|There's not a lot of money in revenge.|
Tell a Lie Often Enough ...
The Revenge is my home, and has been for a long time now. It’s where life makes the most sense to me. And so, naturally, I want the very best for this sturdy and swift pirate ship.
Watching Captain Montoya standing at the wheel, fully recovered from his seasickness, I felt sure that I was witnessing the very dawn of the height of the Revenge’s glory.
This was the captain the Revenge was built for. Oh, the others before him—Westley, Riah, Cummerbund and all the rest … they were excellent in their own way, and this ship suited them and served them well. It made them rich, gave them a name to respect and fear.
But ultimately it was just a tool for them, who in that narrow sense were not fit to captain it. Not permanently in any case.
It was clear that Captain Montoya looked on the Revengeless as a ship than a vastly complex organism, one that he made obvious and regular pains to show his gratitude to. They were in a budding partnership together. He would learn from it; someday, hopefully, it would learn from him. It was for that reason, I’m certain, that he showed no reluctance now, having survived the “green tide,” to unashamedly ask his crew the simplest questions about the ship’s workings and to have them show him how it all fit together. And the crew … my goodness! After the news of Dauchkin’s newly doubled raise went out, they spared no effort to show him the ropes, quite literally, and with courtesy and respect that the stiffest English officer in Her Majesty’s Navy would’ve found worthy of commendation and compliment.
We got to Dredskull Point and dropped anchor in heavy fog. A light drizzle misted over us as we met in the crew mess to discuss strategy on how to locate the rock shaped like a skull which pointed the way towards a safe landing. And by “we” I mean everyone: Captain Montoya had invited (not ordered) everyone to contribute if they so desired.
I was still having trouble seeing him in here.
“More minds on the job means more ideas, Paloni,” he had said, misinterpreting the look on my face.
I was shocked when everyone showed up.
“It’ll be weeks, if we find it at all,” I said in the middle of it. I was growing frustrated. “The problem is, guards on the prison towers will spot us long before then. The fog will only last so long.”
A young crewman, brand new, spoke up.
“May I make a suggestion, Captain?” he said unsurely.
“Of course,” said Captain Montoya. “What is your name?”
“Domingo,” said the boy.
That seemed to please the captain greatly. “Domingo,” he said, nodding. “Good Spanish name. Please, Domingo. Go ahead and make your suggestion.”
We all waited as the boy stood and cleared his throat.
“I would like to suggest, sir, that Dredskull is a myth. We don’t need to find a low-tide rock that looks like a skull at all. It was a myth started by
Rugenand his henchmen. Speak a lie often enough and it becomes the truth. That is my suggestion, sir.”
He sat down.
Dauchkin shook his head.
“I’ve seen the wreckage of boats that have tried to land on Dredskull Point, lad. They’re all around the point. We’re not too far offshore to see them without the fog.”
“I agree,” I said.
But Captain Montoya was smiling at the crewman named Domingo. Smiling and nodding and rubbing his chin.
“Captain?” I inquired, concerned.
He glanced at me, determination in his eyes.
“Count Rugen was a coward and deceiver,” he spat. “He was the king’s henchman before Prince Humperdinck was ever born! He was the one who had Harshtree Prison built!”
“It wouldn’t be difficult to put wrecked ships around the point,” offered a young woman named Ryan, also a new crewmember. “Fill them with the condemned and let the tide pull them in and destroy them.”
“Kill any survivors who make it to shore,” said the bosun with a grim laugh. “Then spread the story about the mortal dangers of Dredskull Point. After all, you’ve already got the skull-shaped rock that appears at low tide. It’s a ready-made story! And old-timers that know it’s all bunk … well, no one’s gonna speak out with that unholy Pit of Despair, now are they?”
“The problem is,” I cut in impatiently, “there’s no way to safely test this theory, is there? So we’re still at square one!”
“This fog ain’t gonna last forever,” observed the bosun. “We may not get an opportunity like this again for a long time. I’ve got plenty of experience with landing on dangerous shores. Captain, I’d like to volunteer to crew a longboat in through the rocks.”
The look on Captain Montoya’s face demonstrated that he clearly knew that he was in charge and that now it was very, very real. Did he have the courage to determine the fate of his crew? This was his first real test, and the galley went silent as the men (and women: there were six aboard) watched him. Would he fail?
He stared at the bosun for a long moment, and then at me. I thought he was going to defer to me, to ask what I thought, and prayed he didn’t.
He didn’t. He nodded, first a tiny bit, then more surely.
