinging back and forth under the caribbean sun. In it’s heat his throat dried far too quickly and the wooden piece in Clark´s mouth rubbed just like the rope around his body. The rope connected him with the galleon, a rope someone Clark could not see from his position was holding. Beneath him the ocean lay as smooth as glass, broken only where the “Errand Eagle” made her way through the wet element.
“There´s one swimming!” exuberant Marita called out. “Look!”
“So what?” Whipcrack Werner grumbled. “These waters are teeming with sharks. They only get interesting when someone bleeds. Because they become interested in him, then!”
Clark blinked. The privateer captain had not judged Whipcrack capable of even such a simple play of words. His eyes alternated between the leutnant above him, the sharks below and his own fingers which were stained with a red fluid… Then he swang his body closer to the hull. He managed to secure a hold in the second attempt. The crew commented it with loud bawling. From the quarterdeck Jose Peralta was looking down at the man who had taught him everything he knew – the man now dangling so closely above the sharks´ maws.
Now it got complicated. Clark tugged at the rope. It but didn’t give way, so Clark let go.
His right hand now free, Clark raised it up to his mouth to relieve himself from the wooden gag. With his left he drew a small hammer from his sash. One last time Clark checked the wooden panel, then he pressed it against the ship´s hull and hammered four nails into it. When the work was done, he grabbed the rope again and swang himself outward in a long bow. Now the embossed letters varnished red and golden once again proclaimed the ship´s correct name: Errant Eagle.
“Perfect”, the privateer captain thought. “Upwards, please!” he called out to the others and they started towing in at once. “Martin´s not to enjoy his sole command too long!”
Clark got Pierre´s hand, grabbed it and stoot at his ship´s deck again.
“A pity, if you think about it”, Martin grinned. “I was imagining we´d keelhaul you…”
“As you have learned yesterday, a man can survive that, so don´t raise your hopes too high”, Clark retorted.
The victim who had proven this, was in Aberforth Harris´s care at the moment. He was a dutch seaman Chips had taken in as his apprentice and it had been his task to carve a new panel to replace the one damaged in a recent encounter with unwilling trading partners. Only Karsten wasn’t as fluent in the english tongue as he should be for such an endeavour and so the intrepid Knight Errant that was the Eagle had become an errand boy.
Maiming his ship by misspelling her name was enough to forfeit any mercy in Clark´s opinion. The crew had needed little prompting to see things Clark’s way this time. A ship’s name was sacrosanct, and that of a ship so mystically re-named as the Eagle even moreso.
The harsh punishment had earned the dutchman the name Kielschwein-Karsten after he had surfaced somewhat less than whole, but alive, on the other side.
“It means keel-pig”, Whipcrack had explained the name to Freddie. “Remember how I sent you to feed it on the Aquila?”
Only the boy had never found the elusive beast…
“Just you wait! One of these days I’m going to hunt it down and then I’ll be the one laughing!” Alfred had shot back. For some reason his reply served to amuse the adults.
After the little ceremony was finished, Whipcrack continued his argument with Marita: “Really, it´s nothing! You can keelhaul someone right in front of the beasts´s noses and before he starts bleeding, they just won’t give a damn.”
The woman recounted every single horrific tale she had heard about sharks in her life.
Werner contradicted this lore with a story about a very special bath he, Captain Clark, Black Garcia and young Abe Harris had once taken in Dr. Corner´s shark ring. The most dangerous aspect had been for Clark to hide his female shape under her wet clothing and to come up with a good excuse for why he had to wear a swimsuit at all. Whipcrack, of course, could not know this. “Our doc was a mere child back then, but even he knew that there was no danger at all!” the leutnant stressed his point. “And today? Clark could have banged his head, suffocated, swallowed the nails, drowned… but he ran no risk whatsoever of getting eaten by a shark!”
Marita pointed at Clark´s fingers that were still showing traces of the red paint in silence.
“Sharks are keen animals, cook”, Viviane came to her partner´s aid. “They can scent what is real blood and what´s a fake.”
Whipcrack grabbed the can with the red paint still standing around. He lifted it up, ready to spill the contents over the rail. “Shall I show you?”
“That would be a waste!” Chips scolded the leutnant.
In the meantime a number of seamen had made a circle around the argueing two pirates, following their zoological claims and observations with great interest.
“There´s a much easier – and more impressive – way of proving your point”, Clark told Whipcrack. “Whoever dives in right now can swim with the beasts as if he was one of them.”
Jarundo sighed. “I know where this is going to lead…”
“Yes, but for today we are done with feats of courage!” Martin said, when Clark suddenly sat down astride on the rail.
“Feeling envious, because you aren´t the only one aboard with cojones?” he teased Martin.
“What do cojones have to do with anything, if you say there´s nothing about it?”
“If there´s nothing about it, you can as well jump together with me!”
“And why should I, Clark?”
“Hm”, the englishman thought aloud. “Then there is something about the dive, after all, it seems, and you are playing it safe.”
Martin bit back any verbal reply. Instead he slammed his whole fist into the paint can.
“Well, one hand I think I can risk, too”, Clark said lightly. He waved Whipcrack to hand him the can.
Martin undressed fully, his Co-Captain just slipped out off his boots and coat. He rose when the other jumped at the rail and balanced on it next to him.
Marita closely hugged Jarundo. From his position at the helm Jose stared at the rivals who were both his captains. The rest of the crew had started to brawl about the best places at the rail to watch the fun. No one was completely convinced of the endeavour´s harmlessness.
Chatham and Bobby led down two ropes weighted down with iron weights to allow the two divers to climb up again comfortably later.
Pierre held a whistle to his lips. “On my signal!” he shouted. “Jump!”
Martin jumped first and because he was the heavier of the two, he dived in first, too. The warm water engulfed the swimmers. Martin stayed underwarter, while Clark came up to orientate himself. A single back fin could be spottet here and there, but the majority of the sharks went about their shark-dom in a little distance.
“And now for a… what did you call it, Martin? Comparatively unprovoking stance?” Clark thought.
Martin resurfaced. He waved towards Clark, beckoning him to swim closer to him.
“Over here, mate! Ther’s a whole school of your favourite animals here!”
The captains did not notice the shouts of “Oh!” and “Ah!” and the encouraging cheers coming from their friends. Even more than on the predatory fish, each concentrated on the other one. “It´s not good enough just swimming about lazy”, Martin thought. “Clark can do it, too, and has done so before. I must present the eagles with undenieable prove of my courage. A sign of… Hm… A sign? Yes, that´s it!”
