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Felipe

Another new author with a lot of African characters saying hello

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Hello, my name is Felipe. I've written four self published novels which I think are an easy read, interesting and full of adventure. I used real friends of mine as characters in these books. I actually started book one online in an open forum as a short story. People kept encouraging me and before long I had a 70,000 word novel. About a third of the way through I asked everyone who their favorite character was and it was hands down Batu, the huge former slave now turned pirate. I had a lot of fun writing these novels as the main character and his uncle seek revenge on the king for killing his father. His uncle tells him that no crew would be as fiercely determined to fight by their sides as slaves that they freed by killing their masters. Batu and the main character become the best of friends. I hope to become a part of this community, meet my friend "Batu" or Clyde, a fellow firefighter standing next to me.

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I'm new so I don't know if it's alright to put up a few excerpts of my book, would someone tell me if it's OK? I really enjoyed writing about the joy of the new found freedom of the former slaves.

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Felipe, I figured that was who you was talking about. My query was an indirect way of letting you know that historically all enslaved persons were not all Black.

Please, feel free to share excerpts about your book, link to your website, post video, the cover of your book -- that is the purpose of the forum.

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Thank you Troy and yes, many are not aware that the Moors had many white slaves. My novels start in Mexico in 1614, corruption in the new colonies is rampant as the viceroy arrests innocent people to seize their assets. The main character and his father are falsely accused of piracy merely for the bounty. His father is murdered during the arrest and he kills a gaurd to escape. He and his uncle must now flee but they swear revenge, all they need is a crew and a ship....

PROLOUGE

My name is Felipe Montoya and this is my tale. In order for me to tell you this, I must go back to the beginning. How did I, a simple fisherman become a pirate, the most wanted man in the Caribbean and the new colonies of Mexico? Why was I forced to kill and just how did I, an honest man become the sole focus of the King‘s wrath? As I said, I must start at the beginning, it is a long tale of bravery, love, betrayal and devotion. The story of common men struggling together to defeat insurmountable odds. My story was written long ago, let God be my judge.

Fast forward....

It took four months but they now had three sturdy cabins built, one for each of them as well as Marianna. “We must still gather some men before we bring her here so that we have a large enough force to provide her with protection if the need arises. We will sail tomorrow and get some men.” Andreas said.

“Where will we get these men?” Felipe asked.

“Hired men are only as good as their pay, they have no particular loyalty to their Captain. No, we need men who hate the Spaniards as much as we do and feel a debt of loyalty to us. The slaves that the Spaniards bring here are badly abused. We will free some slaves and they will be more devoted to us than any men that we could hire. They are also very strong and resourceful people.” Andreas replied

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"So how do we go about obtaining these slaves?"

"It is simple." Andreas smiled, "We kill their masters and free them."

The next morning they set sail through the windward passage to Hispaniola where the slaves were sold. They rented three horses and arrived at the dusty square where the auction was to be held.

Wagons pulled up and began unloading the slaves, the women first and then the men. One slave in particular stood out. He was very tall and muscular, six foot six and at least 285 pounds of chiseled muscle. He had a fierce look about him, his anger burned in his face. He had a thick black beard that made his jaw look even stronger, he was indeed a very menacing looking man. Felipe and Andreas stood in the shade of a flamboyant tree and watched, smoking a cigar.

The auctioneer stepped up to the platform and called for attention. “We have a fine lot of strong, healthy slaves for you today. All come from the same stock and tribe. A very wealthy landowner bought their parents from the same shipment. This is the second generation, their children. These are not imported savages, they were born here, speak our language and know our ways. All are healthy, strong and will make fine servants. Let us start the bidding with some breeding stock.”

A woman with a manacle around her neck was pulled away from the rest to the platform. She tried to struggle and was yanked very hard by the rope that tethered her. The large black slave began to struggle against his bonds and scream. “ That is my wife! Release her or I will kill you! I will kill all of you!“ He lunged for her and drug all of the other men that were tied to him. It took five Spaniards to finally restrain him. Still he struggled violently until they had to untie him from the rest and tie him to a tree.

The woman was led to the platform and the auctioneer raised her shirt showing her full, well formed breasts and her perfect slim waistline. He turned her around and raised her skirt showing her firm buttocks then turned her again. Her face was beautiful, large liquid brown eyes that tilted up at the outside corners with long lashes, Her lips were very full and she had high cheekbones, Her skin was a flawless light brown. She was truly beautiful. The crowd began to shout and the large man tied to the tree hurled death threats at anyone who bought her. A man approached him and hit him very hard with a club, he just looked at him with such hatred and ferocity in his eyes that the man backed away.

All eyes were on the woman as the bidding began and Felipe walked up to the large, fierce man.

“Listen to me, I know that if I purchase you that you will never work for me. You will try to escape and find your wife, am I correct?”

“Yes” said the man in a very deep voice as he stared at Felipe.

“What is your name?” Felipe asked.

“ My master called me Juan, but my given name by my father is Batu.” he replied.

“ I am Felipe. I do not want you to work, but if I buy you and then get your wife back so you can be free together, would you fight by my side against these Spanish dogs?” Felipe asked.

“To the death, you would have my complete devotion but you yourself appear to be a Spaniard. How do you propose that we get her back?” He asked.

“It is simple, I will buy you and we will kill the bastard who buys her and get her back before the sun sets today. And yes, I am a Spaniard by birth, but they killed my father and it is my life’s endeavor to punish them for this.”

The large man looked at him, he did not trust Spaniards but he saw the truth in Felipe’s eyes. This sounded to good to be true but he realized that he really had no choice. He smiled down at him and said “You have my word Felipe, if you this, I will always fight by your side.”

Felipe told him “Continue to scream loudly and threaten anyone who buys you or her with death. No one will want to buy you except me and we will get your wife back. I promise my friend.” Felipe smiled at him and walked back to the platform.

The bidding was reaching a pitch and finally a price was settled on. A man walked up to the platform to claim his property. He raised her shirt and squeezed her breast. She slapped him hard across the face. He grabbed her hair and yanked her head back and slapped her with a vicious blow across her mouth. The blood trickled down her chin, crimson against her brown skin.

He smiled with yellow teeth and said “The master is paying for you but tonight I will show you what a real man feels like. You will spread your legs and beg for more.” Batu screamed death threats, swore that he would hunt him down and kill him. He was going berserk, struggling against his bonds.

The auctioneer started to lead the next woman to the platform when Felipe spoke up loudly.

“I cannot hear or think with this slave screaming like this, sell him now and be done with it so we can conduct business!” Everyone agreed and six strong men led Batu struggling to the platform. He looked so ferocious that it was doubtful that anyone would buy him. The bidding began but the auctioneer could not be heard above his screaming at the man who had bought his wife. They had him gagged and the bidding began again at sixty reales.

No one raised a hand at the first offer, no one wanted this wild beast. The auctioneer again repeated the offer of sixty reales.

“Look at the size of this man and the strength, he will make a fine worker after the whip is applied.” He said.

Felipe blew a plume of smoke into the air and said “I will take him off of your hands if you give me 10 reales.” The crowd laughed loudly and the auctioneer began again as Batu struggled, it took all six men just to hold him.

The auctioneer began again at 60 reales, Felipe offered 10.

“We have a bid of ten reales, do I hear twenty?” The crowd went silent. The auctioneer went on…

“This is insane, just ten reales for such a large, strong man? Do I hear twenty?” The crowd still was silent. “Going once for just ten reales, going twice, sold!”

Felipe walked to the platform and instructed the six men to drape him over his spare horse and bind his hands and feet and to tie them firmly beneath the horses stomach. When this was done, he led the horse away a short distance under the shade of a tree. He pretended to check Batu’s bonds while he actually loosened them as well as the rough rope that was used as a gag.

Felipe ran his fingers across the deep scars that crisscrossed the man‘s back, the bite of the whip. “Bastards, what kind of a man could do this to another man? I have to leave you bound until the man who bought your wife leaves, then we will follow him and I will free you to liberate your wife, do you understand?” Batu nodded and watched the bidding.

The rest of the women were sold quickly and then the men were led up. The best specimen was led up first, a short man with very wide, muscular shoulders. He was bought by the same man that bought Batu’s wife. As the bidding went on he also bought one more man, this one almost as large as Batu. He tied a rope around their necks and had their hands tied . He then tied all of them together by their necks and wrapped the rope around his saddle horn.

http://www.theratsnestweebly.com/index.html#/

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Thank you Troy. I think if the people here will give me a minute to get this tale rolling, they will really like it, just give me a chance. Amazon and Createspace eat up almost all of a new, self published authors royalties. I sold my first 12 books and looked, I had made 70 cents. This story is my life, I lived it, poured my heart, soul, blood sweat and real tears writing this tale and they kept most of the money. The only way an author like me actually gets paid is if a person buys the book from my estore. This novel is available on Kindle for 99 cents. The Tribe is the Sequel and then The New World. I intend to follow this family of former slaves and pirates through all of the interesting parts of history. I jumped forward 300 hundred years and wrote "Goldfish" in the present day. The descendants of this extended family still live above the law and below the radar but are no longer pirates. Immensely rich and now with computers and automatic weapons, they now help people who can'y go to the corrupt Mexican police, but that is far in the future. There is a lot of adventure in store for them before that. But if you decide to buy my books, please do so at my estore located here. You can also see pictures of the characters on the "Meet the crew" section with more pictures to come. Here ya go.... http://www.theratsnestweebly.com/my-store.html

Anyway, where were we? Batu is about to rescue his wife.....

He tied a rope around their necks and had their hands tied . He then tied all of them together by their necks and wrapped the rope around his saddle horn.

Felipe, Andreas with Batu still tied over the horse’s back walked their horses to the fork in the road, then concealed themselves in the nearby jungle. They freed Batu and watched to see which direction the man would take. They would travel through the jungle and easily get ahead of the man walking the slaves and then ambush him. They watched and waited, they could still see the slave auction.

The man checked their bonds again and swung into the saddle. When the horse started walking Batu’s wife was pulled off of her feet and drug for several feet. The man got off and whipped her with his quirt. “Get up you clumsy bitch or I will make my horse run and see if you can keep up!” She struggled to her feet and he slapped her once more hard across her buttocks.

As he took the road to the left fork, Felipe, Andreas and Batu quickly got ahead of the man with his slaves. They dismounted and tied their horses to trees. Felipe drew his sword and handed it to Batu and said, “I will leave this pleasure to you, justice will be served today.”

Batu smiled and hefted the blade. “I would prefer a machete, but this will do nicely my friend.”

As the man approached Felipe stepped out onto the road and grabbed the horses reins. “What is the meaning of this?” The man shouted.

“You have something that does not belong to you.” Felipe smiled and blew out a plume of smoke.

“And what might that be?” He asked.

“The woman tied behind you.” Felipe replied

“I just bought her and she is the property of her new master now.” He said impudently.

“No, actually she is the wife of this man.” Felipe nodded toward the side of the road. Batu Stepped out and immediately dug the tip of his sword into the man’s side forcing him off of his horse. Batu ran around the horse while the man drew his sword.

Felipe had never seen such savagery as he witnessed at that moment. Batu’s swings were so powerful that the man was truly helpless. With one mighty swing he lopped off the mans arm which held his sword at the elbow. The man raised his other arm to defend himself and Batu cut that arm off as well. Without his arms he could only scream and try to run as Batu chased him hacking at him from behind. Finally, Batu cut his head off with one swipe and his body fell hard on the dusty road. The blood continued to spurt out of the arteries until it diminished away.

Felipe told him “We need to work on your swordsmanship, my friend.”

“He is dead, is he not?” Batu smiled and ran to hug his wife.

“We need to get the body and the horse off of the road and cover the blood, help me free your wife and the others quickly.”

Batu explained what was going on to his wife and friends and they drug the body off of the road into the jungle. They covered the blood with dust and picked up his arms and head, these Batu threw far into the jungle.

Felipe looked at the other slaves. “I have an offer for you, I need men to exact revenge on the Spanish dogs who killed my father. I will sail you off of this island and set you free if you will fight by my side. I will share any bounty that we seize from the Spaniards equally with you, you will be free and rich. Or you can simply flee on your own here and now.”

Batu told them that he was joining Felipe and their decision was made instantly to join with them also. The short man with the wide shoulders smiled and introduced himself as Ajamu and his large friend introduced himself as Tor.

Felipe gave Batu the man’s sword and told him “Take Ajamu with you down the right fork of the road and free the rest of your friends as they pass. Andreas will be at the fork and will come for you as soon as the last of them are sold. Tor will stay here with me and we will free all who come this way. Meet me back here as quickly as possible after you have freed them all. We will sail off of this island and tonight you will all be free men.

Batu smiled and took his wife and Ajamu off following the road just inside of the jungle until they came to the fork. Andreas drew his sword and handed it to Ajamu. They rode ahead and got into position to free the rest of their friends.

Felipe took Tor and they went back to the jungle near the road and waited. Over the course of the next two hours he had a group of ten men and eight women hiding in the jungle when Batu arrived leading another eight men and five more women.

There was much joy at being reunited and free. The prospect of finally being free men and being able to get revenge after years of abuse at the hands of the Spaniards was exciting to them and they were all eager to join Felipe. But for now the need was to escape this place before the men and their slaves were missed. Felipe and his friends followed along the road staying well into the jungle and very quiet until they came to the coast where the Marianna was moored.

Now he told them not to say anything and just to follow him and do as he told them. He boldly walked up to the dock with all of the slaves following him and approached the Harbor Master to pay his due.

“That is a fine lot of slaves but how could you afford to buy that many of them? This ship does not look like that of a wealthy man.”

“I was hired by a wealthy man to purchase them and the size of my ship does not concern you, only that I pay you.” Felipe handed him enough reales to bring a smile to his face and then had all of the slaves board the small ship and sit down. The harbor master helped him to untie his lines and shoved him off. Felipe and Andreas trimmed the sails as they filled with the wind , the boat began to glide easily out of the harbor. Andreas looked at the harbor disappearing behind them and then looked at the former slaves, smiled and winked. As They rounded the windward point and turned out of sight of the harbor he turned to his group of new friends and said, “You can smile now.”

A wild cheer came up and Batu grabbed Felipe in a mighty bear hug and lifted him off of his feet.

“Easy my friend, do not break my ribs, save that for the Spaniards. That keg is filled with rum, pass a cup around and let us go home.” Felipe smiled as his small band of men tasted rum for the first time in their lives. They sailed on toward Tortuga.

As Felipe sailed into the sheltered lagoon the breakwater stopped and became smooth. Andreas expertly tacked the sails and then dropped the anchor. Felipe let the boat swing around on it’s anchor chain into the wind and dropped a small anchor at the stern and lashed it tight, the boat was secure. He told Batu “The tide is out now and we still have ten feet of water beneath our keel in case it drops any further. All we have to do now is swim the short distance to the shore.”

“We do not swim.” Batu said in his deep voice.

“What do you mean you do not swim, none of you?” Felipe asked as he looked around at them.

“Excuse me, but our former master never saw the need for recreational activities, we washed at the well and there were no rivers or streams nearby, we do not swim.” Batu replied.

Felipe looked at all of them as the Marianna rocked on it’s anchors. “Well how am I going to get you all to the shore?”

Batu looked around, “You have plenty of rope, you tie it around your waist and then swim to the shore. We can then climb down the rope hand over hand and keep our heads out of the water.”

“I cannot hold you up, you weigh twice as much as I do!” Felipe said.

Batu smiled and said “Perhaps we will send one of our wives first, can you hold one of them up? They are strong.”

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Fast forward a little more....

At last they waded onto the shore and through the jungle to the small settlement. They started a fire as the sun was setting and sat around it. Felipe said “Tonight you will sleep under the stars but the rainy season will soon be upon us. The women can use my mother’s cabin if they wish, she is not here yet. Tomorrow we will go into the jungle and chop more trees and build cabins for all of you. We can purchase more axes, saws and hammers in the square and we will get started on your homes.”

Batu blinked at him “We will have our own houses? He asked.

“Of course you will have your own houses, but we will have to build them. We will all work together and it will go quickly. Did you not have your own houses before?” Felipe looked around the circle of faces in the flickering firelight, he knew nothing of slaves or how they lived.

Batu spoke “We slept in the back of the barn on hay. This is a whole new and wonderful life for us. We will serve you well Felipe.” With that he hugged him hard and let out a loud laugh.

Felipe pushed him off and said, “You have had enough rum my friend and do not know your own strength. Now, before you break my neck I will ask you to release me.”

The evening was getting cool and the sun was beginning to set. They gathered more firewood and Banana tree leaves to lay on. As night fell they had a roaring fire and Felipe passed the rum bottle around. Batu and the others had never had liquor and it affected them quickly. Batu stood and started to piss in the fire and everyone screamed at him. He staggered off a few feet and finished then came back and plopped down beside Felipe and put his arm around his neck. “So what is next my friend?” He asked.

Batu smiled drunkenly at him. Felipe looked around them and smiled “You are my friends, we are equals and partners against the Spanish. I will of course be the Captain on the ship and give the orders there, that is the way of the sea. But on land, we are all friends and you will never serve another man again.”

Batu’s wife spoke up “Does that go for us women too? You mean I do not have to serve Batu food any more?” She smiled.

“Silence woman! Fetch me some more rum!” Batu shouted playfully. She stood up and tossed the clay jug into his lap smashing his testicles. Batu grabbed himself and rolled in pain as the crowd laughed loudly. They partied into the night and one at a time fell asleep under the stars.

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I'm really glad that I found this forum. I am really curious and would like some feedback as to how my work is viewed by a black readership. The main thrust of the early novels was revenge. Felipe wanted revenge for the murder of his father and the former slaves want revenge against the white masters who abused them so badly. Slavery can be hard to read about speaking of bullwhips and rape. It is even harder to write about. But as I said, the main thrust was revenge, then it became to end slavery in the new colonies.

How can one small band of common, everyday men, slaves and fishermen do this? How can this handful of men fight the mightiest empire on earth and vanquish a social structure that all commerce depends on as well as the elite's pampered lifestyle? Please, comment on it but be kind and follow this tale just a little further. If they are to become pirates, they need a ship.....

Once the village was completed Andreas began teaching them all how to properly wield a sword. They also spent many hours learning how to swim in the nearby pond of fresh water. As time passed they all became adept at handling the sails and steering the ship as they fished the rich waters surrounding the island. They learned fast and soon were accomplished sailors as well as swordsmen. They also learned the bow and lance.

Life was good on the island, they were enjoying their new found freedom. No longer would they be whipped or have their wives taken at night by the master. A deep bond of friendship and devotion developed between them, Andreas and Felipe. They hunted and trapped hogs which were abundant on the island and built a smoke house to cure the meat so it would not spoil. The women cooked good meals and they ate well.

Fast forward again please...

“But, the time has come. These men are well trained at sailing and fighting now. We need more men but first we will need a ship, a large warship.” Andreas looked at him.

“We cannot possibly capture such a ship with the Marianna, we have no cannons.” Felipe said.

“I know this and have been thinking about it. We shall steal a ship.” Andreas looked at him and smiled. “Cuba is not far and they have a large port there. It is a home port to them and secure. They leave a minimum amount of guards on the ships at night, the guards get bored, they are not that vigilant. I believe that we could slip into the harbor under the cover of darkness and kill the few guards that are on board but we must be swift and very silent. If one man shouts and raises the alarm we will all be killed. We must plan it out very carefully and strike when there is no or very little moon.”

“That is a bold plan uncle, but it seems like our only choice if we are to procure a large warship.” Felipe replied.

“Very well, ring the bell and summon the men to the pavilion, let us make our plans.”

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Felipe rang the bell that hung from the roof of the pavilion and everyone gathered and sat in a circle. Andreas and Felipe explained the plan as they all listened. Ajamu’s wife said “We have a good life here, we are free and have food. I do not want my husband to be killed, this sounds like a very dangerous mission.”

Ajamu quickly spoke up for all to hear. “Yes, we have a good life here and we owe all of this to Felipe and Andreas. They freed us and brought us here and we all swore allegiance to their cause. We have reaped the benefits and now it is time to fulfill our part of the bargain. We descended from a warrior tribe and now we have the chance to pay back the Spaniards for all of their transgressions against our parents and ourselves. I want to hear no more of this. If any man will not fulfill his part of the bargain I personally will kill him.”

He looked around the circle but all agreed with what he said. “Are there any other objections?” Felipe asked. “This is indeed a very dangerous mission and I will not hold any one of you to the bargain. If any man or woman does not want to participate in this you do not have to, you simply will not reap any of the reward when we capture other ships. You are all free men and women now.”

Batu stood up and looked around the circle and told them all. “If any man here shows cowardice I do not want them living in this village with us. As Ajamu said, we descended from a warrior tribe. We are not farmers and I too want blood in revenge for all of the wrongs that have been heaped on our people.”

All of them shook their heads in agreement and Ajamu’s wife apologized. “I am sorry Felipe, I spoke without thinking. Yes, we do owe all of this to you and Andres, I was just concerned for the safety of my husband.”

“There is no need to apologize.” Felipe smiled at her. “I understand your concern. We will begin laying supplies on our boat and wait for the moon to wane. You will have your revenge.”

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Fast forward a little more...

They dropped their nets so they would not draw attention and pretended to fish while they studied the ships that were at anchor. There were several average size galleons anchored on the outer perimeter, but closer to the shore was a really large warship. After surveying the area they sailed to the outer edge of the harbor, dropped anchor and pulled in their nets.

Cleaning the fish, they began to cook and discuss the plan of action. Felipe took out his telescope and surveyed the ships. “The three on the outer edge are average size galleons, displacing maybe seven tons. I count…fifteen guns along their gun deck for a total of thirty cannons. The large one closer to shore is one of their newer vessels, she displaces about thirteen tons and I count…thirty cannons along her side on two different decks. She also has two forward on her bow and two on her stern for a total of sixty four guns. That is our ship.”

Ajamu blew on a hot piece of broiled fish and looked at the harbor. “We would have to sail past those other three warships on the way out. What if they sound an alarm? Every ship in the harbor will be in pursuit of us.”

Tor agreed, “It would be a lot safer to take the outer ship, thirty guns are enough, besides, how many men does it take to sail a ship like the smaller one? He asked.

Felipe took a piece of fish and chewed on it as he thought. He then asked Andreas “What do you think Uncle?”

Andreas stared across the harbor. “Two men per cannon would be sixty men, four manning the powder room to pass the gunpowder. Fifty manning small arms on her upper deck and maybe fifty to sail her. A few carpenters and a surgeon. About one hundred and eighty men.”

Batu said with a voice as deep as a well “And we are twenty.” He looked at Felipe and raised his eyebrows.

Felipe looked around his circle of friends. He took another bite of fish, chewed and swallowed it. “ While we are at sea, I am the Captain and give the orders. But in matters of life and death, I am your friend, not your master. I cannot force any of you to do anything that you do not want to do. The journey across the Atlantic from Spain is long and treacherous, they sometime loose up to a third of their crew to sickness and pirates. See all of her rigging?” He pointed at the large ship.

“With those pulleys and cleats, the ship can be sailed with a lot less men. You simply tie the sails off where they are needed. Also, I do not plan on using all of her guns at once and trading cannon fire on the open sea. We will use guile and trickery to get close to other ships.” He looked at Andreas and Andreas gave him a wink. “We do not need the speed to cross the Atlantic right now, we just need to get her back to Tortuga so we do not need all of her sails unfurled.”

Again he looked around the circle of men sitting on the rocking deck. All was silent except for the sound of the wind and the creaking of the timbers of their small ship. Felipe went on. “We may be only twenty, but I would stack any one of you up against five Spanish soldiers. Her troops are decimated from the war and they are recruiting young, inexperienced men. They have no time to teach them the art of the sword as my uncle and I have taught you.”

He pointed at the large ship close to the shore. “We intend to attack the King’s ships and men. One day we may sail against a ship such as that one. Do you really want to be in one of those smaller ships? As soon as we get back to Tortuga we will recruit more men, but we need a ship first, and that should be our ship.”

They all looked at the huge ship comparing it to the smaller ones. Batu spoke first. “I agree, we will get more men but we need a stout ship, what say you?” He looked around at the men and one by one, they all agreed and shook their heads. Batu said “Very well then, it is settled.”

Felipe smiled and lit a small cigar “Get some rest then, tonight we will shed some Spanish blood.”

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Felipe looked at the large ship swaying on it’s anchors and tried to count the men that he saw on her decks. He only saw four men posted on the deck. A cook came up and threw a bucket of slop over the side. After a few hours, one of the men went below and four other men came up to relieve those on deck.

The night fell over the harbor and surrounding town and lanterns slowly lit on the ships and the shoreline. The stars became clear as the sky darkened and a crescent moon rose slowly in the sky. Felipe rethought all of his plans. Batu snored heavily nearby but most of the men were not able to sleep with nervous anticipation. They had been raised never to stand up to a Spaniard, to actually kill one was an alien thought. Other than their escape from Hispanolia they had never rebelled. But, they all had whip marks on their backs and had seen their women raped by these hated bastards so killing them was eagerly looked forward to. Andreas honed his sword and then his dagger.

As the moon slowly rose into the night sky the noise from the harbor increased as the taverns filled up. It seemed like ages, but little by little the lights went out in the city until only a few remained. The lanterns on the ships still burned but they only gave off enough light to see when walking on the decks. From the position of the moon Felipe estimated that it was well past midnight and he made a pot of strong coffee.

He awoke Batu and the few others who had fallen asleep and they drank the strong liquid and spoke in hushed tones. Felipe said “I will be at the helm so it is very important that you tack the foremast well. We want a slow approach so we will only use the sails on the foremast. When we get close I need two men on each sail’s rigging. As you tack the sail I will swing her stern around and then the rest of you men be ready with the poles. We will tie off to her and board her quietly. There is no time for swordplay nor do we need the noise. We must slip up behind them and slit their throats.”

Batu smiled. “I like that idea, but why do we not also eliminate the guards on the outer ships? That way they cannot sound and alarm.”

Felipe looked at the three ships between them and the large one “Too risky, all it would take is one shout from one of them. No, we will slip past them, the guards are probably drunk or asleep at this hour, angry that their shipmates are drinking and tasting the women ashore. We will take the ship and steer as far away from them as we can as we clear the harbor. ”

Felipe looked at his small circle of men. Their dark faces looked formidable and their eyes shone in anticipation of their daring act. “If they call out to us as we pass on the way out, you men keep your backs turned, the King has no black soldiers. The rest of you hide behind the rails and be ready with you bows. Aim for their head and throat, I want each of them to get at least three arrows. Do not fire until I give the order. So, are we ready?”

“Ready.” they all replied.

“ Batu and Ajamu, I will take the helm, we need the four men on the sails and the rest of you go below decks and weigh the anchors, God be with us.” With that he got up and threw what remained of his coffee over the side, put down the cup and strode to the stern.

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As soon as the anchors lost their bite on the ocean bottom, the wind began to slowly turn the ship. As instructed, two men on either of the foremast sails tacked their sails, playing the small ship into the wind and she eased forward into the night. They gave the first ship a wide berth but the guards on board barely noticed. It was not unusual to see a fishing vessel coming in late at night. They passed the next two without incident.

Now they were approaching the large warship. The men on the sails tacked them slightly into the wind and Felipe turned the wheel hard starboard. The rest of the men extended their poles and as they made contact there was not a sound. They lashed their small ship bow and stern and climbed up the rudder of the tall ship and over the rails. Felipe motioned for them to stay put and he very quietly slipped across the deck. Padding his way along from the stern to the bow , he found that the guards were posted evenly spaced, all four of them looking out toward the village.

Guard duty was a boring affair and generally doled out as punishment, or to those who the Captain did not favor. They did not expect any threat yet were young and standing at their post. Felipe slipped back to his waiting men. He did not speak but used hand signals. He held up four fingers and pointed to where the guards were. He pointed at two men and pointed to the rear guard. To each guard he assigned two of his men. He then cupped his hand over his mouth, tilted his head back and drew his index finger across his throat.

All his men smiled and nodded . He motioned for Batu to wait there and then he and six men stealthily crept along the deck He pointed out the guards and motioned for them to wait until they were all in position. Moving back to Batu they got into position. He looked down the line of his men. In the darkness he could only see the first pair but he knew they in turn could see the next. They watched him so when he was ready, he raised his hand and then dropped it. With knives drawn they crept up quietly behind the unsuspecting guards and caught them in a total surprise. They cupped their hands over their mouths, tilted their heads back and slit their throats.

The hot blood spurted out very hard and the men struggled briefly, but with no oxygen going to their brains they soon fell slack. They eased the dead men down to the deck and met back amidships. They eased down the ladder to the lower deck. This was the gun deck, the cannons were all lined up, the men all smiled as they looked at them. Loud snoring made it easy to tell where the were other guards were sleeping on the gun deck. They could get a breeze through the cannon ports.

They silently walked to where the men were sleeping. There was no time for mercy and no time for a fair fight. The men fell on them, covered their mouths and lanced them numerous times with their swords. They died quickly.

In hushed tones they agreed to search the entire ship in pairs to see if anyone else was on board and to meet back here. They split up and quickly and quietly searched the entire ship. Felipe went toward the stern with Batu and Andreas, searching each compartment until he came to the Captains quarters. The door was locked but locks were crude and easy to pick. Andreas was a blacksmith, he had made such locks. He reached inside of his vest and produced a set of small picks, he was prepared for locked doors. He quietly slipped the rods into the lock and maneuvered them until the lock gave way. With swords drawn they opened the door and stepped in.

The cabin was large and lavishly appointed but obviously unoccupied. They put their swords back into their scabbards and Felipe looked around. Oil lamps lit the large room. There was a large desk and a plush bed. A sitting area with padded chairs, a table and a bar stocked with fine liquor. A hand carved cigar box on the desk was filled with fine Cuban cigars. Rolls of nautical maps, a sextant and a good quality telescope were in a case. A large wooden chest was against one wall. Windows surrounded the quarters and gave a good view and a cross breeze that filled the room. Felipe said “Ah, my new quarters.” with a smile.

Batu said “We do not own this ship yet, we must make our escape now.”

“I agree” Felipe said and they went back to meet with the men.

Ajamu had found an extra uniform for each of the soldiers and they busied themselves changing into the Spanish clothing. Batu tried on several pair of pants and they all were too short, coming only half way down his calves. The men all chuckled as he finally threw them aside. Felipe said “OK you overgrown bastard, once we get underway you just hide on deck and be ready with your bow.” They went silently up on deck and unfurled the two sails on the foremast and tacked them to pull away from the shore.

Felipe and the rest of the crew went below decks and split into two groups. There were two anchors down and in such a sheltered port, they were not the large ones that were used in a storm. There was a large round wooden capstan with spokes emanating out from the center. He instructed them to grease the capstan, give him time to get to the stern anchor, then to turn the capstan reeling in the cable. He left eight men there and he and his other seven ran to the stern.

With one man on each spoke, they heaved into the spokes with all of their strength. At first it did not give, Batu planted his feet far behind him and gave a mighty shove. The anchor pulled from the sand of the harbor and began to rise as they marched quickly in circles reeling it up. Finally it seated and they planted the steel stop into the hole on the base.

As planned, they ran back up on deck and stationed themselves with their bows along the rail, crouching down out of sight. Felipe took the wheel and ran her hard to port as the men on the foremast let the sails fill with air, they snapped taut in the breeze and the mighty ship began a slow, steady turn out to sea.

They gave the first ship a wide berth but still the guards took notice. “Look at this, she is sailing at night, that is unusual.” One said.

“Mind your own business, our duty is to guard this ship.” Another said.

“ I do not like this, Spanish warships do not sail from port at night. The opening to the harbor is narrow and treacherous. This does not seem right.” He said and got the lantern down from its hook. The large ship was broadside now at thirty yards and he waved the lantern and called out loudly. “Ahoy! What is your business? Why are you sailing at night?”

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C'mon... isn't anyone curious as to what happens to Batu and his friends? I know someone beside Troy is reading this. A pirate story may not be everyone's cup of tea, but as I said, it is an easy read. One word of encouragement and I'll tell you what happens.

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OK... I can't help myself, I'll go on. This first novel, "Vengeance a Pirate's Tale" is available in the Kindle version for 99 cents from my website at

http://www.theratsnestweebly.com/index.html#/ in the "My store section. Where were we?....

They gave the first ship a wide berth but still the guards took notice. “Look at this, she is sailing at night, that is unusual.” One said.

“Mind your own business, our duty is to guard this ship.” Another said.

