Victorian Voyagers : "Expeditions" [Ch1]

CHAPTER ONE

‘Will that man ever come out?’ Rhiannan fumed. ‘He’s been in that cabin most of the whole trip! Yet for three weeks now he’s been up and about but still he refuses to see me!’

‘The queen’s reprimander was not very neat with his swings.’ Maloney soothed her ‘The captain tends to be a little vein.’
‘The captain hides with any excuse!’ Rhiannan corrected him. ‘We birth tomorrow in, what is it? Riod Ejan Ah Eeoh?’
‘Rio de Janeiro.’ He supplied for her, the name rolling off his tongue as if he were a native.
‘Wherever that is! My point is that, here we are, almost half way around the world and I haven’t even met the Captain of the vessel I am sailing on yet!’
‘You will; when he’s ready.’ Maloney explained patiently. ‘And we only hope to birth tomorrow, we haven’t actually sighted land yet.’
‘Does this boat actually move?’ she criticized unfairly.

Maloney ignored her. He’d seen so many before her go completely insane at this point. If it wasn’t from the heat or the doldrums it was from just being in the same place in the middle of nowhere, nothing but water as far as the eye could see and further still, and seeing the same faces day in day out. The locals call it tropicanus; he, like many a seasoned sailor he’d met, thought of it as “going troppo”. It began near the tropic of Cancer and ended after they passed the tropic of Capricorn, or the other way around when going from southern hemisphere to the northern one. The exciting part was the equator. The Captain usually sailed for a few days along the equator just to enjoy the full sun, and no shadows.

He looked down and for the fourth day saw the shadow fall north of him. He frowned, they were either travelling in the wrong direction or not south enough. He doubted they were beyond the equator and Rio was a further week south from there in favourable winds. He would have to check the charts himself. They only had the one storm back when they left the Canary Islands and yes it was pretty big and harrowing but it shouldn’t have blown them so far off course. He never did like Jake’s navigational skills; they’d landed in some pretty strange places with him scoring the charts. Somehow the man was off balance, and not only because his wooden leg was slightly shorter than his real one. Maloney had warned him not to wear the new boot with the higher heel.

Rhiannon’s loud unreasonable lamenting brought him back out of his own rambling thoughts.
‘I still don’t even know his name!’ she went on reverting back to an earlier inquiry.

‘King Kent. His mother christened him Michael.’ Maloney provided her feeling sleepy in the heat.
‘What sort of a pirate name is King Kent?’ her cry surprised him out of his gradually overcoming stupor. ‘Captain King Kent. Captain of the dreaded “Mary-Lou” a ship that pours fear in the very souls of any who sight her!’ She made a noise of insulting scoffing snorting poo-hoo-ing and immediately remembered Cookie who did the same. ‘Oh I’m so scared!’ she added, crying in sarcastic mock terror.

Maloney refused to bite and watched as she seemed to melt sitting down suddenly on the pile of ropes and sacking beside Maloney. She had become exhausted in the heat and he was grateful her anger dissipated with her energy.

She was wearing the least she could possibly decently wear; her skirt, not even one petticoat, her camisole and the shirt of her dress. The huge crinoline hoops had been stored in Maloney’s cabin where she stayed. They jammed between the bunk and the low ceiling and were nearly as wide as the bunk was long. But still the heat was more than she thought she could bear. Her Scottish upbringing never gave her any preparation for this heat. Only the fire that destroyed the hut by the sea came remotely close.

Thinking of that fire made her think of her mother and she hoped her mother was coping in the heat better. Stories of the transporters having better conditions for the convicts gave her some comfort that her mother was not suffering too much, but better conditions than what? The prisons? The hulks? The place they were all going to end up?

‘How do you survive this heat?’ she begged of Maloney.
‘By not exerting yourself needlessly.’ He replied calmly.
She scoffed at him and looked away to the very distant, very fine line of the horizon behind them distinguishable only by the marginally darker hue of the sea.