Unerringly Martin swam towards one of the large fishes.
Meanwhile Clark had taken, much to his followers’ delight, to dive under one of the sharks and resurface on the other side. Clark had taken caution not to get too close to the fish. It seemed lazy enough, but was of a different, slightly larger, species than Threesee’s specimen. The captain had no experience whatsoever with this variety.
Now he saw Martin paddling by him, right into the direction where he had come from.
Clark´s eyes narrowed. The distance between Martin and the shark was shrinking fast. What was that to mean, Clark wondered? Certainly the other could not…
Clark’s jaw almost sackeded when it struck him what the other´s intention was. Just as obvious was the only result of the intended action… The swimmer raised his head above the water and screamed: “Harpoons! Quick!”
Several man´s lengths away Martin slapped one of the sharks with his hand, to mark him with the last drops of paint still on his fingers. Even the most complacent animal would interpret such a touch as an attack! The shark twitched, and jerked around to the offender.
Martin immediately tried to back-stroke, for he could normally swim faster this way. But no matter what style he employed, to escape an angry shark a landbound hunter´s swimming skill was not sufficient…
And then everything happened very fast. In short succession three harpoons hit their targets and four creatures bled: the shark marked by Martin, that in turn had attacked the pirate, the man himself and a second shark that had closed in on Martin following his touch attack. This fish was dead at once, the first one kept on struggling.
The third harpoon had hit another shark that was swimming with the main group and had not been involved in the commotion so far. One of the throwers on the Errant Eagle had deemed it wise to wound the fish in order to lure away at least a few of the other sharks from their human game.
As was in their nature, the animals lunged at the three bleeding beings. As assumed, the sharks were swarming around the one within their midst first. Those that could not get at it, bit whatever was closest to them.
Meanwhile Clark tried to get Matrin’s attention. He pointed to the ropes fastened to the harpoons. Martin understood. Closing his right hand around the rope of the dead shark, he tried to defend against the still living one with his other hand. Doing so, Martin suffered another bite and screamed from pain.
Clark cut the rope not far below Martin´s hand with his dagger. The harpoon still in his flank, the shark coiled in pain one last time.
Inch by inch Martin was dragged away from the scene towards the galleon.
By now the wounded sharks had lost enough blood to induce a wild killing rage in their companions. So much blood had been shed, that the cloud engulfed Clark´s body, now, too. He made haste to get away from the scene. While one captain swam for his life, the other was pulled out of the water by rope.
The second time today Captain Clark climbed back aboard the Errant Eagle. This time three bodies slammed down beside him. The first was the wounded Martin, the second the dead shark with by now two harpoons in his body. Into this body, that was hardly recognizeable as a fish anymore, Martin’s original shark had sank it´s teeth. Marita beat the still living fish with a club until this predator, too, was dead.
“Good beast“, she praised the shark. “Didn´t I say all along you were anything but harmless!”
Jarundo worked his way through the crowd. Ignoring his friend, he knelt down beside Martin. “What good was supposed to do?” he snarled at the wounded adventurer.
Martin´s face was distorted from pain. He shot Jarundo a puzzled look.
“In what language would you like to hear it, Black Dog?” the leutnant spat, speaking latin. People usually found it strange that a native should be fluent in the the noble church language, but from Jarundo´s point of view there was nothing weird about it at all. Any language spoken by the colonial powers was foreign to him and long before he had heard his first dutch or english words, he had already known the Jesuits and their tongue.
“Is Jarundo administering the Last Rites to him?” Freddie asked.
“Yes, tell me why I should not!” Jarundo challenged the captain. “A final blessing and then over the rail with you again! And your friend Clark after you, too!”
Martin understood only fragments of the latin words. Nevertheless he recognized the name “Black Dog”. What did the leutnant want to communicate to him by means of his former pirate name? Pain and still lingering fear of death kept the man from making sense of it. The riddle was solved only later, when Martin was already lying in his cabin and Clark came out of his own next door for a visit:
Martin lay on his back. His left arm was bandaged, otherwise he felt quite well. All he needed was rest until his body had made up for the blood loss.
“Jarundo´s right, somehow”, the englishman started to speak. “We both have lost our crews. My men sold me to the french and yours left you in La Mancha´s hands at Rio, risking your death when fireing at the Errant Eagle. We do not need another such incident. Jarundo warned me not to split the crew into two fractions, because together we could achieve so much more.”
“But…” Martin groaned.
“Hey! Calm, now, man, do not overdo it yet! I know what you want to say”, Clark grinned. “I also think we need to settle this one day – but the men should not witness our rivalries anymore.”
“Stopp nibbling at your bandages!“ Clark scolded his Co-captain four hours later. “Dinner´s getting served right now!”
Bob had moved a square table to Martin´s bed where the captain throned like an ancient roman nobleman lying at table. Beside Martin’s head Clark sat alone, with Viviane and Werner sitting directly opposite the englishman and Jarundo at the fourth side, waiting for Marita to join him there.
Clark used to dine with guests regularly, as he had seen his old captain doing on the Royal Bride. His guests were recruited from the whole crew, though, regardless of rank.
Usually Bobby Benson was serving the dishes, but sometimes, when she had cooked up something special, Marita demanded this honor for herself.
“And now for the highlight of the meal!” the woman announced. She carried a plate covered with a plate-warmer into the room. Right before Martin´s eyes Marita lifted the plate-warmer, revealing the special treat: “Filet from the shark that bit you!”
“Who brought it down, by the way?” Martin asked. He had payed his rescuer´s identity no attention those hours before.
“Me”, Whipcrack Werner said. “But you are not the only one who is to receive some trophy of my prey.” The dutchman produced a necklace adorned with two shark teeth. “I thought”, he adressed Viviane, “that pirates prefer earrings over finger rings. But an earring reminds one to provide for one´s funeral and that´s no happy thought. So no ring and no earring, either, but this instead. Viviane… will you accept it as a gift from your betrothed and consider accepting a ring from me one day, too? A wedding ring?”
Viviane beamed! When Werner came to the end of his haltingly spoken promise, she bowed her head, so he could place his gift around her neck. While he was doing it, Viviane embraced his body, leaning against his chest. He placed his chin on her head.
“Not ‘one day’. I want to be yours before we set foot on dry land again!” Viviane clarified.
The man slung one arm around his bride. The other hand he balled to a fist, but not from anger, but from fear.
“Clark…?” Whipcrack asked.
The captain nodded. He held out his right hand over the table.
“Rings we´ve got enough”, Clark said. “Choose a pair and have Lipnail Tom appraise it.”
