Reunion

 

Reunion

An Excerpt from: Triangle: A Memoir of Black Caesar

Le Ruisseau, 1717

Maya lounged in the shade of one of the few overhanging palms on the windward side of Ile de Long, watching the children splashing in the shallow water of the reef, as they worked the traps there. She loved this part of the day as much as the children did. A life of ease, gathering the bounty that the sea provided along the edge of their reef. It was amazingly productive, for the small amount of effort required, like having baskets full of fresh fish, crabs and lobster delivered to her hands each day. Enough to feed the whole community and enough left over to trade with the Viscaynos. She lay back in the cooling shade, closed her eyes and listened to the happy sounds of children making play of their work. To Maya it was the most comforting sound she could remember ever hearing, a reward she received each day in return for the pain and suffering she had lived through, the fear of her experiences in Africa, the torture of her enslavement and her suffering in the cane fields of the white jackals.

In the orchard, on the sandy ridge at the center of the island, Odulette stood up and wiped the sweat from her brow. Even at this early hour, the sun bore down relentlessly, the dense growth of the jungle cut off the shore breeze so that the air stood thick and still. She struggled each day in the heat, fighting a constant battle with the undergrowth that choked her stunted lime trees, trying to improve their yield and, at the same time, her life and the life of her daughter, Hope.

She straightened her aching back for a moment, stretching and shading her eyes from the glaring sun. From where she stood she had a clear view of the bay to the south. She blinked her eyes, hardly believing what she was seeing at that moment. The sloop had appeared suddenly, from behind the screen of ubiquitous mangrove trees that grew on the western tip of La Roche, across the creek from where she stood. Odulette knew instantly, by its lines, that it was Grande Maronage. She was so excited that at first she couldn’t speak. She dropped the cutlass she had been using as a scythe and ran from the steaming orchard. When she reached the main path, at the center of the island, she turned south, in the direction of the creek, crying out, “Their here! Their here!”

Maya heard an unintelligible scream that fought its way against the wind, through her light sleep, startling her awake, leaving her unsure whether she had actually heard it, or just dreamed it. She looked first to the children, counting each one to be sure they were all there. Then she struggled to her feet and called to them. “Children! Come!”

She ran off toward the center of the island with the children following. They early learned the connection between quick compliance to adult commands and survival. Hearing alarm in Maya’s voice, they ran to her side and, together, caught up with Odulette at the rocky point on the southern tip of Ile de Long. Tears were streaming down Odulette’s hollowed cheeks as she wrung her hands with excited agitation.

“What’s wrong?” Maya asked.

“They’re here!” Odulette cried, pointing down the creek to the west.

As Maya looked, Grande Maronage came into view, turning into the creek, sailing in their direction. Maya fell to her knees, sobbing. Their long lived anxiety would soon be at an end. Both women searched the deck of the ship for their respective mates, watching in silent prayer as the ship slowly made its way toward them. Then, seeing him at the bow, falling to her knees beside Maya, Odulette screamed his name, “Collin!”

A moment later, to her great relief, Maya caught sight of Henri, manning the ship’s tiller, resplendent in his golden breastplate.

 

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A Call For Shares

An Excerpt from: Triangle: A Memoir of Black Caesar

A Memoir of Saint Augustine, 1716

I am told that Governor Antonio de Benavides was in terror when he descended the stairs to find his house filled with more than fifty desperate men, pyrates all, who’d as soon cut his throat as spit. He tried to retreat back up the stairs, but Teach got hold of him and asked where he thought he was going. The governor was so terrifyed he could not speak. When his wyfe and children were brought down into the midst of them, he offered all that was in the treasury if Teach would just spare their lyves.

Our men, who were spread throughout the town, found the guardhouse empty and soon learned that the garrison of one hundred twenty, upon learning that Black Beard and his men occupyed the town, had run off to hyde in the wood, north of the settlement.

The governor sent a runner, with a note, one of Teach’s own men, to summon the king’s tax collector, ordering him to open the counting-house and give Teach all that was contayned in the treasury. It wasn’t much, a bag of silver coins and a few bars. Teach nearly beat the man to death before he would believe him, that there was no more to be had.

The people were so poor that many houses and hovels burned that night for the lack of ransom. I am ashaymed now of what was done, but I was not present with them, not that I would have had the power or inclinaytion to put a stop to it. I was in the tavern at the wharf, with the Frenchmen of Bonnett’s crew, indulging myself, as I too often do.

When Henri returned and found me so disposed I thought he would kill me, or leave me to the wrath of the townspeople. But he took me by the scruff of my neck and fairly threw me into the longboat, returning me to the ship, upon which we left that town with Teach also aboard, who left his men to march back to Saint Matthew on their own. Though the adventure gayned us little in the way of treasure, it served to embolden Teach with a new idea to raid other, richer towns along the coast.

Collin Aldworth

Williamsburg, June, 1719

 

Saint Augustine

An excerpt from “Triangle: A Memoir of Black Caesar”

~

Daniel Carnes spotted the fleet of ships approaching from the north early in the day. He watched, from hiding, as they anchored just offshore. One of the ships, a larger, naval sloop had familiar lines, looking much like Black Caesar’s ship, Grande Maronage. He couldn’t be sure, the ship was anchored too far out for any detail to be clear, but he had a sense that he was right in his estimation. He didn’t recognize the other ships anchored with her, two frigates, one large and one small, along with two naval sloops and two smaller merchant sloops.

It was clear to him, by the lack of markings, or colors, that this was a fleet of pirates. Their close presence worried him, considering the Queen’s Dowry that he guarded, hidden in the dry well of the abandoned mission. He’d spent his days since the storm, many months now, awaiting rescue, but he was careful in choosing a rescuer, not trusting a fleet of pirates, more hoping for a small boat with one, or two fishermen who could be easily overcome, or perhaps tricked into leaving their boat on the beach, unattended, for him to take.

He kept a close eye on the fleet of ships throughout the day and into the afternoon, watching dories from the other ships, plying back and forth to the familiar sloop, until darkness fell around them. In the dark, Daniel came out of hiding, following the narrow creek from its source near the old mission, to its outflow at the beach, there, to keep watch, in case any should come ashore in the night. His caution was not disappointed. Sometime after midnight, gaging by the position of the stars, he was awakened by the sound of oars banging against the hull of a small boat, one he could barely make out against the backdrop of white sand that formed the beach. Within minutes of the alarm, a black giant strode past him carrying a heavy leather satchel, following the creek inland, toward the crumbling ruin of the mission.

