Story of the Week
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Reale Ocho: Silvern at Bahia de Matanzas: The Story of Piet Heyn
Written by Aaron Shields on 07 November 2011.
And now Part 17. Homeward Bound: Bankers and Battles
Many coachmen and servants were busy in the road-stead and in the drying muddy open spaces in front of the main structure fronting the inn’s numerous buildings and stables. As Heyn and his companions approached the primary doorway into the inn, well armed and finely dressed private guards eyed them suspiciously. When they spied Heyn’s dags, they barred his way further. “Do you come from Fussen? What’s your business here?”, one of them gruffly inquired.
Heyn answered, “Fussen’s gates are closed because of plague as I’m certain you already know. Our business is the same as any other man here. We have lost our mounts and guides after coming over the pass. We seek continuing passage north by coach.”
The guards looked at one another smiling slightly, “Are you mad Sir? There’s trouble brewing north. Our master tarries here awaiting reports before we continue that way ourselves. I don’t think you’ll get passage today.”
Heyn responded back with a warm and certain smile as he pushed through the guards, “Then God-willing we shall have rest for our weary bodies, lodging, a few good meals and perhaps one can hope – – good company.” The guards followed them in and they were all met by several more guards and a darkly dressed courtier. The man immediately spied Heyn’s dags and sword. He looked Heyn straight in the eye and addressed him, “This is a civilized place Sir. I must ask that you give up your arms to the steward. They will be returned to you when you depart.” Heyn took off the orange silk sash holding his sword and his two largest wheellock pistols and gave it to the steward.
As the three travelers were finally allowed to enter the spacious hall of the Bilderberg Inn, they were met by an attractive young hostess and led to a large corner table. The inn was clean and well lit with very high and decorative wooden ceilings carved in the traditional Bavarian fashion. The ceiling’s ornate planks were held by numerous finely carved and ingeniously joined support beams displaying hundreds of rounded floral and geometric shapes – diamonds, chevrons, hearts and faces of every expression.
The inn’s communal open space was only half occupied but the central table was noticeably the focus of the place. Numerous finely dressed gentlemen stood and sat surrounding the table and engaging in a lively debate with a couple of more plainly dressed travelers.
Piet and Jacobi listened intently. The debate centered around the endless ongoing conflict and who was right and wrong. The arguments bounced between germane and related topics from religious/doctrinal reasons for war, the legitimacy of one single Holy Church as opposed to multiple interpretations of scriptural writ by numerous schismatic laymen, experts, preachers and leaders from the numerous Christian splinter groups of Protestant reformers. They talked about corruption and abuses of power and people’s basic rights, the devine order of things and the rights of bishops, kings and princes to rule under God. They finally debated about the common man understanding these concepts and if they were actually even of any importance to most ordinary people.
Most of the noble dandees seemed clearly on the side of the Church believing that humans were predestined by God to live their individual lots in life. Those who ruled had a legitimate right to rule and those that lived beneath them were born to obey and should not question God’s devine order and plan for the world.
One of the more commonly dressed men stood in the middle of the group. He carried a satchel and wore high mud covered soldier’s boots. Even though he was not armed, a sash and canton showed that he was an officer in one army or another. He seemed to dominate the discussion and he skillfully debated his views on the side of the intelligence of the common man, the merits and justifications of the reform movement to act against a corrupt and flawed Church that abused it’s authority and restricted both truth and knowledge. He condemned the Church for using fear and the Holy Inquisition to go after those that sought the truth or disagreed with the Church. Because of this, he adamantly defended the rights of independent princes to act upon their consciences, as well as the righteous cause of empowering people with knowledge and wisdom so to advance the conditions of humanity. He made an amusing jibe that the inquisition could not put the whole of the burgeoning Protestant League upon the wrack. The comment caused both laughter and jeers from the audience. Piet could not understand everything being said as they all spoke German very quickly and with passion. Many of the longer German words were not in his vocabulary. Nonetheless, he was impressed with the man’s skill in debate.
As interesting as the debate was, the travelers were hungry. After what seemed an eternity, several young women emerged with a generous quantity of food which they laid out before the seated trio. The three famished travelers devoured the fresh repaste as the debate continued.
The plainly dressed man continued his assault upon the nobles. He began to use numerous examples – naming well known individual high-born knights and landowners that had broken from the central faith and empire in support of the people risking everything they had. He spoke of the sacrifice of Sickingen many years before – losing his castles, property, family, and life, fighting for what he believed in.
This caused jeers among the nobles and one of their own to stand. The man was tall and dressed in a long black velvet doublet with fine white lace. He wore high black leather cavalier’s boots that creaked as he stood to speak. His face was long and gaunt with a pronounced eagle-like nose and larger than average protruding lower lip. His hair was short, dark and greying. He looked every part the “blue-blood” that he was and Jacobi wondered if he might be some sort of prince. Jacobi quietly asked one of the courtiers standing next to their table who the man was. The answer was that he was a powerful banker and noble as well – as were most of the group seated with him. The man had a pompous aire of self assuredness about him and as he began to speak his slow whiny voice reflected his personality as much as his visual countenance.
All went quiet as he paused to speak. “Gentlemen, this is a simple matter and I see no reason to continue this debate any longer. So I will end it.” There was some mild muffled laughter as he paused. “I do not believe that anyone here would contest that the Almighty sits above on his great throne over us all. No matter what our religious leanings we know that God is God and that he is our Lord and Master. He is our creator and governs our environment and all that is within and without it. In short, He is our King.” Men mumbled in quiet agreement.
The man took a sip of the brandied wine in his crystal goblet and continued, “Does anyone argue that God did not set David and Solomon as Kings over Israel? Does anyone argue that they were not anointed of God and set in their place by Him to rule over the people? Indeed gentlemen, our Holy writ sets down that God has set up the powers and principalities that be – and all the Kingdoms of the world are subject to his pleasure. As such, would any here argue that the princes and potentates set upon the thrones of these Christian countries do not have the right to rule over their subjects as assigned by our Great God Almighty himself?”