Relieved the leutnant took the hand.
Viviane kept leaning against her partner, but she turned her head, facing Clark. “Thank you…”
“No need! Somehow we all yearn for this gushy stuff, men of steel that we are.”
Whipcrack grinned and Martin, too, produced something like a smile in his pain.
“You know, you did not have to agree, captain”, Viviane went on. “Nothing of what you did for us in the recent weeks you had to do. Everything you called us we really were. Me and Black, and, yes, even my man, we were idiots.”
“I never stated it so directly about Whipcrack…”
Viviane laughed! “You said, Werner had the intelectual potential of a sow from Gibralta after we´ve been there.”
Clark nodded. He had refered to an animal that did not even own a head to think with anymore, on account of turning at the roast as the eagles’ the victory feast.
“Yes, that´s what I sai… wait! You mean to tell me he understood it?!”
“Er, yes”, Whipcrack grumbled.
“A few weeks ago in Wilhelmstad´s dungeons!” Viviane exclaimed.
“I guess we were idiots, fools, pigs and all this”, the leutnant admitted.
“And I was your leader”, Clark laughed. “The biggest idiot.”
“And now you are smart idiots”, Jarundo remarked. “A real improvement…”
The privateer captain joined in the laughter. His intellect could gain him victorys, not friends. Other qualities were needed for that. But those assembled in the cabin wanted to be his friends, even if their friendship was showing strange facettes sometimes. Martin raised his cup together with the others, because he was part of their comradeship now, too.
Only a few days later the engaged couple was standing in front of the Errant Eagle´s captain – or at least in front of the one of two captains that Whipcrack and Viviane knew for about a decade. A rogueish gleam in is eyes betrayed how good Clark felt in his role as faciliator of this marriage. It was one of his captain´s duties that was called for only rarely.
“Two years ago the Code of the Brothers of the Free Coast was passed”, Clark started.
The privateer did not care whether he had called the so-called Pirate´s code by it´s proper name or not, because he felt not bound to it anyway. “One may think about this pamphlet whatever one wishes, but it contains an important paragraph: Every free man has the choice who´s to execute him. Some choose to be shot dead, which is very reasonable, because it´s over quickly and doesn´t hurt. Others insist on binding themselves to a woman. That´s mocking any common sense, but proves courage at least! Werner Riet chose the ball and our chief gunner has some well rounded ones to offer. I´d say she´s also very apt at judging a tube´s quality… so may your powder never dry and your shots fall true, Whipcrack!”
The captain paused to allow for the bride and bridegroom´s and the whole crew´s laughter. Afterwards he continued the ceremony in a more serious and solemn fashion.
It would take time to get used to Viviane no longer to be adressed as “Bridger”, but “Riet”. The woman had no problem letting go of her old name that only reminded her to an unhappy family history.
“Death sentence or marriage”, Perry said after the speech, “one cannot tell what´s worse!”
But though several of his shipmates agreed with the scribe, everybody enjoyed the celebration that followed the ceremony. After all, it wasn´t their own wedding…
The just-marrieds were still feeling uncertain about what had transpired between them.
“We are a family now”, Whipcrack said.
He wondered what that might mean. Of course Werner had always returned to his mother and her new husband as a child, after his father had died. He had been part of the family even after his mother, too, had passed away and his stepfather had chosen a new female companion. The boy – and later the youth – had known how to survive on his own, but having the option of a roof over one´s head was worth owing the relatives some service. A shared hut meant protection, a secure place to sleep, more or less regular meals and even a limited protection from the law. In short, having a family made life easier and sometimes comrade- or even friendship developed between the family members. Or at least it had been so for the Riets, who had always been a close-knit bunch regardless of their blood – or lack of – connection.
In Viviane´s case it had been different. Her father had needed not her in person, but simply a woman in the house, one who did the housekeeping and bore him grandchildren to one day inherit his boats and fishing nets. When Pop Bridger had died, sixteen year old Viviane had hardly been able to drive off the advances of his friends who were wishing to marry her in order to add Pop’s boats to theirs and their semen to Viviane. And so the girl had let be boats and nets and fishes and left her shack to find out who she really was. A few troubled days later Viviane had loved, been betrayed and killed for the first time. She was a witch, she thought, and would end in a fire just like her mother. But then she had met Captain, only a few years older than her, who had offered the young woman her a place on his swimming home on the water along with the chance to actually die in a fire – that of the enemy cannons.
As officers of the Errant Eagle the freshly married couple still recieved their shares independendly. Viviane did not need need to cook and had to clean the deck less often than the lower ranking male seamen. Werner, on the other hand side, would never have to find a job or worry about paying taxes. Their supreme liege was the captain and even though the galleon had two of them, that made things much easier.
It boiled down to Werner´s only actual duty as a husband being to make an heir. By now it was obvious that Viviane was not expecting and so Werner had to make true on his promise not only to raise her children as pirates, but to give her some beforehand.
“Marrying for love… a shortsighted move, they say”, he sighed. “I think we are doing it all wrong!”
“Sleeping together, even though we hadn´t been married yet, was wrong, too”, Viviane replied. “But wasn´t it fun nonetheless?”
And so it was decided and the worried husband could start enjoing the party, too.
“Father married my late mother, but never loved her“, Martin mused.
Around him the pirates danced, roared and drank. Only Clark took his time to – Jarundo noted it with a rogueish grin – listen to the Black Dog´s heartache.
“He was never shy where women were concerned, and I would not be too surprised if I had some half-siblings on Trinidad, but the one who has won his heart, the mother of the twins, is just out of reach for father.”
“What woman might that be?” Clark wondered. “A countess?”
“A negro-slave”, Francois answered. “Big fat Betti she´s called.”
Clark´s Co-Captain tapped himself a cup of beer.
“I say”, he explained while drinking, “even if father sets her free, what is she, then? Still just a maid and no suitable partner for the great Henri de Monet!”
“So he changes nothing, in order not to cause a scandal, I see”, Clark grumbled. “Dooming his own children to a life in slavery.”
“That´s why I´m here” Martin hissed. “To forget. But sometimes I wish to teach them all a lesson!”
No one understood this better than the half-caste Clark, whose parents had payed with their lifes for their liasson not in keeping with their stations. Thirty years later he still wasn´t finished settling the score with the murderers. But Martin´s beautiful, yet so manly, features Clark did not want to see distorted from hatred.
“When the life you dreamed of unfolds in front of your very eyes”, he led Francois´ attention back to the party, “then stay your wrath until tomorrow, Martin. For tomorrow we could have to fight again.”
