Freedom Pioneers : "Expeditions" [Ch9i]

CHAPTER NINE

The sun flooded the cabin waking Rhiannan. She had slept splendidly in the hammock that Gavin had strung up across the rear windows. It was a brilliant solution to how she and the two men could sleep in the same cabin and not really compromise her. Jake needed to remain under Michael’s close scrutiny for him to rest. He also needed to know that Rhiannan was safe.

So the three of them stayed in the cabin. But the problem was where they would sleep. The first night she had slept in the spare bunk, Jake in the one he’d occupied and Michael had tried to sleep sitting in the chair in between. But two nights in a row of not getting rest and he woke them all when he crashed to the floor. Gavin’s cabin being closest to them had him coming in the door as fast as Rhiannan could try to get out of her bed. She gaped at him and he apologised realising Michael was safe enough and left closing the door after him.

Thinking back now Rhiannan had realised he was a serious contender in the looks stakes, especially in an open fronted shirt and bare feet. She looked out the rear windows and thought of that other contender, Lt Andrew Summerfield. Where had she seen him before? Why had he been so attractive to her the day they’d left Rio? Michael was quite happy with what she had achieved in distracting the man. She was pleased she had achieved her objective. But she still saw brilliant blue eyes boldly distracting her dreams. He had continued his attentive servitude yet even so Michael still seemed distracted in his thoughts.

With the leach George Grey gone they had forgotten the huge Blackman, his servant. The man however seemed to completely relax when they left port without his master.
‘I stay with you now sir.’ He’d reported to Maloney. ‘That man was not liked. Many like you though as a captain should be liked.’

So under his understanding Maloney had Michael’s cabin and the huge Blackman had the cabin Maloney had been using. Rhiannan was sure musical chairs was not anywhere near as hard to play as this game of shuffle. But it was just as well she didn’t stay in that front little stowaway place, it was the sail room and when they reboarded in Rio their supplies had been loaded and the room was now packed to the rafters with new sails. The little leprechaun of a man came into his element as the sail master. Strutting about as pleased as punch that his hold was now full. Gavin seemed to be grumpy and had retorted ‘Just as well considering we’re all bound to drown before the next port.’ Rhiannan was still to discover exactly what he meant by that.

In the bunk Michael stirred. She smiled to herself liking the feeling of peace his presence gave her. But with a small sigh she decided she’d best inform him of what she could see.
‘Good morning Michael, is there meant to be someone following us?’ Rhiannan asked calmly

Michael climbed out of the bunk and looked over her stomach out the rear windows to see the dreaded sight of several ships in full sail in their wake. Then suddenly from the starboard side the bow of a huge ship came into sight almost too close to see the deck of. Rhiannan sucked her bottom lip to save from crying out in fear. Michael grabbed her shoulders frowning.

‘Damn that’s Renaldo’s bloody hulk again.’

Their ship pitched away from the other violently. Maloney had timed it well and they collected the wind and streaked ahead. Michael stood at the window looking back. There were several ships that Rhiannan could see behind the one they’d just escaped the collision of. They watched as Renaldo tacked and came after them aiming along side them. Two of the fleet in pursuit had come after them. They were swift on the surface and were soon close enough to read their names, not that Rhiannan had time to focus on the letters to try and make any sense of them for just as easily as they’d gained on them both ships tacked away and fell back. She couldn’t see why.

He strode to the door hauling the trunk aside and marching through it bellowed ‘Maloney?’

Jake looked out the window then started cackling. ‘They acknowledge we are a plague ship.’ He told her.
‘A what?’ she looked back at the ships pulling away ‘How do you know that?’
‘The semaphore flags. Maloney flew our plague flag and they’ve acknowledged it. They’ve also probably been told we’re an American merchant vessel and so not of any interest to them.’
‘But they were chasing Renaldo not us. If he were pirating us wouldn’t they have by some code of the sea come to our aid?’
‘We flew a plague flag. Pirated or not, no sensible captain would court the plague. Mind you once recorded you can never land. You are banned from all ports and from all ship contact. The kinder thing to do would have been to fire upon us and sink us and allow every man to drown.’

‘Rhiannan.’ Michael called from the stair well.
Rhiannan gave Jake one last look before going to the door.
‘We’ll have to postpone our wedding yet again.’‘
‘We will? Why?’ she looked at Jake again ‘Is it because we flew the plague flag?’
‘It wasn’t us that flew the bloody flag it was Renaldo. He’s along side of us.’
‘Will that pest of a man ever leave us be?’ she hissed ‘I tell you Michael Lord George was a blessing in comparison to this rodent.’
She was busy completing her dressing wrapping her bandana about her head again to fool the man again.
‘At least this rodent has his own ship.’
‘Yes and he wants our rum!’
Michael grinned caressing her angered face. ‘Spoken like a true trader’s wife.’
‘If ever I get to be so!’ she snapped and taking the chamber pot escaped the cabin, leaving Michael to secure Jake inside.