There was no doubt in Daniel’s mind that it was Black Caesar who’d come ashore. Still fearing the man for his size, his strength and his mean disposition, Daniel waited until Caesar had gone a safe distance before beginning to follow him. He watched from a place of hiding among the ruins, as Caesar searched through the overgrown gardens. He could barely contain his panic at the coincidence that Caesar found the old well hidden beneath a dense covering of vines and bramble. His mind reeled at the thought that Henri had somehow discovered him, that by some magic he had divined the location of the Queen’s Dowry, sailed hundreds of miles and, now, walked across this island directly to its place of hiding, without hesitation, in the dark. What were the chances of such a coincidence? Then he remembered the witch, Oguna, her Obeah magic and her divining power. He was frantic, his heart pounded in his throat. He thought to call out, to somehow distract Caesar, but fear grasped his vocal chords. As he was trying to think of some way to overcome the giant, he was surprised and relieved to see Caesar suddenly withdraw from the well, leaving the ruins empty-handed.

In the morning, Daniel lifted the heavily planked cover from the well, fastened another length of rope to the root of a vine and climbed down to the sandy bottom of the well, where he discovered the heavy satchel Caesar had been carrying. It lay on top of the dowry chest, a length of old, rotted rope draped over them both. He opened the leather satchel and gasped, seeing the amount of gold coin and silver plate it contained, more than a hundred pounds. He couldn’t believe his luck.

Apparently, Henri knew nothing of the dowry and hadn’t noticed the chest lying in the darkness, at the bottom of the well. His stumbling upon this hiding place was, indeed, an unfathomable coincidence, not witch’s magic at all. The addition of the satchel nearly doubled the value of Daniel’s stash and now, if he could just survive long enough to find his way off this island, he would be rich beyond all his wildest dreams.

 

Caesar’s Fleet

 

Excerpt: Triangle: A Memoir of Black Caesar

 

 

Collin’s Journal

La Creek, November, 1716

It has been just over a year since the storm ravaged our camp at La Creek, and since Henri disappeared with our ship. Today he returns, sayfe and healthy, with a fleet of ships including a large forty two gun frigate captained by Teach, or, Blackbeard, as he is now, well known. Teach has naymed the frigate, Queen Anne’s Revenge, implying his imagined efforts to frustrate the French and Spanish interests in the western parts of La Florida. The fleet includes Grande Maronage and four others. The twenty eight gun frigate, Grace a Dieu, captained by Israel hands, two naval sloops, Revenge, captained by Stede Bonnett, and Ranger captained by Benjamin Hornigold, and a smaller sloop, La Madiera, captained by a young rogue who calls himself Jack Rackham. They have been sayling the Caribbean for most of the year and now return to La Creek with a rich addition to the treasure cache and a great deal of trayde cargo to be stowed.

After a drunken celebration, and settling some old scores, we sat around the fire and discussed St. Augustine and the wrecked treasure fleet to the north of our camp. In the late summer of 1715, Henri had located two wrecks along the coast, at a playce they call Barra de Ays. But the waters are shallow and murky there, making it impossible to approach closer than half a league from shore. Henri believes that treasure is being salvaged from the syte where he espyed a number of armed men, early in his voyage, so he sayled on, to St. Augustine, to see if there were ships transporting treasure from the wrecks, but he saw none. He found the city to be more heavily fortified than on our first visit so he dared not enter the port. He decyded instead to sayle directly to the Bahamas to find Teach and now, after many months, they return here with a fleet of ships and three hundred sixty men to mount an attack on that Spanish bastion.

Though they allow me to sit with them at these tymes, and they name me among The Brethren, I am not truly one of them. The truth of that has become evident to me. Though I have killed men it has always been in self defense, or in defense of someone else. But I have learned by my experiences at Chateau Verettes where I was sickened by the murder and vyolence I witnessed, and by the murder of the young French officer aboard the Bechermer and by the terror of battle that I learned in Africa, where I was wounded. I am not so brave as the young boy I once was, when I served aboard the Arthur.

This past year, separated from both Henri and Teach, free from their separate tyranny, has been the best year of my adult life. Although we barely survyve from day to day in our Naufrage camp, Odulette, Maya, the children and myself have been able to live our lyves in peace. We live as simple farmers and fishermen, trayding with the local natives for the things that we need. Though we may appear as desperate fugitives, we were actually happy for that tyme. Now that the two have returned to us with brutish hoards, bringing their violence and vile natures, our peace is shattered.

I am in constant defense of Odulette’s honor and that of the other young women in the camp, whom these lecherous men pursue in a continuous state of drunken debauchery. On two occasions since their arrival, I have caught one or another of these men trying to force himself upon Odulette. I killed them both and complayned to Teach, who only thought of their vile acts and resulting deaths as an opportunity to grasp their common shares.

I live in the fear that at any moment Teach, or Henri might turn on me. Teach, with his explosive temper, or Henri, with his burning hatred for all the races of Europe, and his distrust of everyone but Oguna the witch, whom he keeps safe by his syde. No one would dare approach either her, or Maya, or Abana for fear of what “Caesar” might do to them. This fear of “Black Caesar”, as he is now called, and his reputation for brutality, works well for Teach and the other captains. They use it to keep their crews under control and to speed surrender among their victims at sea.

It is ironic that these men speak constantly of their lyfe of freedom from the tyranny of government, greedy monopolies and the rules of civil culture, all the while creating their own tyranny of greed. They live in a cut-throat world of drunken ignorance and brutality, where only the strong survyve to divyde the shares of those who perish among them, in battle, from disease, starvation, or infighting among themselves.

They have come to La Creek to refit their ships and resupply in preparation for an assault on St. Augustine. They have also come to share out the treasure they took in the Caribbean and to deposit the excess with the cache that already exists here. Though I was not with them on this last voyage, Henri has given a generous share for remayning on the island and caring for the Naufrages while guarding the treasure. There is enough now to make a new lyfe for myself, Odulette and Hope, in the colonies to the north, or perhaps even at home in England, if passage is possible.

Though I am loathed to go with these men and fearful of playcing Odulette and the children among them, I have decyded that we will sayle with them. I can no longer abyde the daily struggle for lyfe on this unforgiving island. I long too much for the lyfe I once knew. For the culture and comforts of my home. I want those things for Odulette and for Hope. I never would have left Gravesend, or that way of lyfe, if it hadn’t been for my father’s foolish whim to send me on a voyage with Doegood, aboard the Arthur.

It is my father’s dreams of fortune that have ruined my lyfe, not my own. As a result of his whim I was not present when my mother died and, as my father is fond to mpoint out If I’d been present, perhaps she would live even now. Once I return to civilyzation I will wryte him and suggest a reconciliation. I will suggest that I return to the family business, and if I am allowed to return I will work tyrelessly to bring an end to the trayde in human souls that empowers the Devil’s Tryangle.

I spoke today with Henri about all these things. I asked if we could sayle with him, aboard Grande Maronage, not trusting that we would be sayfe with Teach, among his rowdy crew aboard Queen Anne’s Revenge. Henri is concerned about leaving the treasure with the Naufrages alone to protect it. I argued that they are as capable as I, but Henri told me that it was a matter of trust, not capability. I pointed out to him that the key to defending the cache is not whatever pitiful defense we could mount from this island, but effectively hyding it and keeping its existence a secret. Based on this, in syte of the entyre company, Henri had our treasure cache moved aboard the ship and put under guard day and night.

