Vox Populi Forum
My darling Caterina,
My return has been unavoidably delayed once more. At the request of His Eminence, Archbishop Wischard Percy, I accompany Merd-a-din and Alain Gignot on a venture to conduct two persons of import to Turin. Also of note in our party are Thomas Guy, Hector Szelbano and David Stanton.
We prepared to travel by sea from Marseilles to Verona, and, from there, overland to Turin. We sailed aboard the “Karlskrona,” the personal vessel of Marshal Francois Duclos, which has served the Vert Valliant on so many occasions.
As you have had the pleasure of meeting Duclos, perhaps you will find the same dark humor I did in the following:
Before setting sail from Marseilles, one of His Eminence’s agents intercepted an unsigned letter addressed to the Marshal. Duclos was offered the opportunity to govern Noire as an “Independent Duchy,” if only he were to forswear his loyalty to the Absent King and embrace the Republican heresies of Robespierre. I find irony that these Republicans - who reject the God-given rights of Royalty, and claim to reject the time-honored classes in society are, themselves, unable to offer reward unless couched in terms of Nobility, such as Duchy or Dukedom. The hypocrisy is obvious.
Other dubious humor comes from how badly Robespierre mis-judges the loyalty of Duclos. The last time I encountered Francois he was under interrogation by Tri-Colors sent to determine his allegence. Duclos cried, “You came for answers, here they are! I stand for Country, Compatriot and, above all, King! If you wish to ‘arrest’ me, I do not recognize the authority of rabble! If you wish to imprison me, come beat me down!” whilst signalling those of us in the Valliant to withdraw. The Marshal then detonated explosives. Duclos, a man who would sacrifice his own manse to slay a mere dozen or so Tri-Color officers has more than proven the kind of man to never turn his coat to a fiend like Robespierre.
This, when made aware of the communication, I could but chuckle.
And so, we left Marseilles aboard Karlskrona with her Vigilant crew. Stanton led as our Captain. Szelbano was our Navigator, Merd-a-din our Pilot. Gignot took the duties of Master of Soldiers while Thomas Guy tended to the souls of the crew as Vicar. I functioned as Master of Sails.
Karlskrona’s Master of Guns, Frederick le Mort, proved almost a grumbler, for he first attempted to bring grievances before Captain Stanton. Rumors indicate blows were exchanged, but the matter, at first, seemed settled. Yet, while in Port in Copenhagen, le Mort confronted Szelbano instead. Szelbano attempted to put the man in his place with a bottle cracked over his skull, yet the disgruntled le Mort had allies. Gignot attempted to defuse the situation like a gentleman, yet le Mort, bolstered by his friends was unwilling to let the matter drop. In fact, le Mort attempted to garrote Szelbano, and Gignot was forced to run him through. Le Mort was left dead on the floor. Even most of le Mort’s friends were forced to agree le Mort was at fault. All but Guy le Grognon, who would continue to mutter darkly once back aboard ship.
In Sofia we came into possession of information useful to our plans. The specifics are too sensitive to reveal here, yet the information is of such value that all aboard felt that our very luck had been increased. After this minor success we set back to sea.
Outside Perugia we were confronted by a Moorish galley with a Spanish crew. We were hailed, and ordered to submit to Spanish interrogation, “as must all” entering Genoa. As the Spanish held no authority in Genoan waters, Stanton assumed a ruse. He ordered us to attack and capture the vessel.
With le Mort’s death we had no official Master of Guns, therefore I took command of our crews. While Gignot stood tall on the rail, inspiring the crew with fine words, I directed crews to load and fire a harpoon into the galley. The harpoon bit deep into the galley’s hull, and enabled us to reel he in like a fish on a hook. Gignot leapt across. His swirling blade forced the defenders back and cleared space for Gignot’s soldiers to traverse decks. Thomas Guy fought at Gignot’s back, and, together they slew many, but found themselves unable to progress.
Due to the angles between the two ship’s hulls, Gignot’s crossing point was the only route for our soldiers to cross. For a few moments it seemed the Spanish might succeed in forcing our troops back to Karlskrona. Captain Stanton himself led a second wave of soldiers. They swung across from the rigging and landed among the second and third ranks of defenders. Stanton, himself, struck down the Spanish Master of Soldiers. The now disorganized Spanish fell back as our troops flowed onto their deck.
Merd-a-din, meanwhile, had taken a small band aft and thrown across more mooring lines. As they winched the other end of the galley closer, Merd-a-din’s voice rose in imprecations and battle-cries. His men roared, stamped their feet on the deck and fired ineffectual pistols. The din drew the attention of the Spanish Captain, who, fearing a second assault, split his defending soldiers. Yet Merd-a-din’s brilliant plan was but distraction, for, unseen during the turmoil, I was sent to swing between ships, make my way across the deck, and cut down the Spanish colors. My lusty shouts attracted the attention of the Spanish. When I raised their flag over my head then tossed it to the deck, the Spanish were utterly demoralized and immediately surrendered - many even felt their Captain had been slain!
The crew of the Karlskrona had been Seasoned by the battle. I modestly suggested Merd-a-din should be given the command of the prize vessel as it was his strategy that both split the defending forces and allowed me to strike the enemy’s colors, to end the assault with lessened bloodshed. Captain Stanton and the other Officers heartily agreed. Even the Spanish crew appreciated their new Captain, whose cleverness had served to preserve their own lives. Merd-a-din accepted the praise in silence, nodded once, then quietly stated, ”Gentlemen. To ‘Seabird Deux.’”
As the celebration ebbed, Stanton kept we Officers (and Captain Merd-a-din) back. Stanton had claimed the purse of the Spanish Officer he had slain as a prize. Beyond the gold there was a document than inferred the promised safety of Turin might be an infernal trap. Rather than a mission of deliverance, our task my turn into one of rescue.
Our flotilla encountered nothing further at sea. From Verona, our journey overland proved mostly uneventful. Stanton did have to keep a firm hand on the sailors to keep them from losing all their money in games of chance, and, as we neared Turin, we were accosted by a band of Fasci Friars, but, my love, mere monks are a laughable obstacle to trained French soldiers. There was a quick and vigorous debate in which each member of our party scored several penetrating points. In the end we took our leave of the Friars after have accorded them all the respect they were due.
Tonight, we rest outside of Turin. Tomorrow we shall accomplish our business in the city, then begin the journey home. Merd-a-din and Gignot are heroic members of the Vert Valliant, and Szelbano, Guy have proven capable soldiers, whilst I am forced to admit Stanton is a fine leader who shows much promise as a trusted ally. In the company of such men, I have little doubt our aims will be accomplished swiftly.
My love to Bailee, and Natalia. Rest assured I have not forgotten Natalia’s request for Genoan earrings, nor M. du Guiscard’s for a volume on Genoan History. Such a volume can only be and aid to the devoted tutor.
As always, I await the day when, again, I may take you into my arms and embrace you, under the stars, immersed in the heady scent of the gardens.
Your Faithful Husband,
Lord Bailey Bayley Baileigh
A few more notes for Tony and Conrad -- Chronicler Mike (posted: 8/4/2019)