The suave dandee raised his hands and turned to look about the room scanning his audience – ensuring that he was successfully communicating his message. He continued, “this Divine right to rule, gives those so empowered, the knowledge and ability to rule over their subjects in order to empower themselves, and to better their lands and possessions. Indeed my friends, to assume that the common man can understand the great conflicts around him, the edicts of the church or the destiny of their towns, counties or countries (he paused to quietly laugh) boarders on the ridiculous. The truth is that they are our charges and are no better really than – cattle or common sheep. Yes gentlemen, they are our livestock and our property to be managed under God in the best way possible to ensure the betterment of their lords and their lands.”
He took another sip of his wine and a deep breath as he continued, “To believe that they understand anything about these complex state, political and religious questions is preposterous. Intelligent rebels and instigators incite them into insurrection – taking instruction from the Devil himself! I tell you gentlemen that Mansfeld’s army shall be utterly crushed according to God’s will and that the defeated will go back to their fields and fall once again happily under our yolk. God will ensure that the correct and proper structure of things shall once again come to pass as he defeats our enemy the Devil. At that time the Church will once again take its whole and proper place as our partner in ruling, instructing and administering God’s desires for all to take their intended and rightful places under His rule and at our feet.”
He walked in a small circle and paused, “WE my friends KNOW what is best for the people and they are – far too stupid to manage themselves or understand their places – or even know what they need or want without US. They need us! – and it is the worst kind of diabolical deceit to make them believe that they can think for themselves and do whatever they wish. Why the state of the world would fall into utter chaos if they were granted this kind of freedom. Any that know history understand the chaos that fell upon the world after the fall of Rome. Do we really want that chaos again? Why these schismatic wars have lasted a hundred years now and look what they have done to the Christian world. This war must stop and order must be restored before all Christian civilization is undone! So I tell you true gentlemen, knowing the “truth” is irrelevant for the common man. It is OUR truth that is important and they need not understand that – and most are incapable of that kind of understanding anyway. So I say again that this debate is pointless and I now bring it to its natural and intended end.”
The noble dandees all applauded and numerous endorsements of “Here Here!” echoed throughout the room. Heyn was noticeably offended and sneered with a look of revulsion. He began to rise to go join in the debate, but before he could, the articulate soldier rose again to counter the Imperial and Catholic position. “Gentlemen, I then prostrate myself at your noble feet – your humble servant unable to ever comprehend the divine workings of your lofty and superior minds.” The group of Protestants in the room all laughed loudly. “Let me ask you this. Does God empower the unworthy? Would He not have defeated the enemy long past if this insurrection were unrighteous. The fact is that more and more lands have gone over to reform and more and more noble princes of conscience as well. Can anyone doubt the illustrious record of victories that my own great master Prince Maurice has inflicted on all enemies that have tried to defeat him? Indeed gentlemen he has brought low the arms, men, and pride of the greatest Catholic nation on earth – Spain has been defeated time and time again. If the King of Spain and so called defender of the faith were indeed backed by God himself would he have been defeated by these men that you refer to as rabble and even – cattle? What bothers me even further about this is that if you bankers really believe this then the soldiers of these great armies that you arm and fund do not even understand what they are fighting for. They are mere brutes going forward to fight and die for the whims of their masters. Cattle to the slaughter. I wonder what God the almighty thinks of this.”
He paused, “I take this a step forward. The great and prosperous banker, Count Rudolf, has just expressed the belief which I know many of you hold, that those of noble blood possess anointed attributes and abilities given them by God to rule over their inferiors and innately know what’s best for them. That may be so, but I have to ask, are these men all worthy of such divine gifts and do they indeed possess the anointing? Now I would never ask this question if we were currently armed – as I know I would be dispatched right away. However providence has seen fit that we have had to give up our arms here and are induced to speak in a civilized manner. Tomorrow I may be again with my regiment just north of here – and some of us here in this very room may be at each others throats engaged in bloody melees and battles for our very survival. So my question will be asked despite my current safety as for myself I have the utmost faith in God that I enjoy his safety and the TRUTH is important to Him. So my question”…..he paused long…
“How many of you noble anointed are bastards?” Half the room began laughing almost uncontrollably. After a moment, the soldier continued without smiling and fully maintaining his composure. “It was not a jest – and I will go one further – How many of you dandees have no idea if you are bastards or not – OR for that matter the sons of bastards – second or third generation bastards? How many here have as much blood from goose girls and whores flowing through their veins as King’s blood? Would this not make them as stupid as their cattle? Or does this fabled anointed blood make peasants noble?
He circled with his hands raised and paused as the audience both laughed and hissed. “I take this one further, even if we are to assume that these great men might be anointed of God and not bastards, how many of them live debauched lives of villainous whoring, drinking, gambling, and idleness? Would our great and noble God give men so unworthy as these abilities to rule over all others and know what’s best for them. I say NO! It is the structure of power that has rooted itself like some great and diseased weed and has now grown into the Devil’s own oak. God has nothing to do with this corrupt and failed political structure. Count Rudolph’s comparison of our current state of being to that of the fall of Rome is well founded. But I say this! Let Rome in all her current corruption fall once again, taking her Papist masters down to the pit with her.”
The Catholics hissed and the Protestants in the room cheered. He continued loudly, “God stands with the truth, and with righteousness – and the destruction and renewal of all things evil, insipid and corrupt. I tell you that every man under God was created by God and every man that is, – is HIS divine creation, deserving of the truth and the rights to live a prosperous and Godly life under God – living under a righteous master or no master at all. I tell you truly that I am in no need of some silk wearing dandee telling me when and what I can scrape out of the feeding trough for myself. We are all here men and all deserving of prosperity and good under God – and if they are honest and work in their trades, they are deserving of food in their bellies, reasonable rents, legal justice and protection for their families and possessions. Those who would deny these things to men, saving all happiness and prosperity only for themselves, are NOT anointed I say – for they follow the dissension and wickedness of Moloch himself in the subjugation of others to do their foul bidding in all manner of tasks which do not befit honest Godfearing men – including murder, blasphemy and idolatry. If they are anointed – it is not by the oil of Abraham or the Blood of Christ, but by the piss and spittle of old scratch himself.”
The room was now in an uproar with men yelling and pointing. Food began to be thrown and the stewards, coachmen and guards from outside came in to regain control. The group of Reformers with the well spoken officer all moved out of the center of the great room towards Heyn and his companions. Heyn rose and complimented the articulate soldier as he approached, “My compliments Sir, I’ve never heard a better apology in defense of the worthy cause of reform in my entire life.”