Over the next few weeks, Henri and some of the Frenchmen of Teach’s crew built a vault of keystone over the sweet water spring, as Henri put it, “to protect and preserve our supply of water”. There is no visible entrance to the vault, it is only intended to cover the water supply. When it was completed I learned that Henri had known a secret entrance all along. In the night, Henri and I secretly moved the cache of treasure from Grande Maronage’s hold to the stone vault by a way I shall not reveal.

When it was tyme to sayle, Henri agreed that I should come also, but he would not allow Odulette, Maya, the children, or even Oguna to voyage with us. He cited the dangers they would be exposed to and his sense that Teach was on a course that would not end well for any of us. He wanted me along in case his sense turned out to be correct. He promised that Oguna had seen the end of his obligation to Teach in the near future and he would soon part ways for Africa. When he did he would share out the treasure and give me the Mary-Kate so that I could take my family wherever I choose to go. I believe he will be true to his word this tyme.

Collin Aldworth,

La Creek, 1716

Queen Anne’s Revenge

Excerpt: Triangle: A Memoir of Black Caesar

 

The Eastern Caribbean, Nov. 1715

~

Through his glass, Captain Dosset, aboard La Concord, studied the two ships that had suddenly appeared to the north of his position. He maintained an outward calm that belied the panic he was feeling inside. The watch, stationed high on the main mast, first spotted the smaller, faster sloop. She appeared to be light, mounting only eight guns, all eight pounders. Dosset thought to order his men to load and roll out his own guns, all forty-two of them. Thirty, eight pounders and twelve, sixteen pounders. Then the frigate came into his view, bearing twenty eight guns loaded, rolled out and ready. As well armed as his ship may be, his crew were not fighting men and after the long voyage from Africa, they were in no shape to take on these faster, heavily armed ships. He ordered his second in command to turn the ship to port and take a heading for the channel that ran between Baliceaux and Bequia Islands, in a futile attempt to outrun the approaching ships. The maneuver, requiring them to tack in the light, morning wind, was a fatal mistake. It was a tortuously slow maneuver that brought La Concord’s forward progress to a complete stop.

Captain Dosset held the glass to his eye and studied the two fast ships approaching him from the north. Neither flew a flag, he was not surprised by that, of course. Their game had been obvious from the moment they appeared. Dosset focused his attention on the frigate, but her aspect would not allow him to see a name. As he was studying what detail he was able to see, a black flag ran up the mizzen stay. Dosset diverted his attention to the flag then and saw a white skeleton holding a spear and a goblet and next to that a red, bleeding heart. The meaning of the flag was clear, while the unique design easily identified who it was pursuing them, the knowledge of which filled him with terror. Unable to maneuver and unprepared to do battle, Captain Dosset faced a terrible decision. After wrestling with it for a moment, he turned to First Lieutenant Ernaut, his second in command, and, in a voice resigned and defeated said, “Collect the gold from my cabin and hide it on your person. It is Barbe Noire.”

Teach had accurately anticipated the frigate’s tack to a northwest heading and had already ordered Grace a Dieu, to a heading that would intercept the ship on her starboard side. Hornigold read Teach’s new heading and turned south to bring Ranger across La Concorde’s stern. As he approached the listless French frigate, Teach ordered Israel to fire one of his port guns across La Concorde’s stern, as soon as Ranger was clear. A moment after the shot was fired, to Teach’s great disappointment, he’d been spoiling for a fight, the Frenchy struck her colors and surrendered. Hornigold’s crew were first to board her, from the ship’s port side, while Teach and his crew maneuvered to starboard, threw their grappling hooks, and mounted her decks a short time later.

Once Teach was aboard, the reason for her captain’s quick surrender became obvious to him. Many of the crew and most of their human cargo were sick. The stench of human filth and disease permeated the still, morning air. Because of the overpowering smell and, at Captain Dosset’s request, Teach showed remarkable compassion by sailing the captured prize across the channel to the island of Bequia, where there was pure water, forage, and a small settlement, before dropping anchor and putting her crew and her human cargo ashore. So many of the captives had to be carried off the ship in litters, that it took the rest of that day to complete the task. In the course of that monotony, Teach took note of several French crewmen who had nosebleeds, some were even bleeding from their eyes and others suffered from a sickly yellowing of their skin. Fearing the diseased state of the ship, Teach stood clear of the operation, insisting that Hornigold’s crew take care of disembarking the French and their cargo of captives, while he ransacked the officers quarters for valuables, looking for the rumored shipment of gold. Frustrated by the lack of anything of value aboard the vessel, Teach ripped open a lumpy bunk pad, emptying the contents onto the deck, but finding nothing inside. As he stood in the great cabin, surrounded by filthy straw, cursing the French for being so frugal, a small voice spoke out from behind, causing him to jump.

“Masseur Barbe Noire?”

Teach spun around to find a fair, young boy staring up at him. The boy smiled. “Mon nom est Louis Arot. Je suis garcon de cabine.”

Teach looked confused. “I’m sorree.” The boy said in heavily accented English. “My Eeenleesh eees not so good. You seek zee gold?”

Teach’s eyes narrowed. “Whot gold?”

“Capitaine Dosset, ‘ee ‘ass taken zee gold ashore wees heem. He ‘ides zee gold on zee person of Lieutenant Ernaut.”

Teach grinned and, patting the boy on the head, ordered some of his men to row ashore and return the French officers to the ship right away. The boy followed close behind him then as he returned to the main deck.

“Weel you take me weeth you Masseur Barbe Noire?” The boy asked, his eyes sad and begging.

Teach glared at him, seeing a look familiar to his own youth.

“I want to be zee pirate, like you.” The boy grinned up at him. “I ‘ave poor treatment weeth thees men and weeth Capitaine Dosset.”

Teach hesitated for a long moment, remembering his own tortured youth. He was well acquainted with the burning agony of “poor treatment” at the hands of men of authority, of the consuming rage that followed, of the changes within that gave birth to a murderous heart, of the blood and the look of surprise and terror in Humphrey Pitts’ eyes as he drove the knife deep into the man’s flesh again and again.

His glaring look softened as he gave answer to the boy, “Then you’ll join us an’ learn our ways, boy.”

“There are manny others among zee crew who would like also to joieen.”

“Aye, boy, then go ashore with th’ boat an’ bring ’em back wi’ th’ officers.” Teach commanded.

The boy ran off to catch up with the crew of the longboat, before it left the ship, while Teach returned to his search of the cabins. He felt a growing fury over Captain Dosset’s abuses of the cabin boy and his plot to hide the gold, thinking he would play Blackbeard for a fool. It put Teach in a mind to kill the man, leaving him to struggle with a wave of anger that threatened to consume him. He began arguing with himself in a loud voice that others could here, among them Israel Hands, who moved in Teach’s direction.

“Yer can’t let ‘im defy you like this in front o’ the men.” Teach complained, then, hearing his own ill tempered advice, he argued for restraint, saying, “Keep yer ‘ead, Teach. See ‘ow the man conducts ‘isself when you confront ‘im with ‘is lie.”