The only one “fighting” the next day was Marita the ship´s cook. In full concentration the woman looked over the barrel of Jarundo´s musket. She was aiming at the stilt-legged red birds that populated the small islands around Providence. Nearby the two-legged predator birds, the eagles, enjoyed themselves on the beach. Only a few dared venturing deeper into the island´s interior. Though the place could be crossed quickly, sailors were strangers to it’s dangers and wisely kept away from the hills and forest.
“You´d like one of those birdies, wouldn´t you?” Clark teased the cook.
“I´ll have one soon enough!“ Marita rejoyced. She pulled the trigger. Startled by the noise of the weapon the flamingos dispersed, flapping their wings instead of stalking along lazily. But not one of the birds fell down to relinquish it´s feathers to the woman.
“Damn!” Marita cursed. “I missed!“
“Don´t let it upset you“, Clark consoled the woman. “In the next port I´m going to shoot a spaniard already wearing a hat with flamingo feathers.”
“The next port is an english one.”
“That´s why! No one should feel offended by me shooting a spaniard there…”
“I did not dream about a hat, though”, Marita explained, “but a beautiful stole made of feathers. And in Providence I´m going to buy fine fabric!”
“In Providence, Marita”, the captain corrected her, “you will enter the shop and have offered a glass of wine to you. Then the tailor will call for his journeyman to take your measurements. The dress will be made according to your wishes and the latest fashion. If one of these two changes, you´ll get a new one. This is how it works as long as you sail with me. You won´t have to do needlework yourselves!”
“It´s like a dream…”
“Yes. But the best usually are the shortest, too.”
Marita thought about this. Providence was, as Jarundo had told her, not larger than Wilhelmstad. But now that she was no longer a simple flower-girl, but cook on a privateer ship. Districts the guards would have chased her away from before were now open to her. There was a catch, of course: now men who had simply ignored her existance in the past tended to shoot at Marita…
Clark continued his lecturing: “But as you can see, there are things you cannot even buy in wealthy Providence. The blooms Harris needs for his medicines, they grow best on this tiny speck of land.”
Clark jerked around. “Speaking of the devil… that was Harris!“ he noticed. “What might have startled him like this?”
Seconds later the ship´s physican and Martin appeared from out of the jungle.
“What´s the matter, men? A xilob chasing you?”
Marita had been raised on the fairy tale the natives told, so she knew about thoses giants.
“A Xilob’s eating children only”, she said.
“That´s why I was worried about the two”, Clark replied. “They´ve yet to survive their first year at sea.”
“No xilob”, Martin corrected.
Next to him Harris bend down, out of breath, hands on his knees to steady himself. The doctor could not recall when he had run that fast for longer than five seconds. But he and Martin didn’t seem like men who had fled frantically from a danger, Clark noticed. More like two messengers eager to deliver their news.
“A spaniard”, Martin explained. “On the other side of the island. Headed towards Providence.”
“Warship. Two masts. Brigg or something similar.“
“Nothing that could pose a danger to us“, Clark concluded. “Hurry up everybody! We´re going to intercept them in time!”
“The way they´re fighting”, Viviane Riet panted an hour later, “they´ve either got some terribly valuable cargo or none at all.”
The Errant Eagle trembled under another volley from the enemy warship. While the gunner hesitated ordering to fire again, the spaniard pelted the pirates with heavy stone- and ironballs as well as grape shot. The brigg´s sails were already torn beyond rescue by Viviane´s first shots. But now the gunnery crew was afraid of targeting targeting the hull, as not to accidently sink the spaniards along with their cargo. Won the eagles had not by a long shot, even though the enemy ship had been disabled. The Errant Eagle had still to bridge the distance and while she was approaching, the smaller vessel fired without cease.
Benk stood at the helm, employing every trick he knew to engage the opponent in melee as quickly as possible. The Errant Eagle was still handicapped by the fact that there were hardly enough men to man every position. Viviane was lacking the full number of powder monkeys, for instance. Even though she and Chips had finished installing Viviane´s invention, the gun carriages, the woman´s job was made needlessly difficult.
When the spanish ship finally was within the reach of Louis´ sharpshooter unit, the tides of battle turned in the eagles´ favour. Now it was the trespassers in the english waters, that had to dodge, seek cover and pray.
“We should have went for anihilating them right them from the beginning!” Martin grumbled. “Milking the spaniards is not worth taking all those wounds anymore. The country isn´t as rich as it used to be. They just cannot handle the rivalry with the other colonies.”
“That´s right if you look at the big picture, only”, his Co-captain replied. “Besides, I wish to interrogate them, to find out how much and what exactly Spain knows about Providence´s defences.”
The captains boarded the defeated ship. To his satisfaction Clark noted that the damage the hull had sustained was far from beyond repair. New sails were needed and one mast would have to be replaced, but all in all the spanish ship made a nice trophy. It would fetch a decent price in itself, regardless of it’s cargo.
While the eagles started securing the brigg, their leaders strode towards the captain´s cabin. The two petty officers stationed there moved aside immediately. They had come out of the battle with their lifes, something not all of their shipmates had been lucky enough to. Risking one´s skin without further provocation the winners and the losers alike did not crave.
Clark opened the door.
“We´ve got nothing!” the enemy captain called out, soon as he beheld his opponent. “But if you let us go, we can share valueable information with you!”
“What information might that be?”
“The silver fleet´s route!”
“The silver fleet!” Martin jubilated. He clicked his tongue.
“Tons and tons of silver from a secret mine somewhere in Mexico, ready to attempt it´s voyage across the ocean”, Clark summed up what every pirate knew.
“Far too dangerous a journey”, Martin joked. “It would be best if we took the matter into our own hands.”
The two petty officers in front of the still open door exchanged meaningful looks.
“So this is the secret the capitano kept!” one of them said. The man sought the next-best eagle, to relay to him what he had just heard. “You had losses, too, and must be in need of more men, right?” he asked. “When you are going for the silver, we want to come along!”
Now that the silver had been mentioned, more and more men proclaimed that they wanted to join Clark´s crew: “Yes! That´s better than the drudgery here and the starvation wages!”
The eagles, however, just collected the weapons, unwilling to make a binding promise. They would have to check who they could use – and which of the applicants were earnest in their greed. A spy or saboteur was the last thing they needed in their midst.
In the captain’s cabin Clark and Martin studied the documents that had been entrusted to the spanish capitano.
“They are making quite a fuss”, Martin commented. “Changing ship and escorts several times. And across Cuba the trail´s going overland, even!”
