Vox Populi Forum
It is with a heavy heart I must inform you of the passing of my brothers, Roger and Ernst.
The merchant smuggler Jehan Colon loved Camille Bella, the daughter of Admiral Louis Bella of France. Rene Bella, the Admiral’s son had been kidnapped while serving as a cabin boy among the fleet. The merchant had contracted a man named Paul Wildemoon to rescue the lad, and it was Wildemoon who brought together a stalwart group to perform the rescue and function as ship’s Officers: Roger Leclerc and Ernst among them. Together we set forth upon the merchant’s galleon, “Globesetter,” to deliver the three-thousand doubloon ransom. Others had interest in M Bella, and so, it was a race.
The journey to the Gahanna fortress, located in the far-off land of Ethiopia, was fraught with peril. Many of the crew and officers were slain. Roger fell when a French patrol vessel pulled alongside Globesetter seeking one of her crew for murder. The Globesetter crew chose not to turn over one of their own. It was during this battle that Roger fell.
After infiltrating the Gahanna fortress it was determined that the prisoner, M Bella, had been sold. It was believed he was now on the Isle of Cyprus, south of Kleef.
It was in Genoa that I came aboard, and was informed by Ernst of the loss of Roger. He introduced me to the Captain of Globesetter, a self described “Fancy Lad” named Nathaniel Mayweather. I was assigned to aid the Ship’s Quartermaster, and introduced to the other officers, Cezanne Le Lune, Reginald Willoughby, Anton le Condame and Paxton Wildemoon. Paxton was the brother of Paul Wildemoon. Paul Wildemoon had been slain at Gahanna by a traitor among the crew.
The sea voyage to Cyprus was smooth and unremarkable - almost as if an invisible hand moved Globesetter directly between the Fortress and our new objective. The lull in action was not to last.
Cypress had a sea-side citadel where M Bella was supposed to be held. A line of tiki torches defined a path from the harbor to the gates of the citadel. The route looked too inviting. Captain Mayweather brought Globesetter to the lee side of an offshore sand bar, from which we sought a stealthy entrance.
The first sentries we encountered fought like savages. M le Condame was fatally stabbed, and approaching reinforcements forced our own retreat down the beach.
The marines, tired and thirsty from the battle grumbled of thirst. Captain Mayweather put a stop to the complaints by offering gold to the first man to find potable water. A stream was nearby and the lucky soldier was congratulated by his friends. Refreshed, and with little choice, we tried an approach via the tiki torch lined avenue. The sentries were corrupt men, and would, most likely, have been open to a bit of bribery had there been any of noble birth among our band. Instead, we were forced into a running gun battle. Captain Mayweather organized our men into three units, led by himself, M Wildemoon and a marine Sergeant named Samuel Caron. The three mistimed their attacks, and all surprise was lost. It was M. Le Lune whose passionate exhortations inspired our men to rally and claim the victory.
We made out way up the tiki-lined path, fearful of ambush when we discovered a potential second route to the citadel. The rope bridge was narrow, old, rotten, and spanned a deep gorge with jagged rocks below. M Le Lune confidently volunteered to cross the rickety structure and secure it from the other side. His confidence was misplaced. A strong gust of sea-wind caught him unawares, and he tumbled from the bridge to his doom. Sergeant Caron was next to try. He was next to break across the bottom of the gorge. I was for taking our chances along the main path, but brave Ernst was next to attempt the bridge. He succeeded where the other men had failed, and, his securing of the far side made it easier for the rest. One by one we crossed with no further mis-steps.
We were able to sneak, undetected, inside the citadel into the very inner sanctum. There, soldiers sat, playing with poisonous snakes rather than attend their watch. Loon Le Lune, a brother of Cezanne, still raged at his brother’s death. He led our marines into a quick, lightning strike against the surprised guards. All were quickly dispatched.
We penetrated further in. Three more guards were found in what only can be described as an abattoir. The pile of charred bones looked human. We had found a den of vile cannibals! The three were quickly “sent to their own larder,” and the still enraged M. Le Lune took one of the guard’s hats as a trophy.
Past the abattoir lay the dungeons - now unguarded. Within, Rene Bella and other men of merit. We quickly unlocked the shackles of the prisoners, and moved as quickly as possible to return to Globesetter.
We hadn’t moved quickly enough. As we weighed anchor and unfurled sails a barge approached. The kidnapper’s soldiers attempted to board Globesetter. They were repelled and we were able to outrun the barge in open water, but Loon Le Loon and your son, Ernst, were captured by the enemy. Captain Mayweather was looking astern, plotting a return to save the two men when his face went ashen and he lowered his spy-glass. “They have hung Ernst” he intoned, “Loon is pleading at the foot of the gallows.” Gravely, he instructed the navigator to point our prow north towards Kleef.
The next days were a daze for me. The loss of so many officers, soldiers and sailors would have touched the heart of almost any man. To discover one brother had perished, and to watch a second die, almost more than I could bear. I could not even bear to leave Globesetter when she stopped to resupply in Stockholm!