“ I do not like this, Spanish warships do not sail from port at night. The opening to the harbor is narrow and treacherous. This does not seem right.” He said and got the lantern down from its hook. The large ship was broadside now at thirty yards and he waved the lantern and called out loudly. “Ahoy! What is your business? Why are you sailing at night?”

The men crouched behind the rails had their arrows nocked and waited for the word. Andreas walked to the rail wearing a Spanish Captain’s uniform and said as quietly as he could to still be heard. “Silence you fool! This is a secret mission of the utmost urgency ordered by the King himself! Douse that lantern!”

“I told you to mind your own business.” the other guard said.

The guard with the lantern said “I still do not like this.” He then shouted out “Show me your papers authorizing this mission!” The men behind the rails all drew their bows to full draw but remained in place.

“I will show you our blades if you shout out one more time and endanger the secrecy of this mission. The Viceroy himself is watching us depart from the shore!“ He pointed at the dark shoreline. Now, douse that lantern!” Andreas said as they continued to slip past.

“Do not be a fool! You are going to get us all killed, beheaded!” The second guard whispered. Against his better judgment, the guard doused his lantern. The other two ships noticed the exchange of words but could not hear what was being said. The fact that the first ship cleared them was enough. They went back to drinking rum and playing cards, discipline was more lapse on the outer perimeter.

The men hiding behind the rails relaxed their bows and the big ship slowly slipped out of the harbor under the crescent moon. As soon as they cleared the mouth of the harbor they unfurled all of her sails and tied them off. The big ship surged forward and even Andreas was impressed with her speed. “Even as large as she is, with this much sail she is very fast and handles very well, take the wheel Andreas.” Felipe said.

“Yes, she is very responsive even without tacking the sails. Once we have enough men to tack the sails properly she will turn very sharply.” Andreas agreed.

They sailed from Cuba back to their island home. The next morning the Harbor Master was sitting in his office drinking a cup of coffee when a large man strode angrily into his office. The man slammed his hands down on his desk and demanded “Where is my ship?”

“What do you mean ‘where is your ship?’” “Where did you anchor it?”

The man pointed out of the window at the large, vacant spot and said “Right there you fool! And now it is gone! Where is it?” he demanded.

“How would I know? You are the Captain.” he replied.

“Yes! But you are the Harbor Master! You are responsible for all of the ships in this harbor!” The Captain was getting angrier.

“I am responsible for the documenting of all cargo that enters and leaves this port. Meticulous records are kept so that the King gets all of his shipments and no goods are stolen. I am not responsible for your ship, you are.” He stared flatly at the man.

The man paced back and forth and then looked at him. “Do you think that the King will see it that way? This was a new galleon, one of the largest in the fleet. It cost an enormous amount of money and had yet to even fight. It was stolen from your port. I fear that the King will have both of our heads for this.”

The harbor master thought about this for a few moments and then said “What was your Destination?”

“Vera Cruz, we were to escort a treasure trove back to Spain.”

“You loaded no cargo here?” he asked.

“Only tobacco, sugar cane and provisions, food and water.” the Captain replied.

“That is not valuable cargo like gold. There is no need for both of us to die. I will sign the ledger as you will. It will show that your ship sailed this morning. Go back and inform your men that it was taken by another Captain and crew as an emergency. They can board another ship. When she does not arrive in Vera Cruz as scheduled, they will all think her sunk possibly by pirates. It will remain as a mystery of the sea, there are many ships that never make port, these are treacherous times.”

The Captain considered this and finally said “And what of me? I can never show my face in Spain again.”

“You can simply board a ship for the new colonies and disappear into the settlements there, you can still live a long, good life. I hear that the local women there are very beautiful and the land is rich. With your skills, you can easily find work.” The harbor master looked at him while he thought about it. “The alternative is both of our heads on the chopping block.”

“Sign the ledger.” the Captain said. The Harbor Master recorded the ship as leaving the harbor and signed it, the Captain signed below his name.

Aboard the ship Felipe and Andreas had no idea that fortune had again smiled on them. Not only were they successful at stealing the ship, she was never reported as stolen. They sailed on toward Tortuga.

CHAPTER SEVEN

RECRUITS

Reaching their home on Tortuga they pulled into the sheltered lagoon, dropped the anchors and raised the sails. One of the women was on the shore standing vigil, she shouted a greeting, then ran back off toward the village. Soon, all of the women were wading out into the water shouting and waving. Securing the ship, they all dove in and swam to the shore.

There was much hugging and kissing as the women greeted their men, they all marveled at the size of the ship. After walking back to the village the women began to prepare a large meal of pork stew with potatoes, vegetables and a lot of fresh fruit. After days at sea, the men ate hungrily.

As they ate, they told the women of their need to recruit more men. Early the next day they would construct a raft, load it and their fishing boat with the tobacco and sugar cane that was in the hold of the ship. On the other side of the Island was a thriving community of pirates. There were taverns, shops and a market. They would tow the goods there and sell them, this would give them the money to hire more crewmen. The taverns would gladly buy the cane to make rum and the tobacco was also a very desired commodity.

After eating, they all began to drink rum and celebrate their success. Batu spoke in his deep voice. “It is a good thing that I was there. I single handed, killed all of the guards on that ship while Felipe and the others quaked in fear. I think several of them shit in their pants as they witnessed my bravery.” A loud cry and laughter erupted from the men as the rum took hold. They each took personal credit for the defeat of the Spaniards. The number of guards grew from eight to over fifty and mighty sword battles took place.

Felipe smoked a fine cigar, drank his rum and just smiled as the night wore on and the tales got taller. Andreas smoked his pipe and stirred the fire with a stick. The women were no fools but were enjoying the revelry and their good fortune. All of their men had returned unharmed and were home. They laughed as the men each tried to claim credit and outdo each other.

Batu’s wife Shayla asked him “So, tell me Felipe, what really happened?”

Felipe just grinned and said “It is as they are telling you, they all showed amazing bravery against the Spanish dogs and claimed a fine ship full of cargo that will line our pockets. The former captain also was kind enough to leave us a big chest full of reales to share”

Batu’s wife looked at him and said “We have money? Our own money? We have never had money before! Good then, I need some new clothes, I have been washing and wearing this same skirt and blouse for weeks now.” She smiled at Batu and all of the other women began to talk happily about being able to actually buy new clothes.

Batu said in a loud voice “Silence woman! I prefer you naked!” the men howled with laughter.

She lowered her eyelids and said “It will be a very long time indeed until you see me naked if you do not buy me some new clothes tomorrow.” The men all hooted and goaded him until all of the other women stood up and followed Shayla’s lead. They all stood beside her and shouted that they too would not be naked unless promised new clothes.

Andreas looked at Felipe and winked “Women, they are all the same, no?”

The men all looked at each other. Ajamu said “We risk our lives and the first thing they want is new clothes. Very well then, we have never had any money before and we may as well spend it on our women as they are the most precious things in our lives.”

Felipe laughed and said “A wise and well spoken choice of words my friend. The women can accompany us tomorrow to shop for clothes. It has been a long voyage and I have no wife so I am going to sleep now. You all did a very fine job and I am proud of each and every one of you. I now bid you all goodnight.” Felipe rose and sauntered toward his hut with a flask of rum in his hand. They all bid him a good night and soon he was fast asleep.

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Fast forward some more, they just sold the goods at the pirate settlement....

Felipe’s crew were amazed at the amount of gold reales that were changing hands. The raft emptied quickly and the crowd dispersed with their goods. Felipe counted out the money and divided it between them in a generous enough quantity to make the purchases that the women wanted with plenty left over. There was enough of his and Andreas’s share combined with the reales from the Captain’s trunk to hire a new crew. A lot of the men no doubt had been ashore for a while now and had drank most of their money away.

Tortuga, being a pirate stronghold was a mixture of all races and nationalities. Felipe told the women that they would be safe to roam the village and make their purchases, there were no slaves or masters here. He asked Batu, Ajamu and Tor to accompany him and Andreas as they got the new recruits. The women happily scampered off down the dirt street and disappeared into shops and markets. The five men walked down the dirt street toward a noisy tavern.

Felipe smiled, looked up at Batu and asked “Have you ever been in a tavern before?”

Batu just lowered his eyelids and gave him a flat expression.

“Just stick with me and do as I do, you will be fine.” Felipe said jauntily.

“I feel so safe now, knowing that you will be there to protect me.” Batu said. They walked into the tavern and into a wall of noise. Three drunk men were singing loudly being cheered and booed by an equally drunken crowd. It was indeed a motley crew, all of them had scars and a several of them were missing limbs, hands or feet, a few had a patch on one eye.

When they went to the bar an overweight barmaid with her large breasts spilling almost out of her low cut blouse asked “What will it be gentlemen?”

“Rum for my friends and I” Felipe replied. When their drinks were served, Felipe turned his back to the bar resting his elbows on it. His four companions did the same. They surveyed the crowd. A loud and celebrating group, many of them looked fierce and he knew that all were good fighters and sailors.

The drunken men finally finished their song and much laughter and clapping erupted. In a corner four men were engaged in a game of cards. One man, the largest was getting loud and angry banging his fist on the table and screaming at another. Felipe nodded toward them and they all moved to a close table and sat down. “Look at this character.” Felipe said. Three of the men, including the large, angry one were typical of the crowd, unkempt with shaggy beards and dirty clothes.

The man with all of the winnings in front of him had a neatly trimmed red beard and moustache. His long, curly red hair was clean and he wore a black cavalier hat at a cocky, rakish angle on his head. The hat had one side pinned up with a silver emblem that represented crossed swords. A feather was sticking up from the hatband. His white shirt was clean and had ruffles down the breast as well as at the cuffs. He dabbed at his nose nonchalantly with a white handkerchief that had lace along it’s edges and stared calmly at the large screaming man with his eyelids half lowered over bright blue eyes.

Batu said “He looks more like a woman. We need sailors and fighters, not a pretty boy.”

Felipe said “He is obviously very shrewd, look at his winnings.” He had a large pile of reales in front of him. “His manner of dress suggests that he is also very meticulous.”

“I think it suggests something else.” Batu said and wiggled his eyebrows up and down.

Andreas added “He certainly isn’t showing any fear. The other man stands a foot taller than he.”

The large man was complaining that the red haired man had taken all of his money and the others agreed. The man calmly raked all of the reales into a leather pouch which he then tied and secured it to his belt. Taking a puff on his thin cigar he blew the blue smoke toward the ceiling while the other three men glared at him.

He spoke with a French accent and in a cultured voice. “Well then messieurs if I have taken all of your money, then I guess that this game is over.”

The large man shouted “You must give me a chance to win back some of my money! I cannot even buy a drink now!”

The man calmly looked at him and said “How can you gamble with no money? You played and you lost. So if you will excuse me now, I need another drink, I will buy you each one as well” As he reached for his handkerchief that was laying on the table, the large man grabbed his hand roughly and pulled it toward him. When he did, three aces fell out of the handkerchief onto the table.

“You French bastard! You have been cheating us all this time!” The large man screamed.

The Frenchman replied “Oui messier, for over an hour now, you are as stupid as you are fat and ugly.” He yanked his hand away and the large man stood up and threw the table to the side. The Frenchman’s sword was already out and he took a professional stance. All three of the men drew their swords. The bar fell silent as everyone watched.

Batu asked “Should we help him? He is outnumbered.”

“No, let us watch and see how he handles himself first.” Andreas said.

The large man attacked first using more strength than skill. The Small Frenchman easily sidestepped and parried all of his wild swings. The other two men spread to either side of him to flank him. He kicked his chair out of the way and got his back into the corner so they could not surround him. He took two steps back.

“Look” Andreas said “He is luring him in.“

“Just as you taught me to do” Felipe replied.

The Frenchman arrogantly took a puff on his cigar as his blue eyes slid from one man to the other. His sword was as steady as a rock out before him. He blew a smoke ring toward the ceiling.

The large man knew he was no match for this man with a sword. But he thought that it was a mistake for the man to back into the corner, he now had nowhere to retreat. He fell for the bait and lunged forward, making a thrust toward his chest. He was overextended and off balance. The Frenchman sidestepped the thrust and stepped in toward the man. Using the man’s own forward momentum he grabbed the large man’s wrist and pulled him toward him. Stepping behind him his other arm went around the man’s neck and he easily pivoted the man around in front of him as a shield

At that moment, both of the other men made a thrust and both of their swords sank deeply in the large man’s chest. He cried out loudly and blood began to gurgle from his mouth immediately. The Frenchman kicked the large man square in the middle of his back sending him crashing to the floor. Before the man even hit the floor, he sank his sword deep into the center of one of the other men’s chest and pulled it out. Blood spurted from the mans chest and he held his hands over the wound as he went to his knees.

The Frenchman stepped over the large man, now dead on the floor toward his only remaining adversary. This man made the mistake of looking at his kneeling friend who was dying on the floor. Before he could look back the Frenchman made a hard, precise upward thrust. The tip of his sword entered right below the man’s breast bone, sliced through his heart and exited the left side of his neck.

“That was a good stick” Felipe said.

“A very good stick.” Andreas agreed.

The blood spurted out of either side of his blade and then he quickly removed it. The blood spurted from his neck in a geyser and the man fell to the floor with a large pool of blood spreading out. The Frenchman wiped the blood from his sword on the dead man’s shirt at his feet and slid his blade back into it’s scabbard. He had killed all three of them in less than two minutes. He calmly turned his table and chair back upright and sat back down motioning to the barmaid for another drink.

“What do you think now?” Felipe asked and looked at Batu. Batu just smiled and nodded his head. Felipe got up and walked toward the man. Men were dragging the dead men out of the bar by their heels leaving a bloody swath behind them. A woman threw a bucket of water on the trails and began to mop. The noise level slowly resumed in the bar.

Felipe said “May I buy you a drink?”

The Frenchman smiled and said “I never turn down a free drink, please have a seat. My name is Jean Pierre François.” He extended his hand and shook Felipe’s hand with a strong grip.

Felipe introduced himself and asked him if he minded if his friends joined them “Not at all, please call them over” the man said with a smile. Felipe motioned to the others and they all introduced themselves. The drinks arrived and Jean Pierre raised his glass, they all tapped glasses and he took a slow sip.

Felipe asked “ So Jean Pierre, what is your profession?”

“I am a blade for hire, a soldier of fortune.” the man said.

Felipe looked at Andreas who smiled and nodded his head. “You handle yourself very well, do you have any problem killing Spaniards?”

The man drank the rest of his rum in one long, slow drink, patted his lips with his handkerchief and replied “I would much rather kill the French, but Spaniards will do just as well.”

Felipe explained that they recently procured a large ship and were in need of sailors and fighting men who were willing to attack Spanish vessels. The Frenchman looked at him and asked “What will be our share of the bounty?”

Andreas asked “What is your pay now?”

Jean Pierre said “Most captains of large ships keep half of the spoils, the remainder is divided among the crew. Our recent Captain kept forty percent and the rest was ours to divide evenly.”

Andreas looked at Felipe and smiled. Felipe said “Every man on this crew will get an equal portion, including the captain. We are all equal in our pay.”

Jean Pierre raised his eyebrows in surprise. “That is quite a generous offer, no Captain of his own ship pays like this, they own the ship.”

Felipe spoke “We seek vengeance, not riches. We will take whatever they have, after we kill them. We need at least a hundred men who know how to sail and are quick with a sword. Can you help us to recruit such men?”

Jean Pierre smiled and said “With an offer of pay equal to the Captain? It will be no problem. I know all of these men and there are two other taverns in town.”

“Choose only the best swordsmen.” Andreas said. With that, Jean Pierre stood, took off his hat and made a sweeping bow. He then started talking to the men at other tables. The offer was accepted eagerly and soon men were coming to the table and introducing themselves. Felipe and Andreas asked them questions and the crew grew quickly.

Batu looked at Felipe and said “There is something that I would like to purchase from the shops while we are here.”

“Why are you telling me this? You are a free man, you do not need to check with me before you leave.”

Batu smiled at him and said “A free man, I really like the sound of that. It is hard to get accustomed to this freedom.”

“I am your friend, not your new master. You need never tell me where you are going again.” Felipe replied.

Batu started to stand up and then sat back down. He opened his eyes very wide as he looked around the room with mock fear on his face. “Felipe, will you be alright if I leave you here alone without me to protect you from these ruffians?”

Felipe smiled and said “I will try to maintain myself.”

Andreas said “If you do not mind Batu, I will accompany you. You are not used to bargaining and I do not want anyone to try to take advantage of you.” Batu agreed and they rose and left the tavern.

Most of the men in the tavern were now sitting nearby and Jean Pierre walked out of the door to the next tavern. Later Batu and Andreas returned, Batu was carrying a rolled up pouch of leather under his arm. After a few hours Jean Pierre returned with a large group of men. By noon there were one hundred and eight new men. They all walked together back to the raft where the women were waiting with baskets of their new purchases. Many of the men held kegs of rum on their shoulder.

There was no way to load all of these men on their small ship so Felipe and Batu sent the rest of his small crew with the women back to their boat to sail home. The rest would make the march overland back to their village. He and Batu walked into the jungle with all of the men following them. It was almost dark when they arrived back at the village, the women had food cooking and fires burning.

A large fire was burning in the center of the square and the women all were wearing bright, colorful new skirts and blouses. Batu admired how good his wife looked and said “That was money well spent.”

She smiled and whirled around in front of him. She was very excited “We have been waiting for you, look at what else we bought.” She walked to a large basket and reached inside. She pulled out a drum. It was made of a hollowed out tree trunk with deerskin stretched across the top. She then pulled out two smaller ones that were attached together and a large one that was on the bottom. The men all cheered loudly and rushed up to examine the drums talking excitedly.

Felipe asked Batu “What makes you so happy about drums?”

“You do not understand Felipe.” Batu said “Our parents were captured in Africa and sold into slavery. Drums and tribal dances were a very important part of their culture and heritage. There were dances for everything, courtship, war, love, mourning and hunting. The dances were forbidden by our masters so late at night in the barn we would do these dances when the master was asleep. My father drew two circles on a small board and taught me to play the drums but we did it very quietly, not like this!” Batu pounded the drums loudly in a rhythmical beat.

“War dance!” he cried out. He handed the drum to another man and got his lance. Eight of the men began to dance around the fire thrusting their lances in time with the drums. The women joined in twirling around and moving in time with the music. They were very graceful and stepped in time, it was a fast paced dance. Felipe watched fascinated as his friends celebrated.

One by one the men peeled away from the dance with their lances out in front of them and sat down. The women continued to circle the fire looking at their husbands as they danced by. They made motions as if they were wiping tears from their eyes, some of them actually had tears streaming down their cheeks.

“Why are they crying?” Felipe asked.

“They know that we are going off to battle.” Batu replied.

Shayla’s eyes stayed on Batu as she circled the fire for two more rounds and then they all began moving their heads back and forth together in unison, looking in every direction, they kept this up for several circles of the fire.

“They are looking for you to return?” Felipe asked and Batu nodded his head.

Their hands were clutched at their breasts and then their eyes and arms went skyward as they danced. “Praying for our safe return.” Batu explained.

The women went back to the looking with their heads all moving in unison until one of them shouted loudly and pointed at her husband. He got up and threw his lance in the ground and joined the dance. One by one the husbands all joined in and then after a bit the dance was over and a new one began.

The dancing and celebration lasted late into the night. Everyone ate fruit, stew and drank rum. Slowly, the fires burned down to embers and Andreas looked around. Felipe was not there. Andreas went to his cabin and he was not there either. He knew where the boy was. He walked to the edge of the lagoon. Felipe was there with a small fire looking at his new ship riding on her anchors.

“Dreaming of adventure are you Felipe? “ Andreas asked.

It took a few moments but Felipe said “No, I’m dreaming of vengeance.”

Andreas sensed his feelings and quietly sat beside him by the fire. He said nothing, he just waited and watched the fire. The logs crackled and sent sparks dancing up into the night sky. The small waves rhythmically lapped at the shore and receded. Still Andreas waited, he could tell that the boy was troubled.

Finally Felipe stole a glimpse at him and his eyes were wet. He had shed other men’s blood and feared no man but his heart was troubled. Andreas softly asked him “What is it Felipe?”

Felipe looked out at the ship, took a deep breath and finally said “I miss my father.” His breath caught in his chest and the tears slid down his face. He tried to hold it back but he could not any longer. He dropped his head between his knees and wept quietly.

Andreas understood. “I miss him too.“

Again Felipe spoke. “They killed him for money! Those bastards! I swear to God almighty that I will kill every Spaniard who serves this King.”

Andreas put his arm around him and said “And I will be by your side, always.”

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CHAPTER EIGHT

FIRST BLOOD

Early the next morning Jeanne Pierre was drinking coffee when Batu approached him with the rolled up leather pouch. He asked “Jean Pierre, will you instruct me how to do something?”

“Of course my friend, what is it?”

Batu unrolled the leather pouch to reveal a straight razor, a cup with a piece of soap in it, a small brush, a small pair of scissors and a strap to sharpen the razor on. “I want to shave, I have not seen my face since I was a young boy.”

“Allow me, please, just sit here.” He took the scissors and started trimming away the beard. He then expertly sharpened the razor on the strap and added a small amount of water to the cup and whipped it into a thick lather. He dabbed the lather on Batu’s face and began to quickly but carefully draw the razor across his face and wipe it clean.

Soon he was done and Batu felt his now clean shaven face. “It is so smooth now.” he said.

“Yes, and you look a lot younger. May I make a suggestion?” Jean Pierre asked.

“Of course.” Batu said, still rubbing his chin.

“I think that we should shave your head as well, many pirates have their head shaved, it will make you look even more intimidating.”

Batu nodded his head and said “Yes, yes, shave it as well please.”

Soon he was clean shaven on his head as well. He called out to his wife Shayla and she gave him a surprised look. She hurried over and looked at him. “You are so handsome now that I can see your face! You look much younger also.” She smiled at him and ran her hand along his chin and face. “And it is as soft as a babies’ bottom.”

Felipe walked up and gave Batu a quizzical look. Batu just smiled and rubbed his head. “I like it.” Felipe said and walked on.

For the next few days all of the men busied themselves building new living quarters. These men had no wives so they were happy with barracks. Long huts with a central walkway down the center. Poles ran up to the roof on either side of the walkway and hammocks were attached to the poles and the walls. There were large windows and the sea breeze provided good ventilation. After two weeks they were finished.

Andreas was studying a nautical map at a table in the main pavilion when Felipe walked up with a cup of coffee. Felipe sat beside him and Andreas moved the map toward him. He ran his finger along the lines on the map. “These are the main shipping lanes to and from Spain. At this point, there is still much traffic, the waters are heavily patrolled for pirates. We need to sail out to this point, five days voyage from land to intercept ships without being detected.”

Felipe blew on the hot, black liquid and studied the map. “I agree Uncle, it is time that we sailed.”

Andreas smiled and nodded toward the men. “Well then Captain, prepare your men.”

Felipe got up and rang the bell that was hanging from a pole. All of the men and the women assembled in the pavilion and sat down. Felipe looked around at them all, a fine crew over one hundred strong. Well seasoned sailors and fighters, he was pleased to have such a strong force.

“Good morning. We have the living quarters built and it is time for our pay.” He smiled. “Today we will begin making preparations to sail tomorrow at dawn. Our ship is loaded with provisions, we need only lay aboard some fresh fruit, vegetables, chickens and rum”

“Plenty of rum!” Batu shouted and this brought a laugh.

Felipe smiled and went on. “Andreas has the shipping lanes marked out and we will sail west, northwest for five days to clear any patrols from the shore. There we will wait for our quarry. Any ship flying a Spanish flag”

Jean Pierre interrupted him with a loud cough and blew his nose on his handkerchief loudly.

Another round of laughter went up. Felipe smiled and said “Excuse me, any ship flying Spanish or French flag will feel the shudder of our cannons and the bite of our steel. Any and all bounty will be evenly distributed among the crew.”

Jean Pierre removed his hat and made a sweeping bow. “Merci” he said.

“We will need everyone’s help loading provisions onto the raft and storing them on our ship. Andreas will direct you.” Felipe turned toward Andreas and whispered something in his ear. Andreas smiled and nodded his head. He gave him a hard slap on the back and Felipe left toward the lagoon.

The women began to pick green bananas that would ripen slowly. Mangos and papayas were packed into baskets. Tor and Ajamu ran through the chicken coop catching chickens bringing laughs from everyone who went by. They placed the chicken in cages while the wives also packed grain for them to eat.

These baskets and crates were walked down to the waters edge where they saw Felipe hanging over the bow of the ship with a rope attached to a swing like seat. He was just finishing painting over the name of the ship with her new name “Vengeance”. All of the men smiled and nodded in approval. By early evening the ship was well stocked and ready to sail.

Everyone gathered back at the pavilion and Andreas began going over assignments as to who would man which sails, cannons and which areas of the ship. He appointed Jean Pierre, Batu and Ajamu as lieutenants. Batu looked surprised and he looked at Shayla, she literally beamed at him. She was so proud of him, just months before he had been a slave, now he was a free fighting man, a lieutenant. As officers, they would each be responsible for a certain area of the ship during battle. They would also lead the men in their squads when they stormed the other ship Andreas explained.

It was all becoming quite real now to them. They looked at the drawings as Andreas went over battle stations and attack plans. Andreas had been a seasoned Captain in the King’s Navy and had fought many battles, they listened and learned quickly. He had a good crew and the other men would need minimal briefing, most had sailed the sea all of their lives. Satisfied that everyone knew their positions, they began supper.

The men all went and gathered firewood for a huge fire in celebration that night while the women busied themselves cooking. Three large pigs were slaughtered and were cooking on spits over fires. A lot of fruit was laid out on the large tables in the pavilion. Torches were lit as the dusk approached and supper was served. The men ate heartily and drank rum. As the night fell they lit the large pile of wood and made a huge fire.

Shayla took Batu’s hand, she walked him over to Felipe and Andreas and sat with them. She looked at them both with her large brown eyes and said “You will take care of my husband and see him return safely to me?” She asked.

“Oh come now woman!” Batu protested “I can take care of myself. My father was a warrior as was his father.”

She looked at him and said “Yes, but you have always been a farmer up to this point, tomorrow you will sail into battle and I am worried about you.”

Andreas asked Batu to stand which he did. Andreas rose and went to stand beside him. He looked up at Batu a full head and a half taller than he and then he looked at Shayla. He smiled and said “I will look after the boy.” Batu laughed loudly as did Shayla. He was really a huge, intimidating looking man. “Please, sit back down Batu.” Andreas said.

He then looked at Shayla and said “I have trained Batu with the sword, bow and lance. He is as fine of a warrior as I have ever seen. I myself would not want to do battle with him. If the truth be told, he will probably save me but yes, I will always cover my brother’s back and Batu is my brother.”

“That makes me feel a lot better Andreas.” Shayla said and smiled. Batu looked at Felipe and rolled his eyes, Felipe just shrugged and smiled.

Andreas looked at his cup and said “Well, it appears that someone has drank my rum, I must get some more.” he got up and walked back to the pavilion.

Little by little, the men all went to the barracks and Andreas, Felipe and Batu were left sitting by the fire. Felipe spoke “So Batu, are you ready for this?”

Batu looked at him and said. “You have seen the scars on my back have you not? They would bullwhip us simply because they got drunk and wanted to show off in front of their friends. They sold my children and raped my wife. Do you think that you are the only one who wants justice Felipe?”

“Exactly why I chose you my friend. Few hate the Spaniards as much as slaves do.” Felipe said.

“Former slaves, but now free men .” Batu said and raised his cup.

“Free men.” Felipe and Andreas said, they clicked their cups together and drank the rest of their rum.

Andreas said “Well, we have a long voyage before us. I am going to get some sleep now, goodnight.” With that he got up and walked toward his hut.

“I think I will turn in as well.” Felipe said.

“Sleep well my friend, we shall have vengeance.” Batu said with a smile. They both walked to their cabins and the night was silent except for the birds calling out.

At Dawn Felipe went to the pavilion to find Andreas drinking coffee and laughing with the men as they traded sea tales. He joined them and ate breakfast. After all had eaten it was time to depart. They kissed and hugged their wives and promised to return. They all walked down to the shore, bid their wives goodbye and swam out to the ship. Ratlines were hung over the rails and they climbed up the lines and then pulled them up.

The women watched from the shore as the well seasoned crew spread out to their positions. The sails on the bowsprit and the mizzenmast were unfurled and the anchors were weighed. The sails were then tacked into position and they snapped into the strong breeze. The mighty ship began a slow turn toward the mouth of the lagoon. Felipe turned the wheel as the men lowered more sails, expertly running up the ratlines to the crow’s nest. They shimmied out on the yardarms and released more sails.

She was under way, Batu joined Felipe at the stern. He looked back at the shore and waved to his wife. Jean Pierre walked up and joined them, he removed his hat and waved it at the women. Shayla and the other women waved and shouted from the shore.

“Do not look too long at her messier, it is bad luck. Jean Pierre said.

“I will make my own luck. “ Batu said with a smile.

“I like that.” Jean Pierre said.

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Is anyone reading this? I'd hate to think it's just bots crawling the web. Most forums have a lot more readers than they do posters, but I would like to know. I know that my writing isn't that great, but the tale does get better.

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Five days into the journey they reached the shipping lanes. Andreas had used a sextant in the pre dawn darkness and now turned with his compass sailing west toward the mainland. If a ship loaded with gold and silver was leaving the new colonies, they would meet them face to face. Flying a Spanish flag, they had nothing to fear.

At the end of the day they had made no contact and turned back to the east. Inbound ships would not hold precious cargo like gold or silver. They would be laden with flour, salt, cloth and building supplies. These items could be sold but the gold coming from the nearby coast was what they needed to pay the men. They continued to sail west for two days and two nights, then turned back to the east.

Two days later they had still not sighted another ship. Felipe was getting impatient. Andreas explained that it may take weeks to make contact. “It is a large ocean Felipe.” He said. “Voyages to and from Spain take a lot of planning and are not approached lightly. We have only been at sea for nine days and nights now, a ship will come, be patient.”

Again they turned back to the east toward Spain. At dawn on the second day there was a sharp knock on Felipe’s cabin door. “Come” he said.

Jean Pierre stepped into the room smiling and said “Mi Capitan, we have a galleon approaching from the east. She is not riding very low in the water, obviously she is not carrying much cargo.”

Felipe jumped out of bed, hurriedly dressed and pulled on his boots. Together they climbed the stairs and Felipe took his spyglass out and surveyed the ship. He counted the cannons “She is our equal, she has as many cannons as we do.” He said.

Andreas said “Yes, but they will think that we are friendly forces, they will not be on their guard. We will run up an escort flag, they will think that we are an escort patrol to guard their entry into port against pirates. Her cannons, shot, powder and small arms will fetch a healthy price, cannons are hard to come by. We will kill all of her men, take her guns and scuttle her.”

Felipe quickly agreed and sent his lieutenants to their stations. The only ones left on deck were wearing the Spanish uniforms. The ship became a flurry of activity, the battle plans were already made and the cannons were loaded with grapeshot. Instead of cannon balls they held hundreds of lead balls the size of grapes. The cannons were packed and raised to their maximum elevation but the doors were left down to avoid arousing suspicion.

They made a wide turn so they could come alongside of her. On board the Luisa Captain Vasquez also eyed the other ship with his spyglass. His first mate Pedro was standing beside him, he said “She is making a turn to come alongside of us.”

“Yes.” Vasquez said as he continued to look. “She is flying the Spanish flag as well as an escort flag, pirate activity must be very heavy if they are sending escorts out this far.”

“It would be good to have an escort with the princess on board.” Pedro replied.

“Yes, but we still must use caution. She is of our new class, there are no pirate vessels capable of taking such a large ship in battle. She also shows no signs of repair but we still must be on our guard. The princess is in our care. Order men onto the mast platforms with bows and bring half of the crew up on decks. Advise them to be alert”

“Aye Captain.” Pedro said and he wheeled about shouting orders. Men scurried up the rat lines to man the battle platforms on the foremast and the mainmast. Guns were not allowed to be fired from the platforms because sparks could set the sails on fire. They pulled their bows up on ropes and made themselves ready. The deck soon became crowded with soldiers holding small arms.

Victoria and Angelica approached Captain Vasquez and looked at the ship approaching. They had not passed any ships and she was curious. When he saw her Vasquez said “Your highness, I must ask you to go below for your safety until I can determine that everything is safe.”

“Is that not a Spanish flag that they are flying? And is that not a Spanish ship?” she asked.