Clark nodded. “They seem to value stealth and deception over a strong entourage. Probably they´ve had some real bad experiences with their soldiers in the years before.”
“Are… you… satisfied now?” the capitano asked, his voice faltering. “You agreed to let us go!”
“Of course”, Clark answered. “But now that the silver fleet came into play, you´ll understand that we cannot just allow you to sail away.”
“What?! You gave your word, Capitano Clark!”
“I´ll make true on it in the next port. That would be Providence.”
The captive´s weepy attitude vanished in an instant, only to be replaced by anger.
“The english will never allow us to leave from there!” he complained.
“Let´s say: Not very soon”, Clark corrected. “But I find it strange, to witness how little inclined you suddenly seem to see the city from the inside. In the past years I was under the impression your nation would like nothing better than occupying Providence.”
Everything that had needed saying said, Clark left the cabin. There was only one final debt to pay.
“Hey, Marita!” the englishman called out across the deck. In his hand he held a loaded pistol. “See any hat you like?”
Marita’s innards tensed up. Clark was about to kill a spaniard she realized. Only one and he´d choose his target at random if the cook did not name somebody. This wasn´t being hard, this was being cruel. Even worse: the eagles liked it, making bets which of the unfortunate captives would be the victim.
The woman turned away from the secene.
Seconds later a shoot fell. It might as well have pierced Marita´s own heart.
The woman flung herself around, about to run back to the Eagle, only to fly right into Jarundo’s waiting arms.
“I’m here, my bloom…”
Burying her face into the partner’s embrace, Marita started sobbing.
“There… there… I’m here…” Jarundo tried to comfort her. Inwardly the pirate was quite pleased with his friend’s demonstration. Marita was still giving Clark dreamy looks from time to time, looks Jarundo did not like at all. Unlike Viviane, Marita had never talked about marriage or trying for baby. She still wasn’t fully convinced of her own decision to be Jarundo’s wife. But if today’s wanton killing did not cure Marita from her infatuation with the captain, Jarundo could not think of anything that would.
“But… but he said he’d choose life!” Marita cried. “And he pardoned the mutineers!”
“Sometimes it’s hard”, Jarundo started.
“What, our life? Of course it is!” Marita wailed. “So why add to it? Jarundo! Why?!”
“Our experiences… memories… They not only shape us in a certain way, sometimes they drive us, even against our better judgement.”
“Because Clark’s mom and dad were killed? He hardly knew them!”
Jarundo nodded. “But if they lived, he’d not have to be an outlaw.”
Though Jarundo doubted very much that his brother would be happy with the alternative of being a female courtier…
English capital city in the New World.
“It´s time”, Captain Clark remarked, “to change from pirate to respectable privateer again.”
The documents from St. Kitts were lost together with the Aquila, or perhaps Garcia had destroyed them beforehand. Even Clark did not have the brass to insist, in case of getting captured, that the enemy captain should sail to St. Kitts first to peruse the copy of his Letter der Marque, that was archivated there. Such a claim would only have sped up his way to the gallows. Fortunately during his career not only the governor of St. Kitts, but also the rulers of Eleuthera and Providence had sponsored the privateer and were willing to continue so in the future.
“Hm, hm”, the secretary of Providence´s governor murmured. “Where have we got it? Ah, yes, here it is!”
“Very good!” The island´s ruler rubbed his hands.
In front of him the captains Clark and Martin sat in comfortable armchairs. They had made smalltalk with the englishman and drank his liquor, something the average licensed privateer could only dream of. Because the civil war had left his mark even here, one could never be sure not to sit down with an enemy. For this reason Louis, Viviane and Badluck Bobby accompanied the captains as bodyguards. The three pirates were locked in a lasting staring duel with the governor´s sentrys.
“And here it is already”, the governor remarked, when his secretary eventually handed over the document. “Your latest Letter de Marque, Captain Clark. We keep copies of all of them, even of the very first from the year 1630.”
“Number two, too? The pamphlet issued to a “Clarc” that would have very nearly cost all of us our lifes?”
“Well”, the governor coughed. “For my part I cannot complain. Carelessness like this…”
“Fraud! With intent!” Clark clarified.
“…cost my predecessor his position, so that I could fill it. And I have the utmost respect for your talents.”
Martin took a mental note of this: Clark’s talents. Not neccessesarily his attitude, too. Bringing the guards wasn´t a mistake…
“I will seal the documents at once”, the governor promised.
“You don´t really believe all you need is renewing the old Letter de Marque?“ Clark exclaimed. “This draft was made before the Gibraltar-raid!”
“I have the feeling you wish to tell me something”, the enlishmen said, piqued. “What would that be, Captain Clark?”
“What he means is”, Martin came to his friend´s help, “that Gibraltar was looking a bit different after his visit. So the logical conclusion is that the new Letter de Marque must look different, too.”
The governor stroked the paper. “Why?“ he asked in all innocence. “Those are good terms, terms we do not offer just any of our licensed privateers.”
“Think up some new ones!” Martin demanded. “Because if you don´t, Providence, too, could look a bit different very soon.”
The pikemen grasped their weapons tighte than before at this remark. The slightest change in their bearing had Clark´s companions shift theirs, too.
“Was that supposed to be a threat, Captain Martin?!”
The black dog waved his hands. “Providence has mightier foes than us that you should worry about, sire. Your city is situated at the very arse of the world, surrounded by enemy settlements, some of them very powerful. The Aquila could bring down small prey for you, the Errant Eagle can do so much more. Your are bying not only Captain Clark, but a full blown warship, a vessel that can, by it´s mere appearance, scare away an all-too cheeky invasion force.”
“You know about cheek, I take it?” the englishman snapped. It did not help him overmuch.
“A pirate´s life is worth not much, right, Governor?” Martin asked in a casual tone.
“Oh, yes, that´s true!”
“In this case I really don´t see why we should bring the sixth part of our booty to Providence, if a smaller fraction is more than sufficient compensation for our sorry hides!”
Within a few minutes Martin had bargained for a duty of one-eights only and started demanding additional perks his Co-Captain had never even heard of. Before Clark knew what was going on, Martin had persuaded the governor to put an earlier date of issue on the document. This allowed Clark and Martin to treat the captured spanish brigg as a legitimate prize instead of having to sell it at the Black Market for far less than it´s real value.
The paper got longer and longer and the governor feared, Martin would not stopp until he had agreed to a bad weather compensation in case the Errant Eagle´s sails should catch fire in the flamestorm that would rage at Judgement Day.