The man stopped in his tracks and looked Heyn straight in the eye with a little surprise, “You are Dutch by your accent no?” he inquired in perfect Dutch.
Heyn answered in Dutch, “I am Sir. Captain Piet Heyn at your service.”
The man responded with a slight bow, “Very good to meet you Sir, I am Rene Descarte.”
Stay tuned for Part. 18 Homeward Bound: Cavaliers and Cattle – The Treacherous Road
Next week on Buccaneer’s Reef
Now I bring you the tale of a man whose skills and achievements outshine the deeds of most of the great heroes of naval history combined – a privateer who seized more loot during his illustrious career than most all other privateers of history combined – and a man who ultimately became the savior of his homeland – but who sadly has in this day and age become largely forgotten by history….
It was pitch black. The white noise of exterior sloshing water against the hull, creaking timbers, snoring men and rattling chains were all that could be heard by those that happened to be awake. Even though the young rower was exhausted, he laid awake in thought. Hatred seethed in him and he felt the violent desires to lash out and kill once again. He knew he must subvert these feelings in order to maintain his sanity. He was helpless to do anything about his situation anyway – that in itself was a large part of his problem. He would often imagine himself in other places and through force of will, make them become real to him. He would imagine himself liberated – walking on the deck of a FREE, wind-driven, oarless ship with his father once again, with fresh sea air and wind in his face – or he would imagine himself in Heaven or even back in Delfshaven. How he longed for freedom and the open fresh air again. He had watched men go mad at the oars or their minds be taken by devils. He was determined that this would not happen to him and that if he stayed true to God and his own determined will, he could maintain his humanity and lucidity. Disciplined mental exercise was essential and he had formed his own internal daily regimen of thoughts and prayers.
The stench of contained human odors and excrement was worse than any sewer, but the men were oblivious of it after so much time living in it. Suddenly the young sailor could perceive something scratching below him. He grabbed towards the sounds in the darkness and squeezed hard on the body of the skulking rodent with his strong callus covered hands. The youthful prisoner quickly raised the rat to his mouth and bit its head off, ravenously sucking down and swallowing the warm living blood from its now twitching body. This was the third rat he’d killed in a week and the nourishment was badly needed by the nearly starving oarsman. With his fingernails he seperated the hairy skin of the little beast from its body and pulled it off the carcass like a sock. He chewed into its raw flesh and devoured the miniascule creature – bones and all in a few desperate moments.
Even though he was angry with God, he thanked him nonetheless once again for the life-giving sustenance the little creature had just given him. He did not understand why God had allowed him to be taken prisoner so many times. This was the third time he had been a galley slave and he had spent the majority of his youth at the oars. He knew he must be meant to hate the Spaniards like Sampson hated the Philistines. He had been taught as a youth to love his enemies, but this was too hard for him. He knew that he hated the Spanish more than any other human being on earth and that he must be meant for some eventual higher purpose to destroy them. He would be strong until he could bring about that destruction, he thought. However, the young man’s feelings were sometimes torn and he occasionally felt guilt for hating the Spainiards so badly. This was because he had been shown some rare occasional kindness. He begrudgingly both hated and admired the Spanish at the same time.
Because of certain special talents, Piet would occassionally be let off his chains to dwell above decks. Because Piet Heyn’s father had owned a Herring fleet and Piet had gone to sea with him as just a young boy, he had become a skilled sailor and officer who could navigate by the stars better than most navigators with a compass. Heyn could tell by the sound of the water against the hull how deep the water was almost as good as a sounding lead. The Spanish officers would sometimes make wagers on how close Heyn could come to the lead’s depth. Some feared him because of it and believed he possessed unholy powers given him by the devil. When the ship was in uncertain waters, they would unchain Heyn to ask him for a position calculation for comparison to the navigator’s.
Traditionally, the Captain would make that additional position calculation for comparison, but in this case the wealthy and well connected Catalonian nobleman was not a good navigator or a skilled seamen in any way. Capitan Bienevidos y Bazan would make light of these situations and openly and verbally insult Heyn at every opportunity. Heyn would always remain silent and respectful. Often Bazan would give the excuse for Heyn’s release as being because his stockings needed mending. Indeed, another of Piet’s sailing skills was that he could mend anything cloth with more skill than any Flemish tapestry weaver alive. A few of the officer’s took a liking to Heyn and allowed him to stay above deck over night and even enjoy regular victuals taken from the officer’s larder in exchange for mending their socks or even knitting new thick stockings for the officer’s and men. Heyn would often smuggle the extra victuals he earned below and share them with his weaker mates on the oars.
While enjoying these brief times topside, the young Dutchman had often seen the morning assembly occur. A drummer and fife player would loudly call the ships company to the long slender waist of the galley-ship. The prisoners below could often hear the drums but were never offered the opportunity to pray above. The Spanish would pray the same daily prayer every morning without fail despite the weather. In fact it was a flogging offense to miss morning prayers. The short service was always conducted by the ship’s Catholic chaplain:
“Blessed be the light of day
And the Holy Cross we say;
And the Lord of Veritie
And the Holy Trinity.
Blessed be the Immortal Soul
And the Lord who keeps it whole.
Blessed be the light of day
And He who sends the night away.”
Heyn admired the discipline and the words in the prayer, but thought the Spaniards hypocrits because of their almost complete failure to follow it’s spirit. For every good Spanish officer and sailor who had been kind to Piet, there were seven that would spit on him, ridicule and beat him. The Dutch had no galley ships and believed in the purity of the wind and providence. “True Chistians would follow our Lord’s example in how they entreated with every man – even slaves”, he thought. Because of their cruelty, hypocrisy, and unholy way, Piet hated them all equally despite his guilt.
Leaning back against the outer hull, Piet knew it would be light soon and with his belly now half full of rat, he drifted back to sleep again, knowing it wouldn’t be for long. Loud voices brashly awoke him from his brief dreamy sojourn in a paradisical troical bay where he often found himself within his dreams. He stiffened up on his bench and shook Leighton the English rower next to him that was still asleep leaning heavily upon his shoulder. Only this time Leighton would not wake up. The man was clearly dead. As the Spanish Capataces made their rounds it was the usual routine. First the order to purge themselves was given. Men squated forward on their benches and pissed and excreted what little they had in them while trying to avoid looking at the backsides of the men on the benches ahead of them.
