The sun was barely creeping over the hills of the Isle of Youth when Giles awoke. He had asked the night watch to wake him up at that time, for he had business to take care of. He got dressed, grabbed his hat from the hook on the door of his quarters, and walked across the corridor to the captain’s quarters. A guard was posted there to keep the captain inside, who would only let Giles in or anyone else the quartermaster commanded him to let in.
Giles entered to find Validus at his massive desk table. His desk was filled with maps and charts, and the captain was writing something very furiously. Giles closed the door and knocked on the back of it to get Validus’ attention.
The captain paused, then stood up and turned to face his guest. “Ah, Giles. Welcome, me friend. How might I service ye?”
“Before I let you out of here,” began the quartermaster, “I must know one thing. Why did you rob Morgan of his treasure and take an even better treasure for your own? I can’t make any bloody sense of it. Tried, have I, but failed. Why, captain?”
“I ain’t fond of him,” responded the captain. “I also find me self a rather creative person, and thought of the best way to rouse Morgan’s anger. I hoped he would commit such a crime against me, I’d be pressured to maroon the scoundrel. That is me intent this very morn.”
“I see,” said Giles. “Juarez’s medallion?”
“Why did you take unconsented possession of it?”
“Because … it’s big … and golden.” Validus paused awkwardly, searching for words. “It’s very pretty. And I’m this ship’s Cap’n. What I want is mine.”
“I’ve been contemplating things, Validus. I figure most of the crew, upon knowing both your contemptible deeds…”
“Ye finds them contemptible?” intruded the captain sharply.
“Aye, but I am ever your loyal friend, and shall make no move or strife against you.”
“Aye,” replied Validus, understanding the quartermaster. “Continue.”
“I do expect the majority of the crew, upon knowing your deeds, would rather see you marooned than Morgan.”
“Ye think so?”
“Aye,” answered Giles gravely.
“Ah, load me cannon with it!” the captain cried out. “It’s worth a shot!” Validus grabbed two glass bottles from his desk containing light liquids. “Have a brandy, Master Giles!”
Giles extended his arm to accept the bottle, but Validus pulled the brandy back.
“But,” Validus commanded, “let me out first.”
“Not until I have a favour out of you.”
“Op’ning the door comes before any o’ that.”
“I am in the position of power at the moment. The favour first.”
“Fine, but no brandy for you.”
“So be it.”
At William Morgan’s cell, Harold the boatswain and several other men, men of the Bos’n Crew, as they were called, gathered around Morgan’s cell chatting quietly. The boatswain was in charge of a small crew who led the maintenance and repairs of the entire ship, from mast to hull, as well as monitor and improve the crew’s morale and efficiency. Harold had built a very close friendship with the helmsman over the last three years, and his crew had followed suit. As a result, the Bos’n Crew were among the very closest of Morgan’s confidantes, and the bond trust between the two parties was nearly inseparable.
“Me men,” uttered the coxswain gravely and quietly. “I imagine the cap’n will maroon me ‘fore long fer trying to kill him.”
The Bos’n Crew responded in fierce agreement.
“I’m going to mutiny,” declared Morgan. “I’m going to call for a vote to dismiss the cap’n at teatime. I need your help, Harold willing.”
“Not a doubt! I’m with ye,” replied Harold.
“Excellent! I need all o’ ye to talk to the Powder Monkeys and the kitchen crew, as well as lots o’ the sentries and minor officers. They’re the ones most tired of the Cap’n, I believe, an’ methinks we can convince them to support me in mutiny. What say ye?”
A roar erupted from Morgan’s cell as the Bos’n crew cheered in agreement.
“Shush, pipe down!” silenced the helmsman. “I think there be people descending to this here deck.”
Sure enough, he was right. Francis and Giles were heading their direction to release Morgan. The Bos’n crew scattered and moved about their duties, and Morgan slouched on the floor of his cell, looking irritable and tired.