“Am I mistaken or did I understand correctly, that you wish the document to be issued to your name, even though you are mainly advertising the galleon, Captain Clark?” he tried to turn the negotiation in his favour one last time.
“Our names”, Clark clarified and Martin nodded.
“Mister Martin!” the governor gasped. “We are engaged in war with France at the moment. I really can´t issue you an english Letter de Marque! No, that´s completely out of the picture!”
To the englishman´s greatest pleasure, Martin paled visibly. Meanwhile Clark accepted the rolled up Letter de Marque. He noticed the faint flickering of the secretary´s eyes when he started to unroll the paper again. Paragraph by paragraph Clark studied the protective document.
“A nice draft”, he nodded. “Several pages long and in an astonishing clear handwriting… Yes, really nice.” With full force he slapped the paper against the secretary´s chest. “Write it again! This time “Clarke” without the -e!”
The governor grinded his teeth. “I hate literate pirates…”
Employing one or two tricks was expected and part of how such negotiations usually went. The only thing the governor could not do was to reject Clark´s request of a Letter de Marque outright. Captain Clark was too well known to the english navy – and liked by some officers – already. If the governor sent him away empty-handed, questions would get asked, questions there was no rational answer to. Or at least no answer that would not incriminate the nobleman in this way or the other.
“Take your time”, Clark said, taking a seat again. “More wine!” he demanded from a servant. “And bring some for my companions, too, good man.”
The captain drew his dagger and started playing with it seemingly absent-minded. Undoubtly the blade would pierce finger or hand of the unfortunate secretary, should he make a “mistake” again. Of course such an incident would call for a trial, but the judge of Providence was a royalist to his bones, who had helped the privateer in the “Captain Clarc”-case before.
The only consolation the governor and his scribe had in their misery was the sight of Captain Martin´s pale, crestfallen face.
On their way from back to the harbour Clark was humming a tune. Martin recognized it as the one about the Gibraltar-raid. Every stanza started with the same verse, but since each had been made up by a different pirate, the song´s rhythm often varied. Very low the english privateer eventually formed some of the song´s words:
Captain Clark three ships he had
Towards Gibraltar he did race
And thus unfolfed a story so sad
And even the devil couldn´t keep pace…
Martin cut his so-called friend´s singing short: “You planned it!”
Clark understood that the other was not referring to Gibraltar.
“What did I plan?” he asked back.
“You knew the governor would not include my name into the Letter de Marque!”
Clark shook his head. His denial was as honest as the grin he displayed, when he replied: “No. But I cannot say that it makes me feel particularily sorry.”
“So now you are officially the captain of the Errant Eagle”, Martin summed up their situation. “It should not have ended like this!”
“You´ve got a general problem with losing, Black Dog?”
“I may have lost, but you did not defeat me! The decision was taken out of our hands!” Slowly Martin drew his epée.
“A decision there must be”, he claimed. “But between the two of us!”
“What are you up to?”
Clark jumped back a few feet. He had no other choice than to drew his blade, too.
“If you gut me where I stand now, you are not going to leave Providence alive!”
But the other didn’t seem to care.
The two captains clashed. Martin´s wounded hand was still covered with a light bandage, so he could not dual-wield his weapons. For the meeting with the governor he had brought a stylish epée, not a heavier blade. All in all Martin was only a little superior to Clark in this duel, not outragously, as the black dog would have been in his favourite fighting stlye.
“Accept the inevitable!” Clark hissed. “She´s mine!“
“I know her longer than you do!”
“But I deflowered her!”
Until now the rivals had been circling each other, testing the other´s mettle, before they would engage in a real fight. But before it could come to this, the city watch had already parted the duelists.
“Gentlemen”, the captain told the sailors, “brawl over your bride elsewhere, not in in our fine streets!”
The fighters lowered their weapons. Clark stared at the frenchman.
“What will it take to clear your head? A drink in the next-best tavern or a bath in the harbour basin? Friend or foe?”
Martin sheathed his epée.
“Something in between”, he murmured. “I´m going back to our ship, now.”
There was no outward sign of a change of any kind in the two captains´ relationship. Most of the eagles did never even hear about their leaders´ duel. But a handful of men from Providence had witnessed the fight – and signed on the very same day.
Finding crewmembers for a privateer ship that had no slaves aboard and thus promised extra-work for the freemen was not easy. But word of the silver fleet had gotten around and there were more than enough applicants this time.
Only one man would not set sail with the two captains again: Badluck Bobby left the Errant Eagle. Clark´s friend the judge had accepted to take him in as a servant with the prospect of becoming his butler.
On their journey north, the Errant Eagle filled her hold with choice goods. Martin made some favourable deals in Santiago de la Vega and in the coastal settlements on Tortuga. Somewhere between those places the bitter taste his adventures with Clark had taken on since the duel in Providence vanished, too.
“We still have time for a detour to Eleuthera”, Clark announced to the crew during their last stopp in Cayonne on Tortuga. Martin added: “Whoever sets sails with us from there again, will be led into battle against the spanish silver caravan!”
The jubilations from his crew told the captains enough. None of the men sincerely pondered settling down comfortably at the Bahamas, as they could have done with the money earned until now. They all wanted more.
Clark, too, could hardly wait for the operation. He expected more than enough booty to equip the Errant Eagle for an expedition to the southern continent and hire a real crew for this endeavour. Then he would feel every day as Martin felt right now: To the runaway nobleman even the simple journey through the Bahamas was akin to the discovery of a new world.
One day the Errant Eagle reached an island Clark had named “Lizard Isle” in his charts. It was the place where, as Martin remembered, Clark kept copies of his chart collection and probably a sizeable stash of stolen coins where no greedy banker could reach it.
Leaving Pierre Dupont in charge of the galleon, Clark and Jarundo took a rowboat. Martin accepted the offer to accompany the brothers, which was fine with Clark. He trusted the rival with his treasure, but not with his ship, as he put it.
When the boat had reached the shore, the carib indian made himself comfortable inside and lit a tobacco pipe. His friends knew that Jarundo smoked only rarely and if he did, never to relax, but as a ritual ceremony. The indian tried reaching a trance that would grant him strength for the adventures to come and, perhaps, to glimpse a bit of the future. Knowing that the wish alone, let alone actually trying to predict the future, was a sin, he nevertheless went through with it when the situation called for it.
“Well, everybody wishes to know what the future will bring”, Clark remarked. “But I make you a promise, Martin: Your immediate future will prove a lot more interesting than our attack at the Silver Fleet.”
“Here?” the adventurer wondered. “Is there anything to see here except for untamed wilderness?”