‘He’s not a very good pirate is he?’ she eventually stated still staring at the horizon.
‘Who said he was a pirate?’
‘Well he was captured and lashed; you said so yourself. He was outlawed in England for not paying taxes or accepting a commission into Her Majesty’s navy. That means he should be a pirate.’
‘He is American. Why should he fight for the British against the French and the Spanish?’
‘You’re British…’
‘I’m Irish lass. I’d never fight for the English.’ He replied dramatically emphasizing his offense at her mistake.
‘What about the rest of the crew?’ she asked undeterred in her mission of standing up for their possibly quashed rights.
‘Now why would they leave such a fine life as we have, to become embroiled in one of the most terrifying warfare strategies as open sea battle?’
‘So a man’s origin of birth means naught?’
‘Each man to his own, but common sense should prevail when it comes to putting your life in the line of cannon fire for no apparent good.’
‘You don’t believe in war then?’
‘I believe in a fair fight, canons make all fights unfair, political governments make fights just down right ludicrous. If two men want to own the same piece of land and cannot share then they should match wits and might and sort it for themselves.’
‘But what if there is a whole country that wants to move into another whole country, should we share then? For if not then it’s all men against all men and that makes it a war.’

Maloney stared at her and frowned thickly. Her tactic in taking his logic and turning it back on him was completely masterful and her victorious expression equally complete in annoying him. Her triumphant grin was short lived though.

‘LAND! LAND HO!’ the boy in the crows nest shouted, his voice breaking in the excitement; saving Maloney from the embarrassment of not having an answer or counter argument.

All eyes looked up to see which direction the lad was pointing and then all eyes followed the direction of his finger and there was the land. Misty black humps on the distant western horizon, to Maloney’s fear, the northerly western horizon. Maloney frowned. Jake too came up and on seeing the first mates quizzical frown also frowned. But all around them were too excited at seeing the land to think any further to the placement of the land.

Maloney and Jake hurried into the captain’s cabin. In the kafuffle Rhiannan snuck in behind them. Maloney scrabbled at the charts on the mapping table. Jake tried to assist him but just managed to make matters worse.

‘Is it true? We have finally sighted the Americas?’ Kent asked from his chair that was turned to his large stern windows.
‘America yes but I’m certain it’s not the southern half.’ Maloney told him then slapped at the hands thrusting maps at him. ‘Will you leave me be man!’ he shouted at Jake who was finally trying to hold open a map of the African east coast.

‘Have we the provisions to go further south first?’ Kent asked in a tone heard over the top of them.

Maloney held the right map open on the table showing, to his concern, that it was clean. Further hunting gave Maloney the answer. Jake had been using the completely wrong map; charting them down the east coast of Africa, not the east coast of South America. He dropped his head and gave a slight shake as he concentrated on breathing and not killing the man.

‘Maloney?’ Kent prompted.
‘No.’ he replied lowly. ‘We have been dead in the water too long.’ He didn’t want to bring to his captain’s concern the bungle Jake had made just yet. They would need to land for water at least but by his guess they were nearer to the Bahaman islands than the southern great jungle coast.
‘Then we have to land for provisions.’ The captain directed.

Finally the young man stood up and turned to his desk. Rhiannan from her unnoticed place by the door saw a fleeting glimpse of his golden hair and aquiline profile in the sunshine from the stern windows and then he was in shadow again, his long blonde hair flopping forward over his face.

‘There is no voyage marked on this map Mr Maloney.’ the captain observed. He looked to Jake. ‘What body of water are we sailing?’
‘The … the …’ Jake began but froze as the captain’s hand suddenly shot out and caught his grubby shirtfront.
‘Mr Maloney perhaps we should have scrutinized our crew more closely when we found them. What avenue did this man come from?’