The two high officers approached the cell and noticed the helmsman lying drearily on the floor of the brig. He was roused by their entrance and slowly stood up to meet them. He was exceptionally tall, which always amazed Giles, and further amazed Francis, who didn’t even reach quite as high as Giles’ six-foot height.
“What you want wit’ me?” grumbled Morgan. He grabbed his large feathered tricorn hat and placed it on his head, running his hands up and down his face, giving further to the illusion he had been asleep. In fact, he’d been up all night conspiring and thinking up a plot of mutiny.
“I’d like to restore you to your position at the helm,” Giles answered. “For now, you’re both going back to the quarterdeck for the day. I’d like you two to make amends somewhere during the day, but I fear that is too much to ask. Today, we dock in Puerto Navarro, and you both need to be in positions of command and control. You and the Cap’n had a bad day yesterday,” Giles said, and then paused. He recognized the sheer understatement of his words at the sight of the dozens of stitches running down Morgan’s face. “But, today is new.”
Francis unlocked the cell and Morgan got out; the two officers proceeded to lead the coxswain back up to the helm. On their way up, Morgan passed by Harold, who looked up at Morgan subtly. The helmsman gave him a sharp wink and continued walking.
Morgan reached the helm, still escorted by Giles, only to find Validus waiting for him. Validus had a sincere smile on his face, but Morgan didn’t trust it a bit. “Mister Morgan,” greeted the captain.
Morgan tipped his hat, but didn’t say a word.
“I’d like to apologize,” Validus admitted. “I have done ye wrong. ‘Twas unnecessary of me to steal what rightly was yours.” He drew a piece of parchment from behind his back and handed it to Morgan. It declared Morgan’s shares be restored to normal. He would also be given an Onza doubloon from the captain’s treasury to compensate for the disagreement. “Keep ye shares,” the captain said. He held out his hand for the helmsman to shake.
Morgan shook it, and folded up the paper, stuffing it in his jacket. Then, he said, “What about the Onza?”
Validus drew one from his coat’s breast pocket and handed it to the helmsman reluctantly.
“And concerning the medallion, Cap’n?” asked Morgan.
Validus pulled it out of the collar of his jacket, still wearing it proudly around his neck. He smiled and tucked it back in.
Both of them stared at each other. Neither were satisfied, but they had to prove to Giles everything was okay. They glared at each other’s long knife wounds on their faces, and smiled at the injury they had dealt to one another.
Giles cleared his throat loudly.
Sighing, Validus grabbed his bottle of brandy from the portside rail of the quarterdeck and handed it to the helmsman.
Morgan grinned, turned around, descending the gangway and descending even lower to the gun decks, presumably to the galley to enjoy a swig of his new spirit.
Validus advanced towards Giles and whispered harshly in hear, “To the foulest of the depths with you! Me Onza, his shares, and me brandy! Ye’re a cruel negotiator!”
“I could’ve made you give him rum instead,” Giles replied, smirking. “How’d ye like that?”
Validus snorted, charged down the gangway and stomped off to his quarters, cursing all the way.
In a couple of hours, the Boneguard’s anchor was drawn in and her canvas let out. Her sails caught the swift afternoon breeze and Morgan wheeled her in to Puerto Navarro. They docked about half an hour later along a very lengthy pier, paid for their stay and negotiated with the dock masters. Validus, Giles, Francis, and Morgan, now able to all work together reasonably, decided to stay for two nights, then set sail for Maracaibo and other rich ports along the north coast of South America.
Morgan already had his plans for his first night on land in three weeks. He had written to Harold to join him with the rest of the Bos’n Crew, the Chief Powder Monkey, and the Head Surgeon, at the peak of a hill a few hundred yards from the edge of the port. He promised to have a fire going and had asked Harold in his letter to bring plenty of rum.
Morgan was very confident Harold would choose to come. The boatswain wanted mutiny very much, and knew how to get others to go along with it. Harold had told him that Daniels, the Chief Powder Monkey, was more than ready to mutiny against Validus, and Harold was determined he could convince Julius, the Head Surgeon, to join them. The Monkeys and Surgeons would spread the idea around to dozens of other crew members, and in perhaps a week, Morgan could make his move.
