Incendiary

A story of a captain who brings turmoil and disaster upon himself and his closest subordinates by a single act of greed.

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6. Dialogues and Monologues

Chapter VI -- Dialogues and Monologues

 

They anchored the Boneguard near the southeast tip of the Isle of Youth at around midnight. A couple hundred candles were lit, and the whole crew gathered on the deck to pay tribute to the fallen Julius. William Morgan was released prior to the ceremonies, so in fact every single pirate aboard the Boneguard was present. Julius’ body was in his coffin, which was on the port side of the ship. Everyone gathered around it with their candles, and numerous men, mostly the ship’s surgeons, gave short testimonies of the life of Julius. Validus was the last to speak.

“Me lads, confidantes, brothers, we say goodbye to one o’ our own tonight. We say goodbye to a leader, and a strong one, you mind. Julius was always a dear chap to have ‘round. He was smart, logical, and his generosity knew no bounds. By me mother’s bones, he was one o’ of the most blasted good pirates I ever saw. He was courageous and mighty good at business—and, o’ course, medicine. Never was a doctor like Julius.

“I recall the day I got shrapnel in me chest nearly three years ago, now. Julius saved me life that day. He got the shrapnel from me rib cage, then noticed there was some metal jabbing into me very heart. He broke a rib and took that bloody piece of metal out, saving me bleedy heart. That’s why I’ve worn a breastplate in battle ever since that day. If it weren’t for our friend Julius, you’d have held this same service for me some years past.

“I thank ye who spoke in memory of Julius tonight. It is a great honour to speak well of those who fall so we may be lifted higher.”

Validus nodded at Humphrey and Rogers, who lifted the casket and threw it overboard. The crew gave a mighty shout of, “Farewell, Julius!” as the coffin landed in the ocean.

Within minutes, the anchor was reeled in and the Boneguard was off with the breeze. The night was calm, and she glided swiftly along the sea. But for the pirates, the night was tense. Validus had changed their heading from South, leading to New Spain, to East, leading them to Jamaica. He said they would eventually curl their path south after they had outrun any possible British warships by weaving through the islands of the Caribbean for a day or two.

Direction, however, was the least of his worries. Morgan and Validus were now in a power struggle for the position of captain. Each had only a single night to try and persuade as much of the crew as possible to vote with them. All the sail crew and those highly skilled in combat seemed to support Validus, while the Bos’n crew, the gunners, and the Powder Monkeys supported Morgan. The surgeons now despised Morgan and became huge advocates of Validus throughout the entire night.

Validus and Giles stayed together in the Captain’s cabin most of the night, conversing solemnly over distressing matters.

“Tell me, why do you desire to quit your trade of piracy?” Giles asked to Validus, who had explained the gist of his feelings of the last few days.

“‘Tis not that I want to quit piracy,” sighed Validus.

“Then what is it you want?”

“I know not. More, I suppose.”

“More? You have a massive ship with a great crew—a ship with four masts, no less!” laughed Giles.

 “Aye, let me come again,” replied the captain. “I want a new kind of piracy. I want to be the governor of Navarro, or something.”

“Aye, Navarro could use a governor,” Hawke admitted.

“Indeed,” agreed the captain. “Course, the hoodlums of that town would never accept government. I guess me just wants something new. You know, half-and-three years is a right long time to be doin’ the same thing.”

“Then clearly you’ve never been married.”

“And you have?” asked Validus sharply, raising his un-patched eyebrow.

“I haven’t, but I was engaged for two years.”

“Aye? All this time, and I don’t believe I’ve ever heard this story,” laughed the captain.

“Well, I was a young gentleman in Bristol, and my father and her father arranged our marriage. We got engaged, and I grew to love her, and she loved me. I went to Oxford for a year to advance my studies, and I came back at twenty years of age to find my father dead. She, well, she was furious. She hated me for something, just bitterly hated me. She would never tell me why, and broke our engagement in the midst of my grief and turmoil. So, in light of all that, I decided to come to New England. I quickly realized I hated it there, and stole a sloop and convinced a small crew to come with me down to the Caribbean. My first mate then was Francis.”

“Now, that last part I’ve heard!” laughed Validus. “And here you are, both of ye, alongside a sea dog like me-self.”

“A sea dog?” asked Giles. “You’ve never liked the sea.”

“It is not that I despises the sea herself, but I hate the devil that it’s bright and sunny one day, lettin’ ye enjoy yourself, and the next it’s crashing down on you like you killed its best friend or something.”

“Sounds a like lot like London,” said Giles with a chuckle.

“Aye, I hate London, too!” the captain grumbled.

