Vox Populi Forum
Aye, lads, now that there is truly a fine Alexandrian rum! Pierre, Rodolpho, I thank ye! Sit, sit, grab your purses, place yer bets and let's get to playing Taro. Aye, Seamus, I shuffled. Seven times!
Now, where was I? Right!
So we was in Burma, searching for the Ambassador to the Burmese, at the behest of Pamelá Maurice, the lovely, Gascony-dark - aye, Seamus, if ye’d have seen her, ye’d be singing her praises alongside me! Man who married her is a… Aye, I’m running ahead of meself, again!
Anyways, Birmingham Brown was s’posed to be our leader, but Olaf Porse was staying behind and Birmingham did’nt trust him at all, so he stayed back, too. He deputized Fortuno Bonadventure, the younger brother of the great and noble Jasc Bonadventure to take charge of our group. The lovely Pamelá - and she could make a pair of breeches look as fine on her hips as the finest ballgown - was going, so I was going. Louis Brighteyes, Alain Gignot, and Mal-de-Mer-a-din of the Vert Valliant went. Tommy Guy went, too, along with another hundred-fifty-odd soldiers, including Manfridus Montague, Hector Szelbano, and me drinking buddy, Joey la Marin. We was at the Bête Verne on the east side of the continent, searching for the city of Sung.
Aye, and the climate of that land was harsh, lads! Desert, desert, as far as the eye could see. Desert from coast to coast, near as I could tell! Men was dropping left and right, wherever we went! The weather was constantly foul. Winds like the fiercest storms at sea would kick up and confuse us. Even our compasses couldn’t handle it! We was constantly getting lost. Men was dying of sunstroke early on - and that was before we found ourselves in the Desert Blanc!
Even in the Desert Blanc, Merd-a-din t'was the one who insisted we take the time to bury our dead. Men was dying digging the graves of those already dead! Manfridus led us from the Desert Blanc into more desert. Not an improvement, I tells ye! Men died in desert floods. Men died from scorpion stings. Men died of snakebite. Men died shooting each other trying to shoot the damn snakes! So many men died from the snakes we started calling Fortuno, “The Snakefinder.” Louis, he was braver than most, for he captured and tamed his very own snake, and pulled out itos fangs!
I was bitten by a snake, meself. I was one of the lucky ones. I didn’t die - yer not funny, Seamus - but I got real sick. If it wasn’t for Joey helping me walk, I don’t think I’d have made it out of the desert meself!
Through all the weeks of wandering and dying we found ourselves out near Cairo in the lands of the Fatimah. Too bad Burma was on the other side of the continent, wasn’t it?! We thought maybe in Cairo we could hire a ship to take us back ‘round to Burma, but some of us was unsure. Seems the man calling himself “The Seer” was the infamous Bartholomeu Diaz - no, Seamus, I never met him, but I heard about him from Captain Moridin and others when we sailed out to Xanadu. Pierre, slap him for me, would ye? There’s a fine lad!.
So, seems Diaz had turned against France and was one of the leaders of them Tri-Colors, and he’d been writing all over the world, poisoning minds against the true French. We was worried Cairo wouldn’t be safe. Merd-a-din said he was a friend of the Merchant Prince who ruled the city and that he could bargain for us. Well, the Prince said he couldn’t just openly let us charter or buy a ship, but he could make sure the authorities turned a blind eye if we stole one… Long as t'was a Turk vessel.
So we did. Alain led us aboard with grenades tossed right into the hold. Manfridus swung across on a rope, knocked Turks off the rail and cleared a path for everyone else to climb on. Tommy Guy grabbed the Mate and used him as a shield to push right up near the Turk Captain, and Louis led our soldiers in the final capture.
We’d just set out to sea when the sailors and soldiers who'd been trapped in the hold burst out to defend their Captain. Silly buggers didn’t even know the battle had already been lost! Joey le Marin distracted him with a call to arms, Hector inspired our lads with another call to arms, but Fortuno ended it all by waving their defeated Captain’s hat at him.
No, Seamus, I didn’t fight in the battle. I was still feverish from snakebite, and was lucky that the Lady Pamelá herself was helping nurse me. Ah, she was an Angel of Mercy, as pure in her kindness as her beauty! Pierre, your bid. Garde sans le chien?
