Hard times

 

Chapter 22

Hard times

 

I lost touch with her for a while. She left Brest on the Fortuna, as her own ship was still being built. I heard rumours about her and her companions in the meantime though, and when she came to Brest to get her ship – the infamous Ienne – I met her again. She was less willing to talk this time around, but I managed to confirm and discard a few rumours.

 

She left Brest on board the Fortuna, now with Jean Luc as captain, along with the ever faithful Hawk. Fortuna never docked again. When they had reached Island waters they were hailed by the frigate Swiftsure whos captain ordered them to surrender all their goods to him in the name of the king. While Jean Luc, Hawk and Fiona were still gob smacked by this outrageous demand, a trigger happy gunner fired at them and seconds later the Fortuna was hit by a broadside of gunfire, sending her and most of her crew to their wet grave. In a blink of an eye everything had turned up side down for Fiona and her friends. Deserving to be honoured above all for their extraordinary effort and bravery in securing the trade deal from Punjab, they were now in stead sent to what would have been their death by drowning.

 

But the Lady Luck was with them: the three of them saved their lives, but only just. By sheer luck the trunks of Hawk and Jean Luc reached the surface and served as floaters for the unlucky shipwrecked. Fiona lost all her possessions except for her map roll which mysteriously popped up next to her among the debris. They hung on to dear life on the trunks as they watched the Swiftsure sail away without even a glance back. For days they floated on the ocean, not knowing where they were or whether they would ever see land again. Finally they saw a coastline in the horizon, and helped by the current they could finally set foot on land again, exhausted and famished as they were. They found water and fruit, and more than that: two men greeted them on shore: a young Islander named Michael Sinclaire and a Ryendorian scholar named Dominique de la Trier. They too had washed ashore a few days previously. They were not too keen on talking about how they had landed there, and Fiona told me her speculations, but not her conclusions, to what might have happened: they might had been passengers on board a ship that had sunk, or maybe indentured servants (=white slaves) on such a ship, or maybe a passing ship had set them ashore for one reason or another. Fiona had a glint in her eye indicating that she had guessed what their background had been, but she would embellish no further to me. I have made inquiries however, and have discovered that Dominique de la Trier at least had been a well known scholar in Ryendor City studying at the university and had been scorned, when he had applied for a scholarship to study the digestion system of cows. He also had quite a reputation with firearms. Apparently he was an exceptional marksman. Michael Sinclaire had in turne been involved in some affair regarding a young woman, but the episode had been hushed up severely by the family in question. I never learned the truthe of the matter. But Fiona disclosed none of this. She merely stated that she considered them friends and trusted members of her crew.

 

The day after landing on the island they discovered yet another shipwrecked fellow: on the other side of the island he bobbed ashore on a makeshift float, naked as the day he was born, adorned only in a giant tattoo of a colourful bird. He is described as a tall man and handsome too. To hear Fiona describe him, I would begin to wonder if he too, had caught her fancy, but of course she denied all such speculations with a heartfelt laugh. The most curious thing about this man, however, was the fact that he had lost his memory completely. He simply had no idea whatsoever who he was or whence he came, much less how he had come to be in this predicament. He felt comfortable with the name ‘Ernest’ and so he shall be called until we know better.

 

In the days that followed, they merely tried to survive: found water and strange looking and –tasting fruit, and tried to get an overview of the island. With their navigational tools they discovered that they were too far south to place on any of Fiona’s maps. By reason they were thus also a long way away from any trade routes and their chances of rescue seemed very scare, if not completely unlikely.

 

On top of everything Fiona was beginning to feel very uncomfortable on the island – something was amiss, but she was unable to put a finger to what. On one of their excursions they came upon an immense statue, which Fiona recognized as the pagan god Obudwe – Keeper of the Dead. They were on taboo land, on land where the spirits of the dead roamed… As Fiona later described it to me, they fought the shadows at night, spirits that tried to conquer their souls. By sheer will, and with a few tricks her childhood’s voodoo mama had taught her, Fiona dispersed the evil spirits. No one seemed to believe her tale afterwards, she told me, except for Dominique who had exclaimed ‘Well done!’ when the shadows had been driven back and the light had returned to their bonfire. Fiona was used to the more down-to-earth attitude of her companions, and was quite surprised to find one who actually knew about spirits and such. Dominique, the scholar, was on a lifelong study of primitive people and was quite well informed about their beliefs and nature. Fiona is sure that to this day she has not been able to convince Jean Luc of the existence of mermaids, water-sprites, spirits and sea serpents, despite the fact that they had come across at least one sea monster on their journey. In turn Fiona never believed in confessions of the church – she believed that one tooke every goode or bad deed to the grave, and would answer to all on judgement day.

 

On the morning after the ‘battle’ a ship was spotted in the distance coming their way. Their bonfire had been spotted and they rushed to the shore. So happy to be rescued they gave no second thought as to who might be so off any official trade route that they could come across their signal. Here Fiona fell silent and promptly bid me farewell for the day. When she picked up her story the next day, they were in Cagliano in the Ryendor colony... She was quite adamant that was had passed between this and that was of no interest to anyone. I have however managed to discover where they had been and what had happened to them in the meantime: they had been too exited about getting off the island that they had thrown all caution overboard. Minutes after coming on board they found themselves in shackles and thrown into a cell under deck. Jean Luc apparently made such a fuss that the captain ordered him flogged – 20 lashes during which he continued to cry insults at everybody. Quite a angry young man, that one! According to my source Fiona had tried to get Jean Luc to shut up, but a devil had gotten into him. He didn’t stop until the captain, by name of One Ear Jack, threatened to let his men loose on Fiona if he did not shut up. According to my source the crew was quite disappointed when Jean Luc then finally shut up – they had not minded ‘working on the lass’ as my source put it. But One Ear Jack intended to sell Jean Luc and the others as slaves, and did not want them any more damaged than absolutely necessary. To the reader’s interest I might add that captain One Ear Jack was said to be a member or contender of the pirate society Brethren of the Coast, and he sailed the Persephone until he was finally hunted down and sunk, and all aboard killed. Some say by the Ienne – Fiona’s ship – but that is unconfirmed.

 

One Ear Jack took our friends to Legless Carlos – the leader of the Brethren of the Coast. He put them in an elevated prison made of sturdy bamboo, where a score of black slaves were already put up. My contact was unclear as to what happened next – the Persephone laid on anchor in the natural harbour for the next couple of days, and I believe there was a lot of drinking involved in their stay at Legless Carlos’ hideout. But Fiona and her friends fled the place, presumably with the aide of a couple of slaves and some fancy voodoo-tricks. They left the place burning and quite a few pirates dead. From then on I have been tolde they sailed into the harbour of Cagliano the passengers of a post delivery cutter with a barely floating wreck of a schooner on tow. They sold the wreck to the harbourmaster for a symbolic sum and went out into the city.