The two laughed for a moment, but the cabin fell quickly silent. Both knew that either Validus or Morgan were living their last days on the Boneguard, and both Giles and Validus couldn’t help but feel Morgan was too well supported to lose.

“Either he gets enough votes to mutiny ‘gainst me, resulting in me being marooned in the middle o’ nowhere, or I get enough votes to stay, and maroon him on the first rock I see fer his irresponsibility over Julius.” Validus paused. “Ye know, Giles, it ain’t being mutinied upon that scares me, it’s the idea o’ being stuck helpless on some pitiful excuse for an island. No food, no water, and no rum.”

Morgan roamed freely about the Boneguard. Dozens of men followed him constantly as he went, eager to hear about what he’d do as captain and what the first changes of his would be. He pranced up and down the gundecks while Francis was left at the helm instead of the true coxswain.

Francis watched for two hours as Morgan laughed and drank with countless men all over the huge main deck. A couple brought violins from the lower decks and a foolish sort of drunk dance began. Francis heard the blast of a trumpet from a deck below, followed by hysterical laughter. Next thing he knew, the trumpet player scurried onto the main deck with four angry pursuers, presumably some poor souls he had awoken with his instrument.

Francis was going mad. Validus had done strange things over his captainship that were unnecessary, even blatantly unjust. But Validus had always demanded discipline from his crew, and was always disciplined towards his crew. But since the moment William Morgan had risen up against the captain, the ship had been in a constant state of uproar and wild excitement. The head surgeon had died suddenly in amongst the fray, and Francis was sure he wouldn’t be last one to do so. Francis gave the wheel a hard jerk to port to grab the attention of the partiers. The ship jolted to the left under his command, knocking the dancers off their feet. The violinists hit a couple sour notes, and the men cursed at Francis.

The first mate thundered down the gangway to the aft cabins, but Morgan drew his flintlock pistol and cocked it as Francis was about to open the door.

“Stop right there!” laughed Morgan.

Francis turned around with hands up to see the helmsman with a loaded pistol in one hand and a fat bottle in the other.

“Get back up to the helm, soldier!” hollered Morgan.

“Actually, that’s yer job!” cried Francis in return.

Giles and Validus came from the captain’s cabin to investigate.

“Gents, Morgan!” cried the captain. “What has befelled you?! You know, fer someone who may replace me as Cap’n on the morrow, you’re not leavin’ a good early impression on ye crew. Tell me, soldier, why’s your gun pointed at ye first mate’s head? Huh?”

Giles walked up to the coxswain. “Give me your weapon, Morgan. Enough of this madness.”

Morgan swayed drunkenly, refusing to hand the pistol over.

“Hand it over,” commanded Giles, “or you’ll lose your other weapon—that fleshy one in your pants.”

The men who had gathered around to witness the commotion laughed and hooted. The trumpeter blew a high blast on his horn.

Morgan gave the gun to the quartermaster. As soon as it was in his hand, Giles hurled it out to his left into the open sea. Morgan cursed in disbelief and swung a punch at Giles. Validus drew his cutlass on the helmsman

“Go back to bed,” Validus said firmly to the men. Then his voice showed clear signs of weariness. “Or if ye haven’t been to bed, get o’er there now. Or else do some good around here and help sail this bloody ship! Ye ain’t just pirates; ye are sailors, too, the whole lot o’ ya!”

That ended the commotion for the night. Within an hour, the whole ship was asleep, except for two sentries on the top deck, and a third on the quarterdeck. The remainder of the night was peaceful; the waters were calm, and the sky was clear. The moon was a tiny sliver of light in the sky. The wind was gentle, the waves tranquil. Everyone slept easy that night, and the good sleep would be well needed for the day ahead of them.

***

The sun rose early on October 21, 1688. The captain and the helmsman were madly preparing their speeches which they would give before the votes were cast. On the main deck, large strips of cloth were harnessed around a frame that acted as a tent for voting. There were two of these tents. Each man on the crew would enter one of the two stations and receive a piece of old cloth from the coordinator at the station, either Francis or Giles. Either they would mark the cloth with a black stamp, essentially supporting the mutiny Morgan was about to call, or leave the cloth plain, refuting the mutiny. The voter would then put it in a jar at the station and would proceed to the galley to partake of fresh tropical fruits. This was an incentive proposed by Morgan so that the men wouldn’t come back and vote more than once. The crew rarely ever got fresh fruit unless they had recently resupplied at a port, for fruits were impossible to preserve for a long period of time.

The plans were made, and at about six in the morning, a special horn was blown around the ship signaling for everyone to report to the top deck. All the sails were mostly reefed to slow the ship down for the speeches and the casting of the votes.