Then Spanish sailors with wood buckets full of sea water would run down the center isle throwing the water onto and below the galley slaves, washing out the floor gunnels below the benches causing the filth to stream out the sides of the galley-ship. Even though a couple dozen sailors executed the task and plenty of water was used, it was never enough to get rid of the foul odors. After this washdown, sailors with additional buckets accompanying a couple of galley cooks distributed tiny bowls to the rowers at intervals every several benches of oars.
There were only enough bowls for a fraction of the oarsmen, so the drill was that when one row of oarsmen ate their meager helping of gruel, they would hand the bowls to the rowers behind them who would then reach toward the galley cooks holding the buckets with their bowls to receive small ladels of the contained stinking watery paste. The men used only their fingers and tongues to slop up the contents of the little bowls into their mouths. This daily feeding would only happen once a day in morning-time and was a quick affair as Capatez with whips would lash anyone taking too long with his bowl. This often meant the man behind received a little of the helping of the man forward of him. However, often the food ran out before all could be fed. After gruel, then came water. The same drill would be repeated with the same bowls, but this time with water. Once the slave compliment was fed, the Spanish deck officer in charge of the galley slaves, or senior Capatez would ask if there were any dead and the rowers would raise their hands if there were dead men next to them.
Piet held up his arm. He was not the only one. Three hands went up this morning. The great locks forward were unlatched and the long lengths of chain that ran along each side of the center isle through deeply embedded iron rings in each bench were pulled forward. Shorter lateral lengths of chain at each bench ran through thick iron rings on the ankle chains of each prisoner. One side of the lateral chains terminated in deeply embedded rings sunk into the inner hull of the galley, the other side of the lengths had iron loops that sat closely against their companion loops in the isle that the long main chains looped through.
The slaves next to the dead men would then pull the shorter bench chains out of their ankle loops, so the dead could be removed. The bodies were then taken topside, their chains removed and unceremoniously they would be thrown over the side to watery graves below. Piet cursed quietly knowing that he would have to row twice as hard with his bench one man short. There were three men to a bench on this ship and Gianelli, an old Italian priest that had been branded a heretic and sentenced to the galleys, alone shared Piet’s bench now. He was too old and feeble to be much help. Piet was ashamed a little as he had made a bet with himself that Gianelli would be dead within another week’s time. Today the chains were not run back through the deck-loops, and that meant that something was about to happen – work on deck or ashore. Piet praised God for His goodness in his thoughts. There was always a little disorganization when this happened and minimal supervision as the officers were above receiving instructions and planning or organizing the next step of the work-operation. The men took advantage of the lull to quietly talk with each other a little.
“Where do you think we are Gianelli”, Piet asked in fluent Spanish. Gianelli slowly turned his head and half closed black eyes towards the young rower. His face and head were covered in a long matted tapestry of thick grey beard and hair. The old priest looked at him resigned and cynical, “who knows, my son, perhaps the shores of perdition or Gehenna’s flames. One can only hope.” Vandermaas, the man behind him, and an experienced old seamen he had known a long time, spoke. “Salt” he said. “Don’t you smell the minerals? It’s much stronger when you are at the source and there is tons of it on the wharf.” Piet knew the smell and remembered salting fish aboard his father’s herring busses. Ever since the Dutch and northern europeans had learned about salt’s amazing ability to preserve fish, it had become a staple of sailors and citizens all over the world. Piet answered Vandermaas in Dutch, “Yes I can smell it now. Usually all I can ever smell on this prison-bucket is sh*t.”
Multitudes of the shirtless galley-slaves were led on deck and then down the gangways to a small dock. They were in a wide round, underdeveloped back-water harbor, surrounded by high green jungle covered hills. Among the small buildings and shacks were supplies piled high to include salt. A local salt depot was the reason ships stopped here and the Spanish flotilla of twelve ships was here to resupply and transport salt. Bags of salt were more plentiful than anything else and piled high in great stacks. The galley-prisoners began picking up the heavy bags and one by one hauling them to the various ships. Most of the ships were galleons. Only three were galleys and the Spanish sailors enjoyed not having to carry the loads, taunting the slaves as they came back up onto the decks of the various ships.
The work was back breaking and the tropical sun burned hot down onto the men in the humid air. Even so, the men were glad to be away from the oars and in the open air. Piet stepped back off the gangway onto the dock to fetch another bag when the Captain, Bazan y Beinevidos called out laughing, “bring me the costurera”. A Spanish soldier grabbed Heyn by the shoulder and said “this way costurera”. Heyn hated the Spanish nickname meaning seamstress, and had a nickname of his own for the captain that he muttered quietly to himself “flikker apenkind”.
The Capitan pointed down at a large crate full of woolen skeins. “How many stockings can you knit with this?” Bazan asked. Heyn answered confidently, “I do not know, Sir.” Bazan surrounded by most of his officers was beside himself and smiled wide as he made sport of young Piet Heyn, “The man who can read the very weather and can tell us how many fathoms my ship rides atop, cannot divine the number of socks that can be made from this fine hilo de lana – you have no number in mind?” Piet responded, “perhaps three dozen, Senor.” Bazan replied, “Perhaps? Mmmm, are you lying to me costurera?” “No Capitan”, Piet answered. “You know – lying to your Capitan is a flogging offense. If you do not make exactly three dozen stockings from these threads, you will be flogged three dozen times.” Bazan reached down and siezed Piet’s right hand, pulling it upwards for observation. “Your hands have been hardened by the oars. Perhaps if I freed you for awhile, your hands would soften and become more nimble like a woman’s hands.” Piet barely held his temper at bay and could feel the anger building. Bazan continued. “Then you could be an even better costurera. Perhaps I could make you a real costurera and dress you up like one as well. You could mend my stockings, bring me my breakfast and wash my ass.” The Spanish officers all laughed loudly at their Capitans remarks.