Maloney first frowned at Jake and then glanced out of the cabin then back. It gave the impression he was contemplating thrusting the man out his stern windows. Rhiannan was behind him and they can’t have known she was there.

‘He was pressed upon us by a character supposed to be a legal man; short and devilish with one blue eye and one brown, either side of a beak of a nose. He said this piece of camel dung in flea riddled rags, was wanted by the law for tax evasion.’ Rhiannan first narrowed her eyes realising Maloney meant Grouse and then smirked at the description of Jake. ‘This legal man also knew you had been captured for the same reason and was putting upon us that we should take him or else …’
‘Grouse?’ the captain shouted ‘You let Grouse press this man on you?’

At that Rhiannan stared at the captain startled by the man’s fury at recognising Grouse.
‘He said the man could navigate and as we needed to find replacement for …’
‘So you were pressed upon us also?’ The captain suddenly stared at Rhiannan bringing her presence to the attention of the two other men and scaring the living wits out of her. His eyes were green startling her and boring into her very soul.

‘I … I …’ she finally remembered her tongue and her situation aboard this ship. ‘I was not!’
‘But you know who Grouse is.’
‘Ye … yes.’ How did he see her recognition of the name? Had she gasped? She decided honesty would be her best defense. ‘Yes he’s the man I hired to defend my mother.’
‘He’s the man that shouted loudest for me to be flogged.’ The young captain frowned blacker but Rhiannan held her ground; lawyers took work where they got it – one day prosecution, the next defense.
‘What’s her mother to do with your flogging?’ Jake stupidly asked and the captain tightened his grip on the older man’s shirtfront effectively strangling him and he gave a pathetic yelp.

Rhiannan went silent. She remembered the sudden loss of her faculties after just one small dram of the whiskey Grouse had given her, and more importantly that he’d not had one himself! How foolish could she be? He had obviously drugged her drink with a potion to render her unconscious, but then why would he leave her at her door? Why wouldn’t he have just taken her to the docks? And when did this Jake join them? Was he a conspirator with Grouse? Then the certainty, that her mother had never been found and her sentence switched to transportation, filled her brain and froze her heart in horror.

‘I have to go back.’ She said softly, her mind full only of the need to rescue her mother. ‘Please!’

The captain frowned quizzically at her plea. He read fear in her eyes. It tugged at his insides like it had years ago when Susie had begged him not to kill that blasted water hating pet duck.

‘Mr Maloney, if you would please take this … person and find a nice safe spot for him, we’ll chat about his sea career at a later date.’

The captain waited for Maloney to take hold of Jake and escort him somewhat roughly from the cabin. Rhiannan went to follow them out.
‘Stay!’ He ordered and then attempting to soften it added ‘If you will’ eventually remembering manners and tagging on the end ‘Please.’

Rhiannan took a stance before the open door and looked at him. She watched his eyes scrutinize her from the top of her tied back hair to the tips of her shoes poking out of her hem. She had no idea that the skirt’s fine material without petticoats was somewhat transparent with the sun shining through the door behind her, her legs casting shadows in the pale blueness. She watched his Adam’s apple jump as he swallowed and dragged his eyes to her face.

‘Why the necessity to return to England so urgently?’ he asked her. ‘If I return there will be a rope ready for my neck.’
‘There is one for my mother as we speak.’ She countered him. ‘I paid Grouse good money to rectify that.’
‘And yes you would be correct in now doubting that miss-placed trust.’
‘Grouse or no, trust aside; I must try to save my mother.’

Michael Kent took his time deciding how to bring the conversation about to its logical conclusion. Blatantly returning to England in this ship was not an option he could ever undertake. Chances were they would be too late at any rate and even if they did succeed none of them had the ability to change her mother’s fate. That needed money and legal expertise and more than anything a lawyer willing to put his reputation on the chopping block to try. And most likely, if the lady was still there, it was because she was a lowly criminal. The ones that had the wherewithal were either free again, already transported or hung very soon after capture.