Struggling to belay the buzzing of his own mind, Teach forced the thoughts aside, walked out on deck and began an inspection of the ship. Israel followed close behind him. “Everythin’ good wi’ you, Teach?”

Surprised, unaware that Israel was following, Teach turned and glared at him, then, without a word, he went on with his inspection. Israel went with him, a little disturbed by the behavior he had just witnessed, but saying nothing more about it.

La Concorde was a fairly new ship, sound and well fitted. A second rate frigate boasting forty two guns ported and eight swivel guns on deck. Her rigging was in good shape and other than the awful stench left in her hold by The Trade, she was clean and sound.

By the time the longboat returned, in the late afternoon, with the French officers aboard, Teach’s mood had improved dramatically. He was elated by his decision to keep the ship for himself and by Hornigold’s lack of interest in having the prize, along with his quick agreement to give it up. La Concorde was the perfect vessel to fulfill Teach’s personal vision and purpose, a new ship with new rigging, powerfully armed, the new flag ship of his imagined fleet. Though she was not as maneuverable as Grace a Dieu, in consort with her and Hormigld’s sloop, Ranger, Blackbeard would be unstoppable. He’d spent many years fantasizing about this day and now, in his mind, fighting a secret war for the queen, he thought to name his flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge.

His spiraling thoughts were drawn to a commotion on the main deck. The longboat had arrived with the French officers aboard. Teach ordered his men to line them up along the port rail. Captain Dosset stood near the center of them, a portly gentleman who, unfortunately, reminded him of Pitts. Teach drew his sword and put it to Dosset’s throat, then, wanting to be fair, insulted the man in a loud voice.

“Yer a thief and a liar, sir. Arm yourself and I’ll give you satisfaction.”

“You steeel my sheep and call me a theef? I theenk you are mad, sir.” Dosset retorted with surprising bravado.

“Give this man a sword!” Teach blustered.

“I weel ‘ave no sword, sir, so dat you can add my own murder to your leest of crimes. You are well known to us all. But, tell me, what ees my offense?”

“I asked where you keep th’ gold and you said you had none. You lied, sir, and now you shall die for it.”

“I ‘ave not lied.” Dosset retorted. “You may search me to suit yourself.”

Teach grinned and said, “I’ve no need to provide you such pleasure. You’re not carrying it.”

Teach stepped away from him, still grinning and called out in a loud voice, “Lieutenant Ernaut! Step forward, sir!”

The lieutenant was startled and fairly jumped upon hearing his name.

Seeing his reaction, Teach addressed him, pointing with his sword. “Empty your pockets, there, sir. And open your tunic that we may see.”

The lieutenant did as he was told, placing a folded paper and a locket on the deck. Then he stood ramrod straight with his hands at his side. Teach retrieved the locket from the deck and carefully unfolded the paper. There was writing on the inside in the soft, smooth strokes of a female hand. Teach caught the scent of perfume and waved the letter in front of his nose, taking it all in.

“Are you married, sir?” He asked.

“No.” Came the simple response.

“Ahhh. The sweet scent of a lover.”

The crew, standing about him, laughed aloud.

Teach said, “May I?”

He held up the locket but Ernaut gave no answer as he looked away with feigned disinterest. Teach opened the locket and studied the miniature portrait inside. It was a good rendition of an attractive young woman with dark hair and dark eyes.

“She is very beautiful. Your fiance?”

Ernaut nodded.

“Would you like to see her again, sir?”

The lieutenant nodded that he would.

“Then open you tunic as I have asked. Pull the tails from your trousers and open it wide that we may see clearly.”

Ernaut did as he was told, slowly pulling the tails of his white, linen tunic from his trousers. As he did, something slipped from his waistband and traveled down the inside of his trouser leg. He tried to stop it, but it was too heavy and soon completed its route, stopping at his knee, looking like a swollen injury.

“What might that be?” Teach asked, pointing the tip of his sword at the lump on Ernaut’s knee.

Ernaut blanched and remained silent. Teach flicked the tip of his sword, tearing a hole at the cuff of Ernaut’s trousers. The lump fell out onto the deck. It was a soft, brown, leather pouch filled with the dust of purest gold, and weighing perhaps two pounds. A tiny amount of the bright, yellow flake spilled out onto La Concorde’s rough wooden deck.

“There it is, Captain Dosset. Right where you ordered it to be. As I said before, you are a liar and a thief. Will you defend your honor?”

Dosset looked down at the deck without answering.

“I thought not.” Teach concluded, struggling within for constraint, adding, “Because you are also a coward.”

Losing his private battle and without warning, he thrust his blade through Dosset’s heart then watched the man collapse on the deck. He leaned down and picked up the pouch of gold, ignoring the few spilled flakes, then, handing the letter and the locket back to Lieutenant Ernaut, he said, “When you see her, tell her Blackbeard let you live.”

He stepped away and, facing the line of officers, commanded them, “Get off my ship.”

Barra de Ays

GM-Cvr6

Excerpt: Triangle: A Memoir of Black Caesar

 

Cabo de la Florida, 1715

Admiral Don Francisco Salmon stood on the highest point of the dune at a place they now called, Bara de Ays, a narrow strip of merciless sand that lay between two bodies of water, divided, between by the thickest, most unforgiving underbrush he had ever encountered. He studied the approaching ship, a lumbering barkalonga approaching their camp through a mild sea. Through his glass he could see Clemente, his man in charge of the salvage divers, pausing from his work, and shading his eyes to inspect the approaching barge. The Admiral sighed with relief at espying the flag of Spain flying from the barge’s mizzen. Not that such a barge would have been much of a threat, but given present conditions at the camp and the number of interlopers who had already come and challenged him for the king’s treasure, he was relieved for the help and exhausted from this long sustained effort. Word of the disaster had spread broadly among their enemies before he had been able to get an official report to Havana and, from there, to Spain. He assumed, correctly, that the barge had been sent from Havana to assist in the rescue of his passengers and to return salvaged treasure to the port in Havana where it would be better protected.

Daniel Carnes dropped anchor in five fathoms of water and came ashore in a dory. He had sailed from Havana with a minimum crew in order to provide maximum space for survivors and whatever treasure had by now been salvaged from the sunken fleet. The voyage to this mid-point on the coast of Cabo de la Florida had taken nearly three times as long in the barka as it would have in his own ship, but when he’d volunteered to come he’d been told that his own ship did not offer adequate space for the large number of survivors that needed rescue. Daniel had no idea what to expect until he arrived. His benefactors also had no idea of the dimensions of this disaster. As he landed on the beach, he was overwhelmed by the numbers of desperate, starving people who took hold of him, offering gold, silver and jewelry if he would take them with him. He’d been offered the barca by a wealthy merchant who’s wife and children had sailed with the fleet and whom, he hoped, would be among the throngs of survivors. In the interest of being heroic in the eyes of Havana’s wealthy and, also, pursuing the reward that would surely be offered for their safe return and also the return of the dowry jewels, Daniel accepted the larger, unwieldy ship without question. Now he worried if it would be enough. He knew that it wouldn’t, there were perhaps a thousand despairing people needing rescue.