“Yes, they are flying a Spanish flag and things should be fine, but until I determine their intentions I must ask you to please, go below. I will send for you as soon as we know that it is safe for you to come up.”

“This has been a very long and boring voyage, and now that one of my Father’s ships approaches you wish to send me below?” she asked.

“Please your Highness, just for a few moments. As soon as I ascertain that all is safe I will send for you immediately. I and these men are sworn to protect you.” Vasquez looked at her with a kind smile.

“Very well, I will be waiting.” And with that she turned and went below.

Aboard the Vengeance Andres saw the other ship taking battle stations, this was unusual for a friendly ship approaching. They were not in a common pirate sloop or a frigate, something told him that there must be something of value on that ship. They turned into the wind and made a long, slow approach to come alongside.

Now on a parallel course they slowly closed the distance until they were 15 meters from her on her starboard side. Andreas was wearing the Captains uniform and went to the rail. Smiling he shouted a friendly greeting. Several of his men smiled and waved as well but most acted as if they were simply going about their business of sailing the ship at close quarters.

“Hola! Andreas said, “How was your journey?”

“Very long and tiring. “ Vasquez replied. “Why are escort ships sailing this far to the east?”

“Pirate activity has been very heavy. They are roaming in bands of four ships and have attacked three ships just this week. The Viceroy has standing orders that all available vessels act as escorts into port, we are the outermost escort. What is your destination?” Andreas continued to smile as he spoke to Vasquez. It seemed to be working, Vasquez was relaxing somewhat.

“Veracruz.” Vasquez replied.

“You still have eight days and nights of voyage until you reach Veracruz. We are carrying extra rations of rum and fresh fruit as ordered. The Viceroy wants to assure that you have a pleasant voyage. Would you care for a few kegs of rum and some bananas?”

A cheer went up from the men on the Luisa and Vasquez smiled and waved his hand at them for silence. “I would be a foolhardy man to turn down such an offer. My men have toiled on this voyage. Yes, we would welcome some rum and fresh fruit.”

“Very well then my friend, stand by.” Andreas shouted. He shouted orders and two of his men went fore and aft with grappling hooks attached to ropes. The ships inched closer as the men aboard the Luisa crowded the rails to secure the ships and take on the supplies. Below decks on the Vengeance the men were peering through the small cracks alongside of the cannon doors. The grappling hooks were their signal, as soon as the hooks were secure on the other ship and the order was given they were to throw the doors open and fire.

Jean Pierre was crouching in the middle of the gun deck peering through a crack on a cannon door. All of the men on the gun deck had their eyes on him. As the grappling hooks sailed through the air and looped over the rails of the Luisa he raised his right hand over his head. The men on the cannons were tense and ready. On deck men strained to pull the ships together and they began to move toward each other. When they were at a distance of twelve meters Jean Pierre quickly dropped his hand.

There were two men per cannon, one pulled the ropes and the cannon doors slammed open. The others quickly shoved the cannons forward to the stops and dropped in the chocks. The men who had opened and secured the doors touched off the fuses, they were trimmed very short, almost to the cannons.

The men aboard the Luisa were stunned and taken totally by surprise. Mere seconds ago men were smiling at them and offering them rum. Now they stared down the black maws of many cannons aimed right at them, at the rails not the waterline. Before they could even react all of the guns fired at once with a tremendous blast that rocked the Vengeance toward her port side.

The effect of the grapeshot at such a close range was devastating. The wooden rail blasted away in a rain of splinters and the men standing at the rails were vaporized into a fine, pink spray. The ones at the front were completely blown away from the thighs up and those behind them were mortally wounded, they fell in rows screaming.

Batu, Jean Pierre and Ajamu ran up on deck followed by their men. Andreas was on the bow and he quickly vaulted over his handrail followed by his squadron. Batu and his men took the foredeck from the foremast to the mainmast. Jean Pierre took his squadron amidships back to the mizzenmast. Felipe and Ajamu stormed the stern with their men.

Men were pouring up the stairs from below decks on the Luisa firing small arms as they came. A hail of arrows was coming from the platforms and fire was being returned on them from the sharpshooters aboard the Vengeance. Men screamed and fell from the platforms as well as the men aboard the Vengeance fell, taking arrows in their chest and necks.

A ferocious battle was under way. The men of the Luisa were caught off guard, the crew of the Vengeance had a tactical advantage as they were spread out evenly along the deck. Still men poured onto the deck, tripping over the bodies of their fallen comrades. Batu looked forward and Andreas was being overwhelmed as more men poured out from below. He and his team of men fought their way forward.

Batu was screaming loudly, his face was painted with lines of white war paint. He had a sword in one hand and a machete in the other, he looked very formidable. As the men on the foredeck turned and saw him, they tried to retreat only to be stabbed from behind by Andreas and his men. They did not want to turn their back on Batu and were being cut down from behind as well as from their front. Caught between the two forces the tide turned and the bow of the ship was quickly secured.

“Forward!” Andreas cried and pointed his sword amidships where the main stairwell was. Jean Pierre and his squad were in dire straits against a seemingly never ending tide of soldiers that struggled to make it up the stairs. Their small arms exhausted, the men below were trying to storm the decks by the sheer force of their numbers. As soon as a man made it to the top of the stairs Jean Pierre would lance him with his sword then kick him down the stairwell impeding their progress.

The men below kept having to drag the dead clear of the stairs before they could advance. When they did, arrows pieced them from the two archers that Jean Pierre had stationed on either side of the stairwell. There was much screaming and moaning below decks as men were dying from their wounds.

Andreas and Batu along with their men fought their way amidships and joined Jean Pierre and his men. “Let them come up! We cannot kill them down there!” Andreas shouted. Jean Pierre and his archers stepped aside and men came running up the stairs into a waiting circle of men from the Vengeance. Surrounded as they were, they still came up and fought bravely.

On the stern Felipe and Ajamu also faced many men pouring up the stairwell. No ship should have this many soldiers thought Felipe but he did not care. He was a madman, slashing and thrusting, killing them as fast as they approached. He surged forward into a group of them as Ajamu’s men flanked them from both sides. The battle was fierce but Felipe and Ajamu’s hatred of the Spaniards was fuel on the fire.

The Spaniards had been taken by surprise and they fought because it was their duty. Felipe and his men had revenge and a lot of hate in their hearts, they fought much more fiercely. Soon the tide of men coming up the stairs slowed and then stopped. What remained of them were formed in a tight group against the starboard rail. The onslaught continued and soon there were only three left.

Felipe screamed out “Get back! They are mine!”

His men stood back and Felipe quickly lanced one of them in the side of his neck. The man went down and he turned his blade on the remaining two. One was wearing a lieutenants uniform and he got behind the last remaining man holding him in front of him as a shield. With his arms held he was killed quickly and fell to the deck.

The remaining man dropped his sword and raised his hands. “I surrender. “ he said.

“There is no surrender and there will be no quarter given, pick up your weapon!” Felipe told him.

“I surrender, you would not kill an unarmed man would you?” the man pleaded.

“My father was unarmed when the Spaniards killed him. This is for my father!” He drove his blade deep into the man’s heart and quickly withdrew it. The man clenched his chest and Felipe kicked him hard in the center of his chest sending him over the rail splashing into the sea. Felipe wheeled around breathing hard. He had the look of a wild man as he whirled his head around looking for more of the enemy. There were none, the sounds of battle were all but gone. A few men still screamed on the bow.

Felipe called out “Ajamu! Take your men forward! The rest of you follow me below decks. They ran down the stairs to the gun deck and he looked forward. Jean Pierre and his men stood amidships. The gun deck was littered with dead Spaniards. Jean Pierre removed his hat and made a deep, sweeping bow.

“The ship is ours Felipe.” he said.

“Down below to the cargo deck, let us make sure that none are still alive!” Felipe said.

The men went below and did find several men hiding among the cargo, there was no mercy for cowards. Satisfied that the ship was secure, Felipe went back up to the stern and Ajamu came up to him. “Felipe, this you must see for yourself.” he said.

They walked forward where all of the men were gathered taunting someone. He made his way through them and saw Batu with his back to him standing several feet in front of his men. As he stepped around him he saw two, finely dressed women. One had long, curly blonde hair and held a bloody sword out in front of her. The other was slightly taller with brown hair and she held a black horse by its reins.

He turned to his men and said “All of you men cannot subdue two women?”

“She is pretty good.” Andreas said. “She cut Batu’s ear off.”

Felipe wrinkled his brow and looked at Batu, sure enough his right ear was shaved off cleanly against his head. He had a very angry look about him as Felipe studied his wound. His deep voice boomed out “I have never killed a woman, but this may well be my first.” He glared at the woman with the sword.

Felipe slid his sword into his scabbard and stepped forward. The woman with the golden hair took a stance with her sword. She did look like she was very familiar with a blade.

“Please, drop your weapon.” he said.

“I am the Princess Victoria, daughter of Philip the third, the King of Spain. You will release us and get off of this ship!” she said.

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A loud laugh went up from the crew and Felipe waved his hand to silence them. “If we chose to get off of this ship, which we do not, who is going to sail it, you? All of your men are dead. If you truly are who you say you are, you will fetch a fine ransom indeed.”

Felipe turned to his men , “Spread out to the sides along the rails.”

As they did they revealed the deck which was littered with dead Spanish soldiers. Other than Felipe and his crew there was not a man left alive on the deck. Felipe turned back to her and said. “Again I will ask you to drop your weapon.”

“Never!” She replied, “I would rather die on this ship. Another ship will come along and rescue us.”

Felipe studied her, she was strikingly beautiful. Her long hair blew in the wind and her green eyes blazed at him with determination. He was not prepared for this and he thought for a moment.

“You do not understand princess. After we unload everything of value from this ship we are going to scuttle her and send her to the bottom. I intend to place two kegs of gunpowder in her hold beneath the water line and blow a hole the size of that sail in her.” he pointed at the mainsail.

“She will sink very quickly. We are days from land and as soon as we start throwing these dead men overboard, these waters will teem with sharks. Again, drop your weapon.”

“You would not dare to do such a thing, my horse would drown” she said defiantly, but Felipe saw the shadow of doubt creeping into her eyes.

“As will you drown if you are not eaten by a shark first. Again, drop your weapon.”

She stared at him defiantly and did not lower her sword.

“Very well then, have it your way princess.” He turned and shouted “Throw these Spanish dogs over the side so we can unload this ship!” he turned and walked away.

The women were horrified as men grabbed the dead bodies by their feet and hands and swung them, tossing them over the side. Even before the deck was cleared, just as Felipe had said, the sharks were converging and feeding wildly on the dead bodies, shaking their heads as they ripped them apart. The water was turning red around the ship.

Men formed a chain, grunting and sweating as they passed the cannons up the stairs and lined them amidships on the Vengeance. Then a chain of men passed the many cannon balls and kegs of gunpowder across the decks. Very soon they were removing the small arms and what food and other supplies they wanted. When several large trunks were brought up Victoria shouted,

“Stop! Those are my clothes!”

Felipe replied “Yes, I looked at them and fine clothes they are. They will fetch a good price also. Besides, you will not be needing them. What little the sharks leave the crabs will feast on tonight as you sleep on the bottom.”

Again she said “You would not dare.”

Felipe just smiled, turned around and went below. He came back up with Batu who had a keg of gunpowder with a hole knocked in it. Batu shook the keg as he walked backwards leaving a thick trail of black powder on the deck. He smiled at the princess as he did this. They made the trail all the way to the side of the ship then jumped onto the Vengeance.

Felipe lit a cigar and puffed on it until the end glowed orange. He blew the ashes off of the end and looked at her. “This is your last chance princess.”

“You go to hell!” she said.

“You first.” Felipe said. He slowly lowered the cigar toward the trail of black powder as he looked at her.

She watched him until the cigar was one inch from the powder and then shouted “Wait! We are coming.”

“Drop your weapon first.” Felipe said. She gave him a withering look and let it clatter to the deck.

Felipe withdrew the cigar. Victoria took the horses reins from Angelica and pointed at a small cage. Angelica took the cage and climbed on board the Vengeance. Victoria swung her leg over the side of her horse and wheeled his head walking it toward the far rail. There was not much distance for the horse to gather the speed to jump the rail. She turned the horse and leaned forward, whispering in his ear as she scratched his neck. She sat up and gave the horse his head. She kicked him hard and shouted at him “Go Fiero!” The horse thundered across the deck and jumped, clearing the rail easily and clattered to a stop on the deck. She then wheeled him around, pet his neck and dismounted.

Angelica took her horse and the princess went to the small cage and opened it. She made a clicking sound and wiggled her fingers at the opening. A small brown monkey with a long tail leaped into her arms and quickly scurried up onto her shoulder. It bared it’s teeth at Felipe.

“Very well done.” Felipe said ignoring the monkey.”

CHAPTER NINE

HOMEWARD BOUND

Ten men held the ships together as the grappling hooks were taken loose. Felipe puffed again on his cigar and touched it to the line of black powder. It lit and hissed, throwing sparks as it burned brightly along the deck. They pushed the ships apart as the fiery line made its way down the stairs. Quickly tacking the sails on the foremast, the Vengeance nosed away from the Luisa.

There was a huge explosion and a large geyser of water erupted from her starboard side high into the air. The ship rocked portside for a moment and then rocked back up straight. She quickly began to keel over onto her side and settle deeper into the water. Air rushed out of the hatches from below as tons of seawater rushed into the huge hole.

When her starboard rail met the water she righted herself and settled down upright, her masts slipping beneath the surface. Felipe took his pistol and as the mainmast slipped beneath the surface he shot a hole in the center of the flapping Spanish flag. His men cheered. He just looked at the princess and then turned away.

“Batu, Ajamu, take them to my quarters and stand guard over them.” He said pointing at the women. He then shouted to the rest of the men “Bring the wounded there, the most critical first.” he turned and went to check on his men.

Felipe and Andreas moved about the men checking their wounds. Several were severe, many more would loose a hand or fingers. Several had arrows impaled in them and there were also gunshot wounds. They laid them out in the order of their severity and had the men fashion a stretcher. The first man was brought down to Felipe’s cabin.

Victoria and Angelica were sitting in chairs at the table and he gently asked them to please move. He cleared the table quickly and the wounded man was laid upon the table. He had an arrow sticking out of his chest at a downward angle. Andreas came into the room with the surgeons satchel and placed it on the table.

He gave the man several strong drinks of rum and waited a few minutes. A stick was then placed into his mouth and Andreas took the arrow removing tool from the bag. It resembled a pair of scissors with a hollow tube in the center. He sawed the arrow off several inches from the mans chest and discarded the fletching. The man groaned as he bit on the stick.

“Brace yourself my friend.” Andreas said gently. He slid the hollow tube down over the shaft of the arrow and onto the wound. The man groaned loudly and began to flinch. Andreas had Batu hold his arms over his head and hold him still. Felipe held the mans legs. He moved the scissor tips close together and slid them down into the wound along the shaft. The man screamed loudly and continued to bite on the stick.

Andreas felt the tips hit the edge of the arrows bladed tip. He gently tapped and pivoted the tips until he found the flat back edges of the tip. He then opened the scissor tips by spreading his fingers out in the holes on the handle. This opened the flesh and allowed the arrow to be pulled out. The man spit the stick out and breathed heavily. Andreas bound the wound tightly with a clean dressing and bandage.

Felipe asked Batu to please start a fire in the small stove.

“It is much too hot in here for a fire.” the princess said.

Felipe just looked at her and said nothing. Batu soon had a fire burning in the stove. Five more men with arrows were brought in and the procedure was repeated. The last man had the arrow imbedded deep in his back. Andreas struggled to remove it but it was lodged into the bone of his spine. He and Felipe both tried pulling at the same time and when the arrow finally gave, the man let out a loud gasp and stopped breathing. Felipe rolled him over and closed the man’s eyes looking down at him.

“Must we witness this?” Victoria asked.

“These are my men and they come first to me. This is the cleanest area of the ship. I will ask you not to interrupt us again.” Felipe replied.

The men continued to come in, one had his hand severed, it was only hanging on by a piece of skin. Andreas laid a flat instrument with a wooden handle in the fire and quickly cut the small piece of flesh that was still attached, he then dropped the hand into a bucket. It landed with a dull thud and the women averted their eyes. They had no pity for these pirates at first, but as the men continued to come in and as they saw their suffering and the gentle way that Andreas and Felipe cared for them they began to see them as just men who were in pain.

Andreas had Batu hold the mans arm down and went to the hearth. The flat sided instrument was now orange hot and glowed. “Prepare yourself.” Andreas said and he held the hot iron against the stump. The flesh sizzled and popped as the smoke rose. The smell of burning flesh filled the room and the man screamed loudly. Once the wound was cauterized the bleeding stopped. Andreas then bound the stump in bandages.

Jean Pierre walked into the room and said that there were no more wounded.

“Batu, sit down.” Andreas said gently. “Brace yourself.” Batu sat facing Victoria and once again the instrument was taken out of the fire. The hot orange steel was pressed against the side of his head cauterizing the wound where his ear had been. Batu winced but did not blink, he stared at Victoria who turned her head.

“I need a drink.” Andreas said.

“Make that two.” Batu replied.

“Three” said Felipe. “Would the ladies care for some brandy?” he asked looking at them.

“I would.” Angelica said. “After seeing all of that I could use a drink to settle my nerves.”

“Princess?” Felipe inquired as he smiled at her.

“No thank you.” she replied icily.

Felipe poured them all some brandy and they drank. Andreas collapsed into a chair and wiped the sweat from his brow. Jean Pierre offered him a clean white handkerchief which he took and patted his forehead. Felipe extinguished the fire and poured another brandy for everyone.

Felipe sipped his brandy and looked at the women. “I will offer you the comfort of the sofas in my cabin tonight if you wish. I trust that you will not try to slit my throat as I sleep.”

“I would rather just sleep on the deck.” the princess said as she stared at him.

“As you wish, the deck is hard and the sofas are soft but I will provide you some blankets. It gets cold on the deck at night.”

“Have them brought up to us.” she said as she rose and walked toward the door.

“Princess?” Felipe said. She turned around and he continued. “You have no servants here. The blankets are in that cabinet if you want them.”

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She turned back around and walked out of the door with Angelica following her.

Angelica looked back at the cabin and had a concerned look on her face. “Perhaps we should have stayed in the cabin, we will surely be raped by all of those men if we are up one the decks alone.”

Victoria stopped and looked at her. “They would not dare rape the heir to the throne, my father would have them all tortured slowly.” she said.

“Your father is not here, we are. And if you have not noticed, these men do not recognize the throne nor do they have any respect or fear of it. Think about it, over a hundred men, pirates! And here we are, two attractive women alone at sea on this ship with them. Surely they will take turns ravaging us all night.” Angelica said.

The princess had no reply, but she did look concerned. She turned and went out onto the deck.

The men sat drinking their brandy and Andreas said to Felipe “The man at the rail who surrendered, I do not think that you should have killed him.”

“He was a coward, he hid behind his men and then dropped his sword. Beside that, he held allegiance to the King and I swore before God that I would kill every soldier who holds allegiance to the King.”

Andreas sipped his rum and looked at it for a moment. “Yes, he was a coward, but when he dropped his weapon he also dropped his allegiance and will to fight for the King. I do not think that we should kill unarmed men who are surrendering, that does not sit well with me, we are not murderers. We should put them in lifeboats and let the sea have it’s way with them.” He looked at Felipe.

Felipe thought for a moment and said “You are right, we will just put them in lifeboats from now on if they surrender. The sea is relentless and they will probably die anyway.”

“But it will not be by our hand.” Andreas said.

Felipe had the Captains chest from the Luisa brought in and Andreas easily picked the lock. There was a box of fine cigars, some brandy and another smaller strongbox full of reales, pearls and assorted gemstones.

Felipe looked at Jean Pierre and said “Count these please and distribute them among the crew. Make sure that the men know that none of them are touch the women, they are to treat them with the greatest of respect”. Jean Pierre counted the coins on the table and separated the pearls and gemstones. He slid Felipe, Andreas and Batu’s share toward them and pocketed his own. He then excused himself and went up on the deck.

Felipe looked at his two companions, “It was a good day.” he said.

“A very good day, we killed many Spaniards today.” Batu smiled.

“I knew there were far too many soldiers on that ship for a normal compliment.” Andreas said. “They were there to guard the princess, a lot of good it did her.” he smiled.

“Yes, and she will bring a fine ransom.” Felipe said. “Now, I am hungry, let us go to the galley.” They got up and went to eat supper.

Jean Pierre moved about the ship paying each man his share and promising them there would be much more to come once the cannons were sold. As he approached the two women standing at the stern they had their backs to him talking. He removed his hat and said “Pardon me.” they turned toward him and immediately stood closer together holding each other for protection.

He looked at them and smiled and said “There is no reason for you to fear any man on this ship. Felipe has given the strictest orders that you are not to be touched and are to be treated with the utmost of respect. May I offer you something to eat or drink?”

The princess said nothing but Angelica said “I am a little hungry.”

“Very well.” said Jean Pierre with a smile. “Carlos is an excellent cook, I picked him myself. I will have him prepare something for you and have it brought up. Is there anything else I can do to make you more comfortable?”

“No, thank you, you have been very kind.” said Angelica. The princess shot her a steely look.

“I will take my leave of you now, your food will be up soon.” He bowed his head, smiled at Angelica, put his hat on and walked below.

“You have been very kind?” The princess said. “He is a pirate, he too killed our soldiers and kidnapped us. You now tell him that he has been very kind?”

Angelica was excited. “Did you not hear what he said? Felipe has given orders that we are not to be touched and treated with respect. We are safe!” she hugged the princess. She looked toward the stairway. “He is a very striking looking man and very polite, do you not agree?”

“He is a pirate, a rogue and a scoundrel. I do not trust any of them.” the princess said.

“That is not what I asked you.” Angelica smiled. “I said that he is quite a handsome man.”

The princess just shook her head and looked at her. “ I do not believe this, here we are kidnapped and you find the time to look at the men.”

Angelica just tilted her head and smiled. “We are safe, your father will pay our ransom and we shall be free.” she stole another glance over the princess’s shoulder toward the stairwell.

After a large hot meal Felipe was tired so he went to his cabin. He thought about the beautiful woman up on the deck. Perhaps he should show that he was a gentleman and just bring her some blankets he thought. But then he knew that she must learn that she was no longer in charge of her destiny, it was time that she learned that he was the Captain of this ship.

He tossed and turned and could not find sleep. He kept thinking about her, seeing her even though his eyes were closed. It had been dark for several hours now and the wind whistled through the rigging, he knew that she had to be very cold up on deck without even a cloak. Finally he sat up and thought for a moment.

He rose and got dressed and gathered arm full of blankets and two pillows. He walked up on the deck and did not see them. Her horse was laying across the deck at the rear of the ship and he walked back. As he came around the horse he saw them clutching together trying to stay warm using the horse as shelter against the wind.

They were shivering and looked up at him.

“Forgive me, please. I brought you some blankets.” He flapped one blanket over them and then another. The third he placed over the horse and rubbed it’s forehead. He handed them the pillows and then stood. He turned to walk away.

“Thank you.” the princess said. He turned and smiled at her and got the tiniest of smiles back for just a brief second. He removed his hat, bowed his head and walked off.

Early the next morning the sun streamed in through the windows and awoke Felipe. He stretched, yawned and went to the basin and poured some fresh water. He splashed the water on his face then dried it with a soft towel. Remembering that the princess was on board he shaved and combed his hair, pulled it back and tied it.

He then dressed and went to the galley for some coffee. Carlos saw him and shouted a good morning “Would you like some fried ham and eggs?” he asked.

“I will never turn down your cooking Carlos.” The big man poured him a cup of steaming coffee and busied himself cooking. “Has the princess eaten yet?” he asked.

“I have not seen her, is that why you shaved?” Carlos asked with a smile.

“She is royalty but I still expect her to respect me as the Captain of this ship.” Felipe replied. Carlos said nothing but began to hum a tune, the smell of ham frying filled the room. After a large, delicious meal he decided to have a cigar up on the deck so he went to his quarters and chose a fine Cuban cigar. He lit it then climbed the stairs up to the deck.

Walking to the stern, he saw Batu manning the wheel. Victoria and Angelica standing at the rear railing, staring out to sea. Batu called out “Good morning Felipe, we have all of the makings of a fine day! A good wind is at our backs and our holds are full of Spanish plunder.” He stuck his bottom lip out as if he was pouting and motioned with his thumb at the two women standing behind him.

They turned to look but the women did not turn to acknowledge them, only her irritating monkey turned his head and bared his teeth at Felipe. Felipe returned the gesture and threw his arms up quickly hoping to scare the beast into jumping overboard. The monkey simply turned his head.

Felipe found himself staring at their firm, finely shaped buttocks as the wind whipped their skirts around. Batu noticed his stare and silently nodded his head. Felipe turned toward the front as did Batu. He stuck his cigar in his mouth and reached below the wheel to retrieve his fine brass looking glass and began to scan the horizon.

Quick as lightning there was a pounce on his shoulder and before he could react the monkey snatched the cigar from his mouth and his prized looking glass. It leaped to the ratlines and quickly climbed up to the crows nest. The little thief had his fine cigar in it’s filthy mouth and was looking through the spyglass.

“You little bastard! You thieving little bastard! ”Felipe screamed at him. He pulled his pistol and took aim at the monkey. The gun was snatched down and Victoria stood beside him with Angelica right behind her holding a dagger in her hand.

“Who are you to call anyone a thief? You killed all of our men and stole everything from our ship.” Victoria said in an angry voice.

Felipe looked at Angelica and asked “And you? What do intend to do with that dagger?“

“I will stick it up your ass if the need arises. She is my charge and I am sworn to protect her. More than that, she is my best friend.“ Angelica replied with a steely look in her eye.

Felipe was confused as to what to do, any man who challenged him soon felt the bite of his blade, but these were women. He was not accustomed to being talked to like this.

Victoria still had a grip on his pistol hand and moved in front of him, for the first time he caught her scent. It was a soft, subtle mix like vanilla and sweet flowers. Her long gold hair waved toward him backlit by the morning sun and her green eyes blazed. In the cool morning air, her nipples were erect, protruding against her blouse. Her firm breasts were large and her cleavage rose and fell with her fast, angry breathing. It had been a very long time since Felipe had been with a woman and he felt his manhood begin to rise and press against his pants.

She turned and looked up at the monkey and began to call out. “Puco… Pucooo, come on boy.” She continued to call out in a soft, singsong voice. “It is ok…it is ok, I knowww, I knowww…” Her soft voice was like a bird singing and her hand was warm and soft on his as she held his pistol hand. He looked at her breasts from the side rising and falling and he got even more aroused, the bulge in his pants was now getting very obvious.

Batu couldn’t help but notice. Felipe looked at him and he glanced at Felipe’s crotch and his eyebrows went up. He looked back at Felipe and smiled, he had to turn his head. Felipe was embarrassed. “Get your damned monkey! Batu let me take the wheel.” He yanked his hand away and quickly stepped behind the wheel to hide his erection. Batu turned his head, then his body. He crossed his arms against his chest and then put one palm over his mouth. He began to convulse silently but then could not hold it in any longer. He laid his head back and began to laugh is his deep voice, his laughter grew and got louder.

Felipe’s face burned a bright crimson red, he tried to ignore Batu. Finally the monkey came down. Victoria thumped his fine cigar over the rail and handed him his spyglass. “Here is your precious spyglass.” she said. Felipe was embarrassed and this made him even more angry.

“You mind that monkey and keep a leash on him or I will throw him overboard.” he said.

“You would not dare.” she said.

Batu finally composed himself and he turned to face them. He looked at her but said. “You know Felipe, my ancestors used to eat a lot of monkeys in Africa, I understand that they are delicious when roasted over an open fire on a spit.”

Felipe rubbed his chin and said “Mmmm, that does sound good. Perhaps stuffed with potatoes and onions.”

“And peppers. “ Batu said, “You must not forget the peppers.”

She stood defiantly and said “You would not dare touch my monkey!”

Felipe blurted out without thinking “I will touch much more than your monkey!”

At that, Batu lost control of himself and his laughter boomed out again. He was holding his stomach, in uncontrollable laughter because he knew what Felipe really meant, although he did not mean to say it.

Victoria looked at Batu and said “And you, you big buffoon, I grow tired of your mindless laughter.”

Batu stood to his full height and crossed his heavily muscled arms across his large chest. His deep voice was clear and unwavering “Very well then, mind your monkey” He turned and winked at Felipe. “I will go and see if I can find those peppers.”

Victoria turned to Felipe and said “And you, you need to go and do something with that.” She pointed at his crotch and then wheeled around and she and Angelica quickly walked away toward the front of the ship.

Batu looked at Felipe and again his face was crimson. Again he began to laugh uncontrollably. “Shut up.” Felipe said. “What did she call you? A buffoon? Shut up you big buffoon.”

Batu laughed even louder as Felipe stormed off . Batu was laughing hard but he managed to shout “Felipe! You are being a very…HARD man to deal with this morning! Why must you be such a …HARD man?” He laughed even louder as Felipe went below decks.

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Felipe took out his nautical charts. He knew the waters and the route home yet he felt like he needed something to take his mind off of her. She was beautiful and strong, he had never seen nor met a woman like her. The mere thought of her made his heart beat faster and he felt excited and strange inside. Again he tried to study the charts trying to think of other places and upcoming adventures but his mind went back to her.

He got up and went to the window and took deep breaths of the salt air looking at the horizon, thinking of their homecoming. Still his thoughts kept returning to her. Andreas had always been his mentor so he left the cabin and looked for him. He found Andreas sitting at the front of the ship on a bucket sharpening his sword. Felipe paced back and forth looking out to sea and Andreas watched him for a few moments. He was clearly agitated.

“What is bothering you Felipe?” He asked and kept looking at his blade as he honed it.

Felipe looked at him and said “Nothing, I guess that I am just still excited about our battle and victory.”

Andreas smiled slightly and said “She is very beautiful.”

Felipe feigned innocence and said “Who?”

“Oh come now nephew, I have known you since you were born and I can read you like a book. You cannot hide anything from me, she is on your mind and you seem to be falling for her. I know what that is like, she occupies your every thought, you feel all funny inside when you think of her.”

Felipe stopped pacing and looked at him. Andreas smiled and went back to sharpening his sword. Finally he resigned himself that it was useless to try to lie to his Uncle who knew him so well. He got another bucket, flipped it over and sat beside him so he did not have to look into his eyes. After a few moments he said “She is very beautiful.”

“Who?” Andreas smiled at him.

Felipe was finally able to laugh. “She is a princess and I am a pirate. There is no chance of anything ever becoming of us. I should just forget her and treat her as the ransom that she represents.”

Andreas slowly honed his sword. Felipe trusted his wisdom and looked to him for a ray of hope. Finally Andreas spoke.

“It will take many weeks, months to get the word back to the King demanding her ransom. It will take even more time to arrange for the exchange. You have time on your side. Treat her like the beautiful woman that she is, but do not grovel or appear too eager. Still pay attention to her, be kind and fair to her. And smile, that scar on your face might scare her. A princess and a pirate? Stranger things have happened.” Andreas looked at him.

“We are still five days and nights from our home. I think that you should offer them the use of your cabin so they will be comfortable. You can sleep with us on the gun deck and get to know her better as the days pass.” Andreas said.

“That is a great idea!” Felipe said and he jumped to his feet.

Andreas held his hand up and said “Felipe, do you remember the jaguar? You must learn to listen to what I say. Be kind and respectful but do not appear too eager. Slow down.” He smiled and put his hand down. “And smile.”

Felipe stopped and took a deep breath and blew it out. He smiled at Andreas and slowly walked toward the stern. Andreas smiled to himself and examined the edge of his sword with his finger. He slid the whetstone along it’s length as light as a feather.

Angelica closed the door to the captains quarters and worked the lock. She smiled and spread her arms out and said “Now this is much better. This is much better than shivering on that cold, hard deck snuggled against your horse do you not you think?” She looked around and spied the bar. “Would you care for a brandy ?”

“Yes, please.” the princess said as she sat in a comfortably upholstered chair. Angelica poured two generous drinks, walked over and handed her one. She sat beside her and sipped at her drink.

“This is good brandy.” she said. “You know, he is a handsome man also. He does not have the fine looks of Jean Pierre but he is handsome in a more rugged, manly way. I wonder how he got that scar?”

The princess sipped her drink and said “Probably in a tavern fight.”

“You do not find him the least bit attractive?” Angelica asked.

“Unlike you, I do not go lusting after pirates after a few sips of brandy.” The princess said with a smile.