That was all he could take. Heyn’s temper was lost and he quickly pulled his hand away from Bazan, springing it back and throwing it forward again to strike the man. Bazan’s lieutenant Alvorado grabbed the rash youth’s hand and pulled it hard, just keeping it from striking the Capitan. Bazan laughed, “you’re very lucky costurera. Alvorado has just saved your life. Striking an officer is a death offence. If you had struck me, you would join those men over there.” Bazan pointed to a group of scaffolds on the beach where a grisly group of dead men sat with their backs tied to posts, garrotted with their necks snapped and mouths wide open with tongues extending as far out as humanly possible. Several other headless bodies lay limp next to them adjacent to a large slab of bloody log that was used as a chopping block. Their heads were stacked neatly in pyramid fashion next to the log. These men had tried to escape.
“Capatez-Sergento, tie the costurera to this pole and give him a dozen if you please”, Bazan ordered. Soldiers responded by tying Heyn’s hands high upon the tall pole of a make-shift open shelter used to keep water off cargoes. The capatez cocked back his arm and let it loose forward again over and over in a flurry of flesh splitting lashes. Heyn breathed in hard, held his breath and gritted his teeth. He had been whipped before and knew how to mentally absorb the pain of the lash. He let his anger flush over him and knew someday he would kill Bienevidos. Despite his current situation and the grisly warning offered by the dead men on the beach, he though to himself, “I must escape this place – and soon.”
Stay tuned next weekend for Part 2 of Reale Ocho: Silvern at Bahia de Matanzas
A dozen lashes were administered and Bazan walked up close to Heyn, bringing his face within an inch of Piet’s own. He stepped down slowly upon the young restrained prisoner’s foot with his heavy tall black leather boot, leaning his weight upon it. He grabbed Piet’s hair with his fine glove covered hand and pulled his head to the side. Bazan spoke in a quiet accusative tone. “This is what happens when you do not understand who your betters are – or God’s place for you in the world costurera. Next time I will kill you and if you do not make three dozen wool stockings with that crate of skeins, I will have the flesh flayed from off your back. This I promise you esclavo.” Bazan stepped away and struck Heyn hard in the side of the head with the back of his hand. With the punishment complete, Heyn was left tied to the pole as an example to others for several hours. Finally Alvarado cut him down and ordered a young Spanish surgeon to tend to his wounds. The Segundo – Alvarado, had the young injured Dutchman brought to the officer’s berths and put him in an unoccupied bunk formerly belonging to the third mate who had died of a palsy several month before.
Heyn slept for hours on his belly with the ointments applied that the ship’s doctor had administered. He was dreaming of his tropical bay once again when suddenly the freshening breeze caused the ship to creak and lightly pitch back and forth slightly. Now awake, the young man thought hard. He was barely fifteen the first time he was captured in 1592 and worked through his seventeenth year aboard a Spanish galley off the Scheldt, until he and his father were given up in a prisoner exchange. Only a year later he was captured again and worked two more years on a Spanish galley in the Mediterranean before he was given up in prisoner exchange once again. Once more, he was captured only eighteen months after, and had been working on this galley for almost a year and a half. “This one was the worst”, he thought. He was now twenty one or twenty two years…he wasn’t sure as he had lost track of the days. It was 1599 or 1600. He wasn’t certain, but he was determined that he would not spend the rest of his life as a slave of the Spaniards. He was sure he would die among them if he did. He reasoned that the chances of being given up in a prisoner exchange this time were very slim given that they were cruizing the West Indies. He knew that even though he was wounded and in pain, that he would probably never have a better chance of escape than now.
He waited for a few minutes to see if the ship’s new movements caused any of the officers to stir. They were at anchor and docked in Spanish possessions, so he knew that the watches would be light. Heyn turned slowly onto his back, the biting pain intensifying – his long lacerations opening back up as he leaned forward to grab his ankle chains. He pulled at the chains to prevent their noisy clattering as he slunk over the edge of the bunk onto the wood deck. In a strange quiet movement he slowly hobbled forward, bent over holding the chains tight to prevent noise from each bare footed step. He reached the threshold below the raised quarterdeck, slowly and silently opening the large oak door and peering out onto the long, low main deck looking for the watches. The night was black with no moon, and there was a light rain falling accompanied by a moderate wind. Heyn was glad of this as he knew it would dampen any sounds he might unintentionally make. Dim lantern light from the mainmast and forward on the low step of a foc’sle shone a yellowey hue onto the sand colored deck, casting odd shadows from the rigging and masts over the ship and shining through the rain drops as they fell upon the decks.
There were two watches forward and they were distracted in conversation. Heyn thought to himself that it was unlikely that there be a third watch, so he crept lightly out of the door onto the port balcony facing the open sea, that gracefully wrapped itself around the stern of the galley-ship. He crept far enough aft so that he could drop over the side avoiding the long bristling bank of oars that ran along the ship’s length. Rather than making a clumsy attempt at climing over the railing with ankle chains, he simply turned with his back facing the rail and lifted his backside upon the top edge of the balcony. He leaned back and allowed his weight to pull him over the rail, falling to the water below with a splash. The salt water stung badly in the split cat wounds upon his back. Piet knew that the watches had to have heard his splash and so swam below the water forward to the starboard side and surfaced below the oars.
The watches did indeed hear the splash and made their way aft to investigate, but could not see anything. Piet thought about the dead escapees on the beach and wondered how they had been found and caught. Heyn knew that they would look for him also come the morning. He knew they would search the jungle and below the docks. Throughout the night Piet quietly swam, mostly using his arms – as the ankle chains prevented him from making full use of his legs and feet. He made his way to the rearward-most galleon knowing that no one could see its stern from the shore or any other ship. He placed himself on the port side of the rudder facing the sea. He knew that no one aboard the ship looking down would be able to see him there as he was completely obscurred by the bottom of the stern gallery’s balcony. He would wait – a day, or two – until they gave up looking for him or the ships finished their loading and disembarked.
