The crew roared a whole-hearted cheer as the ship bumped the edge of the jetty.
A handful of deckhands vaulted the bulwarks, only be called back to tie the ship to the bollards with the large hawsers which were slung over by the fellow men.
“My good men.” Edmund walked slowly and with slight grace down the port-side stairs, “We have made it to our first port of call: Praia.”
The crew hailed once more.
“There is much work to be done,” He continued, “But every member of this crew is allowed to spend the night in the town.”
Again, an applause emitted from the crowd.
“Any man not on this vessel by this time tomorrow, will not receive their wages, and will be left here. You have been warned.” He gave a stern look to the men, slightly worried expressions emerging on their faces.
He gave a flap of his hand, signalling for the crew to leave, and they were certainly glad to see it.
Every one of them jumped the bulwarks and raced down the jetty, charging past the many fishers and merchants who unloaded their brigs.
He waited for a while, until the masses had dispersed into the Portuguese town, before deciding that he also would go into the town.
“Charles? Hans?” He called up to the deck, “Care to join me?”
Both men seemed delighted at the question. They both walked down with fine smiles on their faces.
The three men walked the duckboard onto the breakwater, and stood still as a man proceeded to approach them.
He wore what one would assume to be his most expensive clothes: a slashed doublet – grey and embroidered with gold – along with paned sleeves, long grey breeches descended from it, and were tucked into tall, narrow boots, with turned-over tops.
His hair was short and dark, and he looked to be quite older then the three men.
“Olá!” He shook Edmunds hand, as the captain noticed the sword swinging by his left side, secured in its scabbard.
“Um…Olá.” Edmund knew his fair share of Portuguese, enough to keep him alive anyway, yet the man seemed to realise his true nationality.
“You are English, yes?” He asked, a smile beaming across his face.
Neither Hans nor Charles knew what to make of this man. They knew not who he was, nor why he was introducing himself to the men.
“Aye.” Edmund seemed intrigued, yet in some sense slightly worried, “We are indeed.”
“My name is Fernando Lopez,” The man continued, “I am commander of the army which is stationed on this island. Under the command of our gracious leader: Alfonso the sixth of Portugal, I have been instructed to escort you through the town at your command.”
He bowed a fine obeisance in front of the men.
“That seems very kind of you.” Edmund said, and Fernando smiled to him once more, “But may I ask why?”
Fernando hesitated for a moment, as he racked his brain for the correct English translation.
“We have taken this island in our glorious restoration, my dear friend, but it still houses many of the wretched Spanish pigs.
You and your friends may be some of those who will be targeted by the…how do you say…cutpurses.”
“Ah…” Edmund nodded in approval. This man talked sense. In such a place as this, torn in the war of the Portuguese Restoration, one could never be too sure about the company he kept. Merchants, strumpets and even beggars were not to be trusted when there was an essence on debauchery in the air.
“Yes…” Fernando stood proud and still, “Where is it that you are looking to go?”
“A tavern.” Edmund’s answer was short and blunt, “Or an guesthouse of sorts.”
“Come, there is an inn not too far from here: A Forja, it is called. We must be quick, and leave the docks, before others know such people as you have arrived. They do not take lightly to Britons.” He beckoned the men to follow him, and they made their way down the jetty.
Once the men hit the soft earth which composed the road which wound along the Bayfront, the sights and sounds completely overwhelmed that of the English towns and cities.
People casually strolled past, talking to one another in their native tongue, while others shouted from windows across the narrow alleyways.
There were no horses, clopping along the road, and were no ships rolling in and out of the harbour. It was all relatively calm, yet there was still an underlying sense of dishonesty.
The sound of a blacksmith, hitting his hammer against the molten metal on the anvil, brought the place alive with its medieval roots, and the whole town seemed older than it actually was.
“Here we are.” Fernando said as he reached a small doorway, “A Forja.”
The men looked up above the entrance. A large wooden sign swayed in the breeze, with a symbol of a hammer and anvil.
He resided for a moment on the people making their way in and out of the doorway, waiting with the others for a space to move.
Mainly middle class men, they were, with purses full of doubloons and their shirts slightly untucked, indicating that their interests were not of drink, but of the female company which lurked within.
He waited for a moment longer, as the stream of continuous men hasted to cease, but with Fernando beckoning the men into the tavern, decided not to dwell on it for too long.
The atmosphere in the tavern was one to be savoured the moment they entered.
The joyous calls from up above the balcony on the right side down to the girls who lingered on the lounge chairs below them were not of anger, nor of temptation, but of cheerful calls and casual chatter.
A large set of stairs ascended up the right wall of the building, and wrapped around through a balcony, which turned the corner and ran along the rear wall, before exiting into the balcony on the outside.