“Oh come now, he has shown us kindness and even given us the use of his cabin. I have seen the sons of royalty who came to court you. With their pale skin, powdered wigs and skinny arms. He is a handsome fellow and a real man, he commands all of these fierce fighting men. He is not what I expected of a pirate, he has treated us with respect. Will you not at least admit that he is a handsome man?” Angelica said with a smile.

The princess looked down at her drink and said “Yes, I suppose that he is a handsome man, in a rugged kind of way.”

Angelica smiled and poured them another drink. Later that evening there was a knock at the door. Angelica got up and opened the door to see a really large, fat man with a black, curly beard and smiling eyes holding a tray with two covered plates.

“I am Carlos, the ship’s cook. I have prepared you a meal. It may not be what you are accustomed to but the grouper is fresh and the beans are hot and good. We have no fresh bread nor an oven so I am afraid that tortillas will have to suffice. May I come in?”

It did smell delicious and she asked him in. He placed the plates on the table with knives, spoons and forks and two cloth napkins. He then pulled their chairs out, went to the bar and poured them two drinks. “Eat hearty ladies, if you wish for more just come down to the galley, the scent will lead you there. Just leave the tray and plates outside of the door when you are finished.” With that he turned, walked out of the door and closed it softly behind him.

They quickly uncovered their plates, the grouper had been grilled a golden brown and the bowl of beans were spiced to perfection. They ate hungrily and slept that night in a soft, down filled bed.

Early the next morning there was another knock on the door. Angelica quickly brushed her hair and opened it. Jean Pierre was standing there with a tray of food. “May I come in?” he asked.

Angelica opened the door and he set the tray on the table. He bowed his head and walked toward the door. The princess said “Jean Pierre, I must feed my horse.”

“I found the oats that we removed from the Luisa below decks. Your horse has been fed and watered . I cleaned the deck as well.”

He turned around again and Angelica got up and said “Jean Pierre, you have been most kind to us sir and I do want to thank you.” she took both of his hands in hers. Jean Pierre raised her hand and bowed his head. He quickly and gently kissed the back of her hand as he looked at her with his blue eyes. He turned and walked out of the room.

Angelica turned to look at the princess who just smiled and said “Tramp.” Angelica giggled.

She put her hands on her hips and cocked her head to the side, she looked at the princess and said. “We are being treated fairly and with respect even though we have been captured by pirates. This is a grand adventure! What ever happened in the castle? Nothing! It was so boring there. This is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me in my life, as well as yours if you will admit it.

Think about it, captured and living among pirates who are treating us well and who are not ravaging us or abusing us. They only seek our ransom and we will be returned back home safe. What are the odds of something like that happening? For once in my life I feel alive and excited. Live this Victoria, you will never again see such an exciting time in your life.”

The princess looked at her and said “You know, you may very well be right about this.”

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CHAPTER TEN

HOME

On the morning of the fifth day Tortuga came into sight. As they approached the lagoon they furled all but two of their sails and turned slowly into the sheltered harbor. One of the wives stood vigil on the beach and shouted out a greeting waving her arms above her head. She then ran back to the village.

Soon all of the wives were wading out into the water, shouting and waving at them. Batu wheeled the ship around expertly and the anchors were dropped. The ship swung into the wind and came to a stop, tugging at her anchors. Men immediately jumped over the side and began swimming to the shore.

Jean Pierre and Felipe walked up to the princess and Angelica who were standing at the rail looking at the island.

“Where is the city?” the princess asked.

“There is no city, we have a village just inside of the tree line. We wish to keep our presence here unknown.“ Felipe said. “We will lower a life boat for Angelica and yourself.”

“For Angelica, please. My horse will not be able to get on a lifeboat. I will swim him to the shore.” the princess said.

“As you wish.” Felipe said. He and Jean Pierre placed Angelica in the lifeboat as the princess handed her the cage with Puco in it. The boat was loaded with the trunks of their clothing and then pushed off. Angelica smiled and waved at her.

Andreas stood on the shore with Batu and Shayla watching the boat approach. As soon as it was clear of the ship the princess swung up onto her horse. She walked it to the far rail and then charged forward. The strong black stallion jumped over the rail and landed with a big splash. She then began to swim toward the shore.

“That is one hell of a woman.” Andreas said. Batu just smiled and nodded his head. They waited for her to approach until the horse waded onto the shore and shook itself dry. Victoria swung down out of the saddle and took the reins.

“This way please.” Andreas said with a sweep of his hand.

They walked up to the pavilion and Andreas tied her horse to a post. The men were all sitting with their wives and it was very obvious that they were as glad to be home as their wives were to see them. Felipe and Andreas escorted them to a bench and had them sit down. Felipe walked away and came back with a flask of brandy and poured them a drink.

A tall, beautiful black woman approached them holding Batu’s hand and walked up to the two women. She smiled and said “I am Shayla, Batu’s wife. He has asked me to watch over you and introduce you to the ways of life on this island. I will be glad to be your friend.” she smiled at them.

The princess was somewhat unnerved at being in the proximity of so many black people, she had never even seen black people before.

Angelica stood up and said “It is good to meet you Shayla and to see other women. I also want to be your friend.”

Shayla looked at the princess and tilted her head, waiting for a response. Victoria had always been told that the blacks were ignorant savages, not much more than animals suited only for hard labor. She did not know how to take this woman who stood before her speaking perfect Spanish. She shot a glance at Angelica who made a subtle jerk of her head toward Shayla and urged her with her eyes.

She smiled and said “I am Victoria, it is nice to meet you also.”

“Well it is good to have new women on the island, maybe we will have some new gossip to share. “ Shayla said with a warm smile.

“Tonight you may use my mothers cabin, it is right over there.” Felipe pointed. “Tomorrow we will build you one as well as a stable for your horse. We need to have a celebration, a homecoming feast.” Felipe said. He looked at Andreas and said “I will round up a few men and we will go hunting and kill a few pigs, tonight we will eat and celebrate. If you will excuse me, we will be back before dark, have a big fire ready.” He and Batu rose and went to talk to the men.

“Speaking of dark, do not wander about when it gets dark and the fires burn down.” Andreas told them. “We have jaguars in the jungle and they become quite bold at night. We will keep a large fire burning all night and have men take turns feeding it so your horse will be safe, tomorrow we will build a safe stall.”

“Jaguars? But Felipe is going hunting out there, will he be alright?” the princess blurted out without thinking. Angelica shot her a small, knowing smile.

“Felipe will be just fine, he has killed many jaguars. That is how he got that scar on his face, the first one almost got him but he was quite young.” Andreas said.

They sipped their brandy and Angelica said “So, tell me about the Frenchman.”

“I have noticed that you do seem to be interested in him, what would you like to know?” Andreas asked.

“Where does he come from?” she inquired.

“France, I would imagine.” Andreas smiled.

“Well, what I mean is that generally the French and Spaniards do not get along. How did he come to be with Felipe?”

Andreas studied them both for a few moments and then said “Felipe hired him, as well as all of the other men to exact his revenge on the Spaniards.”

“Revenge? Revenge for what? Isn’t he, as well as you, a Spaniard?” the princess asked.

Andreas was old and wise enough to know that they had been sheltered from the truth but it was time that they learned. “My brother Juan Carlos and I were born to a wealthy family in Spain. We sailed to the new colonies and he had a son, Felipe. We purchased land and a fleet of fishing boats, we made a handsome living.

One day they came upon a small ship that had been attacked by pirates. While below looking for survivors the Viceroy’s men sailed upon them and accused them of the crime. It was obvious that they were innocent, they had no weapons and were in a fishing sloop. Still, there was a large bounty on pirates so they arrested them for the crime. While trying to defend his son, they killed Juan Carlos in cold blood, right in front of Felipe, he was not even armed.”

Andreas paused for a moment and the women said nothing. “They arrested Felipe but he managed to escape.”

“Why did he not just plead his case to the Viceroy? Being in a fishing sloop with no weapons they surely would have seen that he was innocent.” the princess said.

Andreas looked at her. “The new colonies are very corrupt and the Viceroy himself is the most corrupt of them all. He tries all accused of piracy, they are gagged and do not even get to speak during the trial. He gets a portion of all of the bounties paid by your father so he does not care if they are innocent. All are found guilty and are hanged, left to rot at the port as a warning to other pirates. Just like my brother, Felipe’s father, they do not get a chance to defend themselves nor to have a proper burial.”

Andreas paused again and both women looked at him. They both had a shocked expression on their face. “We knew they would seize all of our land and assets so we sent his mother to safety. Felipe and I escaped and came here. He and I swore revenge on all who serve the King.”

The princess looked at him. “My father knows nothing of this.” she said raising her chin.

Shayla said “There is much that you do not know. Your father makes a lot of money from the slave trade. He gets a portion of the money for each new slave child born and sold as a tax. My parents were captured in Africa and sold into slavery. My mother was repeatedly raped by her master until he tired of her. Then he sent her out to toil in the fields for the rest of her life. I was also raped as a very young girl. They bullwhipped our men. They took our freedom, our language and our culture, everything away from us. Felipe and Andreas freed us and our men also hate the Spaniards, that is why they fight by his side. Batu and I were to be sold, separated on the day that they rescued us, the man who bought me told me that he was going to rape me that night.”

The princess was shocked. She had always known that there were slaves but she had never given it any thought. This woman in front of her speaking perfect Spanish was not what she imagined nor had been taught that slaves were like.

Shayla continued “I understand your plight better than you might think. You came from royalty and are now a captive. My mother was also descended from royalty in her tribe but she was captured and sold into slavery. She too was a captive.

Felipe is a good man, you have been, and will be protected and treated a lot better than my mother was. He and Andreas freed us, we no longer get raped, our men are no longer whipped with a bullwhip. We are free now as you soon will be. He only wants your ransom to pay his men and hire more.”

The princess thought about all of this for a minute, then said “Do you also hate us because we are Spaniards?” she asked looking at both of them.

“You have committed no crimes against us and cannot be held responsible for what your father does. Actually, I am growing quite fond of the both of you.” Andreas said with a smile.

He managed to get a small smile out of both of them. The princess lowered her head and said “ I did not know any of this. I was taught, forgive me, that the black people were savages who could not even speak. I was always told that they were like animals. I now see that you are real people. I cannot imagine a man whipping another man with a bullwhip or raping a young girl.” Her eyes filled with tears and she tried to blink them back.

“It is not your fault.” Shayla said hugging her. “You had no knowledge and nothing to do with this. You are not responsible.”

“Princess” Andreas said “The new colonies are far from the eyes of the King. The Viceroy and his men are getting very rich through extortion, bribes and arresting people for crimes that they did not commit. They seize land and money from the poor to line their own pockets. Even Spaniards born of pure blood in the new colonies are treated as second class citizens like Felipe was as they try to maintain a higher social status and cling to some sense of royalty.

The natives who lived there had a rich culture but lacked gunpowder and horses. They were slaughtered and subjugated by the Spaniards. Even today they are treated worse than dogs and are run down on the streets by pure bloods on their horses for their amusement. The new colonies are rampant with corruption.”

All of this came as a surprise to both of them. Victoria had always idolized her father and only heard of his goodness and generosity. Andreas could tell that she was shocked by all of this, it was much to put on a young woman all at once and her heart was deeply troubled. He rose and said “Come, let me show you something.”

The princess, Angelica and Shayla got up and followed him through the village to the edge of the jungle. There was a well worn trial through the jungle, the vegetation was very lush. The trees were huge with trunks wider than a wagon covered with thick vines larger than a man’s leg that grew up them. Flowers as large as her hand of many bright colors bloomed everywhere and a flock of bright scarlet parrots perched in a tree chattering loudly. Butterflies flitted among the flowers.

The trail curved on and they heard a deep rumbling sound in the distance. Andreas stopped and put his finger against his lips, pointed ahead then stepped to the side. A doe was standing in the trail with a spotted fawn at her feet. The doe looked at them, her ears stood straight up. The princess was beside herself with joy, she had always loved animals and had only seen a deer in paintings. The doe flicked her tail and leaped into the jungle with the fawn scampering behind her into the underbrush.

“That was beautiful! I have never seen a deer before!” she said to Andreas.

“This is a beautiful island, animals are abundant.” Andreas said.

The trail sloped sharply upward for a distance and then dipped. The roaring sound got louder. They rounded a curve and Andreas stopped and stepped to the side. He waved his hand for them to approach. They walked to the edge and saw a very tall waterfall spilling over the edge of the mountain. The white water cascaded down over a hundred feet and thundered onto a jutting ledge of rocks only to spill down further and splash into a wide cove of clear water.

The mist of water dissipated along the rocks beside the waterfall. The shore was lined with large, smooth stones. Ferns and huge elephant ears grew along the edges. The sun’s rays cut through the trees and played along the green surface as the wind gently blew the trees. White birds with long legs stood in the water looking for fish.

“The water is fresh, you can bathe and swim here. This is where we draw our water.” Andreas said.

“It is beautiful! I have not bathed in over a week, I would love to get in that water.” the princess said.

“You are safe here, Shayla will stay with you, I will be at the village.” Andreas said. He turned and walked away.

As soon as he rounded the curve in the trail Angelica ran toward the water screaming and laughing, shedding her clothes as she went. The princess laughed at her and undressed at the waters edge folding her clothes and placing them on a rock. She and Shayla waded into the cool water and wet their hair. They reveled in the water, washed themselves and talked.

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I hope that someone is actually enjoying reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. I struggled with the roles of the former slaves, trying to imagine what they went through and express it. Still, I worry about offending others as I try to portray what is going through a pampered princesse's mind, how she percieves them. She does come to love them, as you will soon see. I thank you for allowing me to post this work here, it may not be Shakespeare or a great work of literature, but it does come from the heart. You will soon see the princesses eyes opened to the horrors that her father has perpetrated on the slaves and see her heart turn.

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After a while, they got out and let the wind dry them and then got dressed and walked back to the village. As they approached they heard drums playing a rhythmic beat. When they got to the clearing several women were dancing around a large fire as the men played the drums. The sun was setting like a huge, orange ball through the trees. They saw Andreas sitting smoking a pipe. He smiled when he saw them and asked them to sit beside the fire with him. They liked this older man with his gentle nature and kind eyes.

“What is that that you are smoking? That is not tobacco, it smells much sweeter.” Victoria said.

Andreas puffed on his pipe, inhaled deeply and blew a large plume of blue smoke into the night air. He looked at her with heavy eyelids and said “It is a local herb that grows in the jungle here. The natives of this area have smoked it for generations, they claim that it lets them speak to God. It tickles your mind in a way.”

“What do you mean ‘It tickles your mind’?” Victoria asked.

The older man took another puff, blew it out and thought for a moment. He looked at her and said “You know how brandy makes things more funny and changes the way that you think? This herb does the same thing but it is cleaner. You do not stagger around and loose your balance. It also makes lovemaking a lot more pleasurable, if you can imagine that. Would you like to try some?” He turned the stem of his pipe toward the princess and raised his eyebrows, smiling.

“I would.” said Angelica.

She took the pipe and puffed on it blowing the smoke out of her mouth.

“You must breathe it into your lungs.” Andreas said “Like this.” he took the pipe and puffed on it and inhaled then blew it out.

He passed the pipe back to Angelica and she puffed on it and inhaled. She coughed hard and lost the smoke.

“Not so much, take a small puff .” Andreas told her.

She tried again several times and was finally able to inhale a small puff without coughing, she blew this out. “Keep smoking it.” Andreas told her.

Angelica took more puffs and tried to hand the pipe back to Andreas. He declined and told her “Smoke, smoke.”

She continued to smoke on the pipe and began to watch the women dancing around the fire. She began to nod her head in time with the drums. “I can feel the drums beating in my chest she said.” She began to tap her feet. Andreas smiled and nodded his head.

Angelica handed the pipe back to him and got up. She joined the women dancing around the fire, they encouraged her showing her how to move her feet and hands. She caught on fast and soon was wheeling around the fire laughing and dancing with the other women. She was really enjoying herself and trying to get the princess to join her. The princess just shook her head and smiled.

“Are you sure you would not like to try some?” Andreas asked her. “It is making your friend dance.” he smiled at her.

“Maybe later, I will see what a fool that she makes of herself first.” she said.

Andreas pointed and she looked, the men were returning from their hunt with two large hogs tied on a pole over their shoulders. They stopped at the edge of the clearing and quickly cleaned and skinned the hogs. Soon they were tied on a pole and suspended above the fire. The roasting pork smelled wonderful and a crescent moon slid slowly up into the night sky.

Felipe sat beside the princess and watched Angelica dancing with the other women. Soon the food was cooked and they all ate and then began drinking. Felipe poured the last of the brandy and then said “Well, the rest of the brandy is on the ship and I do not feel like swimming. It is time to switch to rum.”

He poured the princess, Angelica and Jean Pierre a cup of rum. They clicked cups and drank. The princess took a small sip and coughed it out. Angelica drank a large gulp and said “ Whooo! That burns going down”

Jean Pierre said “Yes, I myself would prefer some fine wine, I have some in my cabin. Would you care to join me?” He smiled and looked at Angelica and she smiled back at him.

“I think that I would.” she said.

He stood and pulled her up by her hand. She waved her fingers goodbye at the princess and walked away into the night with Jean Pierre.

Felipe looked at the princess and she looked at Andreas. Andreas shrugged his shoulders and smiled. “Live and let live.” he said. “I think that they are a good match.”

Felipe smiled at the princess and she looked down, but she did smile.

After a moment she said “I think I will go to sleep now, it has been a long voyage. I will see you two in the morning.” She got up and walked to Felipe’s mother’s cabin and closed the door.

Felipe stared after her and then looked at his uncle. “Easy son, everything in proper time. I am going to sleep now myself. Goodnight Felipe.” He got up and walked away.

Felipe stared at the cabin and thought about her. Would she rebuke him if he went to her? Perhaps she wanted him to go there. He stared at the fire and thought about her. In the cabin, the princess wondered if he would come calling, she waited for him and finally fell into a restless sleep.

Early the next morning the princess awoke and found Angelica sleeping in the bed. “So, how was your night?” she asked.

Angelica just smiled and said “It was a fine night.”

They got dressed and walked out to the pavilion where Shayla was frying ham in a skillet over a hot bed of coals, it smelled delicious. Without thinking the princess said “Cook me some breakfast.” she was used to commanding people.

Shayla looked up at her, raised her eyebrows and said “Pardon me? Cook your own breakfast.”

The princess was stunned and embarrassed, she just stood there with a stunned look.

Shayla felt bad for rebuking her “Everyone is equal on this island. I serve no one any longer except for my husband.” She continued frying the ham. After a moment she looked back at the princess and said “I know all of this is new to you and I will help you, but I will not serve you. I will slice you some ham but you can go and gather your own eggs. The chicken coop and henhouse are that way.” She pointed and handed the princess a basket.

They walked together to the chicken coop and went in. Several fat hens pecked at the ground and a large red rooster eyed them suspiciously. “He looks mean.“ the princess said. The henhouse had a ramp going up and they both peeked inside. Long rows of nest boxes lined the wall filled with chickens contentedly clucking and crooning in them. They stepped inside.

“Where are the eggs?” the princess asked looking around.

Angelica gave her a stupid look and said “Well I imagine that they are sitting on them to keep them warm.”

“How do we get them?”

“How would I know? I have never gathered eggs before.” Angelica said.

“Well neither have I. Just reach under her and take one.” the princess suggested.

Angelica moved her hand toward the chicken and received a quick, sharp peck.

“OW! That hurt!” she said rubbing her hand.

The princess thought for a moment. “I have a way with animals, let me try I will try being nice to it.” the princess said “Nice chicken, nice chicken” she said in a soothing voice as she reached her hand slowly forward. She too got a hard peck. “OW! That does hurt!”

“I told you that it did.” Angelica said.

The princess thought for a moment and said “I know, I will distract it from this side and you quickly reach in from the other side and grab an egg. “

The princess moved to one side and waved her hands by her face. “Hey chicken! Hey chicken!”

Angelica made a quick grab and got pecked again “Ow! Dammit! That hurts!”

“Is everything alright in here ladies?” they turned and saw Shayla tucking her lips under trying not to smile. She moved her hand into the doorway and held a clay bowl full of seed. She rattled it and in a high voice said “Here chick chick chick!” She sprinkled a few seeds on the floor and all of the chickens fluttered down out of their nest boxes.

She then walked back into the chicken yard calling the chickens sprinkling seeds. Then they heard her laughing very loudly as she walked away.

The princess’s face turned red as a beet and Angelica began to giggle “Try being nice to it.” she said. She then started laughing uncontrollably. The princess tried to ignore her, she grabbed a warm egg and placed it in the basket.

“I know,” Angelica said between laughs, “I will distract it from this side!” she laughed even harder. The princess bottom lip began to quiver. Angelica was laughing at the top of her lungs now and wiped tears from her eyes. “Here chick, chick, chick!” her laughter was contagious.

Finally the princess broke down and they bent over laughing together and could not stop. They finally composed themselves and wiped the tears from their eyes.

As they approached the pavilion somewhat sheepishly, Shayla looked up and smiled. "I left some fat on the ham so it will render oil, cook it first and you will have hot oil to fry your eggs in." she said.

The princess placed the ham in the skillet and began to fry it. Shayla instructed her when to turn it over so it would not burn. When the ham was cooked she placed it on a plate and now the hot oil was ready for the eggs. Shayla told her how to crack the eggs and swish them around in the pan so they would not stick. The princess was trying awkwardly to keep the eggs moving but they began to stick anyway.

"They are sticking to the bottom!" she said.

"Keep swishing." Shayla said.

Try as she might she could not get the eggs to move and they began to burn along the edges. "They are burning!" she said.

"Try being nice to it.” Angelica said, “Nice egg, nice egg" Shayla looked at her and they began to giggle.

Shayla said "I know, I will distract it!" She put her hands beside her face and waved them. "Hey egg! Hey egg!"

Angelica and Shayla began to laugh hysterically and the princess couldn't help herself. She took the pan off of the coals and they all laughed together. She was beginning to like Shayla and to see that she was an intelligent woman and also had a good sense of humor. A woman, just like her, unlike what she had been told about them.

The men came walking to the pavilion and Felipe said to the princess “We are going to take the cannons and sell them so I can pay the men. We will be back this evening. I will also buy some paper and a quill so you can compose a letter to your father.”

“How will this letter be delivered?” she asked.

“We will have it delivered to the Viceroy himself, I will write him a separate letter explaining the situation, he will see that your letter is sent to the King with the utmost urgency.”

The princess looked at him and for the first time wondered if she really wanted to go home. This new life was much more interesting than her former life at the castle. She reflected on the fine trappings of the castle but this island was beautiful and the people were interesting and very friendly. She was learning many new things and unlike home where everyone bowed to her and she only had one friend, here everyone was genuinely friendly to her.

“Very well” she said with a smile “Take care of yourself.”

Felipe bowed his head and walked away. Angelica said “I am ready for a bath, how about you two?” she looked from Shayla to the princess.

Shayla said “ I have to tend the garden and gather some fruit for supper. The men will be hungry when they get back. You two go, it is quite safe during the day, jaguars are night hunters and sleep during the day. The cove is a safe place, only our tribe goes there.”

The princess thought about what she had just said ‘our tribe’ and realized that they were indeed a large family. She had been sheltered from the common people and their struggles and had only known Angelica as a friend. A part of her longed to be included in this tribe, to be a part of the whole and have friends who liked her for who she really was, not just because she was to be the Queen. Being a Queen meant nothing on this island or to these people.

“Come then, let us go.” Angelica said.

“You are sure that it is safe?” the princess asked.

“Our women go there alone to bathe and fetch water every day, it is quite safe.” Shayla told her.

Together they walked toward the jungle. The trail was even more beautiful in the morning, an abundance of birds and large colorful butterflies flitted about. The jungle was filled with the cries of birds. Angelica picked a flower and tucked it behind her ear.

Soon they were at the cove and they undressed and got into the water. Angelica looked around, then looked at her and said “I like it here, it is beautiful. What about you?”

“It is beautiful.” she said.

“That is not what I asked, I asked if you like it here also?” Angelica looked into her eyes.

“What is not to like? It is beautiful. We are being treated well and they are all very friendly. Things could be much worse I suppose, we could have just as well been captured by men with no morals and been abused.”

“Yes, we are being treated well and they are all very friendly. They are all true friends and care about each other, it is like a large family.” Angelica said.

“A tribe.” she replied.

“Yes, a tribe. All of my life I have been groomed and raised only to serve you and we are friends. But I have never had a group of friends. People at the castle respected us only due to our position, our social status. Here, that means nothing, they like us for who we are.”

The princess said nothing but thought about what she had said. She went on “I really like Jean Pierre and he likes me also, I think that I am falling in love with him. He is such a gentleman. I have never been allowed to know a man before, I was always raised to serve you and I mean nothing bad by that. But for once in my life I am excited about today, tomorrow and what will come.”

She hesitated for a moment, then said “I do not want to go back, I want to stay here with Jean Pierre and these people. I am happy here.”

The princess looked at her, all of this was so new, she had not really seriously entertained the thought of not ever going back.

“Think about it, I know that you also like Felipe and it is obvious that he likes you as well. He is such a strong man unlike any that you have ever met. We have everything that we need here and more. You are my best and only friend and I love you, but I am not going back.” she said.

The princess looked at her and said “Even if I decided not to go back, which I have not, what about the ransom? I am worth a huge fortune to these men, riches beyond their wildest dreams, a Kings ransom”

Angelica looked at her for a moment “Have you not heard what they have said? What motivates these men? Felipe and Andreas do not seek wealth, they seek revenge. Money means nothing to them, they have money. What could be a sweeter revenge for Felipe than for you to decide to stay here with him? For him to have willingly stolen away the only child of the King? The heir to the throne? His family would no longer be in power, he will loose the royal bloodline and it will go to another. That would be the utmost revenge for Felipe if the King knew this”

What she said made a lot of sense, the princess had to admit. She did like Felipe and Andreas and was very happy here. It was an adventure, exciting and new. The thought of staying here with Felipe now sounded appealing to her, she looked at Angelica.

“What if Felipe wants the ransom instead? It is a huge sum of money, more than he could ever gather in a lifetime.”

“I think that he would choose you instead, given the chance. Open up to him, I know that you like him.” she smiled.

It was so much to consider, the lavish lifestyle of the castle or life on this island with him. She looked at the waterfall thundering down into the cove, the lush jungle and the flowers that lined the edge of the pool. Her decision was made.

“Yes! I want to stay here too.” she said.

Angelica squealed with delight and hugged her. “Let us go home now.”

They dressed and walked down the trail toward the village. The princess stopped and picked a flower and tucked it behind her ear “How does this look? She asked.

“He will love it.” she said.

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CHAPTER ELEVEN

TURNING

The two women walked back to the village and saw Shayla stirring a large pot of beans with a wooden spoon, she smiled at them as they approached.

“That really smells good.” said the princess.

“Would you like some? They are ready.” she replied.

“I would love some.”

“Please, help yourself.” she handed them both a bowl and two spoons. They scooped out the beans and began to eat hungrily.

“This is wonderful, it has pieces of pork in it and the pork is tender.” Angelica said.

“Pigs abound on this island, we are not far from the trade routes so spices are also available.” Shayla said as she slowly stirred the pot.

“So, you and Batu have no children?” the princess asked.

Shayla said nothing but continued to slowly stir the pot looking at it. Her eyes welled with tears and then they slid down her cheeks. She dropped the spoon into the pot and covered her eyes with her fingers and began to cry quietly.

“What? What is wrong?” the princess asked. She stopped eating and both women looked at her.

Shayla tried to compose herself for a moment and then managed to gasp out between her sobs. “They sold them. We had two but they sold them.” she began to cry uncontrollably.

The princess was shocked. “They sold your babies? How could they do this? Even the poorest in our country are allowed to keep their children. How could they have sold your babies?”

Shayla managed to quiet herself after a few minutes, the women waited. “We were their property, that did with us as they wished. Our children were just money to them.”

The princess began to cry also “Is there no end to their cruelty? How could they do this? My father must find out about this, he will put a stop to it.”

Shayla looked at her and took her hand. “Your father knows this, it is common practice. I told you that he gets a share from each slave child that is sold. The Viceroy keeps meticulous records which are forwarded to the King.”

Victoria was outraged. “I knew that you said that but I never imagined that your and Batu’s own child were sold. How could my father be so cruel and uncaring? They were your babies, not animals.” She looked down at the ground and shook her head. She looked back up and said “I understand now why you hate the King so much, I am beginning to hate him also. I did not know any of this before. In the name of God, you are people, not animals! How could he condone this? That bastard, that no good bastard.”

Shayla said nothing for a moment and then said “Your eyes are opening now. This has been going on for many years. Even this day some mother and father will have their child taken away and sold for money”

“And my father will get his share, as if he does not have enough already.” she said and shook her head. If she had any doubt about staying here, now all doubt was gone. She would never return to such a cruel father.

“Shayla, I cannot put a stop to this, but I can hurt my father very deeply and I intend to. I like Felipe, Andreas, Batu, you and Jean Pierre. I am not ever going home, I am going to stay here with Felipe if he will have me.” the princess said.

“If he will have you? The man is crazy for you! I have seen the way that he looks at your cabin when you go in for the night. This is wonderful news! I am so glad that you are staying here, come here.” Shayla hugged her tight and they smiled at each other.

“When did you decide this and have you told Felipe?” she asked.

“I decided it earlier when Angelica and I were talking, but what you just told me makes me never want to return to such an evil empire. And no, I have not told Felipe yet.”

“He will be overjoyed.” Shayla smiled at her.

“You do not think he will be disappointed about not getting a huge ransom for me?” she asked.

“Money means nothing to Felipe, he seeks revenge.” Shayla looked up for a moment and then said “This will be the ultimate revenge for Felipe if your father were to know about your decision to rebuke him and stay here.”

“That is exactly what I told her.” Angelica said.

“When will you tell him?” Shayla asked excitedly.

She thought about it for a moment and then said “When he returns, please say nothing about this, he may still reject my desires for the ransom and I do not want to be embarrassed.”

“I will say nothing, but you do not know Felipe like I do. Andreas has confided in me about how taken he is with you. Can you not see the way he acts when you are around? He will be overjoyed, as I am.” Shayla smiled at her. “Welcome home princess.”

The women spent the rest of the day talking. Shayla taught them how to make bowls out of clay. “It is getting late in the evening, the men will be back soon.” Shayla told them.

“I need to go and clean up a little.” the princess said.

“For your man.” Angelica finished the sentence for her.

They all smiled and she went back to her cabin. After a short while she came out wearing a fine dress with a low cut top showing the tops of her breasts. She had a flower behind one ear and a soft scent about her. She twirled around and asked “How do I look?”

“You look just lovely, Felipe will be speechless.” Shayla said.

“Do you really think that he will like it?” she asked.

Both women just nodded their heads and smiled.

Several hours later they heard someone call out from the shore. “They are back!” Shayla said. The women went down to the shore and watched the ship lower it’s anchors and soon the men dove in and swam to the shore. Felipe waded up and looked at her.

“You look absolutely stunning.” he said and smiled.

“Thank you, did you get paper and a quill? I cannot wait to write my father.” she said. She saw the look of disappointment on his face and struggled to say nothing else.

“The men are going to push the raft out to bring the supplies in. I will see that you get it soon.” Felipe said.

The thought of her so anxious to leave put a look of hurt on his face and that moved her heart so she held her hand out to him. She had never taken his hand before. “Come, we have food cooked.” and she turned and walked back to the pavilion with him.

Felipe thought that she was so happy at the thought of going home and that was why she was being so friendly. He walked sadly with her but he was glad to be holding her hand. When they arrived at the pavilion she told him to sit and she ladled out a bowl of beans and began cooking him a tortilla as Shayla had taught her to do.

“You are learning how to cook?” he asked surprised.

“Oh yes, Shayla has taught us much. How did the trip fare? Did the cannons fetch a good price? She asked looking at him.

“They brought a very good price, cannons such as those are very rare as only a really large ship could take them. Any cannon fetches a premium price but those were large cannons, the men will be well paid.”

Men began bringing supplies into the pavilion. Bags of flour, dried beans, spices and bags of salt. Felipe got up and opened a small trunk. He took out a quill, an ink bottle and several sheaves of paper and handed them to the princess. She thanked him and hurried back to her hut. Felipe lost his appetite and put his bowl down. Andreas came and sat beside him.

“She is writing the letter to her father now. It appears that she cannot wait to go home.” Felipe said.