He had, from the beginning, rejected the idea of partnering with Black Caesar and the Englishman, Collin Aldworth, in a plot to steal the queen’s jewels. He never trusted Caesar, but sincerely feared him. He felt sympathy for Collin, who implied that he was a virtual prisoner to the man, at his brutal camp on La Creek. Daniel had only hatched the plot about the Queen’s Dowry as a way of getting his ship back and returning to his life in Havana. With regard to the dowry itself, he had no need of Henri’s help, nor of anyone else. The storm had changed his plans, but only in a minor and, perhaps beneficial way. Now he bore official authority, at least in secret, to possess the jewels, if he could find them. The door was opened to a substantial reward and recognition at the royal court in Spain. There was no further need to plot and plan, the reward and recognition would sustain him for a very long time.

On his way ashore, he made a careful inspection of the scene of the wrecks. The divers were concentrating on the smashed and sunken holds of two wrecked galleons, where the bulk of the treasure would have been stored for the voyage. He ordered his men to row behind the stern castle of a first rate ship that remained, in tact, above the waves, so that he could see the ship’s name. His heart fluttered with excitement when he saw it, Nuestra Senora de la Regla. Daniel couldn’t believe his luck. This was General Ubilla’s chosen Almiranta. Ubilla had chosen the Regla while they were stil loading raw treasure In Porta Bella. When the ship arrived in Havana, General Ubilla, along with a certain army Lieutenant named, Armondo de la Villa and the jeweler, Senior Guillermo Fuentes went aboard the ship in the night and hid the dowry chest in a secret location in Ubilla’s cabin. No one else but the governor even knew that the chest of jewels was among the treasures of the fleet. For reasons of security, the chest was not listed among the Flota’s manifests. That meant that Admiral Salmon and his divers were not searching for it, nor even aware of it.

When Daniel volunteered in Havana to come and assist in the rescue efforts, Senior Fuentes and Lieutenant de la Villa came to him as a trusted confidant and shared the location of the chest they had hidden aboard the Regla. Now, nearly three weeks since the raging storm had so completely devastated the fleet, Daniel Carnes had come alone, commissioned to retrieve a vast, secret fortune that only he knew existed. He waited in the ramshackle headquarters of Admiral Salmon, at the top of a dune that overlooked the wrecks and the beach on one side and, on the other, the well organized camps, sloping down to the water of an estuary. The construction was crude at best, made from the pathetic supply of local, raw materials combined with flotsam from the wrecked ships. The occupants of the camps wandered and worked in a state of vacant numbness, starved, thirsty, covered with the festering sores left by swarms of biting insects.

After some time, Daniel was turned over to a junior officer, a young man who, in addition to being castaway, had the added misfortune of being assigned the duty of overseeing the selection of passengers and the loading of supplies along with salvaged treasure, to be returned to Havana. Around him, chaos swirled through the deplorable conditions of the camp. His morning began with breaking up a fight, among survivors, over the distribution of food and relief supplies that Daniel had brought with him aboard the barca. Later in the day an argument broke out with regard to the selection of passengers for rescue. It seemed that only the wealthy and influential among the survivors were being selected for the return voyage. The young officer, worn and hungry, a survivor himself, complained of the fighting among the survivors and of the looting that had, since the first day of the shipwreck, grown out of control. He confided to Daniel, as they wandered the camp, looking for the survivors whose names appeared on the list that Admiral Salmon had provided, thus constraining him from making selections based on need.

“May I see it?” Daniel inquired, refering to the list.

He looked for the name of his patron who had supplied the barcalonga. He had promised to rescue the man’s wife and children from among the survivors, however, their names did not appear on the admiral’s list.

After reviewing the list, Daniel said, “I seek Senora Francesca de la Campa and her children for my patron. Have they survived, and how can I find them?”

The young officer frowned. “I do not know if they have survived, but there is a complete list of survivors kept by General Escheverz, at camp headquarters, up there, on the dune. You may inquire there.”

Daniel thanked the lieutenant and headed off to the main camp, while the privileged among the survivors were loaded onto boats and rowed out to the anchored barca.

At the main camp, another of the exhausted, starving officers checked and double checked the official list of survivors for any of the de la Campa family, but none of their names appeared. Daniel left there deeply dispirited by the added burden of having to inform his patron of the loss of his family, upon his return to Havana. He wandered away, down the beach to spend the afternoon helping load and transport passengers and cargo to the barca, anchored just off shore. Once the ship was loaded, they would stay the night and sail for Havana early the next morning. Sleeping aboard the crowded barca, packed together, one nearly atop the other, was preferred by most of the survivors, over sleeping in the camps ashore, where a constant torture from clouds of mosquitoes, flies, and lice prevented rest of any kind.

Ashore that evening, Daniel waited for the men to draw together around the fires before he slipped away into the night. He walked south, along the beach, until he was out of sight of the camp. At the water’s edge, he stripped off his clothes, rolled them into a tight bundle, waded into the gentle waves and swam out to the darkened hulk of the Regla’s stern-castle. Taking care not to shred his feet, or hands on the barnacles that clung to the ships timbers, Daniel pulled his way up the ship’s tilted rudder to the broken aft-cabin windows and there, climbed inside.

Navigating the darkened interior of the Regla was extremely difficult. The deck was raked at a forty degree angle. Shards of broken glass and waterlogged furnishings were strewn about in the dark. Daniel slid down the inclined deck to the aft most corner of the cabin’s port side. Once there he counted the ships timbers, moving forward until he arrived at the fifth framing rib. There he felt around the deck planks, as he had been instructed, and, true to the description Senior Fuentes had given him, he found a latch-pull underneath the outboard edge of the deck plank lying between the fourth and fifth timbers. Daniel pulled the latch and felt the plank spring loose. He lifted out the short plank of wood and underneath he found the anticipated, small chest, hidden in a secret compartment beneath the deck. His heart beat faster as he removed the ossuary size chest. Pulling it to him, he began to make his way back to the broken windows at the ship’s stern.

Hurukan

GM-Cvr6

Excerpt: Triangle: A Memoir of Black Caesar

 

La Creek – 1715

With Henri, Maya and their children living aboard Grande Maronage, it had been a simple matter for Oguna to take over the comfortable camp on La Roche. She and Abana had settled right in, much to the displeasure of Odulette, who thought the camp her’s and Collin’s, in order of succession. She felt it unfair of Henri to sanction Oguna’s annexation. Maya sided with Odulette on the matter, but for different reasons. She simply didn’t like Oguna, her vile magic, or the influence she held over Henri. She didn’t care much for Abana either, flaunting herself and her perfect young breasts the way that she did, in her ritual dances at the fire. She didn’t like the way that Henri watched the girl dance, sitting, silent by the fire, his golden breastplate glittering in the light, as he sipped from the witches brew, his thoughts far away from her. This nightly routine was pulling them apart. Maya could feel her own importance in his life melting away, like wax in a boiling pot. The diminished feeling she was left with made her angry and difficult to live with.