There were at least twenty tables dotted around the main floor, each containing men of different colours and classes, speaking all the languages of the world.
The counter, of pristine oak, stretched far across the left side of the room. Complete with a back bar and door to the cellar, it was stacked high along the wall with wines, ales and spirits of all kinds, with many a drunkard sitting on his stool, mumbling in the same way one would find in many of the pubs and taverns of England’s ports themselves.
“Over there.” Charles pointed past the rest of the group to a small table in the far right corner. Amongst a couple of chairs sat a half-barrel. On top was placed a circular top, much like a solid wheel of ancient times. The surface was slightly dampened with water after the winches cleaned it from its previous occupants but, as the men weaved through the patrons, each one looking up at the foreigners with somewhat distained looks.
“They don’t seem too happy to see us, Sir!” Hans spoke lightly behind the captain’s back, daring not to raise his voice around the others.
“Do not fear them.” Fernando replied calm, “These are all Spanish folk. These islands are now in Portugal’s territory, so they shouldn’t dare start anything.”
“By god, am I glad to hear that!” Charles chuckled as they began to sit themselves around the small table.
“Well,” Edmund took off his coat and draped it over the chair, in much the same fashion he had back in the Admiral’s Arms, “How about a drink for one and all?”
“That sounds a fitting plan, Sir.” Charles, moments after sitting down, got up again, “What can I get everyone?”
“Nonsense, Charles!” Edmund beckoned the man to sit back down, which Charles obeyed without question, “As Captain of the ship, it is my duty to treat every man to drinks.” He turned to the Spaniard, “Fernando, what do you say?”
“Well…” The man didn’t know what to say, for he certainly didn’t expect the offer of a drink, “I could do with a drop of Anise Gin, if it’s not too much trouble.”
“Not at all!” The captain nodded, before turning to his aides, “Charles?”
“I’ll just go for a glass of sherry, Sir.” His answer was short and simple, the way Edmund liked when relaxing.
“Of course,” At last, the time was to come for the German to decide, “Hans?”
“Glass of brandy will do just fine, Mein freund!” He slouched back in his chair, taking the form of a drunkard as he rested his weary eyes.
“No problem.” Edmund happily replied, before he set off for the counter.
“Good morning, my dear friend!” He grabbed the attention of the bartender as he meandered through the seating, coming towards the counter.
“Holá amigo!” Despite the Azores being under control of Portugal, the tender was surprisingly Spanish. This didn’t worry Edmund though, because he still had that obvious friendly tone to his voice.
He placed his hands of the counter, waiting for the captain to give his orders, as Edmund pulled up a stool to ease the access of the others, “What can I get you?”
“Right, here goes…” Edmund went silent for a moment, trying to remember his years of learning the Iberian languages, “¿Puedo tener…uno Gin Anís, un jerez…y…dos…copas de coñac?”
“Por supuesto señor!” Despite the stalling, the man fully understood Edmund’s commands, and laid out four crystal tumblers on the counter, before taking the according drinks from the back bar and laying them adjacent to their vessels, “Very good Spanish, Sir!”
“Thank you.” Edmund replied. He felt proud to be complemented on his language skills by and experienced individual, as it gave a sharp boost to his morale almost instantly.
“I haven’t met and Englishman in about a year now.” He contemplated, pouring the Gin out of the bottle and into the first glass, “Are there more of you?”
“Plenty more.” The captain replied proudly, “There’s about a hundred and twenty of us altogether…” He tried to explain the vast number of Britons he had brought with him, but the bartender remained confused, “Um…ciento treinta tripulantes.” The man seemed even more shocked once he knew the vast amount of men Edmund was talking about.
“You are the ones with Fernando?” The man asked.
“Yes.” Edmund answered, “Just over there, in the corner.”
He only stretched his arm a little way to point out the crew of his, lounging by the corner table, but it was certainly enough to cause a stir.
His hand, while moving to direct, managed to catch the arm of a passing gentleman.
Now, this gentleman happened to had ordered a drink at the same time as Edmund, and while passing, consequently had the contents of his newly-purchased beverage poured down his collar.
“Good Sir!” Edmund reacted instantly to the sudden shout of a nearby patron, who hollered a drunken cry in both laughter and suspense, “I do apologize. Please, accept my most humble admission of guilt.”
“¡Bastardo!” The man, easily decipherable as a Spanish soldier in his yellow frock coat and a rapier by his waist strode up to Edmund and for a moment, he became rather pinned against the counter.
The aggressor slammed his glass to the floor, spilling the remnants of the drink, shattering the crystal and subsequently angering the bartender.
“¡Oye! Limpiar eso, ahora!” The tapper cried, yet the soldier ignored him altogether, and focused his attention on the Englishman.