While the vast majority of the crew had ventured into the port with mounds of cash in their pockets and grins in their eyes, Giles had chosen to stay on deck and enjoy drinks. He had invited the cook, Lombardi, to join him with a bottle of fine port from the galley cellar, and Lombardi had brought one of the best. The two sat on fancy dining chairs high on the poop deck of the anchored Boneguard, gazing about the sun setting over the tip of the island, and at the rowdy port, with barely a word between them. A quartet of gulls circled above the high rigging of the ship and settled upon various points of the jiggermast.
A while later a pair of what looked like small fishing sloops approached the docks. Giles moved to the edge of the ship and pulled out his spyglass to investigate. On one of the ships he spotted a netted hammerhead shark. He whistled loudly in astonishment. A catch like that could have only been made with the lure of blood in the water. Likely they cut apart a pig or smaller mammal and dropped it in the sea with a large net around it. That would make those fishermen fairly wealthy, thought Giles before taking a seat again. He noticed, however, that his walk was awkward and wobbly, and decided he would stop drinking for a while. Lombardi had pulled out a long wooden pipe and was playing common minstrel tunes on it. The sky was clear, and the sea was calm, yet Giles still had trouble on his mind.
“Lombardi,” he said. The cook ceased his playing and turned to look at the quartermaster.
“How could Morgan have found out Validus was the one who back-stabbed him?”
“Well!” responded Lombardi heartily. “William Morgan, he’s awful cunning, you mind. But he just ain’t that super at that process of elimination stuff. Doubt it, I do, that he’d be the sort to narrow the suspects down to Cap’n Validus.”
“You make a good point,” agreed Giles. “He did come straight to me to begin with.”
Lombardi took a swig of port and continued with his instrument. His notes, this time, were squeaky and terribly off-pitch. Lombardi shook his head and tried again. His next note sounded like the whine of a wretched dog.
“Then again, you must be drunk, too,” Giles sighed.
“Yep, Math-der Fawk, I muth bee,” replied the cook with half a mouth full of port. Lombardi tried to form another sentence, but neither of them could discern any of the words from it. Utterly humored, the cook threw his head back and burst into drunken laughter.
Giles shook his head and took a big swig of port. He got up and tried to leave the quarterdeck, but the combination of the rocking of the ship and his own drunkenness disrupted his balance, and he stumbled sideways into the ship’s wheel. At that moment, the captain ascended to the quarterdeck and saw the two men in their pathetic disarray.
“You guys haven’t seen the Head Surgeon, have ye?” he asked impatiently.
Lombardi stopped laughing, stared at the captain for a moment, then drifted off into his drunken humor again. Giles, clutching his breast in discomfort, replied in the negative.
“Dammit!” cursed the captain. “I can’t find that boor anywhere!”
“Maybe he’s at the … the holiday,” Lombardi blurted incoherently.
“At the holiday?!” screamed Validus. “Ye drunken boors, ye. Both of ye!” The captain stomped off, muttering something about an infection in the great gash on his face, and about looting Puerto Navarro’s every nook and cranny in order to find Julius.
Lombardi sat awkwardly in his chair, again trying to play his pan flute-like instrument, and Giles simply stood leaning against the helm, trapped in an utter daze.
As Validus lumbered down the staircase to the deck, he noticed a rather desperate man come charging up to him from the middle gun deck. It was Miguel, one of the ones who had survived the Boneguard’s attack on the Spanish treasure galleon. Miguel stormed up to Validus and began to curse him in Spanish, but so quickly that the captain couldn’t make out half of it despite his deep knowledge of the Spanish language. He laid one hand on the holstered pistol on his left hip, and with his right hand laid it on the sword at his right. Miguel continued cursing, without noticing the subtle threat.
Validus drew both weapons rapidly and kept them at his sides. Miguel ceased.
“Shut up!” Validus roared with astonishing volume. Miguel cowered back in fear as the larger man leaned over him.
“What be your problem, ye bloody prisoner?!”
