Op. Ed. for Session 21 – Back in the Green Hell – Thursday 11th November 2010 – by Frithhill
Elapsed time – 154 days real time, 156 days game time (15th December 1602 ?)
Location – The Rio Esmeralda, above the mission of San Miguel
The Baillieu rounded the cape at the western end of Hata and turned eastwards, traveling along the southern shore of Iberita toward El Dio. Reaching Cuidad de Dio, went ashore to carry the warning to the Iberian colony, and to obtain dependable charts of the Rio Hippolyta and Rio Esmeralda. He also sought the services of pilot who knew those rivers. Succeeding in all, the ship set out for Duke of Oatshire Island, off any bearing which Red Jack Stavros’ fleet was likely to intersect. A brief respite, in the form of a nuptial mass, and accompanying revels, awaited. There was feasting, music, dancing, Europan wine purchased from Port-au-Hôpital and the spectacle of a Hibernian chasing a pig. Prior to the half-holiday unloading the quarterly supply for the small populace added to the freneticism of preparations for the wedding festivities. After, the readying for an immediate departure taxed the resources of surfeited men.
The next day the Baillieu weighed anchor and made way for Point Verdain and the Hippolyta River. Arriving at the mouth of the river, all that remained of that place of unfulfilled promise and unrealized dreams was a field of crumbling ashes and charred timbers, dissolving in the rain, and a potters field of scattered bones; a vision from the fevered imagination of Bosch and Bunyan. As sailors stood vigilantly in the rain, clad in armour, muskets ready in wrappings of oiled leather. As the fortunate groom of a week before enjoyed his honeymoon, and Duke of Oatshire Islands chaplain had his place, instead. A burial party followed him, as he pronounced the last rites over the dead.
Decencies observed, the ship sailed away, up the estuary and into the delta leaving the desolation to be covered over by the forest, the shoots of which already sprouted amidst and tentatively climbed upon the wreckage. Perhaps a town called something like Macapa would grow here some day, grateful of the ease of clearing the land but puzzled by what they unearth in their food plots.
After the passage of another week, unexpected as the scene at Point Verdain was expected, San Miguel stood intact, church unblemished by fire, outbuildings and huts whole. The wariness of seamen posted as a cordons, firelocks ready at the margins of the cultivated ground was heightened by the emptiness of the place. The orderly fields stood much as they had been left. No livestock remained. The buildings were vacant but little disturbed. When the searchers entered the church, the sole remaining inhabitant, Father Madrigali was found. He had been pinioned to the floor with stakes hammered through his hands and feet, on the earthen floor in front of the altar. Gradually the realization that a sound of subdued breath was coming from the tormented man infiltrated the consciousness of the observers, and for a stunned minute, those who had been here before reckoned how long it had been since Red Jack Stavros must have passed this way. Nine weeks perhaps ?
Clean water was called for, and brought, and the matter of releasing the priest was considered. The stakes through the hands were freed by digging with blades, but the feet posed a less tractable problem. A stupefying draught, a product of the beneficence of Miss Nightshade one of her various tools of trade was sent for. A shovel was plied, excavating the floor around the shaft. As the long boat again returned to the ship, word was brought that two sailors had been injured, one dead, and one nearly so. The agency was darts which came in silence from the forest. The pickets were withdrawn away from the eaves back across the fields. The second longboat arrived, and the Ecclesiarch was conveyed to the Baillieu and carefully borne aboard. A sortie had been mounted as the two stricken sailors were recovered and Alejandro Jurez,Brem O’Gellwyn and Angus the Axe had ventured in among the trees, to hunt out the attackers. As the remaining semi-circle of sentries waited tensely, Doctor Vincent Walker pronounced the mortally poisoned rating dead, and turned his attention to Father Madrigali.
Unfortunately, Alejandro found himself unable to find the words to convey his predicament adequately. Hard cheese for Alejandro, it seemed.