Core Sound, June, 1718
Henri sat cross-legged in front of Oguna, as he often did, like the child he’d once been in Africa, the boy, Nwoye, now only a distant memory. Grande Maronage’s aft cabin was shrouded in the smoke and incense of her burning pot. The scent of it and her monotonous droning filled the space around him. She rocked back and forth, shaking the soft, leather pouch that contained the sacred bones, while Henri sniffed at the herbal tea she had prepared. He took a deep swallow and closed his eyes, relaxing, withdrawing from the pressures placed on his shoulders by his leadership role. After a moment the droning stopped, Henri heard the soft rattle of the pouch’s contents rolling out onto the dry, splintered planks of the cabin floor, a scattered assembly of small, white bones. Behind the veil of smoke rising from her pot, Oguna studied the pattern they formed.
As the tea began to take its effect, a dreamy remembrance of his recent voyage to Cap Francoise entered Henri’s mind, thoughts of Maya pleading with him to return to the peace and freedom of Le Ruisseau and the way of life they made for themselves and their children in that place. Then, in direct conflict, a vision of Oguna’s exhortation that he remember the Dyula people anxiously awaiting the return of their king, her insistence that Abana, the royal daughter, bare his child, a royal son, to be the rightful heir to his throne, not some child born of Maya’s womb and lowly station. Henri’s mind drifted through the recent past, reviewing his accumulated power and the riches lying in the stone vault at Le Ruisseau, the dowry jewels safely hidden away, the gold and silver bars and coin, a lifetime’s riches, all waiting for him there. Then, the king’s breastplate which he wore even now, began calling him to its service.
As when he was a boy, Henri was soon overcome by a sensation of floating high above the scene, seeing himself sitting in front of the old witch. He opened his eyes and, there she was, sitting straight up in front of him, her vacant eyes looking through him to a vision beyond the moment, opening him up like the door to a closet that contained his future, enabling her to rummage inside. The chanting began again, dragging him into the dark closet with her, as if she’d taken his hand and pulled him along. The sound of her voice, ancient, dry parchment, created swirling, familiar visions. Visions of an expansive and desolate dune, of being separated from his own body, watching the white jackals tearing at his flesh from someplace high above, and then, a dark prophesy of death and doom, a cry of raging battle, the smell of gunpowder and decks flowing with blood. A face loomed up before him, raging, demonic, twisted in the throws of death. It was Teach, calling out to him, from a burning hell, “Blow the ship!”