“A village of the natives, in about the middle of the island where there´s sweetwater”, the privateer answered. “Or should I say: There used to be such a village.”
“Did… you kill them?”
“Of course not!”
The adventurers left the small beach and entered the jungle. Just a few steps into the forest, Clark attempted to cut a vine hanging from a tree.
“Stopp!” Martin was about to shout, but the vine was faster. It hissed it´s displeasure into the two-legged intruder´s face. Clark slashed a second time, this time to sever the alleged climbing plant´s head.
“A snake… Each and every of these things are poisonous and if the venom is not strong enough to kill a human, they try to strangle you out of spite”, he commented. “Just like a spanish Donna. They just do not know when they´ve lost!”
“Haha! But the snakes didn´t root out the villagers. What happened?”
“White men brought in a disease. When I discovered Lizard Island, the natives had been extinct for several years already. We stumbled right into a ghost village.”
“That´s good to scare away to treasure hunters. You mentioned treasure when we took off – is it indio gold?”
“No, something much better. Come! It isn´t far anymore.“
Martin had to admit that even he, experienced scout that he was, would not have found the indians´ village without knowing where to look for it. The years of neglect had added to the camouflage, too.
Walking between the derelict huts, Martin lifted the lids of old jars and poked in rubbish heaps with his cutlass.
“Feel free to take and keep whatever you wish, in case my men overlooked something of value”, Clark offered. “Last time they broke off the search rather quickly.”
Suddenly Martin´s blade touched something solid. He bent down to get a better look at the object. The next moment he held a skeletal human foot in his hand! The rest of the skeleton followed, but it broke apart before Martin could recognize whether it was male, female or child.
“That´s why”, Clark remarked dryly.
Martin looked around again. He noticed a tell-tale white gleam in several spots, where the sunrays hit long dried bones. The village´s end had had to be terrible and stretched over a long period. In the end no one had been left to give the last “survivors” of the epidemic a funeral.
The man knelt down next to the skeleton whose final rest he had disturbed so unruly. He winced at the sight. The broken up skeleton as well as the one lying next to it were missing their heads!
“That´s courtesy of Jarundo“, Clark explained. “I wanted to bury them all, but he said his distant relatives would not like a christian ceremony. They preserve only the heads and leave the rest as offerings for the jungle. So in order not to anger their spirits, we cut off the skulls and made a mound from them east of here.”
Martin´s mouth stood wide open. He couldn´t decide whether he felt horrified or fascinated by the tale.
“Jarundo and me got settled with the task”, Clark continued. “My scaredy-cats of seamen never got to know what we found while we were at it. But since that day I´m storing stuff I cannot deposit at a bank and that I do not want to be found by someone else here.”
Martin looked around. At first glance alone he noticed several possible hiding places for valueables within the village.
“You´ve heard and seen enough for today, Martin”, Clark claimed. “Consider yourself our heir, should something go wrong on Cuba.” Grinning he added: “Of course only if you can survive the traps.”
Clark unfastened his water bottle from his belt. “Come on, there always have to be traps!
“I’d stand a better chance if I knew what I was facing.”
“Well, and I do not really expect to snuff it on Cuba. Really, this is far enough.”
Martin sat down at a stone slab that served as a bench in front of the largest hut.
“Look”, he said, “I get what you are doing: trying to demonstrate me that we are partners and you trust me and stuff. But what it really looks like is as if you’d not trust me at all and rather have me back on Martinique.”
“Yeah, I guess so. My bad.”
Martin snorted. “From the look on Jarundo’s face when we left, your blood-brother expects us to settle our score to the last drop of blood. But it doesn’t have to come to this.”
The flask still in hand, Clark nodded slowly.
“Alright. I’ll take you to the hoard.”
He raised the flask, only to reconsider and offer it to Martin first.
“A toast to our silver!”
Martin accepted the bottle and took a deep gulp. Only after he had swallowed, he realized that his Co-Captain had not drunken before him. The same moment his senses went blank…
When Martin regained his consiousness, he found himself alone.
“That bastard gave me a sleep-inducing medicine!” he realized. “Some devilish stuff, working that fast… cannot even tell how long I´ve been out.”
The sun was hard to spot from under the jungle trees. Martin estimated that it had not traveled far since the fateful toast. But he could have been unconscious for a full day easily. Not much longer, though, or the local predatory animals would have made a meal of him.
But why had Clark poisoned him? Really just to veil the actual hiding place of his stash? Granted, he had acted like a toddler unwilling to be locked out of the parlor before Christmas Eve… but was that really the sole reason? Or was the Errant Eagle on her way to Cuba just this moment – without the pesky rival?
“Next time throw me overboard to achieve that same result, instead of leaving me behind in my favored terrain”, Martin spoke to the absent privateer. Where had Clark turned his attention to, after Martin had keeled over? A quick check told him the answer: The englishmen´s tracks led out of the village, though not back to the ship, but deeper into the jungle.
The explorer drew one the two cutlasses that he wore in crossed sheaths on his back. He was ready to react to any attack from wild beasts while he entered the deep jungle. His epée hang, unsused, but not forgotten, at his belt. Martin would not need it in the forest, but perhaps he would have to draw it today against the man he had considered his friend…
Martin had to carve out a path for himself now – literally, for where the distinctively smaller Clark had been able to squeeze through, he had to cut away vines, twigs and roots. Following his rival Martin acknowledged that Clark had not deemed it necessary to cover up his trail. Perhaps he was lacking the needed knowledge anyway.
When the tracks suddenly ended, Martin wondered what that meant.
“You are not that good to completely hide your tracks. I have to…”
While talking to himself, Martin tapped absent-minded with his boots. He found that something was wrong with the ground under his feet.
“…assume, that you… Hey! Am I imagining things? That´s impossible!”
Martin repeated his probing, until he was certain not to have made up something the first time. The sound of his footsteps was thrown back to him. There was a hollow space under his feet!
The man knelt down. Hastily he poked the soil with his short blade. Only a few seconds into his search Martin uncovered a wooden trapdoor.
Martin looked up. Fixated on following Clark´s tracks, he had payed little attention to his surroundings, just enough to defend himself from a critter attack. Now everything his eyes had seen, but his brain had not processed yet, flooded Martin’s mind. All around him only dwarvish shrubs and bushes grew. It looked as if somebody had planted four such fields around the trapdoor.
Martin studied the strange “plantation”. He rose to walk around it and when there was no doubt to where he had ended up, the man whistled through bis teeth.
