Vox Populi Forum
Mission 2 pt1 “Blackmail in Berlin”
June 17, 2020
It seems my part in the rescue of Rene Bella, son of Admiral Bella of France, has led to a small amount of notoriety. My actions were insignificant compared to those of my departed brothers, so I can merely guess the deeds of one Leclerc have become the deeds of all Leclerc’s. Such is the only rationale that springs to mind for the potential of great fortune to have fallen into my lap.
I was contacted by a woman named Eloise, a Lady-in-Waiting of the Lady Genevieve, rumored mistress of Ecclesiastic Prince Clement. Lady Genevieve ranks high among the peerage .
Mme Eloise, too, ranks highly among her own “peers,” for Eloise employs the seamstresses who make the lace worn by many nobles and supplicants in court. Mme Eloise has created a new gold thread used in the creation of the fashionable gold fleur de lis worn by the most wealthy and fashionable of the upper classes, and I have the opportunity to bring the vibrant thread to market in other capitals.
In return for this business opportunity I have been asked to observe the Spanish Ambassador, Francisco Pizarro. The renowned, swashbuckling conquistador is rumored to keep a mistress. More shocking, the woman in question is rumored to be of Ansbach! To the French, affairs are expected. A mistress is like a fine cheese. To the dour Spanish, a mistress would be frowned upon, but a mistress from a Reformist nation would be a true scandal. My inquiries must be discrete, for Pizarro’s personal soldiers are fearsome warriors - savage men from some far-off and unknown men. Their faces and fighting styles are so off-putting it seems as if luck itself fears them in battle.
It was obvious that finding proof of the allegations against the Ambassador would require travel. Attempts to search his residence in Paris could prove embarrassing to the Lady Genevieve if discovered. Instead, it seemed wisest to travel to Berlin, where rumor held the Ambassador travelled for his assignations.
Travel required allies, and so I contacted Captain Nathaniel “Fancy Lad” Mayweather, Lord Berge du Destin, Paxton Wildemoon, Reginald Willoughby, Paul Kae, Modrem Mort Moridin, and others who I had met on the mission to rescue M Bella, along with Jehan Colin, owner of the galleon “Globesetter.” With the exception of M Moridin, all and sundry returned, eager for the adventure. Lord du Destin, in particular, took interest when Pizarro’s name came forth.
M Colin made good on his earlier expressions of friendship, and allowed us to contract Globesetter for nothing more than a small share of profits off Mme Eloise’s gold thread. Globesetter proved to require repairs and refreshment. While I procured provisions, M Willoughby drilled her crew on canon discipline, while M Wildemoon repaired damage to her hull. Captain Mayweather, Lord Destin and M Kae attempted to bring the corrupt sailors to order. Captain Mayweather’s light hand was enough to bring a semblance of order when on deck, but, when below or in his own cabin the sailors would scoff at his finery and affected accent. Lord Destin hung signs and placards of the Laws of the Sea on the walls of the hold. He genuinely didn’t realize most of the men were illiterate! M Kae attempted to teach the men the Laws in the form of a shanty. The crew countered with a rousing chorus of “The Cabin Boy is First Mate.”
The ill attitude of the crew even extended to vile accusations. The sailors demanded I, functioning as their employer, “prove my loyalty” to ship and crew. In my surprise I could merely say, “It is I, Leclerc!” “The Leclerc brothers are dead,” they replied. “Roger and Ernst are gone. I am Roget!” The crew accepted this, but I found myself somewhat sorrowful that I would never again be confused for my departed brother, Roger.” My mood was not helped by M Kae’s snide aside of, “I think perhaps the wrong brother lived.”
Captain Mayweather and M Wildemoon - who would serve as navigator - suggested we sail west, then south, past England, Carpathia, Spain, Lichtenstein and Genoa to Serbia, then up the river Danube for Berlin. I am not skilled in the readings of maps, stars and currents, so I merely agreed with the suggestion.
The weather was fine and sea lanes calm as Globesetter voyaged. It was off the coast of Carpathia when we encountered the “Leo’s Claw,” a courier sailing under a Spanish flag. Lord Destin felt there were documents aboard we would wish for, and convinced Captain Mayweather of the need to board. There was a long and merry chase. Twice we threw lines across to “Claw,” twice the courier’s crew were able to cut themselves free. On the third attempt we were able to board. The fighting was furious. Lord Destin still shows the burns from the fluke explosion that almost blew him into the ocean while I can still feel throbbing and itching in the empty space that once was my left hand. The papers Lord Destin anticipated were retrieved before the courier cut us free and sent us on our way with cannonballs towards our aft. The physicians were still amputating the mangled mess left where the two colliding ship’s rails caught my hand and slathering grease on Lord Destin’s face when Captain Mayweather and M Wildemoon determined we would need to turn around and set for Nantes. In my pain, I neglected to read the documents for myself. I trusted the Captain and his Navigator to make the best decisions at the time.
In Nantes Lord Destin contacted Teatro, the famed poet with the nicest theater in Europe. The poet was a kind man, and spent time working with some of the crew - many were able to translate the skills of the stage into the skills of the sailor, but I felt the stop was wasted time.
A final stop at a tavern was made, where drinking, revelry and laughter filled the night. The heady English ale, brought in from just over the nearby border, served to clear the fog that had filled my head since my maiming, and I resolved to discover from Captain Mayweather and Lord Destin what was in the documents that had led us to Nantes in the first place. The brawl in the streets drove the question from my minds. Three hooligans waylaid our band as we returned to the port. Three three were driven off, but the ship was abuzz all night while M Kae had the wound in his shoulder bound.
Yet now, in the light of morning, all is quiet, and now seems to be a good time to hold congress with the Captain. Mayweather might be ship’s Captain, but, on this mission, he works for me, and I should be informed of whatever information caused him to diverge from our initial plan.
River Danube -- Chronicler Mike (posted: 6/19/2020)