Freedom Pioneers : "Expeditions" [Ch3i]


They had at first assumed the young natives had gone on the ship also; but these finally emerged from the bushes smiling broadly, red faced and holding hands in couples; only to be reprimanded, admonished and punished with slaps and wallops from their elders. Michael smiled at realising what they had been up to in the bushes but Rhiannan frowned in confusion. It stunned Michael to see her thus confused, had she no concept of the fun youth got up to in the bushes?

She wondered why the girls were being hit also. And why all the youth were smiling continuously through it all. Surely the men had forced themselves on the women. Her mother needed to be fully drunk before she’d take a man and in the early days usually cried for a time afterwards, but even though the crying had stopped she always made Rhiannan promise never to let a man touch her.

Rhiannan looked up and saw Michael’s face, the smile a little lopsided for the scar on one cheek but otherwise totally amused by the whole issue. She remembered the dancing, the warmth of him as they sat close together, waking up in his arms, the gentle kiss she’d felt him give her as she looked up at him before sliding into sleep. He looked at her then still smiling before his forehead creased his eyes searching hers for an answer. She looked back at the youth now howling at their beating yet still grinning at each other.

‘You know they were making love in the bushes right?’ he bent and asked her behind her ear, softly so the others didn’t hear him inform her. ‘Any manner of punishment can be born if there is love in your heart.’

She turned and stared at him. There was something there dancing in her memory. Something vague but seemingly vitally important. He smiled at her then walked off.

The men left were too ill from their merry making the night before to do anything about the missing ship before midday. Now that the others had shown up Michael and Maloney felt more confident that the ship may not have gone far, perhaps just around the next headland. They had not supplied up and were not fully crewed. Only a complete idiot would try the doldrums again without supplies.

Michael and Maloney began a search. They divided the available men and leading a group each set off in opposite directions to look for the ship.

Rhiannan scrambled to catch up with Michael.
‘Where do you think you’re going?’ he asked catching her dress as she made to pass him up the track.
She spun round standing her ground facing him feet akimbo, fists on hips and frown set for a fight.
‘You don’t think I’m about to let you leave me here to rot do you?’
‘A minute ago you were extolling the virtues of staying here forever.’ He reminded her mildly amused.
‘That was …’ she shut her mouth.

She was about to say “only idyllic if he would be there with her” but that was far too presumptuous even for a heathen existence; for they could never have a Christian marriage if it were just them. At least she knew that a Christian marriage resided over by a priest of the good faith meant her life would be settled and her entry to heaven assured. It stopped her to realise she was thinking of such possible futures with this man who was no better than a pirate.

‘Yes?’ he prompted still smiling, amused that he could read her thoughts by her face like a book.
‘That was when I thought the ship was still here and the choice could be mine to make.’
‘Then you show me now that you would have made the wrong choice.’ He pointed out. And she glared at him for being calmly irrefutably right. He smiled then, not a condescending one but amused at her. ‘Come along then, but stay behind me.’ And he calmly reached and picked a large insect from her shoulder. ‘It is safer that way.’ He showed her smiling then tossed it aside and stepped past her.

It dawned on her then that he had still been holding her skirt thus wrapping it firmly around her legs. It had also dawned on him that the sight of the large cockroach beetle creature, with its wriggling legs and vicious looking appearance, hadn’t even raised so much as her eyebrows in surprise yet her eyes were staring at him and her breathing was shallow.

They walked for an hour following the coast as best they could which at times meant climbing the steep jungle clad hills where Michael spent more time pulling her up than she did climbing. And he didn’t want to think about the bruises he’d sustain from her sliding into him on the descents. Finally they spotted the stern seeming to be hiding behind a rocky cliff headland. Michael halted them to watch and make sure it was stationary but where they would have scrambled down the open slope and then run straight out onto the beach again he stopped them just inside the tree line.

Rhiannan and the men watched him curiously and saw him scrutinising the jungle between them and the sand and then grabbing Rhiannan he made frantic hand signals and shoved her before him into the cover of a nearby bush. He clamped his hand over her mouth anticipating she was about to admonish him severely and very loudly; in such circumstances any outburst even so much as a sneeze could mean death for them all. However it managed to muffle her screams of outrage. Again he didn’t want to think of the bruises she might actually be creating on his arms and torso from her thrashing fists. He just prayed she didn’t think to raise her knee, for his legs were either side of one of hers. Finally she stopped and stared viciously at him.