Andreas could tell that this troubled Felipe. He thought about how to make him feel better about this. He took a stick and began to scrawl a picture of a ship in the dirt and finally said “It is all that she has ever known. She has everything there, the world is at her feet. She is the heir to the throne, soon to be the Queen of the most powerful country on earth. Should she not want to leave?”

“I know, I just hoped that she would not.” Felipe said wistfully.

He got up and walked to the shoreline as he always did when he was troubled. He stared out at his ship and tried to take his mind off of it by planning his next raid, going over the details in his mind. A short time later she appeared with a letter folded in her hand.

“I want you to read this.” she said.

“I do not need to read it, you know what to say.” he said without looking at her.

“No, you need to read this please, for me.” she said and held the letter out to him.

He unfolded the letter and read.

Father,

Our ship was attacked by pirates, Angelica and I were taken captive. We have been treated very well and are in good health. These are not ordinary men father, they are noble men who all hate you and for good reason. They know that you would pay a very large ransom for me but they do not seek wealth, only revenge for the wrongs that you and your men have perpetrated against the common man.

I have learned much from them. I am now friends with those who were once slaves. I now know that you make money from their sorrow. They are people Father, just like you and I, not animals to be whipped, bought and sold. You condone this and I cannot forgive you for this.

The man who leads these pirates was falsely accused of piracy when it was obvious that he was innocent. His father murdered by the Viceroy’s own men. His father was an honest man, yet they killed him just for the money. The Viceroy arrests men for false charges just so he can seize their land. He is becoming a very rich man by oppressing the honest people there. This is how your corrupt government operates in the new colonies.

My man has sworn to avenge his father’s death. I understand his hatred of you and your men and I have come to respect and to love him. I do not intend to come home. I will stay here with him. I hope that he asks for my hand in marriage which I will gladly give. May God forgive you for your sins against humanity, I never shall.

Your Daughter,

Victoria.

Felipe looked into her eyes but could not speak, he had no words. She smiled at him and he smiled back at her. She embraced him and they kissed passionately. She held his head cradled it her arms against her neck while he hungrily kissed the smooth skin of her neck.

She asked “ Can I stay with you? Will you have me rather than a ransom?”

Felipe looked at her and was filled with happiness. “I always wanted you, not the ransom.”

“Did you mean this?” he held up the letter.

“Every word of it.” she said.

“I mean the part about marrying me?”

“Yes, if you ask me.”

Felipe blurted out “Will you marry me?”

She looked down her nose at him with a small smile. “Is that a proper proposal for a princess?”

“Forgive me.” He removed his hat and knelt on one knee. “I love you, will you marry me?”

“Yes, of course I will. I love you also.” she smiled.

Felipe kissed her again and took her hand. They began to walk back to the village. Felipe thought for a moment and said “As it stands now, he does not know if you are alive or dead. Once you send that letter he will send all of his forces to seek you out.”

“Are you worried?” She asked.

“Me?” he laughed “I am already a wanted man, there is a high price on my head not only for piracy but also for murdering the guard and the man who killed my father. No, I live to insult the King and this is the greatest insult to him of all. Now that he will know who it was that has stolen his daughter away and why, that will make it even better.”

“You are not afraid?” she said.

“Have you ever known me to be afraid? Add that I said that he can go to hell.” he said.

“As you wish.” she said and kissed him again.

“We must tell everyone and celebrate, Andreas will be very pleased.” Felipe said.

As they approached the pavilion holding hands, everyone stopped talking and looked at them. Felipe held her hand above his head and said “We are one!”

The men cheered and the women rushed up to her and embraced her. They tugged her toward the fire and shouted a foreign word to the men. A drum beat started and they showed her the steps and how to move her hands. Slowly at first and then as she caught on more quickly. Angelica joined in and the women moved around the fire dancing to the lively beat.

Batu nodded his head toward them and smiled. “A wedding dance.” he said.

Andreas was overjoyed as was Jean Pierre. They gathered the lieutenants together and spoke as the women danced.

“She has written her father a letter telling him of her choice to remain here with me. He will rally all of his forces in search of her. We will be hunted and I will blame no man if he chooses to leave my company.” Felipe said and looked at the men.

Jean Pierre drew his sword and held it out in front of him with the tip high. “I am with you to the death.”

“As am I” Batu said and he also drew his sword and touched Jean Pierre’s sword.

Andreas, Ajamu and Tor also drew their swords ,Felipe did as well. They clicked their swords together and smiled. They slid their swords back into their scabbards and sat watching the women dance. Victoria held Felipe’s eye as she danced passed him smiling.

“Well I guess this means that your pirating days are over.” Andreas said.

“Like hell they are!” Felipe said and they all laughed.

“We shall see, women have a way of changing men, you are yet to taste her charms.” Andreas said with a smile.

The celebration lasted into the dusk and the night fell. Angelica was sitting with Jean Pierre excitedly talking to him while he smiled and stroked her face. Shayla was whispering to the princess and after a while she came and held her hand out. “Come Felipe, it is time for bed.”

He took her hand and bid everyone a good night. Andreas smiled at Batu and nodded his head, Batu smiled and nodded back. “They are a good match.” Andreas said.

The next morning Felipe saw Andreas setting up his chessboard in the pavilion. “Good morning Uncle.” he said with a smile.

“Good morning Felipe, how was your night?” Andreas asked innocently.

“It was a truly wonderful night.” he replied “But I have a question, how are we to deliver her letter to the King?”

“I have been thinking about this since we brought her here. This letter is far too important to trust to just one of the crew and by now your likeness is posted all throughout the new colonies. The Viceroy resides in Veracruz, far from our former ranch. I rarely went into town when we lived there, you did. They know your face but not mine. I will deliver the letter.” he said.

“No!” Felipe said “It is too dangerous, I do not want to loose you to the Viceroy and his men.”

“Felipe, look at me, I am an old man, do you trust my judgment?” he asked.

“I always have.” Felipe replied.

“I have given this much thought. I took my oldest set of work clothes and they have been bleaching in the sun for weeks now. I will pose as a poor Criollo and claim that I was accosted by bandits on the road as I approached town. I will say that they threatened my family unless I delivered the message, that their spies are watching me. I can do this, I will deliver the letter to the Viceroy’s hand myself.”

Felipe thought about it. Andreas went on “Jean Pierre cannot very well deliver the message, they are at war with France. Batu? Ajamu? Tor? They would not trust a letter this important to a slave and slaves cannot travel about freely. I am your best choice for this task.”

Felipe looked at his uncle “Very well, but I want to sail with you to Veracruz. If you do not return, I will kill the Viceroy.”

“You may accompany us but I ask that you do not come ashore, even if I do not return. I am an old man now and your whole life lays before you. You have a truly beautiful, wonderful woman who gave up all of the riches in the world for you. You must live and carry on the family name, you are the last son in our family.”

Felipe thought about this and stared at the fire. “Let me do this Felipe and grant me one promise please. Promise me that you will not come ashore, I will deliver the letter and return. The Viceroy’s men killed my brother. You will have your revenge as soon as that letter is delivered to the king, let me now be a part of it.”

Felipe looked at him for a moment and then nodded his head. “Very well Uncle, if anyone can pull this off, it is you.”

Andreas smiled and packed his pipe. He lit it and gently puffed it to life blowing the smoke out in thin wisps from both sides of his mouth along the stem. He took a flask and poured out two brandies and handed one to Felipe. “The King is going to shit in his pants when he gets this letter. Imagine his own daughter, the only heir to the throne rebuking him to live with a pirate.” He held his cup up and they touched cups and drank.

The princess and Angelica came to the pavilion and sat with them. “So, what are you two up to this morning?” the princess asked.

Andreas told her “We were discussing the delivery of your letter, it must be handled carefully. Do you have some more paper?”

“Yes.” she said.

“Would you please bring it here? We need to craft another letter in your hand.” She nodded and hurried back to her hut. Soon she returned with paper, a quill and the ink bottle.

“Start a new letter, this one to the Viceroy.” he said. She dipped the quill into the ink and looked at him.

Andreas began

“My Faithful servant,

I am the princess Victoria, daughter of King Philip the third, heir to the throne. I have been captured by pirates and am being held for ransom. It is imperative that you get the other letter to my father with the utmost haste. Do not break the seal, see that it is delivered to the King himself. Upon my freedom I will see that you are richly rewarded beyond your greatest dreams.

I am depending on you to help me now in my most desperate hour. Please send this correspondence to my father the King with all haste.

Victoria, Princess of Spain.

When she finished writing it she gently blew on it to dry the ink and then fanned it. Satisfied that the ink was dry she carefully folded it. She then took a candle and lit it, holding it sideways over the fold. She let several drops of wax land on the seal and then blew on it until it was almost dry. She then pressed her ring bearing the crest of the King into the soft wax. She did the same to the letter to her father and handed them to Andreas.

“We will sail tomorrow to Veracruz to deliver these letters to the Viceroy. He will see to it that they are delivered, with his greed he will probably hand deliver the letter himself so that he gets the credit and the reward.” Andreas said.

“I hope that he does for he will be sealing his own death warrant. I made it plain in the letter to my father that the Viceroy is responsible for the corruption in the new colonies.“ the princess smiled.

“You are a clever woman, his execution would be an added bonus.” Andreas told her.

“It is dangerous for you two to sail to Veracruz, you are wanted men there.” the princess took Felipe’s hand with a worried look on her face.

“Fear not my lady, we shall return. The gates of hell could not keep me from you.” Felipe said.

“We will stock the fishing sloop and sail tomorrow then. I will go and hand pick a crew.“ Andreas said. “Now Felipe, play a game of chess with me.”

They sat at the table and three of the chess pieces were gone.

“That damn monkey.” Felipe said and the princess giggled.

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CHAPTER TWELVE

THE LETTER

The next morning the ship was loaded and sailed for Veracruz. They had a good wind and made good time. Approaching the mainland they followed the shoreline at an average distance that a fishing vessel would normally do. The port at Veracruz was very busy so rather than dock they made the decision to swing into the pier and just drop Andreas off. They would anchor a short distance down the shoreline and pick him up at dusk.

Andreas put on the sun bleached clothes and an old hat. He had not shaved for a few days and a grey stubble covered his face. He had fashioned a cane out of wood and practiced walking slow with his back stooped over. He appeared a lot older and would blend in well with the many poor people of this large city.

As they approached the pier he bid Felipe and the crew goodbye as he stood beside the rail. “God be with you Uncle, please be careful.” Felipe told him.

“You must help me onto the pier, remember, I am an old man.” he said with a wink. “You go below now, you are a wanted man.”

The small sloop eased to the dock and two men held it while two others helped Andreas onto the pier and then shoved off. Andreas did not get a second look as he slowly walked down the pier on his cane. As soon as he got off of the pier he sat down as if he were exhausted from the effort. He rubbed his hands in the dirt and then on his face and clothes. He looked like just one of the hundreds of peasants walking by.

Notices of a large reward for any information concerning the whereabouts of the princess were posted everywhere. He made his way down the dirt street a short distance to the compound of the Viceroy. Two guards in uniform stood at either side of a strong wooden door. As he slowly approached them they noticed him. He stopped at the bottom of the stairs and acted like he was winded and then looked up at them.

“Be gone peon! Stand clear of the compound and be on your way.”

Andreas looked nervously over his shoulder in both directions at the crowd of people milling about the street. “Senor, I have an urgent message for the Viceroy.” he said.

They both laughed, one said “What could you possibly have to tell the Viceroy? He has no time for you, now move along!”

Andreas again shot a worried look around the crowd and said “Please, senor, bandits accosted me along the road just outside of town. They gave me two letters and said that if I did not hand deliver them to the Viceroy himself that they would kill my family. They also said that they have spies watching me right now to be sure that I deliver these letters.” He again looked around the street.

“What do these letters say?” one asked.

“I do not know, I cannot read, I am just a poor farmer who was coming into town to purchase a little flour so my wife can make tortillas. The letters are sealed.” He reached inside of his tattered vest and took out the two letters to show them.

One guard walked down the steps and took the letters. He examined the seal and turned to the other guard quickly and said “This is the seal of the King himself, the royal crest!”

He turned back to Andreas and asked “Where did you get these letters?”

“I told you senor, bandits stopped me and told me that if they do not see me hand these to the Viceroy they will kill my family. They say they are watching us right now. Please ask him to take these letters from me and spare my family.”

The guard looked hard at Andreas and handed him back the letters. “You stay right here, do not move.” He climbed the steps and hurried inside. The other guard came down the steps and stood beside Andreas who looked worried at the crowd around him.

After a few minutes a dozen guards come out of the door and made a perimeter around the front of the building. A very fat man in fine clothes came out of the door and eased his girth down the steps. His nose stuck up like a pig and his small, squinty eyes made that image even more complete. “I am the Viceroy, where are these letters?” he demanded.

Andreas bowed his head as if in fear and handed the letters to the man. The Viceroy examined the seals and his eyes got very wide. One was addressed to him and the other was addressed to the King. “Where did you get these letters?” he asked.

“Please your Excellency, As I told your men, I was just coming to town to purchase a small amount of flour when bandits accosted me. They told me that if I did not deliver them to your hand that they would kill my family. They said spies would be watching.”

The Viceroy looked around at all of the people many of which had stopped to see what was going on. “It could be any of them, what did these men look like?”

“They had scarves around their face, I could only see their eyes.” Andreas held his palms up and shook his head.

The Viceroy opened the letter to him and quickly read it. He then read it again and looked at his Captain. “This is from the Princess herself, written in her own hand! She is still alive and is being held for ransom.” He thought for a moment and said “I will deliver this letter to the King himself, this is too important to trust to anyone else. How many Galleons are in port?”

“Two, but they are slated to escort the Sanchia when she sails.” an officer said.

“The Sanchia can do with one escort. I want one ready to sail in the morning so I can deliver this to Spain immediately.”

“Yes sir.” the man said.

He turned to walk away but then Andreas played the part to the hilt. He said “Your Excellence?“ he held out a trembling hand with a pleading look on his face.

“Oh, of course.“ The Viceroy said. He turned back and took twenty reales out of his pocket and handed them to Andreas.

“Oh thank you your Excellency! Muchas gracias.” He took his hat off and took the reales.

The viceroy walked up the steps and into the door. Once inside the men all filed in after him and the first guard told Andreas to move along. He slowly walked away toward the tavern with a smile on his face, he had just sent the bastard to his death and the fool paid him twenty reales for it..

Andreas spent the evening in the tavern sipping brandy with the reales that the Viceroy had given him. A tavern this close to the port was a good place to pick up information and soon he overheard some sailors discussing the upcoming voyage. He caught the word gold being discussed and moved just a little closer so he could hear.

“I have seen at least 15 mule loads of strong chests being loaded on board myself.” one said.

“More like twenty, they have been loading her for two days now.” said another.

“I do not like sailing gold, we get no share of it and the danger of pirates gets worse all of the time.” said the first man.

They all agreed and continued to talk and drink. Andreas waited until they had changed the subject and then approached their table. “Fortune has smiled on me today, the Viceroy himself gave me some reales, can I buy you a drink?” he looked at them and they pulled up another chair anxious to get a free drink and to hear his story.

Andreas told them of the bandits and the letters and they got very excited to hear that the princess was still alive and being held for ransom. Any news was exciting in the new colonies but the kidnapping of the princess herself was a real scandal, the men hung on his every word.

After time went by Andreas shifted the conversation to their upcoming voyage. “When do you leave port?” he asked casually.

“We are scheduled to depart in three days if they do not sink her by overloading her first. I do not like sailing with a large load this time of year, tempests can come out of nowhere and sink us.” one man said and they all agreed.

“Yes, it is the season for strong storms but hopefully you are on a stout ship.” Andreas said.

“We are manning the galleon “Sanchia” and yes she is a stout ship, but the storms that rage this time of year can swallow any ship, regardless of how stout that she is, especially when she is as heavily loaded as this one is.” All of the men agreed and looked worried.

“At least we have an escort of two galleons.” another added.

“No, the Viceroy said that he was taking one in the morning to deliver the letter, you will only have one escort.” Andreas told them.

The men all began to complain about the lack of protection and Andreas said “Well may you have a safe and pleasant journey, I must be getting home now or my wife will lock me out.” he smiled.

The men laughed and thanked him for the drink. He rose and slowly walked out of the tavern down the dusty street to the port. The Sanchia was indeed riding very low in the water. Still another two strong wagons manned and escorted by guards pulled up to her dock. Again Andreas acted like he was tired and sat on the ground. He wiped his forehead and watched the soldiers wrestling the heavy trunks out of the wagon and down the dock. They struggled to get them into a small rowboat and then lifted onto the ship.

Andreas rose and walked down to the pier where he was to be picked up and watched as the sun dipped and the air cooled off. The fishing sloop approached the pier and he was helped aboard and sat down. As soon as they pushed off of the pier he went below and found Felipe anxiously awaiting him.

Felipe embraced him, glad that he was safe. He then asked Andreas about the letters and Andreas smiled. “I was right, the greedy bastard is going to deliver it himself to the King, he sails tomorrow morning on a galleon.”

Felipe and Jean Pierre smiled at this news. “I would love to see his face when the King reads that letter.” Felipe said with a smile.

“And I.” Andreas replied “Have you some brandy?”

Felipe poured them a drink and Andreas said “There is a heavily laden galleon due to leave port in three days. I spoke with the crew, it is a gold shipment going back to Spain. She is a medium size galleon named the Sanchia.”

“A gold shipment? You are sure?” Jean Pierre asked.

“The crew were talking, they had too much to drink. I myself witnessed two mule loads being delivered to her under heavy guards. Being as heavily loaded as she is, she will be sluggish and not handle well. I also only counted two other galleons in port and one will be taking the Viceroy to Spain tomorrow.”

“That only leaves one for an escort.” Felipe said and Andreas nodded his head.

“What say you Jean Pierre?” Felipe asked.

“I say that we had better make haste back home and prepare the Vengeance.”

“Agreed.” said Andreas.

They went to the deck and trimmed all of the sails plotting a straight course home.

When they landed on Tortuga Victoria and Angelica were riding Fiero on the beach waving to them. They dropped anchor and swam to shore and hugged their women. As they walked back to the pavilion Felipe told them of Andreas delivering the letters and that the Viceroy himself was in fact, hand delivering it to the King.

“I would love to see my father’s face when he reads that letter.” she said.

“I would love to see the Viceroy’s face after he reads it.” Felipe replied and they both laughed.

“It serves him right for all of the misery that he has caused. I do not feel at all sorry for him.” she said.

“Remind me never to make you angry, you can be quite treacherous.” Felipe said with a smile.

“I am so glad that you are home.” she smiled and hugged him.

“Not for long I fear, while Andreas was ashore he found out that a galleon loaded with gold will depart for Spain in three days. We intend to take her.” Felipe looked at her.

“But you just got back, another sea battle is dangerous, I do not want to lose you.” she said.

“This shipment represents years of work in the mines and the further looting in the south. Of all of the things that the King desires his gold is his main concern. Meticulous records are kept and he will be well aware of this sting. This entire ship is heavily loaded with gold so she will be sluggish and not maneuver well. More likely, she will not even put up a fight because one cannonball will send her quickly to the bottom.

There were only two other galleons in port and one leaves tomorrow to take the Viceroy, the other is a medium size galleon and we have her well outgunned. The King’s army is stretched thin with the war now, she will be ours.” Felipe said..

She listened to him and did not want to push him so she just nodded her head and said “You will be careful and return to me”

“Of course my Lady.” and he kissed her hand.

Andreas rung the bell and everyone came to the pavilion. When they all were seated in a circle he took a long stick and drew in the dirt.

“In three days a galleon loaded with gold will leave Veracruz. She only has one escort. They will take the northern trade route through the Gulf of Mexico and lay over in Havana to take on extra water for the voyage as they always do.”

He traced the route in the dirt as they all looked. He then drew the line north past the tip of Florida and north of the Bahamas.

“We will wait on the northernmost island until they pass and then fall in behind her.” He drew two small ovals being followed by another. “We will let her get two days out to sea so that no other ships can come to her aid and then we will make our run. The Sanchia is heavily laden and we can easily catch and pass her. We will be flying a Spanish flag and are in a Spanish vessel, still as we approach, her escort will slow and come between us as escorts are required to do.” he drew the positions of the ships.

“When we come alongside her escort we will fire a broadside into her. Out of thirty cannons, with some marksmanship and luck, at least four or five should strike her at or just above the waterline. The prevailing winds blow from the northwest and the waves will be breaking on her side bringing water in. She will be forced into a tight starboard turn, this will keel her over and bring the holes up out of the water.” he drew an arc as the ship turned and then another right beside it.

“We will shadow her turn and as more of her keel tilts up we will reload and fire another salvo even lower into her hull than the first. She will not be able to straighten out because these holes will go beneath the waterline as she straightens and she will sink quickly. She will be forced into a spiral. At that angle she cannot bring her guns to bear on us, they will be tilted much too high and we will close the range, all of her shots will clear our masts.

Eventually she will not be able to lean any further, any hole that we then can punch in her then will begin the sinking process. Once she starts taking on water she will not be able to maintain the turn and as she rights herself, all of the holes in her hull will take on water. She will then sink very quickly.” he stopped and looked at the men.

“And what of the other Galleon? Will she not come to her defense? Batu asked.

“She is too heavily laden to keep up with our maneuvers, let alone fight. Her first priority is the preservation of the gold and she knows that as heavily as she is loaded, one well placed cannonball will sink her. She will turn and run for the mainland. We can easily catch her.” Andreas said.

“An excellent plan messier, as always.” Jean Pierre said.

“I am glad that you approve Jean Pierre, you shall direct the cannon fire.” Andreas said and Jean Pierre nodded his head.

“I spent time talking to a few of the sailors in a tavern. They do not want to make this voyage, the ship is seriously overloaded. They fear pirates and this is the high season for tempests that come from the west. If they do come into bad weather they will sink. They do not get a share of this gold, they are just simple working men who want to return safely to their families.” Andreas paused and looked at the men.

“We shall, of course, kill any and all of the king’s soldiers who fight when we take her, but if any of the sailors surrender I think that we should spare their lives and just let them return to their families. Are there any objections?” He looked at the men and then Felipe. Felipe just nodded his head.

Andreas looked around at the men and there were no other questions. The men were smiling and talking quietly among themselves and were obviously anxious to claim their share of gold. “Very well then, we sail in the morning.”

The princess looked at Felipe and said “Come, let us go to the cove.”

They rose and walked through the village to the trail holding hands. The trees still astonished her, they seemed to rise up forever and their branches were filled with singing birds. They were obviously very old, the trunks were gigantic.

“I love this place, it is so beautiful, does it ever get cold here?” she asked.

Felipe laughed and said “No, it just gets more hot. There is a rainy season that will soon be upon us but it only lasts for several months. It will rain hard every day and then clear.”

The rounded the curve in the trail and looked up at the waterfall. “I never tire of this place, why can we not build a cabin here?” she asked.

“Well that would be superb, but everyone bathes here and they do want their privacy.” he smiled at her.

She stood with her back to him and reached behind her and untied the string of her blouse letting it fall around her ankles. She reached down and removed it placing it on a rock and unbuckled her belt. Her breasts were large enough so that Felipe could see the white globes of them on either side of her ribs. Her waist was slim and flared out into shapely hips. She let her skirt fall to her feet and picked it up also placing it on the rocks.

She then turned around and looked at him. She was absolutely beautiful. Felipe looked her up and down slowly smiling.

“Well? Are you going to just stand there or are you getting in the water with me?” She turned and waded into the pool up to her neck and then turned and looked at him.

He was already undressed and quickly waded into the water and embraced her. Her skin was soft and cool against his and they kissed. “I love this place and I love you.” she said.

“And I love you my lady.” he replied.

The next morning the princess and Angelica walked to the pavilion. Shayla was smiling at them “I have news.” she said.

“What, did a courier arrive?” Angelica said jokingly as she looked around.

“I am with child!” Shayla was literally beaming at them.

“Are you sure?” The princess asked smiling?

“Yes. I have not bled now for three months and my belly swells.” she said holding up her blouse to reveal a slightly swollen tummy.

The girls squealed with delight and hugged her. “Have you told Batu?” the princess asked.

“Have I told him?” Shayla said rolling her eyes. “He is strutting around like the rooster in the chicken coop, here he comes now.” she pointed.

Batu was striding through the village with his chest stuck out screaming loudly. “ I am going to be a father! No man will take this child from me! He will be a mighty warrior, men will drop their weapons and flee when he draws near! Ships will raise the white flag of surrender when they see him at the rail!”

“Batu!” Shayla shouted at him playfully. “Stop that nonsense and come here!”

Batu knelt beside her smiling and took her hand. “Yes my Queen?”

“What if we have a girl?”

“Then she will be just as beautiful as her mother and I will love her just the same.” he replied.

“That is all that I wanted to know, carry on.” she said smiling at him.

He rose and in a loud voice said “I am going to be a father! I am going to have a son or a daughter.” he looked at Shayla and smiled and then walked off shouting “If it is a boy, he will be a mighty warrior! Entire villages will flee at his approach! If it is a girl, she will be so beautiful that men will come from all over the world to try to woo her and win her hand!” His voiced trailed off as he walked through the village still shouting.

“Well, he is happy.” Angelica said smiling.

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CHAPTER THIRTEEN

GOLD

The next morning they loaded the ship with food and fresh water. When it was fully loaded they all bid goodbye to their wives, weighed anchor and sailed out of the lagoon. As they made the turn toward the open sea Felipe, Jean Pierre, Batu, Ajamu and Tor stood at the back rail and watched the women standing on the shore.

Angelica, Shayla and the princess were standing together, the princess said “I fear for their safety, I worry that I will never see him again.”

Shayla told her. “Those are some of the most fierce fighting men that have ever roamed the seas. Andreas has spent many hours teaching them the art of the sword and I have watched them. No Spaniard is their equal and they are fearless. Do not worry, our men will come home.” The Vengeance rounded the point and slipped out of sight and the women walked back to the village.

They followed the northern coast of Cuba then turned toward the Bahamas. They sailed past the northernmost island along the shipping lanes. Andreas was at the wheel and he called Felipe and Batu to him. “We will round the northern point of the island and drop the two of you off close to the shore. You can swim there and watch from within the tree line. We will anchor on the south side of the island so the ship will be concealed behind the trees. When they pass you can cross the island and swim to the ship, it is a very narrow island. We will then fall in behind them and catch them easily.”

Felipe and Batu nodded their heads. They steered northeast until the largest of the Bahamas came into sight and then skirted the northern side. They swung close to the island and slowed. Felipe and Batu were standing at the rail preparing to jump when Jean Pierre walked up to them.

“Bring us back some fresh crabs.” he smiled.

“I will keep that in mind.” Batu said with a smile.

“Take care my friends.” Jean Pierre told them. The two men nodded, looked at Andreas and Jean Pierre and vaulted over the side. As they swam toward the bank Andreas had the sails trimmed, they sailed northeast then turned around the tip of the island.

Once ashore Felipe and Batu concealed themselves in the trees and watched the water to the west. The day slowly passed and in the mid afternoon Batu said “There.” he pointed to the west. Two small dots were on the horizon. As they slowly approached they could make out the two ships. One was slightly ahead and the other followed off of her port side. As they got closer it was clear that the trailing vessel was indeed riding very low in the water.

“That would be the Sanchia.” Felipe said. “We will wait and be sure.”

Finally the ships passed by their vantage point and it was plain to see that this was the vessel described by Andreas. They ran south across the island, when they broke through the tree line onto the beach the Vengeance was anchored just to their west. Trotting down the beach they waded out into the water and swam toward her. A rope ladder was lowered over her side. Andres was watching them approach with Jean Pierre. They climbed the ladder and sat down on the deck trying to catch their breath.

“They just passed not a half hour ago.” Felipe said.

“There is no need to hurry. I want them to be several hours ahead of us. They saw no ship trailing them and I do not suddenly want to appear and arouse their suspicion.” Andreas said.

They spent the evening on decks with the ship gently rocking on it’s anchors and ate. As the sun began to get low in the sky they weighed anchor and sailed to the northeast. Clearing the island they entered the shipping lane and steered to the northeast, the two ships were out of sight.

For two days and nights they held their course and speed and on the morning of the third day unfurled all of their sails. The big ship surged forward with her bow cleaving the waves. At midday the ships appeared off of their bow. They had the advantage of speed as the Sanchia was so heavily loaded she was moving very sluggishly.

On board the escort ship the Amparo, Captain Torres saw the vessel approaching and the Admiral Cantu approached him. Torres said “She is one of ours, one of the new class of large galleons. There is nothing to be concerned about.”

Admiral Cantu said “Yes, I would suppose so, no pirates are capable of taking such a large ship and there is no report of one missing. Still, position yourself between them and the Sanchia.”

“As you wish.” he replied and tacked his sails slowing so that the cumbersome Sanchia could slowly forge ahead. She sailed past the escort ship and Torres once again turned his sails into the wind and swept her to the port side and slightly behind the Sanchia.

“She is approaching fast, she must have urgent business back in Spain.” Torres said.

“As she passes, slowly increase your speed and keep us between her and the Sanchia.” Admiral Cantu told him.

The Vengeance was pulling up quickly, below decks Jean Pierre watched the progress. The men were ready at their cannons and when they came evenly alongside of her he shouted “Fire!”

A thunderous roar filled the air and white smoke belched from her starboard side. Captain Torres could not believe his eyes as he saw the fire and then the smoke come from the ship followed by the roar of her cannons rolling across the water. A whistling sound approached as the shots blasted into his ship and rocked the ship to starboard. Her mizzenmast was snapped one meter from the deck and fell in a tangle of rigging. Wood splinters from her hull flew into the air and the wind blew them onto the deck.

“Battle stations! Battle stations!” Cantu shouted out. “Return fire!” Men ran down the stairwell and began to scurry up the ratlines to the platforms and crow’s nests with bows.

“Take the wheel!” Torres shouted to the first mate. He ran to the port side and looked over to survey the damage, he counted four holes at the waterline and three slightly above it. Water was pouring in the lower holes and as waves washed against her hull it was also coming into the three upper holes. He ran back and took the wheel.

“Go below and get me a damage report! Have the carpenters start emergency repairs!” he told the first mate.

“Aye Captain!” the man shouted and ran down the stairs. He looked at the ship that had fired on them, they had tacked their sails parallel to the wind and were slipping back. Even before his damage report got back Torres could see his masts leaning ominously to the port side. He knew that he was taking on water so he turned her hard to starboard to raise the holes out of the water.

The ship keeled over and she went into a tight turn as the water shifted in her hull. He looked nervously at the other ship, she was furling her sails and beginning to match his turn. He saw what they were doing but had no choice other than to continue his turn. Again she came alongside of his ship with her superior number of sails, he heard Admiral Cantu shout from below “Fire!”

Her cannons blasted and he anxiously watched the other ship for signs of a hit. At the same time he again saw fire and smoke belch from his pursuer, again the thunder rolled across the water. A small section of the other ships foremast was blown off as all of his other shots sailed over her. Again, the Amparo was rocked as more cannons found their mark on her now exposed hull.

He could not leave the wheel, he tried to force her into a tighter turn to raise more of her port side out of the water but the wheel was at the stops. He felt the ship begin to slow and then slowly tilt back up straight. The speed of her tilt increased as she came onto an even keel and then she began to heel over to port. He heard water rushing in from below decks as smoke began to gush up through the hatches.

As her rail began to touch the water he again saw the other ship fire all of her guns. He heard the whistling sound again and the decks were blown into splinters as the shots came in. The foremast was shorn off at the deck and fell off of the port side dragging her down even faster as the rigging pulled upward on the starboard side. She settled lower into the water and then slid beneath the surface as men tried to find something to cling to so they could stay afloat.

Aboard the Vengeance the men were cheering wildly and Jean Pierre had run up on deck to watch her sink. “Now that is a fine sight.” he said with a smile.

“A fine sight indeed.” said Felipe. “We sent her to the bottom and did not lose one man. We have minimal damage to one upper mast.”

Andreas wheeled the ship around and made a course behind the fleeing Sanchia. He was gaining on her very fast so he told Felipe to man the bow guns and fire a warning shot over her. Felipe and Jean Pierre ran forward.

The Captain of the Sanchia, Captain Gomez was arguing with the Admiral Zapata.

“We cannot outrun her! She just sank our escort and has very little damage. Look at the size of her, she has twice as many guns as we do and three times the speed. We must surrender.”

“We cannot surrender! I am in charge of the cargo and we must not let them take this gold. The King would have all of our heads!” Zapata said.