Four months came and passed with no sign or word of Daniel Carnes, but in July of 1715, a great storm descended on La Creek. It swept in from the south, churning northward, following the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. The first hint of its coming was a breathless heat, heavy with tropical moisture, consuming the morning’s energy, discouraging Odulette and the other women from their work in the lime orchard. Shortly after midday, a fresh breeze began to blow from the northeast, soft and cooling at first, a blessed relief from the day’s oppressive heat, a breeze that grew in velocity through the afternoon, until, by the time they were ready to retire for the evening, the wind grew stiff and carried with it thick, low-hanging, moisture-laden clouds.

Though it was obvious to all that a storm was approaching, neither Henri or Collin read the signs accurately. The Viscaynos, on the mainland, did not miss the deeper message, the one they observed in the behavior of the animals. After offering many sacrifices to a god they called, Hurukan, they abandoned their village on the shore of the bay and vanished into the interior forest. Henri, Collin and the community of Naufrages remained, as always, on the barrier island at La Creek Camp, ignorant of what was soon to come. By the time the sky clouded over late in the night and the wind lifted to gale force, it was too late to retreat to the mainland and there was no adequate shelter to be found on the reef. They struggled to do what they could to secure the ship and their separate camps, but their efforts were futile.

The full power of Hurukan, terrible god of the Viscaynos, came upon them in a moment of calm, in the wee hours of the morning, pretending to have passed by, then bursting upon them, howling through the trees like a demon, destroying everything in his path. It was all they could do, just to hang on to their children in the tangled mangrove branches as the wind driven rain punished their skin and the raging sea stripped everything, including their clothing, from them, nearly drowning them in the surging tide. The storm raged through darkness and well into the morning before the wind and rain began to subside. Collin’s driftwood cabin flew apart early in its passing, leaving himself, Odulette and little Hope, exposed to the storm’s fury. Henri, Maya and those with them were swept away when Grande Maronage broke her lines and washed out into the bay, finally going aground on a bar more than a league distant.

In the morning light their island was a scene of total devastation. Many of the children had been lost in the night. No structure of the camp remained. There was no shelter, no food, no water and no firewood with which to warm their shivering, naked bodies. Even the trees had been stripped of leaves, including the lime orchard who’s bitter fruit, had been swept away in the night, like all else, leaving only scrawny, leaf-bare branches.

When Collin was able to reach the creek at the southern end of the island he saw that Henri’s camp on the higher ground of La Roche had survived a bit better than the main camp. It concerned him deeply that Grande Maronage was no where to be seen. He knew that Henri, Maya, and their children had all been aboard. They could be injured or dead, and who knew where? The smaller boats had somehow survived, pulled up on the shore, turned upside down, in their tiny protected cove. He would need them, as he would need whatever food and water had survived in Henri’s camp, but he dared not try to swim across the creek, not now. The storm’s tidal surge was moving back out to sea through the narrow creek with a fury that stirred the waters into a raging froth of fast moving debris. He would have to wait until the tide ebbed before attempting the swim.

Odulette stood next to him watching the dangerous water rushing by. She held young Hope in her arms. The child was crying, terrified and hungry, like the rest of them. They were soaked to the bone. What remained of her clothing was shredded and threadbare around her. Her once beautiful brown eyes were lost in dark circles of exhaustion, framed in hopelessness. Collin placed his arm around her macilent shoulders and pulled her close. She began to sob inconsolably.

“Food and water first,” he mumbled to her, setting an order of priorities in his mind, putting on a brave, determined face, trying to ignore his own poverty and nakedness. “We must find food and water.”

Royal Intrigue

GM-Cvr6

Excerpt: Triangle: A Memoir of Black Caesar

 

La Creek, September, 1713

Odulette sat quietly beside the small cook fire, just outside the vertical-board shack Collin had been able to put together from scarce driftwood and other materials rarely available on the island. Its thatched roof and crude, open construction afforded them a modicum of shelter from sun and the daily rains that passed over the island in brief, heavy showers, but little from the incessant, chafing wind.

Her heart soared at Collin’s return from Africa. She attached herself to him like a barnacle and would not let go for many days following his arrival. Then, Mary-Kate, the home they shared with Esmeralda, began to take on water and had to be careened in the bay, forcing them ashore to live on Ile de Largo among the other Naufrages.

This morning, the baby born of their reunion, suckled her breast while the rising east wind began anew to chafe her fair skin. She often wished Collin had built on the leeward side of the island, but he explained that the incessant, onshore wind was their only protection from the torturous swarms of mosquitoes that infested the island’s interior jungles. She knew that it was true as she watched the sun slowly rising above the sea behind a distant bank of colorful, tropical clouds. She wished that she could enjoy the beauty of the sunrise, as she had at first, but the brightening sky had become a harbinger of the brutal assault of burning sunlight she would have to endure until the day cooled and the sun faded into evening.

Life on La Creek was more a story of survival than tropical beauty, she had learned. They were castaways and, though Odulette tried hard to make their lot as much a home as she could remember, the brutal conditions on this island forced life to a savage edge. Each day’s struggle began with the need for water, of which there was none drinkable on the island. They collected rain water at every opportunity, but it was never enough. At one time Collin spent many days scraping a cistern out of the soft rock that formed the island’s foundation, but the rock was so porous that sea water quickly percolated into whatever small amount of rain water they were able to collect there. Failing collection, they were forced to journey to the mainland each morning, no matter the weather, to fill their barrels at the sweet springs they shared with the Viscaynos.

In mind of that daily need, along with various other needs requiring trade with the Viscaynos, Odulette considered the tattered remains of the dress she was wearing, her last remaining memory of Chauntelle Arnaut. She didn’t like to think about her former charge, for the memory of Collin confessing that she had been brutally murdered. Odulette quickly pushed her thoughts ahead to the unpleasant fact that she would soon join with the other women of the Naufrage community in wearing the skimpiest of covering, sewn from tattered sail cloth, or animal skins, a couture of one item, completely inadequate to satisfy her need for modesty. She had asked Henri for proper, European clothing from the stores he kept on La Roche, but he had denied her request, saying, “These are kept for future trade. You have no need of them, you are not better than Maya, or the other women among us who are not ashamed of their breasts.”

She never felt that she was better than the other women of this small, desolate community, but she was more modest than they, and she aspired to better things than ragged skirts and bare breasts.

Food was also a constant challenge. Fish and other sea life were plentiful, but the island held little edible vegetation. The orchard of tortured lime trees she nurtured daily, on the higher ground, of the sandy ridge, at the center of the long Island, survived still, but the fruit was stunted, extreme in its bitterness and not much good for food. Every other crop they had attempted failed in the desolate soil of the island. Odulette felt as if her life had been diverted to the edge of the earth, as far away from her European roots as it could be, and now she longed for something better. Even the shabby, hovel of her childhood would be a vast improvement over this place.