“This not Spanish port,” replied Miguel timidly, in his broken English.
“It is indeed a Spanish port!” Validus exclaimed.
“Where is Spanish ships and Spanish guards?” asked Miguel angrily.
“Oh, that kind of Spanish port.” Validus sneered. Navarro used to be like that.
“I just assumed you wanted a port where Spanish was largely spoken.”
“I want Spanish port!” Miguel demanded.
Validus cocked his pistol, raised it, and pointed it between the Spaniard’s eyes.
“Then find one by ye self!” he bellowed. “Now get your carcass off me ship!”
Miguel glared at him, turned and walked in defeat down the plank that descended to the pier.
“If that bugger’s so violent as to curse and scream at the pirate captain holding him prisoner, he should make out fairly well in Navarro,” said Validus, expressing his thoughts aloud. “One would only hope.”
William Morgan still sat at his great bonfire atop the hill outside the town, awaiting his fellow pirate crews to meet him. He was expecting Harold and the Bos’n crew, a crew of twenty men, and the surgeon crew of sixteen for sure to join him in his plot for mutiny. But the group he really wanted the attention of was the Powder Monkeys. They kept, fired, cleaned, loaded, and were the cannons of the ship. Their crew of 150 kept the Boneguard as powerful as she was. They were also the butt end of Validus’ neglect. They essentially made up the gunner crew, as well. They were paid less, fed less, and had the smallest hammock space of all the other crews of the ship. And they had never been happy about it.
These measures had been imposed on them years ago, when Validus realized they were among the rowdiest men on the ship. That was why he held them below the other crews in standard and in pay. And generally, they weren’t very smart, either. They knew everything there was to know about guns and powder and shot and the like, but they weren’t heavy thinkers. Drinkers maybe, but not thinkers.
That’s where Morgan found his advantage. If he could convince the Powder Monkeys that their conditions aboard the ship weren’t just irritating but in fact intolerable and unjust, he’d have to hold them back for dear life to prevent them from feeding their captain to the sharks. That was precisely why Morgan desired to have this counsel outside of anyone else’s earshot, and out of the way of the captain. He didn’t want some drunken hooligan firing a bullet through Validus’ head without “honorably” overthrowing the captain. Morgan knew very well the proper conduct for re-election. Clean, fair, and by a casting of votes. He couldn’t hope to accomplish the planning of that with everyone crammed on board the Boneguard, because people would get too excited, and someone would just do something incredibly stupid. Patience was the key to Morgan’s plan; patience and tranquility.
At that time, he could hear the rustle of many footsteps on the path through the rocky jungle leading up to his summit which overlooked the port. He heard many whispering voices, too. They would grow incredibly loud at times and someone would cry out, “Shut up!” and the voices would lower to a murmur again. It was sort of like a round stair up the rock face to reach the meeting place, so Morgan could hear the voices and footsteps for a little while.
One by one in single file they reached the summit. Some carried cases of alcohol, others torches. Some brought thin metal spears and baskets of raw sausage. Morgan found this amusing; he didn’t expect the gathering to become a pork roast.
The Head Surgeon, Julius, the Chief Powder Monkey, Daniels, and Harold the Boatswain met Morgan in the middle of the gathering by the bonfire.
“This lot totals ‘bout sixty-and-one hundred men,” informed Harold. “I suspect there might be a few stragglers who might also vote with ye when the time comes to mutiny, but these are your men.”
Morgan surveyed these three by the intense glow of the fire. Julius was a tall man, almost lanky. He didn’t appear to hold that flame of anger in his eyes the other two did. Morgan wondered if Julius and his men would vote with him at all.
Daniels was a hard, strongly-built man, also tall, which served to disadvantage him deep in the keels of the ship where he worked day in and day out. He had harboured a heavy grudge on the captain for many months as the welfare of his men had steadily declined, seemingly at the captain’s pleasure. Morgan was confident he had the support of his men, which already made up half the entire ship’s crew.