“We will wait for the tide to go out,” he announced. “That will be sometime tonight, right?” He glanced at me for confirmation.
A nighttime landing at Dredskull Point. In fog!
“Swimmers. Who can swim?” he asked. About half the crew’s hands went up, including the bosun’s.
“Swimmers only. Any volunteers?”
The bosun (his name was Marcell Shya) raised his hand. Surprisingly, six more did as well, of which half were the women!
“Then let’s find a suitable entry point,” said the captain, rising. “And I want to help the longboat people get ready. Thank you all for your help. An extra serving of rum to everyone after dinner.”
This pleased the crew greatly, who thanked the captain as they made their way out of the galley. Soon I was alone with him.
“I want to go with them, Paloni. But I can’t swim.” He gazed at me, determined and frustrated. “I should learn to swim. It seems wrong that the captain of a seagoing vessel can’t swim. Does that seem right to you?”
“I …” But I had been rendered speechless.
“Captain, we need you to stay behind,” I said when I got my voice working. “The Revenge needs her captain. As for swimming …” I went to open my mouth again, but knew nothing intelligent was waiting to be uttered, so I closed it.
“Everyone should know how to swim,” he declared. “When we retrieve Fezzik, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re all going to learn how to swim.”
The Revenge has two longboats. We lowered the port one into the sea, which had kicked up slightly with an unsteady onshore breeze. The fog was holding on, but barely. At dusk I suggested that we lower the lights; we all were subsequently fumbling around a bit as we got the boat ready.
“We’re at low tide. Best get a move on,” I whispered.
Marcell and the other volunteers climbed down the side of the ship into the boat. Captain Montoya was peering over the edge. It was clear he was worried.
“Godspeed. We’ll keep the rum warm for you when you get back,” he said to them as quietly as he could. He gave them a salute.
The bosun saluted back, gave a grim smile, then rasped at the others: “Row. And let’s be cautious and quiet about it, shall we?”
They disappeared into the swirling fog.
“Captain,” I said, “let’s get warm. It’s no use waiting. Pneumonia is a real risk in conditions like these.”
But he shook his head. “I will stay. Go fix me some of that awful tea if you must, but I will not move until they return.”
“I’ll be back with a mug,” I said. “And a coat.”
Two hours passed. I was certain the longboat and the seven aboard it had lost their lives on the fearsome rocks of Dredskull Point, but I didn’t have the heart to suggest it to the captain. He’d been true to his word and hadn’t moved from his spot. He absentmindedly sipped tea and stared out into the fog. The rest of the crew left him alone.
I was thinking of all the correspondence I was going to have to write to the parents and lovers and children of the deceased. That had been one of my duties in the past, and one I did not relish.
Just then I heard a muted whistle. Then another. I raced out of my quarters to the topdeck. The captain was beaming. The boy, Domingo, had spotted the longboat atop the crow’s nest. They were coming back to the ship!
“Blankets, Paloni!” he hissed. “Some may be injured! Let’s be prepared! Hurry!”
Before tearing back below deck, I gawked out into the fog, which in this night air was pea-soup thick. I didn’t see anything.
The rest of the crew was shouting now. I hurried back up. “Shhhh!” I ordered with a fierce whisper, bringing a stiff index finger to my lips. “You’re barking like a bunch of seals! Shhhh!”
Several joined me to help out. We got blankets and first-aid supplies and rushed back up to the topdeck. I looked out.
I couldn’t believe it. There was the longboat not a hundred feet away and closing! Marcell stood at the bow with a wild grin on his stubbly face.
Minutes later we hauled everybody on board. The crew hugged the brave adventurers, and so did the captain, once again abandoning decorum like scurvy.
“Did you land?” he whispered with great anticipation.
“We sure did!” said Marcell in an obvious struggle to keep from shouting. “The boy was right. It’s all a bunch of gull crap! We can land at Dredskull!”
I thought the crew was going to break out in cheers, and I was about to hiss, “Shhh!” again, but they only locked arms and danced around in silence and pumped fists into the air.
“There’s something else, Captain,” said the bosun with that wild grin still on his face.
“Well, out with it!” I demanded as Captain Montoya turned to listen.
Marcell reached into his trousers pocket and opened his fist to reveal three large, gleaming gold coins.
Everybody immediately stopped dancing and gawked.
“One of the condemned ships they ran into those rocks must’ve been carrying booty of some kind,” he said. “We found these peekin’ out of the sand just under the surfline where we landed!”
Chapter Five is coming next week!
Chapter Five is coming next week!