“The sea and the sharks will claim us all very quickly if we do not surrender. One shot from her and we will flounder. We are too overloaded to fight or even flee. I told you that this cargo was twice what we should be carrying. We have no choice but to surrender.”

A shot rang out from behind and they turned to look at the vengeance. Wisps of white smoke were sweeping past her bow and along the sides from her forward cannons. They heard the whistling sound of the approaching cannon balls and heard a popping sound as the upper sail on her mainmast punched forward and then snapped back with a hole in it.”

“That was just a warning shot. They will now lower their guns and our stern is the weakest part of this ship. I beg you Zapata, do not let all of my men die, surrender this ship, let them have the gold.”

Zapata thought and looked at the Captain. “We cannot trade cannon shots with them, they will surely sink us. But we can fight them man to man when they try to board us. I will not give up without a fight.”

“Do not expect my men to help, they are sailors, not soldiers.” Gomez said. “I am going to furl my sails now before they blow us out of the water.” Zapata said nothing so Gomez shouted for the sails to be furled. Zapata ran forward shouting orders.

“They are stopping.” Felipe said.

“Yes but they have not raised a surrender flag. They know it is futile to flee or exchange cannon fire with us. They intend to fight man to man.” Andreas said. “Assemble your lieutenants and stage them along the ship. Prepare to board her and do battle.”

Felipe and Jean Pierre ran forward shouting orders. Men climbed up the ratlines and pulled their bows up. Small arms were staged along the decks and every available man was brought on board. As Andreas closed the distance small guns began firing from the Sanchia’s deck. They were still out of range so the men of the Vengeance held their fire.

Closer they came and Jean Pierre cupped his hands as he lit a thin cigar. He puffed it to life and handed it to Felipe. “For luck my friend.” Felipe stuck it in his mouth and smiled as his teeth clenched it. Jean Pierre lit another for himself.

“We are coming into range, fire the small arms!” Felipe shouted. All along the deck guns fired and a few men aboard the Sanchia fell. The soldiers aboard the Sanchia returned fire and he heard cries along his deck. The difference between the two ships was that all of the men aboard the vengeance were fighting men. Half of the men aboard the Sanchia were soldiers, the rest were just sailors.

They were coming alongside of her and arrows flew from both ships. A few men screamed and fell from the platforms of both ships as arrows rained onto the deck of both. But the men aboard the Sanchia were outnumbered by the number of archers and fighters. Soon the captain Gomez tied the wheel off and shouted for all of his men to retreat to the starboard rail.

A full half of the men aboard the Sanchia had just ran and a cry went up from the men of the Vengeance. Small arms were still taking their toll on both ships when six grappling hooks on ropes sailed through the air from the Vengeance. The men pulled the ships together and soon they were close enough to jump from ship to ship.

The men aboard the Sanchia dropped their slow loading guns and drew their swords. Men from the Vengeance scrambled over the railing and poured onto the decks of the Sanchia. The tide of fighting men forced the Spaniards backwards. They were outnumbered two to one. It was hopeless, still Zapata shouted out encouragement to his men. Felipe heard him and saw his Admirals uniform.

He fought his way to the Admiral as a few of the Spaniards tried to form a shield around their officer. Felipe stepped into them and a blade came from his right stabbing him deep in his shoulder. The blade slid along his ribs under the skin along his back. It pinned his arm and he could not raise it. A soldier stepped in front of him and raised his sword. Felipe raised his left arm as a shield, he would sacrifice the arm to stop the blow. Suddenly a blade appeared thrusting out of the mans chest. The man screamed and fell to the deck as Jean Pierre pulled his blade out quickly.

Felipe turned back toward the Admiral and his men, together he and the Frenchman drove them forward. Zapata was good and he fought bravely but he was no match for either of them. When the last of his men fell both Felipe and Jean Pierre stabbed him in his chest. His sword fell to the deck with a rattle and Felipe told him. “You fought well but died for the King’s gold.”

Zapata’s eyes rolled up and he fell backwards onto the deck. They turned and the only men standing were the sailors crowded along the starboard rail with their hands up. They were filled with fear, that was apparent. Captain Gomez came forward and stood before them.

“We surrender, we are sailors not soldiers. My men only want to return home to their wives and children. The ship is yours.”

Felipe approached him and said “We have no intention of killing sailors, you are just men trying to make an honest living. Instruct your men to unload the gold and silver and load it aboard our ship. After the gold and silver they are to unload all cannons, powder and shot. Keep your food and water. We have plenty.”

The men of the Vengeance began throwing the dead Spaniards overboard as the men of the Sanchia expressed thanks and went below. Soon they were struggling to pass the heavy, sturdy crates aboard the Vengeance. When the first one was passed over Andreas picked the lock and held up a bar of shining gold. The men cheered loudly and he put the ingot back into the chest and sent it below.

It took a full five hours to bring up the last of the gold. The Sanchia was riding high in the water now, the bulk barely affected the much larger Vengeance. Felipe jumped back over the rail onto the Sanchia and found Captain Gomez. “You have some explaining to do.” he said.

“That I do.” he replied. “But we are not expected to fight, just to sail the ship. If the King forced us to fight there would be a severe shortage of sailors. I do thank you for sparing the lives of my men, most sailors do not survive an attack by pirates”

Felipe said “Well when you make your report, say that the pirate Felipe Antonio Montoya and his men sunk your escort, killed all of the soldiers aboard the Sanchia and took the King’s gold, all of it. This is in revenge for the killing of my father, Juan Carlos Montoya, an innocent fisherman murdered by the King‘s men. Can you remember that?”

Gomez said “I will write it down immediately.”

Felipe turned to walk away then stopped, he looked back at Gomez and said “And tell him that his daughter the princess Victoria is doing well and is very happy in her new home.”

Gomez’s eyes went wide. The news of the princess missing was widely spread and this was indeed news. Felipe vaulted over the rail and they released the ship and cast off. They pulled away from the Sanchia and made their way back to the west southwest to throw off captain Gomez and not give away their home base. After they lost sight of the Sanchia they headed back to the southeast toward Tortuga.

Captain Gomez felt fortunate to have survived an attack by pirates and not lost any of his men, this was very unusual. He sailed back into Veracruz and went straight to the Harbor Masters office. He told of what happened and filed his written report. The Harbor Master looked at the manifest of the Sanchia when she left.

This detailed the cargo as including 456 kilograms of gold bullion, 16,470gold coins, 120 gold snuff boxes, 52 kilograms of virgin silver, 11 kilograms of silver ore, five pair of diamond earrings, a diamond ring and several chests of precious stones and pearls.

This was a huge loss for the King, he would be furious. When Gomez was finished with his report he went to the tavern for a drink to settle his nerves. His men had already arrived and the word had spread about the attack and loss of the treasure. The fact that the crew had been spared and the princess was still alive but not a captive was also being discussed by everyone in the tavern.

The name of Felipe Montoya was on everyone’s lips but the men saw him as a fair man who did not kill merchantmen. The news of his fathers murder by the Viceroy’s men was also being discussed. Many had been wronged by the Viceroy and they were actually happy and excited that someone was striking back in a way that really hurt the King. Drinks were toasted in his name, he was beginning to be somewhat of a folk hero among the common man.

Aboard the Vengeance Felipe knew nothing of this nor did he care. They made the island of Tortuga on the morning of the fourth day, pulled into the secluded lagoon and dropped their anchors. It took many trips with the lifeboats to transport all of the strongboxes to the pavilion but they were done by mid evening.

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One by one the boxes were opened and the gold bullion was stacked and counted as well as the coins and precious stones. Andreas distributed the gold and silver evenly among the overjoyed men, they had never seen such wealth. The precious stones were also divided, they cared not for the earrings so Andreas gave a pair to Shayla, the princess, Angelica, Ajamu’s wife and Tor’s.

The men all ran off into the jungle in different directions to hide and bury their share of the bounty. One at a time they returned and were ready to go to the town, celebrate and get drunk. They walked off laughing through the jungle together.

The sun was sinking over the water and fires were started. Andreas sat with Felipe, Batu, Jean Pierre and the women. They recounted the events to them as Andreas cleaned and dressed Felipe’s injury. “I owe you my life, he almost had me.” Felipe told Jean Pierre.

Jean Pierre said “You owe me nothing.” and poured them all a drink. “Here’s to our good fortune.” he said and they all toasted and drank.

Chapter Fifteen

The King

Felipe and the princess were sleeping in their cabin when a noise woke them up. Felipe looked at the foot of the bed just in time to see the monkey Puco removing his belt with the shiny brass buckle from his pants. He tried to catch him but Puco ran out of the door with his belt, his tail whipping out behind him.

“That little bastard!” Felipe said and laid back down. The princess giggled and covered her head under the sheet.

It took two and one half months for the Viceroy to make the voyage from Veracruz to Madrid. Upon his arrival he went to the harbor master and demanded immediate transportation to the castle. When he arrived he summoned the Master of the Guards and told him that he had an urgent message for the King. He was detained in the outer chamber while the Master of the Guards went to the King.

The King was in the great hall sitting on his throne and eating while a jester juggled balls to entertain him. The Master of the Guards approached the King and whispered in his ear. The King waved his hand at the jester who left the hall.

He told the guard “He claims to be the Viceroy of the new colonies? I did not summon him, he should not have left his post.”

“He states that he has a most urgent message sire.” the guard said.

“Bring him in.” the King said.

The guard bowed and walked down the long carpet and out of the door. The King wondered if it was news of his daughter, he had almost given up hope of ever finding her alive and this caused his expectations to rise.

After a brief period the door opened up and an immense, fat man waddled toward the king flanked by two guards. It had been four years since the King had appointed him and he had grown obese. He slowly walked toward the king then struggled to kneel on one knee before him and bowed his head.

“Your majesty, I have a most urgent message for you. It was far too important to trust to anyone else so I chose to hand deliver it myself.” he said.

“Well give it to me.” the King said anxiously.

The Viceroy reached inside of his vest and pulled out the folded piece of paper. “It bears the royal crest of the princess herself your majesty, she is alive and being held hostage.” he held the paper out and the King rose and took it quickly.

He looked at the wax and it was indeed the mark of the royal crest. “Where did you get this?” he asked.

“A pauper was accosted by bandits just outside of Veracruz, they had him deliver it under the threat of harm to his family.” he said. He smiled as the King examined the seal.

The King hurriedly slid his finger between the folds and broke the seal then sat down on his throne. The Viceroy watched as his eyes quickly slid across the lines. The King’s brows knitted together and his eyes took on a furious look. When he finished reading it he looked back at the Viceroy and said “This is all your fault!”

The Viceroy was shocked “What? What is my fault?” he stammered.

“My daughter has been taken captive by pirates because of your corruption! This never would have happened if not for your actions!” the King trembled with rage.

“How can I be to blame for this?” he asked.

The king looked back at the letter and read it aloud.

Father,

Our ship was attacked by pirates and Angelica and I were taken captive. We have been treated very well and are in good health. These are not ordinary men father, they are noble men who all hate you and for good reason. They know that you would pay a very large ransom for me but they do not seek wealth, only revenge for the wrongs that you and your men have perpetrated against the common man.

I have learned much from them. I am now friends with those who were once slaves and I now know that you make money from their sorrow. They are people, just like you and I, not animals to be bought and sold. You condone this and I cannot forgive you for this.

The man who leads these pirates was falsely accused of piracy when it was obvious that he was innocent. His father murdered by the Viceroy’s own men. His father was an honest man, a fisherman yet they killed him for money. The Viceroy encourages arrests of men for false charges just so he can seize their land and all of their assts. He is becoming a very rich man by oppressing the honest people there. This is your corrupt government in the new colonies.

My man has sworn to avenge his father’s death. I understand his hatred of you and your men and I have become to respect and to love him and will give him my hand in marriage if he asks for it. I do not intend to come home. I will stay here with him. May God forgive you for your crimes against humanity, I never shall.

Your Daughter,

Victoria.

The king looked at the Viceroy with angry eyes. “This is all your fault! I trusted you to manage my affairs in the new colonies and you arrest men for false charges so that you can seize their land and assets? This man’s father was killed for money and now he hates me and swears revenge! He would never have become a pirate and my daughter would never have been captured and turned against me if not for your greed.”

The Viceroy was speechless, his moment of glory and great reward had been snatched away from him and now he feared for his life.

The King looked back at the letter and read a few lines to himself again while the Viceroy trembled at his feet. The king looked up and said. “Assemble the people in the square, I want all to see what happens when you steal from the King and betray his trust. I want him drawn and quartered, call me when he is prepared.”

“Your Highness! I know nothing of this, I am innocent, I am your faithful servant.”

The King’s anger increased and he shouted “Now you call my daughter a liar? You will sit on the Jacobs chair before you die. Take him away!” The king pointed his finger toward the door and two guards roughly pulled the Viceroy away while he begged the King to spare him. The door slammed shut and he again looked at the letter.

The Cardinal stood silently beside him. “What is your council on this?” the King asked.

The Cardinal was a shrewd man and told the King what he knew he wanted to hear. “Obviously they have deceived your daughter into thinking that she does not want to return. It is not unusual for people to begin to form a bond with their captors, they have no choice and fear for their life. We must get your daughter back from these evil men.”

The King summoned his Admiral of the navy. When he appeared he read the letter to the Admiral and said “I want my daughter found and quickly, send all available ships to scourge the Caribbean and find her.”

“Your Highness, the war does not go well, we cannot spare ships, all are being utilized just to defend us and to bring needed commerce. There are hundreds of islands in the Caribbean and they may also be anywhere ashore.”

“You are telling me that we cannot spare one ship?” the King asked angrily.

“Sire, even a hundred ships could search for years and not cover one tenth of the territory in which they could be hiding. But of course we can spare a ship”

The King looked down and thought. “ I want notices printed, hundreds of them. They are to be posted at every port and settlement of the new colonies. We shall offer a very large reward to this man and amnesty for his crimes if he brings my daughter home. He will be forgiven for his crimes and be a very wealthy man. Also send for my assassin”

“As you wish” the Admiral said “I will have a scribe and the assassin sent to you immediately.” he turned and walked away.

Bells began to ring summoning people to the square in front of the King’s royal hall.

After an hour the door opened and a guard marched up to the King and said “Everything is assembled Sire.”

The King rose, walked out to the square and climbed the steps to his seat. A large crowd had assembled and in the center of the square was a long, stout table and a large pile of firewood . The Jacob’s Chair sat nearby. A long, sharp pyramid capped with steel, it’s corners sharpened to a fine edge. A platform had been erected with an arm sticking over the point of the Jacob’s Chair. A pulley had a rope going through it that ran back to the Viceroy’s arms which were tied together. His feet were tied separately and these ropes hung to the ground with men holding them. He was stripped naked and his huge, white belly hung loosely over his groin.

The King said in a loud voice “This is the former Viceroy of the new colonies. I have learned that he has been falsely arresting people and seizing their land and assets for his own gain. I want everyone to see what becomes of a man who betrays the trust of his office and steals from the King.”

The King nodded his head and the rope was pulled by three men lifting the Viceroy off of the platform swinging him out over the sharp point of the chair. The men on the ground pulled the ropes spreading his legs while the men on the platform slowly lowered him down. He tried to struggle and move but it was futile, they guided him so that the sharp point pressed into his ass. The men lowered him and he screamed as it penetrated him. Blood flowed down his legs and began to drip off of his feet and they stopped and tied the rope off and let him hang screaming for a few minutes.

Again they lowered him more and he was screaming in agony as he was being penetrated and cut. They held him again and let him struggle, cutting himself even more. Again he was lowered. This went on for a half hour until the point was a half of a meter inside of him. The King gave a signal and he was pulled off of the point and swung to the side, then lowered to the ground.

Four men approached him and drug him away from the platform as the platform was wheeled away. He was placed on the table and his hands and feet were bound while the large fire was lit. They waited for the fire to get burning and then the executioner approached him wearing a black hood. He took a very long, sharp knife and cut the man’s genitals off while he screamed and struggled. He held them up for the Viceroy to see and then threw them into the fire.

Slowly he drew the blade down from the man’s chest to below his naval. Intestines bulged from his immense belly. The man then drew the knife across his hips, then his chest at the top and bottom of the first incision as the man screamed. He grabbed the sides of the incision and roughly pulled the skin away exposing his intestines. He began pulling out sections, cutting them off and throwing them in the fire.

His bladder was cut out, his kidneys and his liver. String was tied around the arteries to keep him from bleeding too fast and all were thrown into the fire. The Viceroy was bleeding badly now and would die very soon, the man cut out his gall bladder and threw it also. He quickly sliced open the man’s diaphragm and reached up and grabbed his still beating heart. There was one last, painful scream as the executioner ripped his heart out and threw it into the fire. His eyes rolled back in his head and he died. The King rose and walked away as they untied him and threw his body into the fire throwing more wood upon him.

The King returned to the Grand Hall to find a scribe and the assassin Felix Chavez waiting for him. Chavez was a very tall, muscular man with a reputation for cruelty. His black hair was cropped short and combed straight back. He had a moustache and goatee trimmed to a point. His small eyes had a feral look about them, he was a formidable looking man. They both bowed as he approached and sat on his throne and then they were seated.

The King looked at the scribe and told him “I want hundreds of documents printed with all haste. There is to be a reward of 50,000 reales for any man who captures or kills Felipe Antonio Montoya. Should Montoya choose to surrender to the Viceroy he will be spared and receive the reward himself. He will return my daughter and will be given a large estate here in Spain. He will receive amnesty for any and all charges held against him. You may go now.”

“Yes Sire.” The man rose, bowed and left the hall.

The King waited for him to close the door and then looked at Chavez. “You are to find and kill Felipe Montoya and return my daughter.”

“As you wish Sire, and what if he chooses to surrender as your documents state?”

“Then he will be killed as soon as he gets here if he is foolish enough to do so.” the king said. “Go to the Admiral and have one of our new, large warships assigned to you and begin laying on provisions immediately. I want you to sail as soon as possible. Do not return without my daughter and do not fail me. You will be greatly rewarded when you succeed.”

The man rose, bowed and walked out of the hall. The King looked back at the letter from his daughter and read it again. He wondered about what kind of man Felipe was to have won his daughter over. He also was very disturbed that she had befriended slaves. Even if she were to be returned, he feared that she would never love him again but he still wanted her back.

He also realized that Felipe had a ship or ships large enough to have overtaken the double compliment of soldiers that he had sent to escort his daughter. The fact that his father was murdered made him a vengeful man as it would any man but with such a new force of men roaming the Caribbean he also worried about moving his gold through the area. Piracy had plagued him and had been getting worse, but now with such a hate filled man seeking revenge he feared that he would lose even more treasure if he sailed it through the Caribbean.

He took a map from a drawer and unrolled it on the table and studied the area. Instead of sailing the gold through the Caribbean or the Gulf of Mexico, he could have all of it shipped overland to the fort at New Granada and then taken by the shipping lanes that followed the coast past Aruba and Trinidad on to the Atlantic. It would take longer hauling it by land but he had enough soldiers to guard it well, he had never lost any on land.

He took out a quill and drafted a dispatch to the Commander of the Fort at New Granada instructing him to prepare to receive all of the gold coming from Panuco overland. He was to load this gold as well as the gold stored in his fort in New Granada and ship it immediately through the Atlantic passing. He then wrote another dispatch to the Commander of the fort at Panuco ordering the entire stock of gold to be shipped overland to the fort at New Granada. He folded the documents and lit a candle and let the drops fall on the seam and then blew gently on it. When the wax was almost hard he pressed his ring into the wax leaving the royal crest.

He called for a courier and instructed him to go to the dock and summon the Captain of any Galleon that was preparing to sail. The courier left and after several hours he returned with Captain Munoz. They bowed and he excused the scribe. “What ship is under your command?” the King asked.

“The Esmeralda, we arrived from the new colonies just this Tuesday.” Captain Munoz said.

“I want you to take these documents, see that they get delivered into the hands of the Commanders at the forts in New Granada and Panuco, deliver them yourself. See to it that they do not fall into enemy hands, if attacked by pirates you must fight or flee, you are not to surrender, is that clear?”

“Yes Sire, my ship is slated to sail on Friday as soon as we load the provisions bound for the new colonies.”

“You will sail today! I do not care about the provisions! These documents are of the utmost importance and I want you to leave immediately!” the king said furiously.

“Yes Sire.” the man said, bowed deeply and left the room.

The King turned to the Cardinal and said “I am appointing you as the new Viceroy of the new colonies. I want you to sail with Chavez. I trust that you will serve me better than my last one.” he said looking at the man.

“As you wish Sire, I will serve you faithfully.” He turned and walked away to make preparations to leave.

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CHAPTER FIFTEEN

NEO

Time passed quickly on the island and life there was good. Shayla was now nine months pregnant. Angelica and the princess were sitting with Shayla when she suddenly grabbed at her lower abdomen and winced. “I just got a pain.“ she said. A few minutes later she had another and she stood up holding onto a post that held up the roof of the pavilion. A sudden gush of water came from under her skirt and ran down her legs to the ground.

“We need to get you to your cabin where you will be comfortable.” the princess said. They held her hands as they walked to the cabin but shortly before she got there she stopped and doubled over in pain. They anxiously waited for the pain to pass, got her inside and laid her on her bed.

“What do we do?” Angelica asked, “I have never birthed a baby before.”

“Go get Mia, Ajamu’s wife. At least she has seen a few children born in the past.” Shayla said.

Angelica nodded her head and ran out of the room. Victoria poured some cool water on a piece of cloth and began to wipe the sweat from Shayla’s forehead. Shayla began to moan and then hold back screams regularly as the contractions came and went. Soon Mia came hurrying into the room with Angelica and raised Shayla’s skirt to look.

“The baby will be coming soon, look.” she said. Angelica and the princess looked and there was a small patch of hair showing as Shayla dilated. “We will need clean water, go and boil a pot of water and get some clean linens, I will need a sharp knife and string also.”

Angelica and the princess ran out to get what was needed and saw Batu returning from the river with some fish on a rope. “The baby is coming!” Victoria shouted at him. His eyes went wide and Victoria pointed toward his cabin. He dropped the fish and ran toward his cabin.

Batu ran inside and took his wife’s hand. She tried to smile at him when a sharp pain hit her and she screamed out and rolled onto her side. “Do something!” he shouted at Mia.

“The baby will come when it is ready, you need to get out of here and let me do this without your screaming distracting me!” Mia said.

“Please go, wait outside Batu, I will be fine.” Shayla said.

Batu did not like leaving his wife but he hated even more seeing her in pain. He went outside and the word had spread. Andreas, Felipe, Jean Pierre, Ajamu and Tor were standing outside of the cabin. “Come, join us.” Andreas said and they all sat on the ground. Angelica came back with the steaming water and shortly after that the princess came back carrying the rest of the supplies.

Shayla screamed loudly causing Batu to get up and began to pace back and forth looking anxiously at the cabin. Time drug by and now it had been several hours, Shayla’s screams got louder. Batu went up and knocked at the door.

Angelica opened the door and looked at him. “She is having a very hard time, the baby seems like it is stuck and cannot come out.” she said gravely.

“What will we do? Batu asked.

“We could use some more hot water, would you please boil another pot?” she asked.

Batu ran back to the pavilion and began to boil water. He could still hear Shayla screaming from there. The water began to boil and he walked the pot back to the door. Mia came to the door and stepped outside. Her hands were bloody and Batu looked into her eyes.

“Dip this cloth into the water and clean my hands quickly, I do not care if it burns.” she said.

She winced as Batu dipped the cloth into the steaming water, rung it out and then wiped her hands. Andreas approached them and asked how Shayla was doing.

“She is not doing well, the baby should have been born by now, it is as if it is stuck inside of her. She is getting exhausted” Mia said.

Batu looked at Andreas and said “Have you ever delivered a baby?”

“Yes, several on the Atlantic crossing when I was a Captian.” Andreas replied.

“Would you please help my wife?” he asked.

“Of course Batu, I will do what I can. Go back and wait with the men.” Andreas walked into the cabin with Mia.

Shayla was lying on her back and Andreas stroked her head, she smiled up at him “I must look if I’m going to help.” he said. Shayla just nodded her head and winced as another contraction gripped her and she screamed out in pain.

Andreas parted her legs and looked, she was fully dilated and a patch of hair the size of a small grapefruit was showing. He waited for the contraction to pass and then had Mia and Angelica grasp her knees and pull them up slightly. “When the next contraction occurs, pin her knees tightly in your elbows and pull them up wide beside her shoulders” he told them.

The next contraction began and they pressed her knees up high beside her shoulders. This posture put more pressure pushing down on the baby and finally, slowly, the top of a forehead emerged, the baby was facing down. The contraction passed and Shayla struggled to catch her breath. Another one seized her and again the women pressed her knees up hard by her shoulders.

More of the forehead emerged and the baby’s head rotated to the side, a set of eyebrows appeared facing Shayla’ right leg. “It is coming, once again Shayla.” Andreas said. Another contraction hit her and now the baby’s head was sliding out having passed the largest part. Andreas cradled the head gently in his hands. The head was fully out now and the eyes opened up and looked.

“Oh my God, the eyes just opened!” The princess said and Shayla struggled forward to try to look.

“Lean back, it is almost over.” Andreas said. He quickly cleaned the babies mouth out with a clean cloth. Another contraction came and Andreas gently pulled down on the head bending the neck and suddenly the top shoulder popped out. Shayla screamed out in pain. Andreas did not wait for the next contraction, he now gently pulled upward on the baby’s head and the bottom shoulder popped out as well.

The baby slid smoothly out, Angelica told her “It is a boy! He is huge! No wonder he was stuck!”

Andreas quickly cleaned the babies nose and mouth again with a clean cloth and dried it off. He tied the cord in two places with the string and cut it. The baby let out a small cry and Andreas said “You are bleeding badly, suckle your baby, it will make the bleeding stop. She took her baby to her breast and tears of joy ran down her cheeks. Andreas held a clean cloth against her while he waited then delivered the placenta.

The princess and Angelica went to the door and opened it. Batu was standing there with Felipe and Jean Pierre holding his arms by the elbows, his eyes were huge. The three of them looked like frightened boys instead of the fierce fighting men that they were.

“It is a boy!” they both shouted.

“A boy! A boy! My son!” Batu shouted and hugged his friends.

The women approached him and the princess said “He is huge, like you. That is why she was having such a hard time but they are fine, go and meet your son.”

“Come! Come!” Batu said and the three of them walked into the cabin. Shayla took the baby from her breast and handed it to him. Batu gently cradled the child in his huge arms and smiled at him, against his chest was the only time that this child looked small. “He is huge.” Batu said.

“Like his father.” Shayla smiled.

Batu unfolded the cloth and peeked at the babies genitals, “Yes” he said smiling “He is surely my son.” the men all laughed. Batu held the child above his head in his palms as his father had taught him to meet God and for God to bless the child. In a loud voice he said “Behold! The only thing greater than thyself! I name you Neo.” He looked at Felipe and Jean Pierre, smiled and said “That means Gift.”

He passed the child to Felipe who held it awkwardly in his arms. Jean Pierre stroked the boys cheek gently. The girls began to giggle at them, the sight of them with a small child just looked funny to them. Felipe just smiled at them and after a few minutes handed the child back to Batu. Batu gently kissed the boy and then handed it back to his mother.

“Go now and give me some privacy so I can feed my baby.” Shayla said.

Andreas stood up and smiled at her and stroked the boys head. Together the men walked out of the cabin and to the pavilion. “We will feast and celebrate the birth of your son tonight” Felipe said. “Come, let us slaughter some hogs and prepare them to be cooked.” He slapped Batu on the back and the men went to the hog pen.

They brought a bucket of slop and poured it over the side of the pen. The hogs rushed up to eat and when they did, nooses were slipped around their necks and they were lanced. Once they bled out they were drug to the gate and removed. Hauled up a pulley by the hind legs they were quickly cleaned and skinned. The meat was washed and then rubbed down with salt. Fires were built and the hogs were tied to poles and suspended above the fires and slowly turned.

The women gathered fruits, nuts and vegetables and began to cook. After a while Shayla and the girls came to the pavilion and sat down. Neo was wrapped up in a soft blanket and Shayla cradled him, rocking and humming softly. Soon the food was ready and everyone ate heartily and then began to drink brandy and rum.

Night was setting and the stars began to shine. Sparks from the fire rose into the sky as the night birds began to sing. Jean Pierre said, “The men are getting restless, they thirst for some adventure, they are not accustomed to sitting on dry land for very long.”

“I agree, it is time to strike out against the King again just to let him know that we have not forgotten.” Felipe added.

“I will drink to that.” Batu said, raising his mug to his lips.

“You will drink to anything, it seems.” Andreas said with a smile.

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Chapter Sixteen

Night Moves

The adjustment on Felipe’s sextant was coming loose so he took it to shore so he could repair it. He got his tools and went to the pavilion for the better light. He placed the sextant on the table and looked into his tool kit for some pliers. When he looked back the little monkey Puco had stolen his sextant and was running toward the jungle. He had lost many items to the monkey over the months but he really needed this sextant so he gave chase.

The monkey was running toward the trail with his tail whipping out behind him and Felipe feared that once he made it to the trees he would never see his sextant again but to his surprise the monkey stayed on the ground. As the trail began to rise the monkey darted off of the trail on the left side into some thick bushes. Felipe ran through the bushes and discovered the opening to a cave.

The opening was slightly taller than a man but narrow. He peered inside but saw only blackness. He considered sliding his feet along the floor but realized that was useless because he would not be able to see once he was inside. Right then the monkey darted out between his legs and ran back toward the village without his sextant. At least he knew where it was now and he went back to the village for a lantern.

He saw Andreas and told him about the cave, Andres wanted to come along so they got two lanterns and Felipe led the way. They lit the lanterns and stepped inside. Felipe saw something shiny on the floor but something on the wall caught his eye. He raised his lantern and saw a very old gate made of poles lashed together with vines, two stout poles were also leaning against the wall.

The walls had paintings on them and he and Andreas raised their lanterns to examine them. They had a strange quality about them, primitive but also done with a good hand. The colors had faded but some dull red and blue could still be seen. One depicted several men with lances surrounding a wild boar, another was a battle between two tribes. There were fish, birds, a jaguar and a shark. “These look very old.” Felipe said.

“Yes, I have heard of caves with old paintings in them in other places around the world. These people have probably been dead for a long time now.” Andreas replied.

They turned back toward the center of the cave and saw shiny things in a pile. They approached the pile and Felipe’s sextant was on top of it. He knelt and picked it up and examined the pile of stolen goods. There was his belt with the shiny brass buckle, several reales, a cup, a pair of dice, three pieces from Andreas’s chess board, a hat, buttons, a gold snuff box and many other assorted shiny items.

“Raphael will be glad to get this back.” Andreas said holding up a glass eye.

“He has been a busy little bastard.” Felipe said.

“I say that we do not take all of it, he may find a new hiding place. We should leave most of it, at least we know where to come and get our things now.” Andres said picking out his chess pieces. Felipe agreed and took only his sextant and belt. They rose to explore the rest of the cave.

They began at the door and walked in opposite directions following the wall. There were more paintings and the remains of several cooking fires. A pile of small animal bones were heaped against one wall and there was some broken pottery. Felipe felt a draft and discovered a small shaft angling upward with fresh air coming in but it was too small for a man to fit through. They met back up and agreed that there was only one entrance.

“We should keep this to ourselves for now. We never know when we may need a safe place to hide and this would be a good shelter from a tempest.” Andreas said and Felipe agreed. They walked back to the pavilion, Andreas got a cup of coffee and sat at the table. There was something about that cave that was tugging at his mind, he was sure that there was a message there, a lesson to be learned.

He imagined what life must have been like for those primitive people living in the cave. The gate was no doubt propped up against the opening at night to protect them from animals. They obviously cooked in there as was evidenced by the fire but probably only at night. He thought about the large storms, the tempests that came with the summer heat. At times they would stall out for days sending trees crashing down with their violent winds and pouring tons of rain.

Yes, they would be safe in the cave but trapped inside for days and nights, they would soon run out of wood as the tempests often came up very suddenly. He tried to imagine living in that world of darkness for days on end. They must have known the cave very well just to move about to drink water and go to the bathroom in total darkness. A smile spread across his lips, that was it.

He called Felipe and discussed it with him. Felipe quickly agreed and they rang the bell summoning everyone to the pavilion. When everyone was gathered, Andreas began to speak.