‘Shh.’ He whispered to her belatedly ‘There might be trouble afoot and we don’t want to find it.’ he hissed, even though his mouth was very close to her his whisper was hardly detectable. ‘Will you be silent?’
She saw his eyes begging her serious in his fear of their possible danger and she nodded.

With some relief he relaxed and slid his hand from her, ready to clamp it back should she utter the minutest sound. To his relief she didn’t utter a peep. He waited listening then when he thought it safe enough he looked up and tried to find the others. Seeing nothing untoward he made a hand signal and the hiding men started forward cautiously, ready to leap for cover at the first crack of a musket.

‘Stay very close to me.’ He told her, his mouth again so close she felt his almost inaudible words on her face. She nodded in reply and he moved away then helped her up to follow him.

They took the side path to the headland and made it to the top of the rocky cliff, then crawled on their stomachs to the edge overlooking the ship. Michael pulled his eyeglass from his belt but before he could use it Rhiannon put her hand on it and pointed. Looking across the bay, the ship was anchored in, he saw the flash of something shining in the sun on the opposite headland. He looked at her and then at his shiny brass and glass instrument and reached over her to grab the bandanna off the head of the next man beside her. The man silently showed his surprise and indignation at now showing his almost bald head to which both Michael and Rhiannan just smiled. Using the bandanna to cover the brass Michael then raised it to his eye.

On the other headland were Maloney and his men. Looking closer at hand she saw the ship looked almost abandoned. They had brought it so close to shore, the bow all but rested on the sand like a beached row boat. The rope net flung over the bow to the waters edge showed that they had meant it to be used as the access to and from the ship. Only one man sat on the ship; Jake, whittling as usual. Michael controlled the fury bubbling up his throat like bile and moved his glass to look for the others in the trees behind the beach. Sure enough a few were moving back from the tree line with barrels rolling before them. They had found and taken on water.

Suddenly he felt a tap on his shoulder and he turned to Rhiannan to find her wide eyed and her mouth covered in a grubby hand, a pistol resting on her temple.

‘Hello captain.’

Michael flipped himself onto his back drawing his dirk as he did so. There behind them were the rest of the mutineer crew. The man now seeming to have taken Maloney’s place was a quiet but dangerous sort; always in the fight but usually keeping his thoughts heavily guarded. Beside him the mutinous men held a cutlass to the backs of each man who’d stayed with Michael. And on one knee, his grubby hand over Rhiannon’s fine mouth and jaw was the sniggering tongueless cook.

‘Now now captain, there’s no need to go to such lengths to bring the lay-dee to us, we were thinking of returning to fetch her this evening like; her and other gorgeous wenches and whatever food in the sorry excuse for a village that place is. But I guess we should thank you for such a delivery, not only of her but of your kind self. We could now be done with you and none would be the wiser.’

‘You know what I think Pal?’
‘Pray tell.’ He sneered indulgently
‘You talk too much!’ Michael informed him with a polite smile.

Then in a sudden movement that astonished all on lookers Michael managed to leap from his shoulders to his feet and in the same motion seeming to shoot up, like a porpoise from the sea, to run his dirk into the man’s throat and then still in the same action turning and seemingly falling over Rhiannon grabbing the pistol and the hand of the cook. The momentum though had both men roll over the head of the balding man next along and then off the edge of the knoll to roll down the slope.

Rhiannan ignored the man now writhing on the ground at her feet seemingly drowning in his own blood and turned, rising to her knees to look where Michael had gone. The other mutineers seemed lost without their new leaders and with apologies to all, returned to being mates with the rest of the crew so all sailors were now on their knees or haunches looking down the slope.

The two rolled into the thicker trees on the crest of the cliff and then there was a crack of the pistol going off. As if it launched a race, Rhiannan scrambled to her feet to lead the men in running down the slope. She found Michael under the cook, his back to the base of a log. Her feet stopped and she stood, her hands over her mouth, and stared at the two bodies, her mind and lips actively, soundlessly praying. Suddenly the cook seemed to slowly turn over; though somehow not the way a man would turn himself. His arm flung over, the pistol hooked on his finger dropping his hand to the ground. The front of his shirt was black with blood. Rhiannan didn’t want to look in case it was Michael’s blood.

☼ To be continued …..

Freedom Pioneers : "Expeditions" [Ch3i]


Frankston, Australia

  • Artist

Artist's Description

For my NaNoWriMo challenge

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

This chapter continues – here
Expeditions begins – here

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! ☼

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