So we set east towards La Bobine and set ashore at the Savior’s Birthplace. Here in this Holy land we stopped for prayer and reflection, where we Godly men affirmed our belief in the sacred things. We decided to continue east afoot, rather than risk La Bobine.
We made it to Yangtzee. Louis and Joey spoke enough of the local language - or at least something close enough - to hire a brace of guides to help guide us across the desert. We was still looking for Sung, so we set out for the south. “Let's find some snakes!” joked Fortuno the Snakefinder!
Aye, t'wasn't snakes we found in the desert. Eight of our men starved to death in the wastes. Another nine was killed in the night by bandits. By then we’d lost over half of our troops!
Then we found the snakes. Manfridus was bitten, but lived. Fortuno pulled him free and cut the head from the serpent. Alain had learned a little of our guide’s sing-song speech and t'was he who told us the skins of the snakes was valuable in trade. From then on, any snake we killed, we skinned. Many became rich from their skins. I was still ailing, and didn’t hear the news. I missed out on the money… Laugh if ye must, Seamus, for tonight I’m making me money off you, ain’t I? Aye, that shut ye up, didn’t it?
We trod on. Men weren’t just dying, they was deserting! Ten lads fled into the sands. Fools, they, to leave without a guide. Even with our guides the shifting winds had us constantly losing our way. I’d bet those who fled came to a bad end.
Speaking of bets… Seamus? Trust ye to bid Petite. Pierre? Oh, ho, Poignée? Rodolpho? Garde? Hmmmm… Poignée, Pierre? I’ll Chelem annoncé.
Aye, we wandered the desert and we found yet more of the accursed snakes. Manfridus was convinced the snakes was demons sent from Hell to torment our band.
The troops was fed up with all the snakes and sand. about half mutinied! A lieutenant announced their anger by trying to run his sword into Fortuno! Fortuno lived up to his name. He parried the thrust and ran the traitor through. “Dispatch the scoundrels!” Fortuno cried!
A mutinous sergeant called his scurvy dogs to arms. Merd-a-din dropped the man with a right-left combination. Too late! The disloyal took up their swords! Joey stepped up and tried to form up our loyal boys. He got them ordered, but not before the traitors cut a swath through those men. Hector charged in with a couple of stout lads and beat down the mutineer’s remaining officer. The fight ended, and we all set out again, but, of our original hundred-fifty soldiers, under fifty remained, and it was clear they wasn’t happy.
We continued exploring. More snakes. We must’ve found every snake den in that Godforsaken desert! Then, what we thought was another sandstorm turned out to be Burmese bandits. Or was they slavers? Louis offered him gold to join us. He offered fifty men twenty doubloons each to join up. For that amount of money, Seamus here would offer up his own mother! Aye, aye, sit down Seamus, I admit, that was going too far… Here’s twenty doubloons for the slight. I’ll just win them back from ye, anyways.
So, with the Burmese in our band, we finally made it to Sung. Fortuno decided we had no more reason to keep the disloyal dogs who'd mutinied. Fortuno was a good-hearted man. Rather than just abandon the scalawags in the dunes to die, he sent him east with Joey la Marin to find the sea and our ship. Joey was to keep an eye on him, and not let him spread their poison to the sailors.
I was still ailing from snakebite; the fever’d abated, but me leg was still swollen and purple. I’d notove minded heading back to the ship meself, but the lovely Pamelá - bravest and most beauteous of all women - was eager to stay in Sung and find the Ambassador, and I, smitten as I was, would have followed her from Xanadu to the Incago lands just to watch her hair blow in a sea-breeze.
T’was Pamelá who discovered where the Ambassador was being held prisoner. The man was at least being shown some respect, for, rather than a stone prison, he was being held in a yurt in a small cavalry camp outside of town. Pamelá took the troops and our Burmese slavers to handle the rest of the camp. Fortuno, Alain, Manfridus, Tommy Guy, Merd-a-din, ‘Hector, Brighteyes and me was to tackle the eight guards around the Ambassador.
Alain was joking as he led the charge. The man should’ve realized this wasn’t a time to play games, but to fight. He dodged a flung net, stumbled right into a yurt and got himself tangled up good! He looked so silly flailing around Fortuno, Tommy Guy, and Manfridus started laughing too! Manfridus was so busy laughing he almost got knocked out when he was grabbed from behind, and Tommy got stabbed when Alain stumbled right into him. Think Tommy mightove fell on his own sword!