Up on deck she saw that Renaldo had not only come along side but lashed his ship to theirs. She walked to that side and purposefully dashed the contents of the pot down the side of their ship. This angered a wild looking hairy Spanish sailor and he swore at her in his native language opening his trouser front and making to return the insult. She poked her tongue out at him and fled for the safety of the lower decks.

Michael passed her as he was climbing up and hearing his crew’s laughter assumed she’d done something to provoke it again.
‘What you been up to Sam?’ he teased her
In reply she poked her tongue out at him too and scurried off to the kitchen to assist Furness.

‘What captain are you?’ Renaldo began in his course guttural yet somehow nasally whiny voice. ‘You allow your cabin boy to insult my ship!’
‘What is your ship doing attached to mine?’ Michael asked ignoring the man’s tonal desire for blood to spill to restore his honour.
‘Now Michael.’ He began his tone completely changing from mortally insulted to sickly sweet with a small choked laugh. ‘You led me to believe in Rio that we had struck a bargain.’
‘In your sorry turbid little mind I could see that happening but I assure you Renaldo, I have not struck any deal with you, bargain or no, other than to not sever your head from your slender shoulders but even that was more out of consideration to save my great grandfather’s sword from being tainted by the oily grease your body fobs off as blood.’

Michael examined said sword again, having worn it up on his hip, after the last time they’d met gave him no doubts the weasel could not and never could be trusted. He had planned more as a flourishing way of severing the ropes his men had tethered their ships by more than anything.
‘And it is a thing of true beauty and would fetch a desirable amount on the trade markets.’
‘You never stop do you?’ Michael accused.
‘An opportunity missed is an opportunity wasted.’ Renaldo smiled back simply.
The urge to throw the sword javelin style into the man’s nose was almost too good to resist. Had it been his dagger he might not have hesitated. Instead he stepped down off the box and strode to the first rope slicing it easily in one swing.
‘No no no no no, my dear friend, Michael of Kent.’
‘Give me one good reason why not?’
‘I have something you desire aboard.’
‘You have nothing I desire.’
‘Not even your sister?’

With that Michael froze in mid swing.
Rhiannan had been carrying a bucket of fresh fruit to the captain’s cabin and had witnessed this last interchange. She stopped. She had no idea Michael had a sister. It made her realise she barely knew the man. Definitely not enough to base the rest of her life upon.

‘How would you know her to be my sister?’

The small man gave a nod and two sailors went into his cabin and dragged out a girl not much younger than Rhiannan. She was dressed in the soft leather garb of a Red Indian’s tunic; her hair, though braided with beads and feathers, was as blonde as his bleached fairer than his with the sun. Her hands were bound together at the wrist and her eyes were wild with fear.
Renaldo grabbed her viciously and dragged her to the railing. ‘Look at her and tell me she is no relation to you.’
‘Susie?’ he hissed dropping the sword to the deck and swinging up on his railing to hang from a rope to look at her more closely.

Maloney, Gavin and Rhiannan all backed him up; Maloney collecting the sword so as he could run the Italian rodent through at any opportunity; Rhiannan dropping the bucket and fruit rolling out to continue rolling side to side across the deck with the swell.

‘Have you evidence that led you to me?’ Michael finally asked. ‘How did you know she was my sister?’
‘Because she told me.’ Renaldo laughed
Michael looked back at the girl.
‘I saw you running in the docks. I saw you pulling this girl after you. I saw you board this ship and I saw this ship take you away. I called but you did not hear me. This man did. He bought me and he promised to bring me to you.’
‘Susie?’
‘Micky?’ She breathed in awe. ‘Where are mother and father and grandfather?’ she reached out to him.

Michael made to collect her, stepping the gap to stand on Renaldo’s railing and reaching down to touch the bound hands. But Renaldo savagely pulled her back out of his grasp. Just at the same time the ships swelled and Michael nearly lost his footing that would have him fall between the ships to be crushed or drowned in their wake. Fortunately Gavin’s reflexes were quick and he grabbed Michael’s belt dragging him back onboard to the safety of the deck.

‘Let her go Renaldo!’ Michael growled clawing over Gavin’s shoulder trying to retrieve his sister.
‘Not so fast.’ The little Italian smiled. ‘What do I get in return for bringing her safely to you?’ To Michael’s sheer revulsion he had to watch the weasel grab his sister’s jaw and hold her steady to receive his kiss, revoltingly led by the smelly little man’s tongue. ‘She tastes so fine. Not like the dirt of a red Indian at all!’
‘You’ll die for that Italian!’ Michael pledged and never had any of them heard that volume of hatred in his tone before.
‘Give me your rum.’ The man said smiling his best victorious smile. ‘And your cabin boy.’ Rhiannan’s face went pale. ‘Afterall he’s not your sister or your wife now is he? And no matter how much I would prefer that tasty puss I like a boy as well.’