She was not alone, among the Naufrages, in feeling it unfair that Henri and Maya lived in relative comfort, aboard Grande Maronage, keeping their well stocked camp separate from the rest, while she and Collin, along with their baby, lived lives more desperate than the paupers of Europe, slowly starving with the rest of the Naufrages, a community far too large to survive on the resources available from the camp on Ile de Long. Though Collin had tried again and again to reason with him, Henri refused to share out the spoils of the years of wrecking, the many prizes and the riches from Africa. He insisted, instead, on periodic allowances saying, “It is not time for us to rest as old men, Collin. There is much for us to accomplish, much more that we must do.”

He never explained what it was they needed to “accomplish”, but always insisted it was so. Odulette feared that, in truth, Henri never planned to share the spoils with them at all, in the same way that Hornigold had robbed Collin of his due.

Hearing Collin stir inside their crude shelter, Odulette hurried to wipe the angry tears from her eyes. He was mostly recovered from his wounds, and the memory of the massacre at Chateau Verettes was fading from him, though the experience left him brooding, quiet and withdrawn. As a result, he and Henri seldom spoke and they no longer sat together at the fire in the evenings the way they had in the past. The witch, Oguna, whom Henri had brought back with him from Africa, now sat in Collin’s place, she and her assistant, Abana, who flaunted her young beauty at Collin, smiling with desire for him. By evil magic, spells and prophesies, Oguna had taken over the camp on La Roche along with Henri’s life and purpose. She had become his conscience, his councilor and his spiritual guide. But, Odulette was deeply concerned that Collin had lost more than his place at the fire. He seemed to have lost his way in life altogether. Though she tried hard to get him to look to their future, he remained focused on the past.

He’d come back to her with a great new scar on his face that masked the deeper wound festering inside him. As in their days together in Nassau, at the news of his mothers death, Collin had once again taken to rum for his healing and solace. Nothing she could say or do would alter his desire to drink himself into oblivion at the earliest opportunity each day. She felt distant from him now and she was forced to think separately for her own needs and for the needs of their child; a baby girl they had named together, Hope.

Odulette watched the baby suckle, as she repositioned the bit of shredded cloth that served as a blanket, to provide shade for the baby’s head and her exposed breasts; a miserable protection from the burning sun and relentless chafing of the east wind.

Collin’s Journal

Williamsberg, June, 1719

Daniel Carnes joined our band of maroons in the summer of 1714, bringing with him news of royal intrigue and treasures beyond the imagination. While we struggled to survive the hardships of our tiny, desolate world, across the sea, the latest, disputed king of Spain had troubles of his own, troubles beyond the war over his succession to the throne. His recent marriage to Isabella Farnese had not yet been consummated and there was a certain desperation for an heir, if not the pleasure of conceiving one.

In exchange for the queen’s favors, King Philip was being coerced for riches enough to bankrupt the kingdom, a treasure Daniel Carnes referred to as The Queen’s Dowry. It was treasure enough to tempt Henri to brave the substantial defenses at the Spanish bastion of St. Augustine, two day’s sail to the north, for a chance to gain such prize. For my part, I was more intrigued by the idea that a man could make his living transporting the raw materials for such treasures, gold, silver and jewels, from one place to another, as a courier, in the manner that Daniel Carnes had previously been employed. I was no less intrigued to learn that the queen of Spain was nothing more than a common whore, selling her favors for gold and jewels. I supposed that such was not new among the crowns of Europe.

By this year much was changed in my own life. I had become more than Odulette’s lover and common-law husband, I was father to our infant daughter, Hope. That responsibility brought with it the burden and desire to make changes to my associations and to my mode of living. New loyalties required that old loyalties must change and that our new life together, as a family, move on from the deprivations of La Creek to something more stable and more easily survived. With that in mind and the promise of vast riches I joined in a pact with Henri, and Daniel Carnes to sail to St. Augustine and, there, forge a plan to steal The Queen’s Dowry in spite of the obvious dangers inherent to such a quest, but I was determined by the birth of our daughter in the previous year, to make a better life for Odulette and our child so that they would not continue to suffer as they had to this point.

Collin Aldworth

La Creek

GM-Cvr6

Excerpt: Triangle: A Memoir of Black Caesar

Collin’s Journal, March, 1713

I bare a great scar, now, from our battle on the coast of Africa. A scar I am proud to bare for it was earned in a struggle for men’s freedom. I bare many smaller scars from the common struggles of my life in this evil trayde in souls, of which I have been a part. But the deepest, most festered scar of all is not visible. It is the scar I bare on my soul for participating in the massacre at Chateau Verettes. I am haunted by the memory of it and I also know that it haunts the memories of my friend, Henri, who is now, most commonly, called Caesar. Though he will not confess his troubled concience, I can see the affect of his guilt in the ways that he has changed since that fateful day. Our lyves together have become as bitter as the lymes that grow on this desolate island we have called, La Creek.

I have tryed often and, to his annoyance, to speak of the matter, but he will have none of it. I wonder in my own heart if there can be forgiveness in Christ for us. I have also wondered aloud, by the fire at night, but Henri rejects the thought, saying that he learned all he could tolerate of Christ from Liana Royer and the other white jackals who have stolen his life from him. It is, just as I feared, so many years ago on the night that Arthur Hill challenged John Barren about the morality of the Trade. We have, all together, become the worst testimony of our faith.

Now, his soul has come under the spell of the witch, Oguna, and her Obeah magic. He has mostly closed himself off from me, avoiding contact as much as that is possible, since we all live as naufrages, that is, maroons, on this small island. His mood has become dark and brooding. He seldom smiles anymore and because of his enormous size, ill temper and unpredictably brutish nature, most of us have come to live in fear of him.

His desire to return to Africa has become a form of desperation. He is obsessed by a need to take up his mantle as king of the Dyula people; he wears the king’s breastplate daily as he stalks about the camp. A palpable tension surrounds us because the other African members of our community and his own crew are not willing to go back. Most, including Maya, who bore his child and is with child again, are satisfied with the life of freedom they have forged here at La Creek. They reject the idea of returning to Africa for fear that “The Company” will enslave them again.

Considering the level of The Company’s activities on the coast of Africa, there is, of course, a strong probability that they are correct. From all visible signs the Triangle Trayde has grown exponentially since our days aboard the Arthur. I pray each day for the means to destroy The Royal African Company of England, but the beast has grown into an overwhelming monster, grinding its teeth in the face of all opposition. Though it has been stabbed repeatedly by wars, political intrigues, interlopers and competition, it continues to survive and succeed like something infernally born. As such, I will continue to pray for its destruction, for my own peace of mind, and for my friend, Nwoye, the boy I once knew.