As we rounded the northern tip of Kleef to cross north-northwest towards Scotland the cold eastern waters kicked up a long-lasting storm. Globesetter’s sturdy hull crashed through the waves, but the next issue arose from Paxton Wildemoon.
We had all observed M Wildemoon’s unhealthy fascination with fire. He had kept tiki torches taken from Cypress and kept them burning alongside him on his watches. With days of rain above he had taken to lighting his torches in the hold and staring at the flickering flames for long hours. Captain Mayweather declined to confiscate the torches, which caused the increasingly nervous crew to become more and more unruly. Of course M WIldemoon eventually caused open flames to break out in the hold. One might think that a ship surrounded by water in the middle of a storm would be safe from fire, yet any true sailor knows fire is the most dangerous peril of all. Especially when that ship carries gunpowder for her cannon!
The crew were mustered to fight the flames when an unwelcome surprise sprung forth. Loon le Lune was a stowaway aboard Globesetter! He had forsworn Admiral Bella and the kidnappers must have transported him to Stockholm ahead of our arrival. We had to battle flames and a former companion. Both were subdued, and M Le Lune thrown in irons. Berge du Destin was the sailor who stepped up and organized teams to quench the fire. M du Destin had been a quiet man before, but stepped forth in time of need. It was rumored he was, more properly, Lord Destin, and that he was a scion of the Bonadventure family - a descendant of Charlemagne!
It was next discovered Le Lune has sabotaged our stores. Globesetter’s hull was damaged and scorched, her demoralized crew growing disordered as lack of food left all nearly starving before we could again see the shores of Europe.
We encountered a Kleef convoy, and I was able to procure fresh supplies at a good rate - being the son of an onion merchant has it’s advantages! M Wildemoon and Captain Mayweather brought the crew back to order with displays of skill with sword and pistol, and made it clear the weapons would discipline any who stepped too far out of line. Yet, Captain Mayweather tempered his discipline with what he called a “finishing school approach.” When a sailor aboard made unfavorable comparisons between the Captain and a nobleman of ill-repute, Captain Mayweather merely stared the sailor down. “I avoid conflict with lesser people,” the Captain drawled.
As for our prisoner, M Le Lune was found dead by his guard, Paul Kae. Le Lune had hung himself in the brig. Kae removed the body, with it’s distinctive hat pulled low, to hide the swollen, purple face of the dead man from the crew. No tears were shed for the traitorous cur.
Our indirect route around Kleef and the storm had cost us much time. As we drew near to Paris, a ship appeared on the horizon ahead of us. She moved to intercept, and her banner matched the livery flying from the citadel on Cyprus. Our Rival had caught us. Fortunately M Willoughby had had enough time to restore Globesetter’s cannon and hone her gun crews. Captain Mayweather held fire until the attacking vessel had thrown grapples. The foe was caught unawares by the blast, and the valiant Lord Destin led a party astern to cut down the colors of our assailants. The battle was won almost before it began, and the “pyrate” vessel taken as a prize.
This was to prove the final obstacle of the mission. We made port in Paris and, triumphantly, set forth to return Rene Bella to his father, the Admiral. To our surprise when the arrival of “M Wildemoon and friends” was announce the first to greet us was the Admiral’s daughter, Camile. She rushed forth and stopped dead in her tracks. Her eyes were searching the party. Not for her brother who rushed forth to embrace the girl, but for another. It was Captain Mayweather who took the girl aside and discovered the sad truth. Mme Bella was enamoured of the dashing Paul Wildemoon. The news of that man’s death left the girl inconsolable the entire time we were in residence.
As for the Admiral, his sources seemed confused. He believed we the ransom had been paid and were were but a “band of pyrates” trading on the name of Wildemoon to return Rene with no fear of reprisals. Rene tried to correct his father’s misapprehensions to no avail. M Bella apologized and blamed spies out of Lichtenstein, and hinted at the involvement of Lewis Scolfield, the heretic author of the damned pamphlet “Divine Awe.”
While the Admiral proved less grateful than we’d hoped, Jehan Colin, owner of Globesetter was more pleased. Despite battle, battering and blaze Globesetter returned in better condition than she had departed. M Colin avowed friendship to Wildemoon, warmly shook the hand of the dapper Captain Mayweather, and implied that we might find his vessel available if we had need in the future.
I shall test M Colin’s sincerity sooner rather than later. As I prepared to return home, I found myself contacted by the household of Ecclesiastic Prince Clement. A new and exciting opportunity has been presented to me - an opportunity that could result in a level of trade far above the selling of onions. As much as I wished to bring you the sad news in person, I cannot turn down the chance to bring fortune to out family.
I will think of you and my sister as I again set sail. I will honor my brothers and think of Papa every time I raise my glasses and quote Papa’s joke from when he would return home from months abroad when you would mock gasp, ask who he was and what he wanted, and he would reply, “It is I! Leclerc!”
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