Heyn spent the rest of the night awake clinging to the rudder of the Galleon. In the morning he could peer around the corner of the ship and see men continuing to load salt, but could not make out whether or not men were searching for him on shore – however, he was sure they were. Halfway through the day, Heyn knew his limbs were pickling in the seawater and his skin was bloated like sponge-flesh. He used the ankle chains to shimmy up the rudder and was able to sit halfway comfortably on one of the horizontally shaped outcroppings cut into the thick rudder’s exterior shape – with his body completely out of the water. Another night came and went. The following morning Heyn could hear the men on the ship above him reciting their morning prayers. Shortly after he could hear the repetitive, mechanical, steely tapping of the ship’s windlass raising the anchors. He could hear orders being called out and knew the ship was making sail. Piet lowered himself back into the water and peered around the starboard side of the stern. All of the ships in the Spanish flotilla were also raising their anchors and making sail on the morning tide. As the ship began gaining forward momentum, Heyn let go of her as he quietly tread water with only his head above water. It was barely light and Heyn knew it was time to make for shore. He swam backwards, using his arms so that he could watch the ships making headway as he got closer and closer to shore. His arms were tired as he swam hard for the sandy beaches beyond site of the docks. Swimming against the wind and current, beaten and exhausted, he finally crawled upon the wet sand. He dragged himself into the shelter of some rocks and scrub brush and collapsed in sleep.
Heyn slept for half the day in the shade when he suddenly awoke. He had been dreaming of the beautiful tropical bay once again. He had been oblivious of where he was just trying to survive. Now he lay awake thinking. He was a little concerned about all things that creepeth and crawleth. He had seen men die from the deadly bites or infections brought about by natures smallest creatures. Piet was starving and thought to himself that he needed to get rid of his chains first and foremost if he was to effectively seek and find food.
Heyn found some good sized rocks, placed a larger stone below the ankle chain, and began repeatedly battering the chain with another smaller stone from above held in both hands. He had only been at this for a quarter hour and clear stress could be seen in the pig iron chain links when he heard low gun fire. He stopped his work wondering about the noise. Several more cannon could be heard. These were not small guns, Heyn thought. Something big had come into that harbor. “More Spaniards” he thought. But then he wondered to himself, “it’s not a salute – too many guns are firing. WHY?” He knew he needed to investigate. He intensified his battering of the chain links and with a few more well placed blows – finally got a link to twist and break open. He quickly pulled one link out from another. The restrictive iron bracelets were still hanging about his ankles with the ankle chains broken but still attached. However with the chain now broken in half, Heyn could walk almost normally with full steps as he dragged the short broken lengths of chain behind him.
Heyn crept back towards the Spanish salt lagoon. As he peered out from the vegetation he could see another fleet had occupied the little backwater harbor. There were three large rakish warships and another six smaller merchant galleons. Heyn’s emotions filled him to shaking and his eyes teared up heavily. He knelt and looked to heaven. He clasped his hands together tightly and prayed in thanks to God. These were not Spanish ships in the harbor. From the taffrail flagpoles of the newly arrived ships – flew the orangey red white and blue tri-colors of the Dutch Republic. Heyn’s countrymen had taken the harbor and dozens of boats could be seen on the beach and hundreds of well armed Dutchmen crawling over the salt depot.
Piet ran for the Dutchmen and began yelling “Broers Ik ben gered!”, Brothers I am saved. The Dutchmen took Heyn to their Admiral, HendrikusVandervoort. As luck would have it, Vandervoort knew Heyn’s father and had even escorted their fleet of herring busses years before. Heyn described in detail everything that had happened over dinner in the Admiral’s great cabin. The admiral was happy to tell Heyn that his father’s herring fleet had doubled in size in just the last two years and that the demand for salt and salted herring had gone up dramatically.
The Iberian ports had closed their salt pans to the Dutch years before forcing the Dutch to find sources in other places. The Dutch had found supplies of salt in the Cape Verde islands and were constantly on the lookout for new good sources in the Caribbean. This had caused increasing hostility between the Spanish and Dutch in the Caribbean and the Spanish were attempting to block all Dutch attempts to establish salt depots on known salt pans. Indeed the whole reason Vandervoort was here was to seize this particular salt pan and depot and occupy it for a large incoming salt fleet of the largest Dutch cargo ships ever built. Heyn learned that they were currently at the Lagoon of Punta de Araya, not far from the Spanish port town of Margarita. The admiral and Heyn became fast friends and in a few short weeks Heyn was in full health.
Heyn was proud and amazed at the sheer size of the arriving Dutch salt fleet and the immense scale of more than a dozen of their new ships among the at least fifty ships anchored. Piet learned from the admiral that Dutch merchant companies had also doubled in size in the last several years and were talking about a forming a united charter. They were consistently giving investors a seventy percent return on their investments. Vandervoort advised and encouraged young Piet Heyn to consider joining the his company, saying “you will always have work my boy and there is a good chance you can be rich.” Heyn had replied to the admiral, “Sir, I would much rather take a commission in the navy. I wish to face and kill as many wretched Spaniards in combat as I can.” Vandervoort answered, “I understand your desire for revenge young man, however, we are facing the Spanish in combat wherever we go, whether or not you’re working for the Staats General. Doesn’t matter…East Indies, West Indies, Levant , Smyrna, Med, or the channel. We are fighting and beating them everywhere. You will have to fight them wherever you go. That is if they don’t quit the war. Rumor is that they are seeking a peace.”
A few weeks later and fully recovered, Heyn was on a ship for home. He had even been allowed to take a volunteer officer’s position aboard as an additional navigator. Heyn smiled and breathed the cool, fresh sea air in deeply. He was free again…he was free.
Heyn awoke from his sleep. He was hot. He was disoriented and didn’t know where he was. He called out. “Jacobi…Jacobi”. “Jacobi is not here Pieter” a soft female voice answered back. “Anneke?” “Yes Pieter, it’s Anneke”, she replied. “Your fever has finally broken, thank God.” Piet opened his eyes and could make out the dim light of candle lamps and the face of his beautiful wife looking down at him. “Where is Jacobi?” Piet asked. “We’ve been through this before my love…..Jacobi is dead” Anneke answered. Piet paused a long time, “But I was just talking with him again my dear. I have been in the dreams again. I was back in the Caribbean, and the Med, and on the Hollandia again at Neyra and Banda during the rebellion. I was having dreams within dreams.” Anneke smiled with concern. “You are safe at home now my dear Pieter”, Anneke replied. Heyn turned over and fell back asleep once again.