“Our time at sea is equally divided between the night and the day. At night all ships sail with their lanterns burning so they can see to move about and sail the ship. But even the smallest amount of light carries very far across the water at night giving away their position as well as ours. If we can learn our ship well enough to sail at night with no lights, we can get very close to other ships and catch them in total surprise. We will only use a few candles in the passages below the waterline so that no light shines from our ship. Tomorrow we will begin the training, does anyone have any questions?”

With the generous amount that they were being paid there was no quarrel so the next day they all went to the ship. All of the men had specific stations and duties so they worked on them one at a time. The number of steps were counted from the mast to the rail, turn left for ten steps to the stairwell. They tied small ropes from the rail to the stairwell to act as a guideline. The men below on the cannon decks had the most difficult job, at least on deck there was some light from the moon and stars. They had to learn to load the cannons in total darkness. Sticking the fuses into the small holes was extremely difficult but with time they mastered it. They placed the measured bags of gunpowder and cannon balls very close in racks.

Once the ship was paced off they took blindfolds and tied them around the men’s eyes and practiced moving about the decks in daylight. Batu wanted to be the first. Tor was the only one tall enough to put the blindfold on Batu without him stooping .When he stuck his arms out in front of him and began to awkwardly walk forward a huge amount of laughter spread across the ship. He looked like a large ghoul that had risen from the grave.

Within a few weeks they could move about quickly and even run. Even when blindfolded at night they could perform their duties. They were ready to sail again so they loaded the ship and were eager to try their new night tactics. They sailed to the shipping lanes and began the back and forth patrolling that had brought them success before. At night they sailed with no lights as the moon waned they became more accustomed to it.

On the sixth night they spotted the lights of an approaching ship so they sailed head on toward it. As they got closer they went into a wide sweeping turn and came up from behind it. The men aboard the Esmerelda had seen no lights so they were not suspecting anything and casually sailed along their course. Slowly the Vengeance pulled alongside of her at a very close range. The cannon doors were open and aimed at the other ships cannon decks.

When they were in position they fired all of their guns at once. Most of the Esmerelda’s men were sleeping on the cannon decks and there were many casualties. Men began pouring onto the decks as the men aboard the Vengeance fired flaming arrows soaked in pitch at her sails. As the arrows pierced the sails the pitch stuck on them and they rapidly began to catch fire.

Men were throwing buckets tied with ropes overboard and trying to put out the large pieces of burning canvas as they fell onto the decks. They did not want their decks to catch fire and they were so busy trying to contain the fire they never saw the Vengeance slide into position on the other side of the ship and fire another volley into the other cannon deck. Most of the cannons carriages were destroyed and the cannon decks were rendered all but useless.

The Vengeance sailed off a short distance and watched the men fight the fire. With the strong wind all of her sails were quickly burned away and she came to a slow stop, dead in the water and began to drift helplessly. The Vengeance sailed large, lazy circles around her until dawn and then took up a position behind her. Once the sun was up it was plain that she was a smaller galleon.

Aboard the Esmerelda Captain Munoz eyed the large ship off of her stern with what was left of her crew. The Vengeance sent up the red no quarter flag demanding a surrender.

“That is the Vengeance.” The first mate said. “They are known not to kill men who willingly surrender.”

Captain Munoz turned his head to look at him and said sharply “We will not surrender! And you know why.” He looked back at the Vengeance.

“Captain! What choice do we have? We have no sails, we can not maneuver! Even if we could our guns are all but destroyed. We have no choice!”

The Captain continued to look at the Vengeance demanding an answer with her crimson flag. “We will not surrender!” he repeated.

Felipe and Andreas were watching through their spyglasses and could clearly see the Captain standing defiantly at her stern rail. The Captain drew his sword and waved it in the air. “It appears that they choose to fight, a really foolish decision.” Andreas said.

“Brave men.” Batu added.

The first mate again pleaded “Captain, please!”

“Silence you coward!” Munoz shouted.

The first mate looked at the men standing behind him, several of them slid their index finger across their throats. The first mate nodded and pulled his pistol. He shot the Captain point blank in the back of the head and he fell over the rail into the sea.

“It appears that the crew does not agree with his decision.” Felipe said.

“A wise choice.” Batu said with a smile.

A white surrender flag was quickly raised aboard the Esmerelda and the Vengeance slowly sailed alongside. Grappling hooks were thrown and the two ships were tied together. The men of the Vengeance boarded quickly and approached the first mate who was standing in front of his men with their arms raised.

“What is your cargo and destination?” Felipe asked.

“We are bound for Vera Cruz and we carry no cargo, only provisions.” the man replied.

“He is lying, he is hiding something.” Jean Pierre said.

The man looked nervously at Jean Pierre, Andreas lowered his eyelids and cocked his head. “Why would the King waste valuable cargo space and send a Galleon all of the way to Vera Cruz unloaded?”

The man said “I am only following orders, the Captain alone knew the purpose of our voyage.”

Again Jean Pierre said “He is lying! Give me a few moments with him and I will get the truth.” He reached into a sheath on his belt, produced a gleaming straight razor and flicked it open. The man’s eyes went wide open in fear.

“It may come to that in a moment.” Andreas said. “Batu, take your men and search the hold for cargo.” He looked back at the first mate “Take me to the Captains quarters. The man walked to the stern with Andreas, Felipe and Jean Pierre following him. The rest of the men guarded what was left of the crew on the deck.

The Captains Quarters rose higher than the cannon decks and had sustained no damage, compared to the ruined upper decks this room looked as if nothing had happened. Felipe went to the desk and opened the drawers while Andreas slid a large sea chest away from the wall. He produced his picks and picked the lock. Jean Pierre moved to the bar and poured himself a glass of brandy then stood in the corner keeping his eyes on the first mates eyes.

“There is nothing of value in the desk.” he said.

Andreas opened the chest and there were the usual items, reales, a gold snuff box, a fine hand compass and a parcel wrapped in paper and tied with a string. Andreas removed the parcel and opened it revealing a stack of documents all the same with Felipe’s likeness and announcing a reward of 50,000 reales for his capture dead or alive. “It appears that the King knows your name now.” Andreas said.

“Good, I want him to know my name.” Felipe replied.

While they were studying the document the first mate shot a quick glance at the desk and then looked back at Andreas and Felipe. He had forgotten Jean Pierre at the bar in the corner and then looked into the blue eyes of Jean Pierre and saw a small smile spread across his lips. Jean Pierre looked at the desk, there was only a cigar box and a bottle of brandy on top of it. He walked to the cigar box and opened it, it was filled with fine cigars and he took one out, smelled it and then lit it.

He looked back at the first mate and even though there was a good breeze blowing through the windows, a small trickle of sweat ran down the side of the man’s face. Jean Pierre smiled again and moved the cigars to the side. He took the box and emptied it on the desk and flipped it over examining the bottom. He again turned it up and looked inside of it. He took his dagger and touched the tip against the bottom of the box. He measured and marked the distance with his finger and then held it along the side of the box.

There was an extra inch of depth between the tip of the blade and the bottom. He flipped it back over and placed it on the desk. He then pried at the bottom of the box, it came off revealing a hidden compartment. Two documents were folded and sealed with a spot of red wax. He examined the wax seal then said to Andreas and Felipe “Look, this bears the royal seal of the King. I told you that he was hiding something.”

“I knew nothing about it!” the man protested.

“Silence!” Jean Pierre hissed at him.

Felipe took the document and carefully peeled the wax away and opened it. All three of them read it silently.

“To the Commander of the Garrison,

You are to move overland with great haste all of the gold and silver that is stored in the garrison of Panuco. You are to deliver it overland to the Commander of the fort at New Granada. This gold must not fall into pirate hands so I therefore dictate that you transport it immediately by wagon.

King Phillip III.

They read the next document as well.

To the Commander of the Garrison at New Granada,

Prepare to receive the shipment of all stores of gold and silver from Panuco coming by land. You are to ship all of this gold, as well as all that is stored in your fort through the passage of Trinidad, not the Caribbean back to Spain as soon as you receive it. It is to be escorted by all available galleons.

King Phillip III

The three men smiled at each other and carefully folded the document back up and placed it back into the compartment and then tapped the false bottom back in place.

“I now see why the King sent an entire galleon unloaded to the new colonies, this is a very important dispatch.” Andreas said to the first mate. The man just looked at the floor. We will spare your lives as you surrendered. Go up and have your men abandon ship.”

“But we are hundreds of miles from any land! We will all perish!” the man said.

“Not by our hands.” Andreas said. “We are going to scuttle this ship, I would advise you to get in your lifeboats.” The three men walked out of the room and he followed quickly behind them.

“Start unloading what cannons were not damaged as well as the powder and shot.” Felipe announced and his men went below decks as the crew of the Esmerelda loaded the lifeboats with food and water and lowered them over the side. When the goods were loaded two kegs of powder were laid against the hull amidships and a trail of powder was poured. They untied the lines and touched off the powder as they shoved off.

Their sails caught the wind and they pulled clear. After a few moments a large explosion blew the decks out in the center and the ship broke in two and quickly sank. The sky was getting dark and flashes of lightning could be seen to the east. The wind was picking up and the waves were rapidly building. The Vengeance turned away and fled before the storm.

“I fear that the men in the lifeboats will not fare well.” Andreas said.

“Such is the way of the sea.” Felipe replied and they set a course for Tortuga.

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CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

THE PLAN

Upon arriving on Tortuga they began to study a map and make plans. They had never done a ground attack and it would require different tactics. The Garrison at the fort in New Granada probably held a regular regiment, over three hundred men. The Spaniards had been conquering the local natives there on the large continent to the south for many years and had accumulated very much gold and silver in the fort that held the garrison. The garrison at Panuco held many more soldiers and much more gold.

Andreas pointed his finger at the narrow bridge of land that connected the two much larger areas known as Panama.. “This land mass my look small on the map but it is actually very large. Still, there is only one road that leads through it to the new colonies. The rainy season will be upon us very soon and the wagons that they will need to haul the gold and silver will be moving very slowly as the road turns to mud and gets deep ruts in it, they will bog down.

We do not have enough men to win in an outright battle with them but we can use the jungle for concealment and pick them off slowly with bows and arrows and then retreat back into the jungle. Little by little, we can reduce their forces thirty or so men at a time until we have them outnumbered.”

He looked around at the eager faces on the men. Jean Pierre said “The amount of gold stored in Panuco is the stuff of legends. Everyone knows that they have been conquering the natives for years and stockpiling the gold and silver. They usually move it out in ships with a large escort but the fort is where it is all accumulated.”

Batu studied the map and said “Attacking as you say, we could very possibly take all of this gold without losing one of our men. Once their forces are sufficiently reduced, they will probably flee and just leave it.”

“I like the sound of that.” Shayla said and smiled at Batu.

“Yes.” Felipe said. “We can send in a hundred arrows at a time, reduce their troops and also attack at night when they are asleep with few guards. We can hit them quickly and then retreat back into the jungle only to attack again.”

“We cannot allow any one of them to flee. No doubt after the first attack they will send a man back to the fort for reinforcements. We need to station four of our best archers behind the advancing column to stop these men. Also, it will take quite some time to load all of this gold onto the Vengeance, we do not need any alarm raised. It will take weeks before they are missed, the contents of this dispatch are unknown to anyone else. As far as they know, they will simply think that the gold was either stolen by bandits or that the Commander of the fort and his men stole it and disappeared into the new colonies or got on ship for other places. The mystery will never be solved but we cannot let one man escape to tell of the attack. After their forces are decimated to a fraction we will divide our men and cover both escape routes. Not one Spaniard must make it back to the fort and live to tell of this.”

Andreas stared at the map. “We will need rally points marked deep in the jungle all along the road so that when we flee, we can regroup at a place further up the road to attack again. We could simply place stones for markers to follow and attack them from both sides of the road. If they follow standard battle procedures, they will rally together when attacked to bring their forces into one group. By the time they are ready to launch a counter attack, we will be gone to the next ambush point. The jungle is much too dense to ride a horse through it, they would have to follow on foot and the Commander will not leave the gold unguarded. We can very easily outrun them and get ahead of them with their wagons mired in the mud. They will never notice the stones that lead us back together.”

“This is an excellent plan.” Batu said. “We can begin gathering the shafts for many hundreds of arrows and you can make all of the points in your blacksmith shop. The women are good at attaching the fletchings of feather. We need plenty of practice, I would like every arrow to count. We all need to fan out and start gathering the shafts, the women can start stripping the fletchings from the chicken feathers.”

Andreas was still studying the map putting the plan together. He looked at the princess. “I will need your horse Fiero. With a little alteration I can make the Navy uniform that I have to represent that of a Captain of the Kings Army. I will deliver the letter to the garrison.”

The princess nodded her head in agreement. “Take good care of Fiero please.” she replied.

“I also need you to reseal the letter with your ring so it will look as if it has not been opened.” Andreas said.

He went and got a red candle, lit it and handed it to her. She let the candle melt some and then poured several drops of wax on the seal. She blew on it until it was almost hard and then pressed her ring bearing the royal seal into the wax. As Jean Pierre saw this he got an idea. “Why stop there?”

“What do you mean?” Andreas asked.

“I can forge another document to the smaller fort at New Granada ordering the Commander there to move his gold by land to Veracruz. We can ambush them where you planned and if it goes well we will be prepared for the larger garrison coming from Panuco.“ Jean Pierre said with a smile.

“Yes!” Felipe responded. “Still the number of soldiers at the fort in Panuco is huge.”

“Yes, the fort at Panuco is where the gold from the entire western territories is stored.” Andreas said. “They stopped sending two or more ships loaded with gold several years ago, they are too heavily laden to maneuver well and are easily overcome. Now they only send one at a time loaded with treasure and provide escorts. The gold has built up over the years. That is the largest gold depository in the entire new colonies”

Felipe let out a whistle, “That would be the largest amount of gold ever stolen at once. I doubt the Vengeance could even load it all.”

“We could simply bury the rest and return for it.” Jean Pierre said.

“There are three times the number of soldiers stationed at Panuco, they would send at least two regiments to guard it all.” Andreas said.

Jean Pierre studied the map “We will put in the dispatch that he is to send one regiment to guard the shipment and to send the rest of the troops to quell a Mestizo uprising in San Luis with all haste.”

“That is brilliant, I say that we see how the first raid goes. If it goes well, yes, we also will take Panuco’s gold.” Andreas smiled.

“This is really going to sting the King.” Felipe said. “After the news of this gets out, the King will realize that he did not send the second dispatch and will realize that you are using the royal seal on your ring to seal the dispatches. We will not be able to use it any longer after that.” Felipe looked at the princess.

“They will not be missed for weeks and it takes over two months to make the Atlantic crossing. We can use the ring for that time to forge more documents.” Andreas said.

The princess looked at the scars on Batu’s back as he bent over studying the map. “Then we will make good use of it. Jean Pierre has the hand of a scribe as he says. He can forge the letters to also include a royal decree from the King that all of the slaves in the new colonies are to be freed and provided with free passage back to Africa if they wish.”

Batu looked up at her and a large smile crossed his face. “That too is brilliant. Most will just flee far into the interior and form new tribes, they will not trust getting on another Spanish ship.”

Shayla hugged her. “Will they actually do this?”

“They will do anything that is a royal decree and sealed with the ring.” she said with a smile.

“This will arise suspicion.” Jean Pierre said. “The King would never free the slaves as they work all of his plantations there.”

Andreas thought for a moment and then asked “Why would the King move all of his gold and free the slaves?”

“He does not have to explain that in the dispatches.” Jean Pierre said. He thought about it for a moment and said “ When you deliver the dispatches you can say that you have delivered several of them, all saying the same thing and the only conclusion that the other Commanders could deduce is that a treaty has been struck with the French trading the New Colonies for other lands and a truce.”

“Yes!” Andreas said. “He would not want to hand the French working plantations so he is obviously making them buy their own slaves. If all of the Spaniards are handing the land over to the French they will have to leave and there will be no room on the ships for slaves.” Andreas smiled at Batu.

“Do you think they will buy into this and believe the dispatches?” Felipe asked.

“A dispatch sealed with the royal crest is obeyed without question, no Commander would dare not to follow a direct order from the King.” Andreas said.

“The King is going to shit in his pants when he hears what he has done.” Batu said with a smile.

“Well, we need to start gathering the shafts for the arrows and practicing.” Andreas said. “This haul of gold is going to be enormous.” and he smiled as did all of the men.

They all rose and went into the jungle with machetes to chop the arrows. For weeks they chopped and dried the shafts in the sun while Andreas pounded out arrow heads of iron and sharpened them to a razor’s edge. He attached the arrowheads and passed them on to the women who attached the fletchings with glue and notched them. The arrows were stored on racks so they would not warp and after two months they had eight hundred arrows prepared.

The rainy season was approaching so Felipe and Andreas began to secretly gather wood and lanterns and place them in the cave. They wanted the women to have a safe place in which to take shelter in case a tempest struck while they were gone. They showed the women the cave and told them to keep it a secret. They also constructed partitions of laced together reeds mounted on bamboo frames for privacy and divided the cave into rooms should a tempest come. They moved blankets and bedding in, made hammocks and stored dried beans as well as dried and smoked meat in wooden barrels.

The women continued to assemble more arrows while the men constructed targets of bundled straw. They quickly got very accurate and fast at firing their arrows. They could get off two shots in three seconds. They began laying on provisions at the first of June as the rainy season was rapidly approaching. Finally the day came to set sail and once again the mighty ship sailed out of the lagoon while the women waved from the shore.

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CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

AMBUSH

They sailed between Hispanolia and Cuba and then took a bearing to southeast. After six days land appeared and they followed the coastline to avoid the shipping lanes. Following along Panama they surveyed the land where the ambush would take place. “We need to be far enough away from the garrison so they cannot send back for reinforcements quickly, several days ride.” Andreas said.

A location many days from the fort was chosen and they made land. The rainy season was rapidly approaching and every morning there was a hard rain, then the sun would shine again after noon. They constructed some lean to shelters and began stocking wood under them to keep it dry. They planned the attack points and rally points along the road leading back toward their base camps.

“We will set out men at ten foot intervals. If they ride in standard formation the horsemen will ride in twos side by side. We can count as twenty horses pass before we fire our arrows. With good marksmanship we can drop forty of them at a time and then retreat. In eight separate attacks we will kill all of them.” Andreas said.

Batu thought about it. “The road is too narrow and will be too muddy for the carriages to turn around. But I think that the first pair of archers should count as twenty pass and be the first to fire their arrows. This would be the signal for the next pair and so on. That way they will not see the men ahead of them being fired on, they will fall from the back of the column forward.”

They all agreed that was a very good plan. The rainy season was now upon them and torrential rain fell for most of the day. The road was reduced to very deep mud and the ruts filled with brown water. The time had come. Andreas put on his altered Captain’s uniform and loaded the saddlebags so that it would appear that he had ridden a very long way. He rolled up a blanket and tied it behind the saddle. The document had been wrapped in oil cloth to protect it and it was in a pouch of leather that hung from his shoulder.

“I will make much better time riding alone than the wagons can make, but still it will take me several days before I reach the fort. I will also return far in advance of the column.” Andreas said as he swung into the saddle.

“God be with you.” Felipe said.

“And all of you as well. Andreas replied. He pulled his hat low and rode off into the pouring rain. The edge of the road where the vegetation started to grow was still firm and he could make good time but he kept Fiero at a gallop so as not to tire the horse. After three days of riding the fort came into sight, the guard at the gate recognized the uniform and opened the gate.

A Lieutenant approached him smiling. “It is very foul weather to be out riding.”

“That it is, but I have an urgent dispatch for the Commander.” Andreas replied.

“Come this way.” He led Andreas to a hitching post, he dismounted, stepped below the roof and removed his hat slinging the water off of it. He rubbed the rain from his face and shook his coat.

“Follow me please.” He opened a door and led Felipe through a large room to a door and knocked.

“Come.” they heard.

The Lieutenant Announced “This Captain has an urgent dispatch for you.” as he stepped through the door. Andreas waited outside.

“Well come in.” the Commander said.

“I am soaking wet, I will drip all over your floor.” Andreas said.

“Come, come.” the man said motioning with his fingers.

Andreas entered the room and the man rose to shake his hand. He was a large man with a weather bitten face and craggy features. His beard was unkempt as was his uniform. The man stuck his hand out and said “I am Commander Thomas Hidalgo. Please have a seat.”

Andreas shook his hand and sat in the wooden chair. “I have an urgent dispatch for you.” He opened the leather pouch and took out the oil cloth wrapped document and placed it on the desk. The commander took it and laid it on the desk and untied the string. He examined the seal and his eyes got large.

“This is not from the Viceroy, but from the King himself.” he said with awe.

Andreas nodded his head and said nothing. The man opened it and read the document and then looked back at Andreas. “This could not have come at a worse time.” He looked at the Lieutenant and said “Begin loading the entire shipment on wagons immediately. We must leave for Panuco tomorrow at dawn.”

“All of it? On wagons during the rainy season?” the man said incredulously.

“You have your orders! This is a dispatch from the King!” the man shouted waving the dispatch at the man.

The lieutenant snapped him a salute and hurried out of the room. He looked back at the letter and said “This is going to be a very arduous journey, the roads are nothing but mud. Why would he do this? Why would he free all of the slaves and ship all of the gold to Panuco?” the Commander asked as he looked at Andreas.

“I have delivered four such dispatches, the most reasonable explanation that everyone has come to is that a treaty has been struck with France. The King is pulling out of the new colonies entirely and handing it over to the French in exchange for other territories.” Andreas said.

“What other territories could the French possibly have that would be worth all of the new colonies?”

Andres shrugged his shoulders and said “I do not know what new territories the French have gained, I have been in the new colonies for many years now. The King has to have a reason for doing this. Most, if not all of the gold from the natives here has been gathered already.”

“But to also free all of the slaves? The landowners paid well for those slaves, they will not want to just release them, they will want to sell them.” the Commander said.

“To whom? The French? The King is shrewd, if he is in fact handing over the new colonies to the French he probably does not want to give them fully functional farms on a silver platter. They probably did not include the slaves in the treaty so the King wishes them to have to buy their own slaves. If a mass exodus takes place back to Spain, there will not be room for slaves on the ships, only Spaniards and it will be a mad scramble with no time to sell the slaves. Once the ownership of the land is transferred to France we all will have to leave. This is the only logical explanation for his moving all of the gold, he is also in the process of moving the gold from Panuco and all of the other forts back to Spain as we speak.”

“This is unthinkable.” the man said as he shook his head.

Andreas nodded his head. “We are soldiers and do as we are told. This is all theory because the King does not tell us why he is doing this but it is the conclusion that was reached by the Commanders at the other forts, it is the only logical explanation.”

The commander looked back at the dispatch and shook his head. “The trip will take months in the rainy season. And I must also dispatch many of my men throughout our territories to inform the landowners that they must free their slaves.”

“As I well know. “ Andreas replied. “I have delivered four other such dispatches, something very large is afoot.”

“I am sorry, where are my manners? May I offer you some brandy and a cigar?”

“That would be wonderful, I have been on the road for days and it has been too wet to smoke.” Andreas replied with a smile.

The commander passed him a cigar box, rose and poured two brandies and gave Andreas one. He lit both of their cigars and asked Andreas “Would you like to join us for supper?”

“I wish that I could, I have not had a hot meal in days but the Viceroy demands that I return immediately to verify that all of the dispatches were delivered successfully. This is very important.”

“I understand.” the man said.

Andreas looked around “This must be a good post, you are very far from the Viceroy.” he smiled.

The man laughed “Yes, that is good but we are also very far from the senoritas as well.”

Andreas puffed on his cigar and said “Well, at least now you have a reason to go back to Panuco, the women there are beautiful. The Viceroy will expect your men and yourself to rest for several days after your long journey. You can taste the women while you are there.”

The man laughed and said “Well, yes. As long and difficult as this trip will be that will make it worth it.” he smiled.

“Well, I must be on my way, I have many miles to ride before the day is done.” He finished his brandy, rose and shook the man’s hand.

“God be with you.” the Commander said.

“And with you, I fear that you will need Gods help before I do.” Andreas said as he looked him in the eye.

“I am afraid that I agree.”

Andreas turned and walked out of the door, a small smile crept across his face.

Andreas rode back through the torrential downpour for three days until he reached the marker, two stones on the side of the road and had to dismount to walk the horse under the low hanging branches. After entering the jungle and walking deep into the jungle he came to the path they had cut and was able to ride again. Finally he came upon the base camp and they were glad to see him.

“He accepted the dispatch without question?” Jean Pierre asked.

“He is at this moment loading his wagons and freeing the slaves.” Andreas smiled.

A loud cheer went up from the men, especially Batu and the other former slaves. “It will probably take him a week to reach our first attack point. We should start moving there immediately, it will take us several days to get there.” Andreas said.

The men packed their food and weapons and began the long trek through the jungle. The rain fell hard but the dense trees overhead caught it and there was a constant dripping of rain through the canopy of trees. On noon of the third day they arrived at the first attack point. Four archers were selected and sent on ahead to guard against any man going back for reinforcements.

The men selected their spots and cleared some of the small branches so they would have a clear firing line at the road at ten foot intervals. They went back to the first rally point at night and took shelter under the lean to shelters that they had constructed deep in the jungle. Time seemed to crawl by, but at dawn on the sixth day they began their silent vigil. The column did not appear that day nor the next. They all agreed that the deep mud was indeed slowing down progress even more than they had anticipated.

On the morning of the eighth day Batu was in the pair of first archers stationed across the road from Ajamu. He heard a horse whinny far down the road and looked at Ajamu who shook and nodded his head. They both watched as the column of horsemen slowly appeared approaching them through the pounding rain. Just as anticipated, they were riding in pairs. Batu and Ajamu receded back into the jungle slightly to their firing points and concealed themselves, watching through the leaves.

The first pair of horsemen went by and Batu counted as they passed. When the nineteenth pair started to pass he brought his bow to full draw. As the next set of riders came into view he released his arrow and struck the man right in the center of his ear. His head whipped to the side and he fell out of the saddle. He saw the other rider fall as well and then he heard screaming as the column of men fell from the rear forward.

The entire column of men began to shout and he ran as fast as he could, following the small stones back to the next rally point where he met up with the rest of the men. It had gone just as they planned.

The Spanish Troops did as they were trained and dismounted quickly and hid behind their horses in the center of the road expecting another attack. Commander Hidalgo rode forward and surveyed forty of his soldiers dead in the road. “Lieutenant! Take fifty men and pursue them!”

“Yes sir!” he ordered the next fifty men in the column to enter the jungle and they crept forward silently and slowly, looking for the unseen enemy. By now, the men of the Vengeance were far into the jungle and heading down the road to the next rally point.

“Send a man back for reinforcements! I want all of the men that are left at the fort here as soon as possible!” he shouted.

The Lieutenant sent a man back and he took off at a gallop. However, as he made two bends in the road he looked over his shoulder and slowed to a walk. He was none too anxious to return to the column being attacked by the invisible archers in the jungle. Suddenly four arrows struck him and he fell heavily to the ground. He was drug off into the jungle and the rain washed his blood away quickly. His horse was turned around and slapped on the rump. It took off at a gallop toward the advancing column but soon stopped to nibble on the vegetation.

The line of Spanish soldiers came out of the jungle a while later and reported to the Commander that there was no trace of the enemy. Commander Hidalgo walked up to one of his dead and placed his boot on the dead man’s chest and pulled the arrow out examining the tip. “This is not a Mestizo arrow, we are being attacked by bandits.” He peered down the road through the pouring rain and saw nothing. “Bury these men quickly! We must move on.!”

The soldiers struggled digging through the mud alongside of the road until all forty of the men were buried. Commander Hidalgo ordered two men to enter the jungle as scouts in advance of the column as they moved forward. Night fell without incident and they camped for the night. It was a miserable night with no fire in the drenching rain. Felipe’s men realized that the soldiers could not start a fire and decided not to try and attack them at night as the plan was working well.

Early the next morning Batu was again stationed in his firing position. The rain fell in a steady downpour as he watched down the road. The drops falling on the large leaves was a constant sound but then he heard a different noise, a twig snapping coming from behind him. Even though he had lived his entire life on a plantation, thousands of years of warrior blood coursed through his veins. He was very at home in the jungle, his vision and hearing was very acute.

He slowly turned toward the sound and looked. All of the leaves were moving from the raindrops hitting them as he scanned the jungle around him. His father had always told him that the spirits of his ancestors dwelled in the jungle and would guide and protect him. Slowly he saw a bush start to part and open up, he saw the hands and then the face of a Spanish soldier appear. He was only twenty paces away but the man was looking in the wrong direction. Batu drew his bow and as the man turned toward him his eyes went wide and Batu released.

The arrow struck him in the center of the forehead and he fell heavily, twitching on the ground. Batu got another arrow ready quickly and waited but there were no more men. He cautiously approached the soldier and looked through the jungle. Seeing no others he took his knife out. He quickly went back to his position and waved at Ajamu. When Ajamu looked at him he held up the head of the dead soldier and pointed behind Ajamu’s back and scanned his head back and forth. Ajamu nodded and slipped back into the jungle.

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The column once again approached and as the twentieth pair of riders passed once again the arrows flew and forty more men fell dead from the back of the column forward. A round object sailed out of the jungle and splattered in the mud in the center of the road. The soldiers again quickly dismounted and got between their horses. Commander Hidalgo walked to the front and looked at his dead men. The head of his scout with an arrow still sticking out of the forehead laid in the road with it’s eyes open.

He had now lost eighty of his men and had not even seen the enemy. He sent two more men back to the fort for reinforcements and wondered if the first man had ever gotten through. He looked at the road and realized that he could not turn the wagons around. He could not leave the gold and go back for more men, he had no choice but to bury his men and go forward.

Again the men struggled digging through the mud to bury their dead. The Commander shouted “We will walk between the horses and use them as a shield.”

The men were relieved at first but after just one half hour they were slipping and bogging down as their boots sunk almost to the tops and they had to struggle just to get them out. Commander Hidalgo looked back and saw that even the wagons had to wait for them to progress and his men were rapidly getting exhausted, this was not going to work either.

He ordered the men to get back on their mounts but to keep a watchful eye on the jungle. Within the hour they were struck again. Most of them saw the archers but it was at the last second as the men stepped out from behind trees with their bows at full draw. They did not have time to react as they fell screaming.

“We cannot stop! That is how they are getting ahead of us while we stop to bury our dead! Leave them and Go!” Hidalgo shouted. Wounded and dying men held up their arms and pleaded with their companions as they passed. The men on the horses had to turn their heads as they left their friends bleeding on the road. Finally they got out of hearing as the men slowly died. The men of the Vengeance had a trail cut deep in the jungle that ran along the road and they easily outpaced the wagons once more. Commander Hidalgo was hoping that by leaving his dead he could outpace this unseen enemy when once again the arrows flew and his men fell screaming. The column came to a stop.

He had lost one hundred and twenty men, he did not know that the ones he sent back for reinforcements were also dead and hoped that help was on the way. He rode along the line counting his troops and saw that he was down to one hundred and sixty men, counting the ones driving the wagons. The rain poured down in a merciless torrential downpour as he stared down the road ahead. He contemplated just leaving the gold and riding back to the fort with his remaining troops but he knew that the King would have all of their heads for cowardice and such a great loss.

He had no choice but to go forward. And so it went for the next two days. The wagons with their mules struggling to pull the heavy wagons through the muddy ruts and his remaining men falling in groups of forty. Three days later at dawn he had eighty six men left and the morale of his men was getting low. He could hear them murmuring that they were all going to get killed and they were talking openly about deserting.

He had to rally his men, “We have no choice but to keep going forward! We cannot turn the wagons around in this mud, the road is too narrow. If we abandon the gold we will all be executed.” he told them in a loud voice.

One man stood up and shouted “I would rather desert the King’s army and flee far into the interior than to just keep marching to our deaths! We are all going to be killed and we have not dropped one of them! Our guns are useless in this rain, we cannot even load them! I say we leave the gold and just disappear into the new colonies, I have a wife and children!” A loud shout of approval went up from the crowd of men and Commander Hidalgo looked around at them.

“Any man who chooses to not show cowardice and stand with the Kings army, come now and stand beside me. The penalty for desertion is death.!” He stood in the pouring rain looking at the men, not a one of them came to his side. He could not drive all of the wagons alone and he finally resolved himself that he too would have to abandon the gold and go into hiding. Perhaps the King would think them all killed, people would eventually find all of the bodies of his dead troops scattered along the road.

He hung his head for a moment and then looked at them. “Very well then, I cannot take all of the wagons by myself. You leave me no choice. We will abandon the gold and flee back to the fort.” A loud cheer went up and the men’s spirits were lifted. They ate dried beef and rain soaked tortillas and mounted their horses. They would at least be able to travel at a gallop without waiting for the wagons. They freed the mules so the wagons could not be pulled, mounted up and rode off toward the fort.