Brighteyes was trying to bribe the guards with snakeskin goods. One took the skins and took to the hills, while Fortuno stopped laughing and started shouting. He was raging he was gonna start breaking necks with his bare hands while snatching the pistol away from a frantic guard.
Merd-a-din kept his cool like the seasoned soldier he was. He blocked, thrust, and his first foe went down. I was in too much pain to muck around. I tripped my man, thrust poniard into his shoulder and pummeled him to death with me fists. I think me moves intimidated the guards, as the remaining foes started looking nervous. Hector leapt in and beat another down with a one-two punch while Alain, still tangled in yurt, took a blow to the head with some kind of mace. A muffled clang proved he still had his helmet.
Manfridus cut a guard down, Brighteyes fired, missed, reloaded, fired again, and another guard dropped dead. Fortuno tried his own pistol, but the powder only flashed in the pan.
I thought for a minute Merd-a-din was in trouble. One of the guards had a rope around his throat and a knee in his back. Merd-a-din kept his cool and flipped the man right over his head! The remaining three guards was getting their confidence back and their leader was barking orders. I pulled my poniard and threw it into his neck - I did, Seamus! Test me. No? Thought not. Don’t be interrupting the good parts of the story.
Aye, so Hector, he was trying to draw a bead on a Burmese when the flailing, tangled Alain bore into him. Both men fell. Hector got knocked cold. Alain was rolling like mad, trying to get free. Dunno if he rolled on his own sword or Hector’s, but, when we cut him out of the yurt after the battle, he was bleeding pretty bad.
In the meantime, Manfridus had to dodge a sword slash. He stepped right into Louis and spoiled Louis’s shot. At least they didn’t knock each other down! Fortunofs blade pushed down on the sword of the man who'd just gone for Manfridus. Fortunofs dagger made sure he’d never try to cut anyone again. Finally, Merd-a-din’s man lunged again. Merd-a-din stepped aside, grabbed the mands wrist and guided him, ever so gently, into a large rock. One thud later, the last guard was sleeping in the dirt.
Pamelá and the troops had done a good job, too. No-one else in the camp had joined the guards, and no-one in the camp had ridden for aid. The Ambassador was freed!
Now, Louis, Alain, Merd-a-din and me, we was in for a big shock, for the Ambassador was someone we all thought was dead - poisoned, slain, and baked into a statue. Any guesses? No, Seamus, not Ben Jonson! Yes, Rodolpho, yes! T’was Alexander Pope, himself!
Pamelá had the troops gather up the horse and camels in the camp while we held conforence with Pope. Seemed that the Burmese was no friends to France and there was no hope of Burma coming to the aid of the French loyalists. The true mission was to save Pope this whole time. T’was a little strange to realize Pamelá - so beautiful, brave, and sweet, could also be so deceitful, but, it only made her a stronger woman in a dangerous world. We mounted up and rode for the coast, for Thor.
As we rode, we still talked. Pope would only go back to Paris with us if we pledged to rescue the “fool” Henry, Uncle of the late King. Pope said Henry was only pretending to be the fool so as to not find himself waking up dead. Fortuno swore, “I, Sir, Lady, shall endeavour to rescue the Prince.” Merd-a-din chimed in, “Not so, Monsieur Bonadventure, for it is WE who SHALL rescue the Prince!” One by one we all pledged our aid. And with that, Merd-a-din and Fortuno produced two halves of a document. When joined they proved to be the fabled Carta Magna!
Whatos the Carta Magna? Seamus, that be the old Roman Law - what? “Magna Carta?” Yer a fool, ye daft Scot! Yer also up to deal…
Anyways, we made it back to Thor and made ready to sail back to Paris. Captain Porse and the sailors looked fed and rested, and the Captain cast many a jape at our return. We left the ship with some hundred-fifty proud, strong soldiers, and returned with twenty-four bedraggled troopers. In our absence, the sculptor, Gaël, had finished carving the new figurehead for Thor. All that remained was to sail her to Kleef to attach it.
Captain Porse gestured to the carving - a squat form - and laughed, “I don’t know whofs idea this was, but itos only the second ugliest Imp I’ve ever laid my eyes on.