Luitenant Broekel urgently tapped Heyn on his shoulder in his berth, “Kapitein – Wake up Kapitein. The Admiral wants you.” Piet turned over to face Broekel, “Did you knock Broekel?” “Yes Sir,” he replied, “but you did not answer.” “What is it now?” Heyn replied. “They’re pouring over a map with Herr Coen and they have some new ideas they want to talk with you about.” Captain Heyn walked into the great central cabin from his adjoining starboard quarters. Admiral Johannes Allertszoon, and Jan Peiterszoon Coen – Governor of Batavia and the Governor-General of all the greater Dutch East Indies – along with several of their subordinate captains and officers, all looked up from a large chart rolled out atop a prominent, well decorated hardwood table in the center of the cabin.
Captain Heyn was a strong figure of a man well dressed in high tan leather boots turned down at their tops and wearing a fine reddish-orange officer’s coat with gold braid and trim. His facial hair was neatly trimmed consisting of a thin well groomed moustache and goatee. His reddish-brown hair was combed straight back from his forhead and he seemed to be balding slightly. His face was handsom, hardened and worn by years at sea and sported several prominent scars. As the well known and intimidating Captain of the VOC (Dutch East India Company) vloot flagship Hollandia approached he seemed to stare into the mens souls with his small deep set piercing blue eyes. Some of the officers looked nervous and others even downright scared as they all bowed slightly with their hands flowing forward at the respected hero stepping up to the table. Heyn did not bow in return.
“Ah Captain Heyn, we were just talking about your sack of the Portuguese settlements around Neira and Amboina. Tactics and strategem innovatively carried out Sir – nothing short of brilliant if I may say so”, Governor Coen complemented. Admiral Allertszoon interjected with a wry smile, “Sir, Captain Heyn will tell you that it is God’s vengeful hands at work, not his.” The men laughed.
Captain Heyn said nothing staring coldly ahead and visibly annoyed displaying a slight scowl. “My Lords”, Heyn responded in a low, commanding and somewhat raspy voice. “We are still in a state of so called “cease fire” back at home. The VOC does not recognize this “truce” here in the Indies, and we are allowed to openly make war upon King Phillip’s subjects and property here in the east. Because the Portuguese fall under that same wicked papist prince, then I myself and those under my command will continue to kill as many Portuguese and Spanish as the Heeren XVII (board of directors – Lords) will allow.”
Allertszoon raised his eyebrows. “I think you may have a blood-lust my friend. We have all lost count of the hundreds you’ve killed and the number of Portuguese and Spanish settlements, trading outposts and spice factories you’ve destroyed.” There was an awkward pause. Heyn responded, “In the last seven years, the men under my command and myself have destroyed thirty seven towns, trading posts and factories, taken eighty-three enemy ships prizes and sent another nineteen to the bottom. We have killed over fourteen hundred souls and I myself have killed sixty-six of the Iberian papists and another five indigineous natives in their employ.”
Governor Coen smiled wide. “Well done Heyn! I congratulate you.” Heyn scowled even more. Allertszoon interjected again. “A blood-lust I say your honor. Yet notice the small number of savages in that body count. Heyn refuses to allow his men to eradicate the savage peoples on our spice acquisitions.”
“Really?” Coen answered, “Do you not remember the slaughter at Banda when the barbarian leaders invited our Burghers and Captains to entreat with them on the “Eternal Compact” and then with the utmost deception, surprised them, fell upon them, and massacred forty of our leading men here in the East Indies? Surely that deserves retribution! Why do you prefer to shed Christian blood over pagan savage blood Sir? Many of them are worshipers of Mahomet as well.”
Piet answered, “I was there at Banda my Lord. My men and I barely escaped with our lives. As for blood, I look at it differently than you my Lord. Iberian Papists are followers of the Devil and they are not innocent. As for the native folk that live here, they have put up with oppression from the Portuguese for almost a hundred years and they unlike their former masters are innocent. Their blood is clean. They have been enslaved to work their own land. We Dutch have taken advantage of them even worse than the Portuguese did, with poorly fashioned and unwanted goods in trade, when we make 300 percent profits on the cultivated spice we ship homebound from their lands and their labors. Would you not be angry if you were in their place Sir?”
Admiral Allertszoon responded. “Here now Heyn, I have had a belly full. I abhore all this bloodshed. I am not a violent man by nature and don’t like shedding anyone’s blood or enslaving anyone. But neither will I speak ill of our great directors, our own countrymen, or our great enterprise. It is what it is, Sir. We all have our place in God’s world and we must know and accept our place – thus has the almighty made it so.”
“Not so my Lord”, Heyn retorted, “Thus have WE made it, Sir. Do not put this upon God – it is of our own power to make evil against our brother and it is of our own will to struggle to better ourselves – even if it means our own deaths in the process if we have the determination to fight to do so.”
Goveror Coen now interjected. “Mijn Heren, every word spoken here has been in truth and I have the utmost respect for every man here. I have heard these same words before and I know that we all will do our duty to further our great enterprise. We must look at it with a view that God is moving forward in us and in all things. It may be that through the shedding of this blood and the enslaving of men that God may change this whole region to his greater glory at some later time in a way we poor men cannot possibly perceive now. Just look to His word for an example of this. Did God not lay low great cities and nations like Egypt and Babylon – and did not He enslave his own chosen people? I have said it before and I will say it again: Do not despair – spare NOT your enemies, for God is indeed with US!”
Governor Coen continued. “Now enough with the damned philosophy. Let us discuss the work at hand. I am merely observing this time around. The trip from Amboina to Batavia is always such a bore. As I am lucky enough to accompany you this journey I thought to myself, now why wouldn’t it be prudent to make a small expedition along the way. Gentlemen, I would like you now to turn your attentions to the few remaining Malaku islands still not under our control. Timor is out destination Gentlemen. It should be easy for you Heyn. From my sources I am told that the forts can hardly be called forts.” Once we’ve secured the rest of the Malaku towns we will rebuild the factories – or build new ones there as well. The Spanish and Portuguese will be left only with their fortresses at Goa, Tenerife, and their colonies in the Phillipines.”
The conversation and planning went on for several more hours. Heyn was annoyed. He had done this all before so many times that it had simply become routine to him. He dined politely with the other officers, partook of a decent wine and then took his leave to retire early.