Just as Batu had predicted that they would. The men of the Vengeance had expected this and had split their forces in two groups covering both exits. As Hidalgo and his men approached at a run they stepped out of the jungle and cut them down with arrows. The horses panicked and all of the practice with the bows paid off, each man got off two shots very quickly. After a few seconds all of the Spanish soldiers were dying on the road.

Andreas walked up to the men and found Commander Hidalgo lying on his back with two arrows sticking out of his chest. He was coughing up blood and when he looked at Andreas he recognized him. “You,” he said and then his eyes rolled back in his head.

“Remove the arrows so that we can use them again.” Felipe said. They walked among the men pulling the arrows out of them.

“Take the horses and we will unload the gold.” Felipe said. They mounted the horses and left the Spaniards on the road in the pouring rain. As they passed more dead Spaniards they again retrieved their arrows. Arriving at the wagons they dismounted and pulled back the canvas covering the rear wagon. Inside there were stout wooden boxes with rope loops for handles on the end. Two men struggled to pull the heavy box to the back of the wagon.

Felipe pried the top off with his knife and opened the box. The gold ingots shined as the rain fell on them. The men were speechless at first and then began to cheer. Felipe took one out and examined it. It was as long as his palm and as wide as his finger. It bore the markings of Spain and it was very heavy for such a small piece of metal. He looked back at the box full of the stacked ingots and tried to imagine how many were in the box.

He then counted the boxes, there were ten boxes and then he counted the wagons, there were twelve of them. The men were all getting very excited now and everyone was eagerly pulling the boxes out of the wagons and stacking them beside the road. “We can use the horses to drag them through the jungle. We cannot ride them but we can weave our way through the jungle to the Vengeance.

They tied two boxes on ropes and to the saddle horns and began dragging the boxes to the shore. The rowboat was loaded with as many boxes as it would hold and four extra men. They rowed out to the Vengeance and began pulling up the boxes on ropes and storing them in the hold. Two more lifeboats were lowered and the process was repeated until late that evening all of the gold was loaded. They weighed anchor and sailed along the coast toward Panuco.

The plan was repeated at Panuco and Andreas approached the fort in the pouring rain. The gate was opened and he was escorted to the Commander’s office. The Commander of the fort was a short man with a pinched face, he resembled a weasel with his pointy nose and brown hair. He rose but did not extend his hand. “I am Commander Ortiz, what is your business?”

Andreas pulled the dispatch out of the leather pouch and handed it to him without speaking. He untied the string and unwrapped the oil cloth. He then took the document out and studied the seal. “A dispatch from the King?”

“Yes, I have delivered four others.” Andreas said looking him in the eye.

He quickly opened and read the letter and looked at Andreas. “This is outlandish! Why would he order such a thing?” he demanded.

“I do not know.” Andreas shrugged his shoulders. “I am merely the messenger and it has been a very long and tiring trip.”

“I cannot do this without verification! I will write the King and ask him why he sent this.” the man said.

“Do as you wish, the other Commanders obeyed him. The King does not like to be questioned and he wants these orders carried out with all haste. You will be the only one who has not done as he commanded.” Andres said.

The look of fear crept into his eyes and again he read the dispatch, his bony fingers trembled as he read. “Why? Why do you think he is doing this?”

Andreas repeated the story of the treaty with France that the other Commanders surmised. The man thought about it and said “That does fit.”

“It is the only logical explanation, as I said, he does not give us his reason but there can be no other explanation.”

The Commander turned to his Lieutenant and said “I need one regiment to stay here and all of the rest of the men to leave immediately for San Luis. There is a Mestizo uprising there. Have the other regiment begin loading the entire shipment onto wagons and pack enough provisions to make it to New Granada.”

The man’s eyes went wide but he snapped a salute and said “Yes Sir!” and left the room.

Commander Ortiz rose and began to pace the room nervously. “It will take months to reach New Granada, especially in the rainy season.”

“None of the other Commanders liked the orders either, but we are soldiers and we serve the king. I myself have ridden many days and nights through this miserable weather. I am glad that yours is the last dispatch that I have to deliver. Now, I must be on my way.”

Andreas rose and Commander Ortiz nodded his head slightly and resumed pacing the room nervously.

Finally Andreas arrived back at the Vengeance and they sailed toward Tabasco where the next raid would take place. It made no sense to wait for the men to make it all of the way to Panama. The jungle near Tabasco was just as dense and the road was just as narrow and bad. Several days past Tabasco the area was unpopulated and was well suited for an attack.

The attack went as planned, just as the first one did, but the cowardly Commander Ortiz stayed well in the rear. He also abandoned the gold and fled when he was down to a few less that a hundred men but the men of the Vengeance anticipated this because of his obvious fear. Again they were all cut down and this time the line of wagons was huge. Commander Ortiz had his pockets bulging with gold ingots when he was found dead with his men. This time there were twenty seven wagons of not only gold ingots but also coins and silver that was melted and poured into disks that weighed a kilogram each. There were also precious stones and pearls. They managed to get all of it loaded onto the Vengeance but she was riding very low in the water.

They sailed for Tortuga while the slaves back in the new colonies fled. They had often spoken of it and the word had been passed as to where they would go if ever they escaped. Many of them had been marched overland through a land in the south named Belize. Belize was unpopulated and the thick, mountainous jungle was almost impenetrable. They formed tribes deep in the jungle there and in the mountains. Game was abundant as well as fruit and nuts. They enjoyed their new freedom and soon lived just as their ancestors had for thousands of years.

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Writing is what writers do. They have something on their minds and they find the words to express it. We don't have to a Will Shakespeare or a Toni Morrison to put our stories out there. We just have to have a love of the craft and an appreciation for the readers we are able to connect with. Thanks, Felipe, for sharing your tale with Thumper's Corner. You contributed to the goal of making this literary forum a diverse one. Good Luck with your book! :)

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Finally an answer, honestly, I was holding my breath as I knew people were reading it, but didn't know how it would be received here. This first novel of mine actually made the 50 semifinalists out of over 2,000 submissions in the amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in 2010. I have never seen another put chapter after chapter up for people to read, but I was raised very poor and know that some can't afford a Kindle or even see a book as a luxury, so I like doing this, sharing it for free, as long as no one minds. There is a lot more of this story to come, but to me, it gets interesting in the second book, "The Tribe."

As you will soon see, they really enrage the king and he scours the Caribbean looking for them. They need a new home as theirs is discovered and what better place to go than Belize where all of the slaves that they freed fled to? They have many large tribes and prove to be powerful allies.

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CHAPTER NINETEEN

MARIANNA

Felix Chavez surveyed the harbor on Veracruz as the ship approached. It was a very busy port with ships of all descriptions. Frigates, Corsairs, fishing sloops and a few Galleons rode on their anchors. After his ship dropped anchor he got into a rowboat and went ashore. Stepping ashore he went straight to the Viceroy’s compound and showed the Commander of the garrison his letter of decree from the King giving him full authority over his mission.

He was escorted to the room where the records of arrest, deeds and census were kept. “You may leave now.“ he told the soldier.

He started with the records of arrest and began going through them. Eventually he found the record of arrest for Felipe Antonio Montoya and began to read it. The arrest took place offshore of Catocha on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Felipe and his father Juan Carlos had been caught in an act of piracy. His father had been killed in the ensuing battle. Felipe was taken into custody and placed in the jail in Catocha after which he murdered a guard and escaped. A search of his property had not found him. There was a crude drawn likeness of Felipe which he studied and then placed the document to the side.

He went to the property deeds of the area of Catocha and searched for the name of Montoya. Finding no listings he went to the property deeds held by the former Viceroy and was amazed at the number of them. Any property seized by the Viceroy for the commission of crimes was supposed to be sold at auction with the proceeds going back to the King, However, all of the deeds showed that the property was legally sold to the Viceroy, not confiscated. He removed all of the deeds and began going through them.

Finally he found the deed of land that had belonged to Juan Carlos Montoya. He noted the grid area then went to the maps. Finding the proper map he removed it, laid it on the table and drew a circle around the property. He then took the likeness of Felipe, the map and all of the former Viceroy’s land deeds. He had just became a very rich man, the King would have no trace of all of the land that the Viceroy had confiscated and would assume that he had hidden the deeds.

He took the documents with him and found a boarding house. After a hot bath and a good meal he went to a tavern to drink and partake of a woman. The next day he had his ship loaded with provisions for the trip to Catocha. He paid a months rent in advance and concealed the deeds in the closet folded in some clothes. He took the map and the likeness of Felipe with him and sailed for Catocha.

Four days later he dropped anchor in the small port of Catocha and went straight to the smaller garrison there. He examined the cell where Felipe had killed the guard and then had made his escape. He then took a horse and using the map rode to Felipe’s former home. Having been abandoned for many months the property had fallen into disrepair. Where once there had been well cared for land and a pasture, weeds had now sprouted up. The door of the house hung open. He dismounted and tied his horse to the rail.

Stepping through the door he saw many dried muddy bare footprints and a large room devoid of any furniture. It was totally barren having been looted by the local Mestizos after it had sat vacant. Everything was gone, he stepped into the kitchen and cabinet doors hung open as well as the pantry. They had stolen everything down to the last dish. A large mark on the floor revealed where the wood burning stove had once stood. It was the same in every room as he walked through the house. All clothing and furniture were gone as well as some of the interior doors along with their hinges.

There were no clues to be had here so he walked out to the barn. It was the same, stripped bare. Even a lot of the wooden planking had been removed. He walked down to the deserted dock and stared out to sea for a moment thinking. He took out the map and examined the property line. A house stood in the distance with a chicken coop behind it, a cow grazed in the pasture. He mounted his horse and rode to the house. As he approached the house a small dog came out yapping at him.

A portly, middle aged woman came to the door and was surprised to see a man riding toward her porch, they never got visitors. He noticed that she was smoothing her hair and apron as he approached. He dismounted and smiled at her. “Hello, my name is Felix Chavez and I would like to inquire about the property next to yours. It is vacant and I would like to see if it is for sale.”

“I am Maria Padilla, I am pleased to meet you. The property is indeed vacant but no one knows where the owners are. I assume that they were all arrested and are in jail.” she said.

“In jail?” he asked feigning a surprised look.

“Yes, it was quite the scandal. They were our neighbors for many years and we thought that they were honest, hardworking people. It turned out that they were pirates!”

“Pirates, living here?” he asked.

“Yes, we thought that they were fishermen. His wife Marianna and I often spoke at the fence. We shared dinners together many times with them. Juan Carlos would supply us with fish and we provided them with corn. His brother Andreas seemed like such a nice man also. Who would have ever guessed the truth?”

“He had a brother living there also?”

“Yes, Andreas Montoya, they came from Spain together with his wife Marianna, he lived there also.” she replied glad to have someone to talk to.

At the mention of Andreas Montoya’s name his heart skipped a beat. He knew the name of Andreas Montoya very well indeed. But he concealed his emotions from the woman.

“We do not receive visitors very often, so I heard it that morning when many horses approached, a full compliment of the Viceroy’s men! They searched the house, barn, boats and all around the property. Then they came and questioned us as to when was the last time that we saw them.” she added.

“So, you actually did not see them get arrested? Perhaps they are still hiding with friends or relatives.” he said as he looked back at the house.

“Perhaps, but we were their only friends, they never spoke of others. They tended to their work, or so we thought. We are rather remote from the town so people do not visit out here. The only relative that Marianna ever spoke of was her sister Carmen. She made the Atlantic crossing prior to them. She lives in Catocha, Marianna would visit her every once in a while. She was a widow as I remember. The rest of her relatives remained in Spain as did Juan Carlos’s family.

“Well I am sure that the Viceroy’s men have searched there.” he said.

“I would assume that they have, they did not ask me about relatives but they have all of the records of census.”

He pretended not to notice the information that she had just divulged and turned back toward the house. “The house and barn will need substantial repairs if I were to purchase it, it looks as if it has been looted.”

“Yes, we have seen many Mestizos stealing from there. They have probably taken everything, we even saw them taking doors! But we keep to our own business. The Viceroy’s patrols never come out here and it would not be wise to anger the locals lest we wake up with our throats slit.”

“Yes, an attractive woman such as yourself must be very careful out here alone while your husband is at work.“ he said with a smile.

She blushed and said “Yes, my husband is busy fishing all day but he can protect me when he is home.”

“Well then I shall ride into town and see how much they want for the property. It would be nice to have a pleasant neighbor such as yourself. If you will pardon me, I will take my leave of you now.” He removed his hat and bowed his head.

“It was nice meeting you.” she said with a smile. “What was your name?”

“Felix Chavez.” he replied swinging into his saddle. He turned and left at a slow trot but as soon as he rounded the curve in the road he kicked the horse and ran it as fast as he could. He did not slow down until he reached the cobblestone road.

Felipe had been sleeping so when he woke up he went to the galley to get some coffee and then went up on deck. He was surprised to see land. They should be far out to sea by now so he hurried to the stern and saw Andreas at the wheel. “Where are we? We should not be able to see land, I thought that we were sailing for Tortuga.“

Andreas smiled at him and said “We are close, I thought we would go and get your mother.“

The men of the Vengeance were all in high spirits with their vast cargo of gold but now Felipe in particular was very happy because they were going to retrieve his mother Marianna. He had missed her badly and knew that she would be delighted to meet the princess. He imagined the homecoming and their meeting on Tortuga. The Vengeance sailed slightly past Catocha then dropped anchor near the shore.

It was agreed that only Andreas would go ashore to retrieve her, so he once again dressed as a peasant so he could blend in with the other poor town folk. He got into a lifeboat and it was lowered into the water. “I will return shortly with your mother.” he smiled up at Felipe as he cast off the ropes.

“God be with you Uncle.” Felipe said.

Felix Chavez rode straight to the compound and to the room where the records of census were kept. He searched through the records for any woman named Carmen. A search of the records revealed only two women by the name of Carmen. One was a very old married woman and one was middle aged and single. He got six soldiers to accompany him and they rode to Carmen’s house. The men kicked in the door and rushed into the house with their guns drawn.

Two women who had been sitting at a table drinking coffee got up and held each other in fear, startled at the sudden intrusion. The men spread out and quickly searched the rest of the house but discovered no one else there. The tall man approached and looked at them. They looked almost identical, petite with delicate features and large brown doe-like eyes. Both had raven hair that fell past their shoulders, but the older one had wisps of gray sweeping back at the temples behind her ears.

“ I am Felix Chavez, I am on a special mission for the King. Which one of you is Marianna Montoya?” he demanded. Neither woman spoke so he said “Very well, arrest both of them.”

“No, I am Marianna, leave my sister out of this.” she stepped forward.

“You are a wanted criminal and your sister is harboring a known fugitive. Take them into custody!” he commanded the men. They roughly grabbed the women by the arms and pulled them out of the house leaving the door open. People stopped on the street and watched with defiant looks of hatred and open anger at the soldiers. People were routinely arrested for no cause and Carmen was a very well liked and respected member of the community.

They were taken to the walled compound, to the same small cell that Felipe had once been imprisoned in. Carmen was locked in the cell and Marianna was roughly pushed down into a wooden chair in the center of the room.

“Where are your son and Andreas hiding?” Chavez asked.

“I do not know.” she said.

Chavez slapped her with a hard backhand that snapped her head around. She tasted blood and put her hand to her mouth and then looked at it.

“Leave her alone!” Carmen shouted.

Chavez wheeled angrily toward her and said “Perhaps she told you something. I will get the truth out of you or I will have my way with both of you. Then I will let all of the soldiers in this garrison take turns with the two of you. We will keep you here for whores if you do not give the information that I seek.”

Marianna looked at him as he openly stared at her breasts and licked his lips. He looked her in the eyes and said “We can do this pleasantly, without pain, if you cooperate. But I assure you, I will get the truth out of you. I will ask you once more nicely, where are Andreas and your son?”

“I swear before God, the last time that I saw them they sailed a fishing boat away from our home. It all happened so suddenly there was no time for them to plan or anywhere to go, they just had to flee. I swear that this is the truth, I do not know where they are.”

She looked pleadingly into his eyes, searching for any small measure of sympathy but saw none. The man had cold, dark eyes that reminded her of a snake. “I know how to loosen your tongue.” he turned to one guard and said “Watch her. The rest of you come with me.”

Andreas rowed the boat to the shore then secured it against the rocks. He followed the shoreline the short distance to the town. He walked to the street where Carmen lived and was surprised to see the door to her house hanging wide open. He went to the door and knocked and a couple stopped. The man said “Excuse me senor, are you looking for Carmen?”

Andreas turned and looked at the old, well dressed couple. “Yes, I am her brother in law.”

“They took her earlier.” the man said with an angry look on his face.

“Who took her, and where?” Andreas asked.

“A tall man with black hair had six of the Viceroy’s soldiers with him. They took her and her houseguest away. They were treating them very roughly. Many are arrested on false charges but Carmen? She was a fine, upstanding woman who gave to our local charities. The bastards have no decency.” the old man said as his wife shook her head.

“When did they take them?” Andreas asked.

“Earlier, before midday, they rode toward the Viceroy’s compound.”

“Thank you.” Andreas said and he hurried away. He got to the boat, shoved it into the water and rowed as fast as he could toward the Vengeance. Felipe saw that he was alone in the boat and rowing very fast. He knew that something was wrong and soon Batu, Jean Pierre, Ajamu and Tor stood beside him. Andreas was winded when he caught the rope that was tossed to him and he shouted out “Soldiers arrested your mother and Carmen just this morning! They took them to the jail in the compound! We must hurry!”

They all quickly got into the boat and Batu asked for the oars. As he put his full strength into rowing the boat surged quickly forward. When Andreas caught his breath he retold the story. “This is the same jail that you escaped from so you know the area. We will slip in and break her out tonight.”

Anger burned in Felipe’s face, he wanted to kill them.

Andreas saw it. “We must be very quiet and not raise any alarm if we are to free them, we must be very silent. We stole an entire warship right from under the noses of the King’s men. You escaped from there alone, the six of us can do this.”

Felipe nodded his head and stared toward the shore as Batu rowed with all of his might. The sun was beginning to set on the water and it would be dark soon. The men asked Felipe about the layout of the compound and they made their plans.

After a while the door opened up and the tall man entered looking at Marianna. One of the soldiers was backing in the door carrying one side of a stout wooden table. The soldiers carried the table into the room and sat it in front of Marianna. It had four loops of rope coming up through holes drilled in the table. A set of thumbscrews were mounted in front of them in the center. Dark stains of dried blood surrounded the vise like instrument and Marianna’s eyes went wide in terror.

The men grabbed her arms and forced them through the loops of rope. Another man tied them tightly from underneath the table, one at her elbows and the other at her wrists. Her thumbs were placed into the device and the top was attached.

“For the love of God, do not do this!” Marianna said.

“I do not believe in your God!” the man hissed.

He began to slowly tighten the thumbscrews as Marianna screamed out in pain. He had pinned the knuckles of both of her thumbs, it was excruciating. He tightened it again and she again screamed and began to cry, sobbing loudly. He stood up straight and said “I will leave you like this to consider telling me the truth. I will not break your thumbs tonight, but in the morning you had better tell me the truth.” He left one man to guard her and walked out of the room.

When the boat nosed into the shore they got out and secured it. Darkness was falling rapidly as they made their way through the jungle along the shoreline until they came to the edge of town. They walked along inside the jungle until they were very close to the compound, then waited until it was completely dark. They then stole out into the town and made their way through the night.

They approached the walled compound staying in the shadows until they came to the spot that Felipe had scaled when he escaped. They scaled the wall and crouched in the darkness. Felipe pointed out the way and led them as they darted across the grounds to a nearby building.

Pressing their backs against the wall, they eased along it until they came to a window with light streaming out of it. They crouched low and passed under it as they heard laughter coming out of the window. When they got to the front of the building they had to cross an opening to the small jail cell. Felipe pointed at it and a guard that was patrolling back and forth along the wall.

In whispered tones they agreed that they would run across the opening one at a time as the guard turned around to walk the other way. Felipe went first and made it into the shadows. One by one they darted silently across the opening every time the guard turned his back. Batu was the last man remaining. When the guard reached the end of his patrol and turned around Batu stepped out and bumped right into a soldier who had just exited the barracks. The surprised man looked up at him, opened his mouth and drew in a breath to shout an alarm.

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Batu quickly put his palm over the man’s mouth and nose and grabbed him by the back of his head with his other hand. He lifted the man off of his feet and stepped back behind the building as the man kicked at him and struggled trying to break Batu’s iron grip with both of his hands. Batu pinned him against the wall with his knees and with a quick, powerful twist broke the man’s neck and eased him to the ground.

Again he watched the guard walk and turn, this time he peeked around the building before he darted across. Together they eased to the back wall of the small jail. A yellow square of light with bars across it shined on the ground and they crept toward it.

Batu was tall enough to see into the window so he slowly eased his head and looked inside with one eye. He saw a woman sitting in the cell crying and another woman seated at a table with her back to him. Her arms were on the table in front of her and she had her head down on the table crying. A man sat on a wooden chair watching her.

Batu crouched down and looked at his friends. He nodded his head and held up two fingers. He then spread his fingers on the top of his head and made waving motions as he drew them down to his shoulders. He then held up one finger and drew both of his index fingers along the top of his lip like a moustache. The men all nodded their heads.

Inside of the jail the man had been studying Marianna for hours. She was beautiful and very helpless with her thumbs in the thumbscrews. He thought about what Chavez had said about them all taking turns on them after the questioning was over. He decided that he would be first, Chavez was not coming back until the morning and he would not care. When he got up Marianna looked up at him with tears streaming down her face. He walked behind her, encircled her waist with his arm and roughly yanked her up to a standing position as he threw the chair to the side. Marianna screamed out in pain and begged him to stop.

Outside Felipe heard his mother’s cry and ran to the door. The guard unbuckled his belt and undid his trousers pulling them down to his knees. He was reaching for the bottom of her skirt when the door burst open. He tried to pull his pants up but Felipe was on him in an instant. He stabbed the man through the center of his throat slicing through his windpipe. The blade exited the back of the man’s neck with the cutting edge facing out toward his ear. He used the man’s spine as a fulcrum and sliced the entire side of his neck open. The man’s head fell to the right with no muscles to hold it up on one side.

He tried to cover the huge gash with both hands and Felipe delivered a vicious kick to his crotch before he fell to the floor. Andreas quickly released the thumbscrews while Jean Pierre cut the ropes underneath the table. Ajamu and Tor guarded the door. His mother was free and she got up and embraced Felipe tightly crying “I knew that you would come for me.”

Felipe hugged his mother while Andreas searched the dead guard for the key. Finding the key he unlocked the cell and Carmen came rushing out. Carmen hugged him and thanked him. Andreas held his finger to his lips and whispered “We must make our escape, quietly!”

Andreas eased the door open while Felipe took his mother by her wrist so that he would not hurt her hands. Andreas motioned with his hand and they quietly slipped out of the door and ran behind the building. They eased silently to the edge of the building again seeing the guard walk his post.

“This is too risky.” Jean Pierre whispered. “Let me just kill him and be done with it.”

“Do it silently my friend.” Felipe said.

Jean Pierre reached into the sheath on his belt and flipped open his straight razor, it gleamed in the moonlight. The woman’s eyes got large but they had no sympathy for the soldier. Jean Pierre nodded his head, smiled and tapped the brim of his hat with two fingers. He then slipped into the shadows.

The guard reached the end of his patrol and turned to leisurely walk back in the other direction, his rifle held loosely on his shoulder. The rest of the group watched as Jean Pierre slipped up quickly behind him. He cupped his hand over the man’s mouth pulling his head back and slit his throat from ear to ear, then silently drug him back into the shadows.

He quickly rejoined them and whispered “I am sorry that you ladies had to witness that.”

“I have no qualms about it.” Marianna whispered, rubbing her thumbs.

“We must leave quickly now.” Felipe said.

He led his mother and the group. They kept to the shadows and crept with their backs against the wall. Finally they came to the dark spot on the wall. Batu reached up and pulled himself up, straddling the wall. He reached down and grabbed Marianna’s wrists and easily pulled her up so she could sit on the wall. She pivoted her legs over and he eased her down. Tor did the same with Carmen as the men all scaled the wall. They crouched in the bushes as a group of drunken soldiers passed noisily by. Then they quickly crosses the street and kept to the alleys until they got to the edge of town and slipped into the dark safety of the jungle.

Reaching a small clearing they stopped so that the women could catch their breath. The light from a full moon streamed down and illuminated them with a soft light. Felipe introduced everyone and asked about their capture. When she mentioned the name of Felix Chaves, Andreas’s face darkened, but he said nothing not wanting to frighten the women.

Rested, they made their way to the shore and followed it to their small boat. “That is our ship.” Felipe said pointing proudly at the massive Vengeance riding on her anchors.

“But that is one of the King’s warships, and a huge one at that. What became of the Marianna?” his mother asked.

“We still have the Marianna.” Felipe replied.

“Well, where did you get that ship?” she asked.

Felipe looked at Andreas for help but Andreas said nothing. He just began smiling at Felipe. Felipe looked back at his mother.

“Well? Where did you get that ship?” she pointed, demanding an answer.

Felipe looked again at Andreas for some help but Andreas just kept smiling. Batu was also smiling, seeing Felipe squirm under the accusing eye of his mother. He was enjoying this and Felipe gave him an angry look.

“I am talking to you! “ she shouted. “Where did you get that ship?”

“Well… we borrowed it.” Felipe said looking at the ground and shuffling his feet like a little boy caught in the act of doing something wrong. Batu put his palm over his mouth and laughed silently.

“You have STOLEN a warship?” she screamed.

Felipe again looked frantically at Andreas for some help but just got a smile in return.

“And why pray tell, do you need a warship? You cannot fish from a warship. You are still a fisherman, are you not?” she looked at him accusingly.

“Well.. Yes, I still fish.” he said looking at Batu. Batu could not hold it in and began to laugh softly in his deep voice, he was thoroughly enjoying this.

“That is not what I asked you! Are you still a fisherman or not? Answer me with the truth!”

Felipe looked at the ground and said “I am a pirate.”

“A PIRATE?” she screamed looking very sternly at him.

Felipe again looked at Andreas for some help and still just got a smile. He was desperate to escape the wrath of his mother’s eye so he pointed accusingly at Andreas and blurted out. “What about Uncle Andreas? He is a pirate too!”

The women both looked at Andreas with a stunned look on their faces. Andreas pointed at Batu and mimicked Felipe’s voice. “What about Batu? He is also a pirate!”

The women looked at Batu and he pointed at Jean Pierre. “It was all Jean Pierre’s idea! I was working on a plantation when he found me and tempted me with riches!”

The women looked at Jean Pierre and he just smiled at them. “I cannot believe that my entire family has become pirates.” Marianna said looking back at Felipe.

Felipe looked at his mother. “The day they killed my father and we had to flee, I saw you standing at the window watching us leave. I saw my entire life slipping away. They took everything from me, my parents, my home, my very way of life. I swore revenge on the King so we recruited some men, stole a ship and are now pirates to avenge my father’s death.”

Marianna just looked at him but her face softened. Andreas said “Very successful pirates, I might add. That ship now holds all of the gold from the forts at New Granada and Panuco.” He pointed at the ship.

Marianna looked stunned as she thought about it. “All of the gold from Panuco and New Granada? That is all of the gold that was stored in the new colonies, how did you do such a thing?”

“It is a long story and we have a long voyage ahead of us. We must leave now and be over the horizon before dawn. We will tell you everything along the way.” Felipe said, smiling at his mother.

They boarded the lifeboat and rowed back to the Vengeance. Felipe put Marianna and Carmen in his cabin and they sailed toward Tortuga. Early the next morning he woke up and went to the galley. He heard hysterical women’s laughter coming from inside. As he walked in his mother and Carmen were wiping tears from their cheeks as Carlos stood by with a mirthful look on his face.

“Felipe, where ever did you find this charming man?” Marianna asked.

“I have been entertaining them with my collection of off colored jokes.” Carlos said with a smile.

“And his Chicken Dance is hilarious.” Carmen added.

“Jean Pierre gets the credit for finding Carlos.” Felipe said. Andreas joined them and Carlos began serving a hot breakfast. It was the first time Felipe had eaten with his mother in many months,

Felix Chavez walked into the jail and found the women gone and the guard dead. He examined the huge wound on the side of his neck. The entire side of his throat was sliced open. He looked for blood of the opponent and found none. Whoever did this was an expert swordsman and who else would do this except for Felipe himself?

He was filled with rage at his only source of information being stolen right out from under his nose. He ran from the jail and commanded the entire garrison to quickly assemble. He sent ten men down either direction of the road to search for them and commanded the rest to close off all escape routes and to search every home in the town.

By nightfall his anger burned inside of him and he swore to himself that he would capture and kill Felipe.

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CHAPTER TWENTY

THE WEDDING

Andreas found Felipe alone on the deck and approached him. “I did not want to frighten your mother by saying this in front of her. The man who captured her, Felix Chavez is the King’s personal assassin. I trained him myself and he is a deadly man. He is relentless.“

“I will find and kill him for doing this to my mother.” Felipe said staring at Andreas.

“He is a very dangerous man Felipe.” Andreas said.

“I will send him to meet God and his judgment.” Felipe replied with a confidant look.

“Very well.” Andreas said.

As they sailed into the cove at Tortuga Marianna and Carmen stood at the rail and watched the wives waving from the shore. As the ship swung around to drop anchor Felipe said “I see Angelica but not Victoria.” to Jean Pierre.

“Perhaps she does not feel well.” Jean Pierre said.

“I certainly hope that she is not ill, I really am looking forward to meeting her.” Marianna said.

They lowered the lifeboat and Felipe rowed his mother and Carmen to the shore with Andreas. The rest of the men swam and some were already on the shore. As they made the beach Angelica came walking up holding Jean Pierre’s hand. Felipe asked her where the princess was. “At the pavilion, come.” was all that she said.

Felipe led his mother and Carmen down the trail, he saw the princess sitting with her back to him. He walked up behind her and said “Victoria, I have a big surprise for you.”

She turned her head slightly and said. “And I too have a big surprise for you.” He saw the corner of a smile.

She rose and turned around smiling, she was very pregnant. Felipe’s eyes bulged out and the princess rushed to him and hugged him. Felipe was speechless. “Is this your mother? She is beautiful!” the princess said. Marianna hugged her and introduced her sister Carmen.

“Felipe! You did not tell me that she was pregnant! What a nice surprise! I am going to be a grandmother!” She hugged the princess again as Batu and Shayla walked up. Batu was also very happy.

“Neo will have a playmate.” he said.

“So, how long have the two of you been married?” Marianna asked.

The princess looked at Felipe and he looked at his mother, he said nothing.

“You mean to tell me that you have not married her?” Marianna asked with a astonished look. “I raised you better than that.”

“But I proposed and she accepted!” Felipe said. “There are no priests on this island!”

“Felipe!” Marianna said angrily. “You have not married this lovely woman even though she carries your child?” She put her hands on her hips as Batu stood there with a huge grin on his face. He just loved seeing Felipe being chastised by his mother.

“I did not know that she was pregnant until just now! We have been gone for four months!” he stammered.

“You must marry her immediately! You must make an honest woman out of her! Shame on you Felipe! Come here child.” She again took the princess in her arms and gave Felipe a stern look.

“Where shall we find a priest?” he asked.

“Is not the Captain of a ship allowed to marry couples at sea? Who Captains the ship when you do not?”

“Uncle Andreas does.” he said.

Marianna looked at Andreas. “Very well, the wedding will take place in the morning!” She beamed at Victoria, holding both of her hands in hers. “You must now propose to her.”

“I told you that I already did and she has already accepted.” he said while Batu smiled largely at him. He wrinkled his brow at Batu’s amusement.

“That has passed, you must propose again.” Marianna said.

“Will you marry me?” he asked.

“Felipe!”

Felipe dropped to one knee and removed his hat. He looked at his mother and then looked into the princess’s eyes. “I love you more than life itself. Will you marry me?”

She smiled and said “Of course I will marry you.”

“That is better.” Marianna said smiling.

Felipe rose and looked at Batu. “I see that things are going to be very different on the island now that your mother is here.” Batu said.

“Shut up you big buffoon.” Felipe said smiling.

“Momma’s Boy.” Batu replied with a smile. He took Shayla’s hand and they walked to his cabin and closed the door.

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