Suddenly Gavin was restraining Michael with all his strength. Furness saw the struggle and came to assist Gavin, rendering Michael incapable of anything further; including intelligent speech. His ramblings were loud and guttural full of explanatives and curses and explicit detail of what he would do to the Italian should he ever get his hands on the pathetic excuse for a man, punctuated by screaming demands to be released in order to exact the threats.

‘Renaldo.’ Maloney took over the negotiations on Michael’s behalf. ‘How about this as a better offer? You give us the girl and we’ll let you sail clear.’
‘That gives me nothing! I’ll take the boy then.’
‘You speak of my son there Italian.’ Gavin called in gritted warning over his shoulder, still working hard to restrain Michael but beginning to think he should just let the man go and watch as he tore the weasel limb from limb, possibly join in and assist the job done well.
‘Take the rum. We have a few cases.’ Maloney told him. He turned and pointed to a group of his crew gathered to watch as had both ship’s crews. ‘Go fetch the cases we brought on at Portsmouth.’ He instructed and the men’s faces lit up as they scrambled to the hold to fetch the captain’s choice.
‘Lad it’s best you get out of sight.’ Maloney hissed to Rhiannan as he made a theatrical wide turn encompassing passing her in his parading stride. ‘I’ll distract him.’
Maloney strode to the railing
‘I think you should find this most delicious. It was my choice and you could do no better.’
With that the men came up struggling with the cases containing the bottles of “rum” that had been loaded in Portsmouth. Rhiannan slipped inside the first door her hand came across and regrettably found herself in the dark confines of the box.

‘This is quater what we have left,’ completely revelling in the role of captain and master trade negotiator, he waved the men to return and fetch the rest ‘I give half to you. We have only consumed a mere quarter of what we brought aboard. We savour it, value each drop, so good is this, there is no wastage.’
‘Aye none at all, but what am I going to fuel the fire and soak the torches with now?’ Furness wailed quietly making Gavin choke into Michael’s shoulder.
‘Hand us over the girl as we pass over the cases and I shall restrain Captain Kent from seeking further retribution from your ship and your hide.’

Turning Maloney saw one of the men who had brought up the last case; the open one and pulling a bottle out uncorked it and drank from it. He grinned at the show but bellowed viciously at the man. ‘Put that bottle back! You dare insult our friend with drinking his rum for him?’
‘Sorry captain I just wanted one last taste to savour before we loose it all.’
‘For that insolence you’ll spend the remainder of the day in the box!’
‘The box?’ the man yelped ‘Oh captain have mercy. I beg you not the box!’
‘Mercy?’ Maloney bellowed ‘You pesky ship rat! I’ll throw you in there myself!’

Furious Maloney stormed over and grabbed the man then dragged him across to open the box, thanking the heavens that the door opened against the neighbouring ship, and pushed the man inside with Rhiannan.
‘Keep silent and no nonsense.’ He warned and both of them, forced to embrace to fit inside the space, stared up at him in shock as he shut the door.
‘Ah! Please captain! Mercy!’ the crewman shouted for authentic appearance, although Rhiannan could see his beaming face from the filtered light through the grill above them.
Maloney slammed his fist against the box making their ears ring with the noise of it. ‘Shut it or you’ll stay all night too!’ he bellowed adding quieter for their ears only ‘Alone!’ stopping the man from starting up again.

‘So Italian, have we a deal?’ Maloney bellowed. ‘My men would spend half a day in that upright coffin just for a swig of this.’
‘Certainly.’ The Italian replied. ‘I could make a fortune from a drink that provokes such admiration from hardened sailors. This woman is Indian trash at any rate.
Everyone aboard the “Mary-Lou” held their breaths as the crew passed the rum over and then Maloney pulled Susie aboard and sliced the binding ropes.

Gavin let Michael go and began bellowing orders sending the crew leaping to and getting their ship away as fast as they could, even before the last ropes were cut. Furness went to let the crewman out of the box finding Rhiannan in there also and on her behalf punched the man in the nose.
‘That was for your thoughts!’ Furness told him ‘Get to your post.’

Michael was holding his sister, slicing the bindings from her wrists with his dagger.
‘Michael, my babies.’ She implored him. ‘My babies!
‘Your what? You have no…’ but he couldn’t finish that assurance.
A sharp whistle made him look over to the Italian and see two sailors come from the place they’d previously dragged her from. One held a child and the other a bundle and a wrapped baby high enough for Michael and his sister to see.
‘Oh god! My babies!’ Susie gasped
Michael didn’t know what to do as he saw the men stride toward the railings, the Italian cackling with such malicious evil mirth Michael begged for a way to kill him there and then.

☼ To be continued ….
…. here

Freedom Pioneers : "Expeditions" [Ch9i]

adgray

Frankston, Australia

  • Artist
    Notes

Artist's Description

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

This chapter continues – here
Expeditions begins – here
Ch8
“Ch10”:

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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