“Usted es un canalla de un hombre, Inglés cerdo!” The man was inches from Edmunds face, getting increasingly het-up by the second, as three of his henchmen – also wearing their yellow coats – got up from their seats and stood around him.
“I’m sorry?” Edmund pretended to play the fool. Hopefully, after realising he spoke none of the native language, the Spaniard would walk away.
This, however, was not the case.
“You are English?” The man didn’t slacken down one bit, and instead remained his posture, as Edmund dared not to move, “So you understand what I speak now, yes?”
“Yes.” Edmund replied in a somewhat friendly manner, or at least as friendly as he could, “I can indeed.”
“I tell unto you Sir,” The soldier continued, “You are a blackguard of a man! A disgrace to all your family!”
Now this Spanish regular, just like Flint, had now pushed Edmund over that breaking point. That one strand, holding his dignity and calmness in place, had snapped, leaving his heart pounding harder than ever before.
“Excuse me a moment…” He raised a finger to the man, and turned to the barkeep, who was awaiting the money to be transacted.
With nothing but a shrugged nod in reply, Edmund turned back to the Spaniard, and a fire of rage glinted in his eyes, long enough for the soldier’s expression to change to somewhat regret.
With one of the captain’s hands on his shoulder, and the other on the back of his scalp, the fighter was forced with immense strength into the counter of the bar, after which he rebounded with great weakness back onto the wooden floor, the remnants of his mouth being splayed across the counter.
He was knocked cold, and as Edmund flexed his knuckles, twitched weakly.
Charles and Hans quickly rushed to his aid upon hearing the commotion and seeing the many patrons rush out of the bar, and the bloodied man lying on the floor.
“Edmund…” Charles was by his side quicker than anything, “What have you done?”
But there was no remorse, no repentance, nothing. This man had insulted the last thing Edmund had in this life: his family. Nothing, no-one on earth was going to insult that.
“This man…” Edmund breathed as he watched the henchmen pull the soldier up onto a wooden chair and attempt to bring him back to awareness, “This man…he affronted my family.” He turned to the barkeep, “I’m afraid…that is not acceptable.”
“I understand.” The man was very forthcoming and accepting in his answer, and as Fernando came to join the crowd, he hollered over to him, “Fernando! Looks like we’ve got some new protection!”
“What do you mean?” Hans seemed inquisitive about the man’s manner, wondering whether he was jesting or not.
“For too long those Spanish pigs have been terrorizing the taverns of these islands.” He looked at the sentinels with fierce intent, “Sácalo de aquí! ¡Ahora!”
The men complied without postponement, picking the man up by his arms and, with themselves supporting the limp body under his shoulders, hoisted him out onto the street, and disappeared out of sight.
“I suppose…” Charles nervously chattered across to the tender, placing the bottles back on the shelves after filling the last glass, “…we could turn a blind eye to this…incident.”
“Look,” He seemed quite intimidating as he leant over, “This tavern has been filled with Spaniards since they landed two centuries ago. Even the war last century has done nothing to shift them. Your friend may be the push they need to leave.”
“Thank you.” Charles nodded as he pulled his coin purse from the interior of his coat, “How much do we owe you for your service, my dear man?”
“Do not worry about mere expenses,” The man responded, “Like I already said, your friend has done more of a good deed than anyone ever has for us. Take the drinks…grátis…as we say it.”
“Thank you, friend.” Charles took two of the drink, and upon turning to Edmund, moved his head to direct the Captain to grasp the other two, which he did, before they trudged back to their table, meandering past the few patrons which remained in their seats.
The sun had soon begun to dwindle down over the horizon, and as the men sat down around the table, the lanterns were being lit along the roads and the interiors, and only a small slither of sun was laying, tranquil in its simmering reflection on the dockwater.
“My dearest friends,” Edmund took the glass into his left hand, and as before rose it into the air, “I propose a toast: To a happy voyage!”
Every man took part in the raising of glasses to the centre, and chanting the words in harmony with Edmund as he repeated them, before Charles broke in.
“And, as we are theoretically part of the Royal Navy: To our wives and sweethearts, may they never meet!”
The rest chuckled, before repeating those words also, and finally relieving their arms of the strain, chugged the beverages in one go.
“How about a game of dice, Captain?” Charles got up from his seat, and waited for a reply before moving any further.
“I think I’ll have a nap,” Edmund yawned, stretching his arms, “If it’s all the same to you. Besides, it’s getting late anyway.”
“Not a problem, Sir!” Charles whisked himself away to find the barkeep, from where he returned shortly afterwards. He had retrieved a handful of dice and a few cups, but that was all Edmund’s mind could clearly make out before he drifted off.
The soft tunes of the harp upon the balcony floated his mind away into a sleep as the masses returned to their drinks, and the sun dipped totally beyond the horizon.