The supposed acres turned out to be the cross-shaped layout of a church. The place was deserted for decades and there wasn´t even a ruin left. Perhaps it´s orginial inhabitants had died of a disease, or in the same fire that had also destroyed their base of operation on this island. Or the natives had killed them and in turn destroyed the building.
“The cellar seems to be left intact”, Martin conjectured. “A smart fox, that Clark. The pest-village is trail mark and diversion in one.”
The man returned to the trapdoor. “If you are in there this very moment, then the traps you spoke of cannot be armed at the same time”, he concluded.
Martin lifted the wooden lid. It was not locked.
The adventurer entered the cellar. It was dark down here, as Martin had expected no differently. There was a stair made of stone, that much his feet told him. His Co-Captain had not carried torches when they had set off to the island, so Martin deduced that there had to be something to make light with around here. He was right. In a small niche in the wall he found a tinderbox, three flintstones, a small piece of steel and candles for a lantern. The lamp itself was no longer here – Clark would have taken it.
Martin lighted one of the candles. He could see no farther than the next two or three steps, but it was was better than nothing. Carefully the man worked his way down the stairs.
A contemptuous smile crossed the adventurer´s face when he found the first of the mentioned traps: The stair ended in front of a wooden door, but between the final step and the door there was a small ditch. Someone had filled it with iron spikes. Martin was confident that he could cross the “obstacle” easily. All he had to was leaning over it while standing on the last step, open the door and cross the oh-so-deadly pit in one single step.
Martin hustled down the stairs, only to give a cry of surprise the very next moment!
One of the steps had given way under his weight and triggered a mechanism that catapulted Martin towards the closed door. Martin felt just like one of Viviane´s cannons, when they were rolled up to the gunports. Even worse – he knew that the inevitable impact would be followed by an intimate contact with the iron spikes in the ditch.
Trying to get a hold somewhere, the man lost his grip on the candle. He tried to grab it again, but snatched it at the wick only, extinguishing the fire accidently. The rest of Martin´s fall – split seconds that stretched to full years – happened in utter darkness.
Instead of banging against the door, however, Martin felt a draft of air, then he beheld a light and understood that someone had opened the door from inside. And then he had already passed the opening and crashed into his Co-Captain.
“Aaaaaaaahhhhhhh!” Martin screamed.
“Careful! The lantern!“ Clark shouted.
The arrival tried to regain his balance and catch the lamp that had escaped Clark´s fingers at the same time. He sidestepped, or so he thought. In truth Martin was just tumbling more or less controlled through the room behind the wooden door.
“Got it!” Martin announced, holding Clark´s lantern aloft.
“Good“, Clark smiled, but then he paled visibly. “No, not good at all! Wrong place to step on! Crossbar-trap!”
Martin eyed his friend bewildered. He was wavering just a little bit by now and held the lantern firmly in his left hand.
A combination of Clark´s facial expression, a klicking noise from somehwere and another gush of air told Martin not to waste time by turning his head. Instead he jumped forward on instinct.
A heavy wooden beam that had been fastened to the ceiling until now suddenly swang, held by two chains, towards the two humans. The two stumbled over each other and fell down. The men pressed their bodies to the ground when the large object went over their heads. The beam’s short end crashed into the other wall, returned and swang back and forth over it´s frightened victims for a while, before it came to a halt.
For a while Martin heard nothing but his own breath, Clark´s equally loud breathing, the beating of their hearts and the slowly dying down rattling of the chains.
“Thanks for your interest, but you better find yourselves a girl”, Clark grinned, when the danger was over. He shoved Martin off his body to one side and rolled himself to the other to escape from under the wooden beam.
Martin did not rise up immediately. He stared upwards, murmuring: “Crossbar-trap. I see.”
“Come on!” Clark ordered his friend. “Put the lantern down at the pedestal over there and help me re-arm the traps!”
Martin obeyed. Thinking about the iron spikes in the ditch he said: “Clark?”
“Being your friend isn´t easy, damn you!”
The englishman laughed. “If it´s a consolation to you, Jarundo could not sit for days after his encounter with the first trap.”
“I take it those traps were already placed when you discovered this ruin?”
“They were. We are certain we´ve found all of them. A bit of respect for the original constructors and a bit more of caution while one´s down here cannot hurt, though.”
While the two of them worked, Martin noticed more doors. They might lead to chambers filled to the ceiling with riches, more death-traps or a combination of both.
“What is this place, by the way?” he asked. “I mean, the Jesuits built their mission house from wood, but rigged a cellar hewn out of stone with traps? What did the monks want to protect long after their own deaths?”
“Same as me: Valueables”, Clark answered. “I´ll show it to you another time. For today we´ve had enough scary fun. I fetched a copy of the nautical charts I need, so we should not keep the sea waiting any longer!”
“No objections there.”
Clark and Martin re-surfaced into the daylight.
“Jarundo and me found many chests down there”, Clark told his rival, while they were covering up the trapdoor again with foilage. “But in it were only scrolls with texts and drawings. To the monastic order they were the greatest treasure.”
“I pressume land deeds and banker´s orders would be too much to hope for?”
Clark nodded. “For decades some church people have studied the natives´ history and mythology to preserve it from the europeans´ onslaught. We both know that each newly founded Jesuite colony houses not only it´s share of maize-mush cooking do-gooders, but also fanatics. Such people destroyed many of the indian peoples´ original recordings. But some were preserved. Also the monks wrote down all the oral history the indians would share with them, and translate them into latin. All those texts are stored for the generations to come in the vault below our feet.”
Satisfied with his work Clark indicated that he wished to return to the boat.
“Now, Martin, what would you do with this heirlooms of yours?” he asked, when the two had reached the ghost-village again.
“Sell them to collectors?” Martin thought aloud. “What are they about, anyway?” he inquired.
“You did not read the texts?” his comrade gasped. “Isn’t Jarundo fluent in Latin?”
“I perused them in parts”, Clark admitted. “I´m loath to destroy knowledge of any kind, but too much of the heathen stuff cannot be healthy for one´s soul.”
“But think of all the hints to real treasures that could be hidden in the stories! Perhaps even the location of the Seven Cities of Gold!”
“Never heard of it.”
“You should have, though. Tayopa is the name of the spaniards´ secret silver mine in Mexico. Nobody ever managed to backtrack the silver fleet’s trail to Tayopa. But, well, if we wanted that, we could have stayed on Aruba in the first place, scratching the gold-dust from the rocks there.”
Martin had to agree that the eagles were not miners, but mariners.
“Come with me to the sea and forget “Cities of Gold” where there´s no beer!” Clark urged his friend. “That’s where our silver caravan´s waiting for us!”