Giles and Validus were back seated in the captain’s cabin, two close friends possibly witnessing their last sunrise together.

“Validus, you won’t lose,” said Giles, reassuring the other. “You will win! Morgan has no chance against you. He’d never be such a captain as yourself.”

“Nay, though he will try,” replied Validus. “Whatever happens is not in me hands. ‘Tis in the hands of the crew. It’s a fair vote, Giles, whatever the case. And that’s what piracy needs; fairness. We’re hunted by the Brits, shunned by the Spaniards, and hated by the world. Why, we live our very lives at sea! A dreadful life, unless ye strike it rich. The world ain’t fair, nor is piracy. But a fair vote is what pirates deserve; a choice. Many o’ us are forced into piracy. What’s more, we’re bound to the sea, ever at the mercy of her cruelty and deception. The least we can do is offer we-selves choices where we can.” The captain stood, and moved towards the door of his cabin. “And always I have chosen honour. I have lived with honour, so will I die with honour. And if I piss a couple people off along the way and myself a good time, it’s all the better for me.”

Giles stood and walked across the cabin to Validus. He stretched out his hand. “Whatever awaits, I am, and will ever be, your friend.”

Validus shook Giles’ hand softly. “Aye. Forever,” he said solemnly, though with a glimmer of joy in his voice. “Now, Master Giles, come! Let us see what cruel destiny awaits this friend o’ yours.”

The entire crew was packed onto the main deck of the Boneguard. It was about eight in the morning, and the ship was anchored quite a ways from the Isle of Youth. The island could only be seen faintly by the naked eye from the ship’s aft castle.

Validus took a good long whiff of the sea breeze as he ascended the gangway to the quarterdeck. Morgan was already there, and was the only one on the quarterdeck besides the captain. Giles came soon after to announce the procedure of the voting. Most of the crew knew exactly how it was going to happen, but it was customary to review the process of a mutiny vote, as it didn’t happen often.

Then Giles proceeded to explain that each man would be giving a short speech before the vote began, as the mutiny vote was a vote to essentially decide between keeping the old captain or maroon him and choose a different one in his place. Only the one proposing mutiny could be a candidate; thus, Morgan and Validus were the only ones being voted on.

“And now, Mister Morgan,” summoned Giles, “I invite you to say your peace.”

Giles stepped to the back of the quarterdeck and Morgan took center stage.

“Gentlemen o’ fortune,” called Morgan to the crew of 300. “I come before ye with a single question. Are ye happy under your leader? Are ye happy under your cap’n?

“Your cap’n,” called Morgan in his booming voice, “Though he has led ye through raging storms and braved fierce battles with ye, all with a fiery resolve, it is that same fiery resolve that he has used to take advantage of all you. Or, some o’ you, should I say. He’s made slaves out o’ half of you, and has spoiled the rest. That same fiery resolve has been utilized to stomp o’er good honest men he doesn’t find favour with. That fiery resolve has possessed him. He has hoarded, stolen from ye very pockets, gents!”

Malarkey from hell! Screamed Validus inside his head, as Morgan continued to explain every wrongdoing of Validus over every day of his three years as captain. Mindless drivel! All o’ it’s his opinion blown to obscenity with a prejudice bigger than the sea itself! Validus tried to calm himself down. He can speak whate’er he blessed wants to. I must give them truth. It may just be the last thing I e’er give ‘em.

At last Morgan’s monologue turned around.

“I offer ye a new beginning, where everyone will be treated equal. Under me, a man’s money shall be respected, and be esteemed o’ his status aboard this ‘ere vessel. Whereas you were not allowed spirits during the day in the days past, under me you shall have every pleasure of ye heart’s content. Under me, we shall embrace a new kind o’ piracy! We will be bolder, stronger, fiercer; richer! No one shall stand in our way, as long as we can sail the seven seas! Why? Because, gents, we are pirates!”

Customarily, it was required to have silence during and in between these speeches; however, a wild roar of praise erupted from the crew. Countless mouths screamed, whistled, and arms drew flintlocks, aimlessly shooting them up in the air, scoring the sails with tiny holes.

Morgan raised his arms high in the air, repeating his last line in a shout of triumph.

Giles shook his head; Validus stormed back and forth across the quarterdeck. Giles was grateful he couldn’t hear Validus; he appeared to be cursing at the top of his lungs. Giles knew how tormenting this was to Validus; his crew had turned against him at the click of a drunken, ill-tempered hooligan like Morgan. Validus, a lover of having people follow and praise him, was going mad over Morgan’s rise to power.

Truly, me time is finished here, he moaned to himself.

Eventually the ruckus died down. Morgan and Validus exchanged hard glances as they switched places. The scars they had dealt each other were most ugly and bore their total hate for each other wherever they went.