I have kept the pamphlet, “Gospel Family-Order”, I was given at The Mermaid Inn, on Barbados, so many years ago. I remember the words from it as I pray, but I confess that, the longer I live, the less hope I hold out for our future, whether we live together, or continue to drift apart.

I dream of a day when Odulette and I, will sayle away to the colonies of the Maine, the Carolinas, or perhaps Virginia, to settle there and fynde a better way to live than this. Perhaps to farm, or to live by a trayde. I dream of peace, but I know only war, strife and struggle. Perhaps I am a fool to think that we could live a quiet lyfe, to raise children who are free of the tyranny of greedy men who lust for the power tyrannize others. None the less I pray daily that it will be so, but I pray without hope because of the stain that blackens my own soul.

And now, Odulette is with child. Among my many sins I bare guilt for having made her a fornicator, but we have come to love one another and having no clergyman to marry us, we gave in to the temptation afforded by our close conditions. Strangely, we are the happier for it and, despite my sins, I know that we live each day only by God’s mercy.

Collin Aldworth

La Creek – 1713

Paying The Piper

GM-Cvr6

Excerpt: Triangle: A Memoir of Black Caesar

 

Cassine, Ile de la Tortue, 1712

In anticipation of riches plundered from both the settlement and Chateau Verettes, LaFavre had the buccaneers who remained in camp at Cassine prepare a feast and celebration that would last into the night. Unfortunately, the celebration was over before it ever began. It was easily seen in the manner and expression of the first combatants to come ashore, that things had not gone well on the mainland.  The disaster at Port Mara and the chateau had left little cause for celebration and even less desire. Instead, the mood and air of the camp was filled with tension that created a dangerous quiet around the fires in the evening. Though no one had died and few had been but mildly wounded, there was little plunder to be divided among them, or to pay the buccaneers who had signed on as mercenaries. Now they would have to be paid out of the fleet’s reserves. That, or, in Teach’s way of thinking, they would have to fight for it, a solution that would not be accomplished without heavy losses on both sides.

Jean Paul LaFavre was an odorous man of few words to begin with and was clearly on edge when he joined the Brethren at their circle around the fire this night. He’d come from a lengthy meeting of the buccaneer leadership, already angry at the prospect of his men not being paid for their work. LeFavre worried about the possible consequences of a confrontation between his buccaneers and the pirate crews, as did Henri and Teach. Considering the loose order of the camp and his own advanced age, he was not sure that his tenuous hold on power was strong enough to restrain his men from foolish provocation.

On the other hand, Teach was concerned about what might be demanded of him. It was one thing to split plunder among a crew of men he lived with every day, but he’d never been confronted with a situation this volatile. He wished he had never been saddled with the mercenary arrangement that Henri had agreed to before his arrival. In truth, even if the buccaneers had agreed to shares, there was no significant plunder to be divided among such a large number of men. Only a small bag of silver coin taken from the fortress and some insignificant jewelry recovered from the settlement. He’d already heard the grumbling among the buccaneers and he’d no confidence in the elder LFavre as their leader. To make matters worse, he was on their turf, outnumbered and, if it came to a fight, they held an advantage also in knowledge of the terrain. These were the very reasons he’d ordered most of his own men to remain aboard ship, anticipating that he might have to make a run for it.

Collin sat among the small group of leaders around the central fire, between Teach and LeFarve. He’d already consumed enough rum to dull the pain in his head and to snuff the odor of onion and garlic that permeated his proximity to LaFavre, but not enough to prevent him from sensing the silent tension that consumed the circle. Out of his own discomfort and, in an attempt to assuage the bitterness and to rationalize the massacre in his own mind, he lifted up the half full bottle in his hand, so that all could see and, smiling, said, “To freedom. That all men should be free.”

Then he tilted the bottle to his lips, took a long pull and handed the bottle to LeFavre who lifted it up and shouted, “Liberte’!”, before tipping the bottle himself and passing it along so that everyone drank before it came once again to Collin. Following that, they all sat quietly for a time, gazing into the fire, deep in thought, each man with his own, personal understanding of what was meant by the ritual.

“To Caesar!” Collin shouted, once again lifting the bottle, acknowledging Henri.

“Hail Caesar!” Teach shouted, the others joined in agreement, though some agreed less than others. The bottle passed again around the fire. When it returned to Collin, understanding clearly the dilemma that threatened them all, he turned to LeFavre saying, “We freed a lot of people today at little cost to ourselves. How then shall we settle accounts?”

LeFavre was caught off guard and hesitated for a long moment. Then, forcing a grin, said, “We all value freedom, as you do my friend, but my men must be paid.”

“And what price is asked for freedom?” Collin dared to inquire, taking another swig from the bottle.

These buccaneers, mostly Huguenots, were not common rabble, no matter their appearance or how badly they might smell, or what the king, or his monopoly might say of them. They were men of character and principle who well knew the cost of liberty, and none, including LeFavre, were willing to devalue the privilege of freedom by putting a price on it. He looked to his men around the fire as he said, “We must be compensated a fair price for the camp and for supplying the ships with water, boucan and sharing our crops, our women and our supplies.”

“Done!” Henri agreed without consulting the Brethren. He nodded to them with a broad grin.

LeFavre again looked to his men around the fire for their approval. They seemed to be urging him to something more. Collin had the distinct sense it was something specific that they had already discussed among themselves. LeFavre reached for the bottle in Collin’s hand. He lifted it up and took another swig of courage then handed it back. For a long moment he twirled a stick through the ashes at the edge of the fire and then, turning to Teach, said, “We have need of a ship. You have many. We would ask you to offer one of them to us. The fluyt will serve us, if you can spare it.”

Revenge?” Teach inquired, stunned by the request.

LeFavre said nothing, but waited for an answer. He had asked politely and would humble himself no further.

“It seems a fair request.” Israel suggested in the hope of resolving the situation.

Teach shot him a hateful glare.

“It is fair.” Collin agreed. “For these men, who have served our purpose so well, a ship is the difference between bare survival and a thriving community.”

“I think we can afford to let her go.” Henri allowed. “We are certain to take another prize.”

Now Teach’s glare settled on Henri. His eyes glazed over and he began to blink, a slow, rhythmic opening and closing of the eyes that Collin had seen before, when rage was rising in Teach’s heart.

“It will be for us to remain free, Barbe-noire.” LeFavre allowed.

“Come now, Teach. You can’t sail two ships. She’s as much mine as yours anyway and I’m agreeable.” Collin said, smiling, in an attempt to defuse Teach’s explosive temper.

Teach did not return his smile. Instead, he kicked angrily at the fire. Burning embers scattered over the men sitting across from him. Sparks and firebrands flew upward into the night sky and showered down over the rest of them. Then he stood, glaring at each of them in turn, lit by flames that glittered and danced, reflecting in his angry eyes. Smoke began to pour out of the long, dreadlocks that framed his dark face, as if flowing from his ears. It enveloped his head in a swirling, demonic halo. Several of the men at the fire, pointed at him, then jumped to their feet and retreated crying, “Diable!”