Louis Brighteyes said, later, that the look on Captain Porse’s face when Alexander Pope stepped forward with a cry of, “And am I the first or third?” made the entire voyage one of his favorites.
So, we set our bow for Paris. Once asea the mood aboard grew somber, then angry. The troops sent back with Joey was still unhappy about the adventures in the desert. The sailors was still nervous about sailing ‘round the Fatimah with no cannon. The superstitious Russians in the crew made fearful signs and thought it an ill omen that the monstrous figurehead of Thor had “been brought to life.” Captain Moridin would have kept tight rein, Captain Porse was no Moridin. The crew mutinied - Aye, Pierre, again. Laugh if ye must, looking back, I, too, laugh.
Tommy Guy was first to feel the crew’s wrath. He was dragged from his bunk and was tied up and forced against a mast. Brighteyes growled at the assembly to “Knock it off and get back to yer stations.” He had to dodge a hurled club for his trouble. Fortuno came up on deck to see what was the matter. Someone dropped a belaying pin on his head from the crow’s nest. The mutiny was off to a strong start.
Merd-a-din, below, rallied soldiers and sailors to muster. He started with those who had been in the desert. Those men was not loyal, and Merd-a-din barely escaped a beating, while I ran topside. The lout in the Crow’s nest almost brained me with another belaying pin, but I saw it dropping and stepped aside.
Hector it was who found the loyal crew and rallied them to action. Alain strode into the fray. The mutineers pushed Tommy Guy into him, and both men almost fell overboard.
Manfridus tried lighting a powder keg. What he hoped to achieve, I don’t know. All he did was almost blow up himself and Merd-a-din.
Brighteyes pulled Fortuno from the fray and slapped him awake. Roused, Fortuno jumped up on the rail, dashed down the deck, grabbed Tommy and hauled him free, while I sliced the lines on a jib-sail and caught up a band of mutineers in canvas like Alain in a yurt.
Hector led his men up from below. He advanced after tossing a smoke grenade up from the hold. The throw was a perfect toss into the middle of those caught in the sail. Alain, meanwhile, was hesitating, Manfridus was trying to convince the mutineers to surrender, at the same time Hector was trying to convince the mutineers they was being flanked from behind.
Half the mutineers was getting confused and the other half was still struggling under canvas. Merd-a-din crossed to Alain and told him to pull himself together. Alain did, and started reasoning with the mutineers to stand down. Better to return to Kleef with a new figurehead than to swim home through shark-filled waters! The mutineers started to listen.
Manfridus set another powder keg alight and rolled it onto the deck. Merd-a-din had seen things was calming down so he ran in and kicked the keg back towards Manfridus. Manfridus yelped and ran and the powder blew. Brighteyes tried throwing a grenade into the men trapped in the sail. Merd-a-din batted the grenade to sea with his Cutlass, then sliced the sail open to free the men trapped beneath. Those men crawled out fighting mad, but Merd-a-din treated them almost as Moridin himself would. He told the dogs how he’d put himself in harms way to save them from his own loyal friends. Those cowed mutineers who had seen what Merd-a-din had done cried out the truth of what Merd-a-din had said. They was ashamed that a noble man like Merd-a-din put himself in danger to save them when they was fighting against Merd-a-din. Thus, the actions of Merd-a-din brought the traitorous dogs to heel.
Aye, lads, and with that, that's the end of the rum, the end of yer money - and I thank ye for it! - and the end of me story. Until we meet again to eat, drink and gamble!
What, Rodolpho? Who woo’d the Lady Pamelá?
Aye… Pamelá Maurice, the most beautiful woman I ever seen. She was Gascony-dark. She curved like a perfect wave. Her lips like apples, voice like velvet, eyes like deep pools, skin soft as satin, and her hair was black like the deepest knight. Ah, lads, didn’t I say the man who married her was a lucky bastard, indeed? Would ye like to guess?
No, Seamus, t'wasn't me, tho’ that's the nicest thing ye’ve ever said to me…
Rodolpho? Alexander Pope? Aye, yer funny, lad! Beauty and the Beast, indeed? No, I said he was a lucky bastard….
Pierre? Aye! Ye guessed it! Lady Pamelá did marry Fortuno Bonadventure. In the end, he lived up to his name! So sez I, “Salty Pete!”
Perrin le Salé
Men was dying digging the graves of those already dead! -- red (posted: 6/9/2019)