As Validus gazed out over his crew, his heart died inside. He had lost the support of his men to a hoodlum bent on stirring up trouble. Of course, I caused trouble first, Validus conceded. He looked out and saw their piercing glares. Most of them had certainly believed Morgan fully. The night before, Validus still thought the vote might have been even; he was now convinced otherwise. Courage, courage, he said to himself. Perhaps not all is lost.

“Me friends, good men of sail,” spoke Validus, beginning his speech, “ye have just heard a very passionate testimony of me life and times aboard this ‘ere great ship. But it didn’t come from me. It came from a man more willin’ to cut me head off than do me any honour. Just keep that in mind.

“But don’t have a fit, I ain’t gonna tell my side of Morgan’s story,” chuckled Validus. Up until this point, he had been wearing his full gear: coat, conquistador helmet, belt, armour, and high boots. He took off his coat and held it over his right side like a great dish towel, as if he were a bartender. He also removed his hat and held it at his left side. The whole crew now saw he was mostly bald, apart from the long locks he had paid to have imbedded in his head.

“My career began here three years ago. Me companions and I, Morgan, Francis, Giles, Humphrey, Rogers, and others, we took this ship from the Brits in a nasty firefight, and above all that convinced o’er two hundred British sailors to forsake the good king o’ England and sail under me Jolly Roger. I have ever since been your mighty cap’n. You all looked to me in times o’ trouble, both when we had none to eat, and when we had to chuck our food o’erboard just to stay a floatin’. Ye have called me your wise leader, ye mighty leader, and ye have abided by me laws wit’ joy. Ye have called my laws fair and just!

“But the winds of change have filled our sails of late. Most o’ you have listened to a man who stirs up revolution amongst this crew, who calls for change and calls the past a reason to change. He calls the future better than the present. But I say to ye, you know nothing ‘bout the future. You know what kind o’ leader will be commanding this ‘ere ship three days from now no more than you know whence your next meal will come from.

“I have ever loved serving ye as your cap’n. I know not what will happen today as ye decide who will lead you, but I want ye to sail the seas with freedom, whoever’s in command. Sail the seas knowin’ your life is in ye own hands, not in the hands of some fat British admiral wearing white pantyhose and a hat the size of a sail. Ye are pirates—free men, powerful men, wise men, rich men! Sail the seas with a poise in ye breast and a fire in ye soul!”

Validus placed his hat back on his head, feeling much more confident, feeling free. The crew was quiet for a moment, but a magnificent applause soon burst forth. The trumpeter blasted great notes on his horn, and the men cheered and shouted even louder than they had for Morgan.

Validus put his coat back over his armour and turned to face Giles. They both smiled at each other with beaming grins of triumph.

In that moment, the sun poured out over the sea through the morning clouds, casting brilliant light on the ocean. The whole world seemed to sing in Validus’ ears and he felt like the king of the seas. ‘Tis a sensation I’ve not felt in a long time, he thought.

The voting started right away. It was, like everything else on a ship of 300 men, a slow process, and not a highly organized one, either. Nonetheless, the sailors all chatted waiting for their turn to place their vote while Giles and Validus sat tensely on the quarterdeck. Giles was supposed to be at one of the ballot stations, but Humphrey agreed to take his place. They were sure Validus’ speech had made a great impact on the men, but both wondered if it would be enough to secure a victory.

“Whatever happens, sir,” said Giles, “I think it’ll be for the best.”

“Aye, Master Giles! There is hope stirring on our horizons this day.”

The captain cleared his throat and got up to survey the ship and the sea around her. Little work had been done on the jiggermast since the awful storm a couple weeks back; it was still cracked, but not yet bent. He pulled his spyglass from his belt and surveyed the calm seas around him. He surveyed the sea to the portside; nothing. He marched across the quarterdeck and looked about the starboard side; nothing. As the structure of the aft castle was too great to see over from the quarterdeck or the poop deck, he went down to his cabin. He opened the curtains of one of his windows, opened the window, and looked about through his spyglass. At first, he could see nothing, for there was still a lot of low mists and clouds sitting low over the ocean. But slowly, he saw an enormous shape. As the shape emerged from the grey clouds, sails became visible. He looked closer, spying the ship’s masthead, a gold-cast horse.

“The stallion! I know that ship!” cried the captain aloud. Of course, no one could hear him, so he lunged back up to the quarterdeck.

“Me men!” he yelled. “All hands on deck! We got a ship coming behind our stern ‘bout a mile back. Ready the ship, reel the anchor, ready the guns, hoist the sails, and hoist them colours!!!”

 

 

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