‘Was she …’ he coughed and started again ‘Was she in one of the hulks?’
Rhiannan nodded. ‘Since my childhood.’

Since her childhood? That was a good ten years at least. The woman was surely gone to death or devil! Michael knew her desire was hopeless. And he knew his desire to help her was even more fruitless and too suicidal for his buccaneer guile to thumb his nose at the establishment, especially the growing might of Britannia. But how did he cancel her quest without recourse? He had to lie, had to make up something to give her to settle her mind. But what?

Rhiannon had to convince him to help her. He seemed to be wavering and she sought her mind desperately for a way to make him take her back and somehow rescue her mother. She needed to put to him a plan that would be feasible enough for him to try. Using her gender and the ways of woman never occurred to her. But then she remembered he was in prison, Grouse had been on his case, even if it was against him, perhaps he’d have met her mother through Grouse? She had an inkling it was a far fetched chance but she had to try.

‘You were there in the prisons, might you have chanced upon my mother or news of her? If you knew Grouse as you say you do, and he was also representing her …’

Michael stared at her. She was such a contradiction. She had the nerve and guile and the wit of one as intelligent as he, yet was so naive and gullible. She had absolutely no idea what the system was, how many prisoners were held within any prison. She could not even have the comprehension of the justice system that was being made a mockery of by those forced to be there. How could she survive so long in this world in this day and age and not know what went on with the prisoners and convicts? But it gave him the seed of a small untruth to settle her.

‘Who was your mother?’
‘Rosemary Campbell. She had hair my colour …’ Rhiannan broke off, her mind filling with the memory of her mother sitting by the fire all black with no hair and white sightless eyes.

Michael saw the haunted look of horror memories capture her eyes; he knew that look all too well. He looked at the deep ginger of her hair and decided he needed to say he’d met her.
‘There was a Rosie in the next cell to me. She had an accent from the north like you and said she had red hair and spoke of her daughter lost to her as a child.’
‘You saw her?’ she asked eagerly ‘You saw my mother?’

She launched at him grabbing his arms and begging him with her eyes. His own hands went to her elbows and he looked down into the depths of her sweet blue eyes. His mouth and throat went dry. She was innocent and beautiful and begging him for all his honour and protection. Not even Susie was this innocent. How could he lie to her?

‘I didn’t see her, just heard her words.’ he fobbed it off to himself that he could imagine the lady’s words lamenting of the loss of such a beautiful daughter.

‘Captain, sir!’ Maloney called politely standing outside the door. Michael swallowed again and looked above her head at the man then back to her.
‘We’ll talk again.’ He promised her and left her to stride out into the sunshine aboard his ship.

Belatedly she realised she’d not registered any horrendous disfigurement of his face by the lash; all she could remember was his eyes.

Victorian Voyagers : "Expeditions" [Ch1]

adgray

Frankston, Australia

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Artist's Description

For my NaNoWriMo challenge

One Part of a three part novel.
A spin off from my Daintree Daughter’s Book

Ch2

Beware: this is a realistic Adult book & not a pretty tale like my poetry

It tells of the fight to become free and happy, with the leading characters first facing the trials of the ugly side of life, and the shackles of their pasts dragging at them as they carve their own standard of living.

Who knew what really happens in the mystical Tropical Islands of South America? Who knows what went on the the dens of iniquity encouraged by the tropical heat and scantily clad people.
Back in the mid 1800s there was still a strong pull for Piracy if for nothing else than the immoral indulgences and the black market trade the world over.

I do wish to apologise if this fictitious re-enactment offends anyone – my intention was to put my leading characters through extraordinary experiences, not offend.

So all that aside I hope you can enjoy the story! ☼

Phoenix
Worldly

EDIT:
To tie this in with it’s sister Victorian Volumes I have changed the Volume Title to “Voyagers”

Hopefully I can update the edits in here soon!
Chookas! ♥

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