Harold moved over to one side of the bonfire with a wooden crate in his hand. He stood up on it, for he was a smaller man, and whistled loudly to get the crew’s attention.
“Gather round,” he called. “We’re ‘bout to begin!”
The men took their seats on the smooth rocky ground and their chatter subsided. The rum was laid out by Harold away from the rest of the men; the pirates with spears and sausages sat near the embers of the fire to cook them.
“Me good sailors,” Harold began. “Rumour has it that strange talk of mutiny flows with the ocean current. You’re right well it does, but it ain’t no rumour. Pirates, I give ye our helmsman, Mister William Morgan.”
The crowd cheered as Morgan strode round the fire to Harold.
“Here, use me crate,” beckoned Harold.
“I’m seven feet tall,” Morgan reminded him with a hearty laugh. He gazed out over the pirates, the strength of their numbers empowering him.
“Thank ye, gentlemen, but a little quieter next time. Nay, we don’t want all of Navarro knowing we’re here. Indeed, our time for a new leader has arisen from the depths. The Boneguard deserves a new leader. Captain Validus is well-liked by some. More than that, he is well-hated. He would take the lost Medallion of Juarez and claim it as his own. He would cripple me shares out o’ his own contempt for me. He would underpay and overwork the hardest men among this crew and spoil rotten those he finds favour with. Why?”
Morgan shook an angry fist in the air. “Of course, I don’t bloody care why. It’s wrong! Aye, he is a pirate … just a lousy one. And I for one think he’s had long enough to exploit the good men of our ship. Our time has come!”
Validus stood alone on the Boneguard’s main deck, gazing out over the harbour of Puerto Navarro. He was deep in thought, pondering the many moves he’d made over the previous weeks. He had been doing stupid things to people, particularly Morgan, and he didn’t know why. He had always been the kind to choose friends and enemies and treat them more than such; that much he knew. Perhaps I’m bored of being captain. Aye, maybe that’s it. He couldn’t understand that thought, either. Piracy was a livelihood he loved above all others. He loved the power and reputation he had gained through his command on the Boneguard. Maybe he needed a new kind of piracy, a new ship, a new crew. Of course, he’d likely never find a ship bigger than the Boneguard, but finding a crew with more honour was marginally possible. He just wished he could take friends like Giles, Francis, Humphrey, and Rogers with him.
His thoughts were interrupted by a strange roaring sound—not the roaring of the sea, but a roar of voices. Commotion in the harbour stopped. The roar came from the rocky ridge above the port. It resounded again, then subsided for good.
Giles staggered down the gangway towards the captain. “What was that?” he inquired in a wobbly voice.
“Probably Morgan trying to stir up mutiny and keep the men quiet at the same time,” answered Validus without turning to see the quartermaster. “You’re still drunk. Go to bed.” At least you don’t get drunk very often, sighed Validus inwardly.
Suddenly, Giles groaned, rushed to the railing of the ship’s deck and heaved indigestion from his stomach into the bay.
“My good men,” called Morgan, attempting to silence the passionate crowd, “The Boneguard needs a new captain; a man to raise her up to her rightful glory; a man to protect her crew and look out for each man’s best interests; a man to lead! Please, let me be that man.”
The crowd bellowed shouts of “Aye!” and “Mutiny!” Many chanted Morgan’s name and the chorus grew so loud, Morgan was certain it could be heard all the way from the harbour. But he rejoiced in his triumph.
“Please!” he yelled. The men calmed down again. “Please, call me…” He paused to consider his next words. “Captain Bones! Call me Captain Billiam Bones of the Boneguard.”
Once again, the rowdy pirates erupted in cheers and shouts.
At that time, Julius approached Morgan and shook his hand.
“I’m with thee, sir,” he said, shouting to compete with the noise of the crowd and the raging bonfire.
“Aye, thank ye, doctor. Shall we add to the party?”
“Indeed.” Julius grabbed a case of rum and held it above his head. “Hey, ye filthy pirates!” he called to the crowd. The men saw the rum and froze. Their eyes danced as they saw the case of alcohol.
“Let the party begin!”