The following morning, the squadron of three large Dutch warships reduced sail and hove to in the small Timoran harbor. Multiple large boats were lowered from the decks and filled with men. The rakish galleons made an imposing sillouette against the low backdrop of the island. The warships were dark and thickly painted to weather the tropical climate. Their green and red painted clinker built sterns rose gracefully into the air. All three man-o-war boasted two full decks of around forty fine large bronze guns. The long culverines had all been loaded, rammed, primed and run out, gleaming fiery white and gold catching the early morning light.
A village of thatched palm-leaf huts was spread out just beyond the beach. The jungle around the little town had been largely cleared and clove trees were neatly spread out about four hundred meters around the village. Bordering the jungle’s edge could be seen just beyond the neat rows of trees, longer, larger lodge-hut style buildings of the same construction – obviously factory buildings. In the center of the village was a small stone church with a European steeple supporting a pair of small bronze bells and a well defined black rod iron cross above the belfry.
A small wooden stockade and tower sat on the southern edge of the village facing the harbor built upon a raised stone earthworks foundation. Atop the tower flew the Habsburg cross of Burgundy from it’s flagpole. The wall of the fort facing the sea was pierced for three good sized cannon and also boasted multiple crenellations for matchlocks. As men began to enter the boats from the Dutch warships the guns of the little fort opened fire. The projectiles could be heard wizzing through the rigging above.
Captain Heyn standing in the waist of the Hollandia, sighed with annoyance. “Master Schutter, level that fort”, Heyn commanded. The guns of the Hollandia erupted in a barrage of deadly carnage upon the fort. As Heyn lowered himself into the large launch and his soldiers began rowing, large gaping holes could be seen forming throughout the wooden stockade and splinters and debris rose into the air. The tower began to lean backwards and as the Dutchmen jumped out of the boats into the foot deep water lapping at the beach, the tower collapsed. Heyn looked at Broekel, “seize fire”. Broekel raised a small yellow and black flag and waved it above his head. The warships fell silent. “Forward men, you know what to do! Spare no Spaniard or Portu!” The Dutchmen yelled in frenzied fury as they ran into the village and the remnants of the fort looking for enemies to hunt down.
Heyn stepped up the few roughly hewn stone steps into the small stone church. Facing him was a Jesuit priest in a black habit with his arms spread out wide. Behind him was a multitude of terrified women and children huddled into the apse and nave of the small chapel. They were both European and native. A couple of Portuguese men were with them kneeling in prayer. Most of the people were kneeling and many were crying. Mothers stood holding their small children close to their bosoms and rocking them back and forth in attempted security and reassurance.
Several officers and soldiers stepped into the chapel behind their brave leader. Captain Heyn, dressed in an engraved Dutch peascod breastplate and cabaset helmet stepped forward and drew one of his fine short wheellock carbines from his sash. He aimed at one of the Portuguese men praying and yelled out, “Senior!” The man who was clearly a Portuguese soldier looked up at Heyn. Heyn pulled the trigger on the clockwork dag and it barked and kicked upwards in a loud sulpherous report. The man, hit by a large caliber lead ball in the center of his chest, gasped out and attempted breathing back in again – wheezing loudly and then fell forward – dead. The preist stepped forward several steps approaching and pointing at Heyn accusingly. His face was filled with anger and he yelled at Heyn loudly in clear native Dutch, “why would you do that? Are you some kind of MONSTER?” Heyn lowered his pistols and was startled that the Jesuit was a Dutchman. “What do they call you priest?” Heyn enquired. “I am Jacobi”, he replied.
Part 4 of Reale Ocho: Silvern at Bahia de Matanzas
“Well Father Jacobi – ” Captain Heyn started. Jacobi interupted, “Not father – just Jacobi”. “Very well Jacobi, please inform your parishoners that they need to remove themselves from this place if they don’t want it’s rubbled remains down upon them.” Heyn added.
Jacobi, angrily but calmly replied, “Sir, how could you destroy the house of God and sanctuary of these poor wretches?”
Heyn answered, “Jacobi I don’t regard any place that allows the idolotrous worship of infinite hosts of ensainted papist gods as the house of MY God. These lands and everything on them living or otherwise, are now the property of the Dutch East India Company. We will eventually replace this structure with a more appropriate edifice.”
“Luitenant Broekel, take those men outside” Captain Heyn ordered. He turned around and walked back out of the church. Several Dutch company soldiers disarmed and seized the Portuguese men and drug them out of the chapel by their arms. Jacobi turned to his flock and spoke in fluent Portuguese, “My children, God will protect you. We must leave this place now. Flee into the jungle and hide until our oppressors leave. If you have friends or family in Bacau go there and tell them what has happened at Dili.”
As the women and children bagan streaming out of the church, Heyn yelled out once again. “Luitenant Van Dorn, seperate the Iberian women and children from the rest and bring them to the ship. Let all the others go. Remind the men that rape will not be tolerated and will be punishable by castration.” Soldiers swarmed into the females separating Europeans from East Indian Natives.
Random matchlock blasts could be heard coming from the remnants of the fort and the jungle behind it. Gradually the fire lessened until it was quiet. Several captured Portuguese prisoners were escorted into the little town center. The Admiral and Governor-General had come ashore with their retinue and joined Captain Heyn. Luitenant Breokel reported, “Sir, the factory buildings are full of cloves and sandalwood ready for shipment. The remaining officers are also ready for questioning.” Heyn answered, “Very well Broekel, have the cloves and sandalwood put aboard the Jupiter”. “Aye Sir”, Broekel responded. The group then approach the five surviving Portuguese men standing in a line abreast heavily guarded by VOC soldiers. One was obviously a civilian by his dress. Heyn addressed him first in a Spanish-heavy Portuguese, “What ARE you Sir?”
The man was dressed in black hose with fine black leather shoes. He wore a magenta doublet and pantaloons topped by a large lacy white colar around his neck. Over the collar was a fine large gold chain of office hanging low upon his chest. He had been armed with a fine swept hilt rapier and matching dagger, but now wore only their decorated leather scabbards and multi-buckled belt. He also wore an ornately decorative morion helmet on his head. He answered, “I am Aloisio Fernendez, colonial Prefeito (mayor) of Dili.”
Heyn answered him comedically. “Not any more you’re not.” He turned his head and spoke again, “Broekel, anyone else special here?” Broekel answered, “Just the captain of the fort Sir.” Heyn spoke again to the whole group, “Where is the fleet that is coming to pick up that load of cloves and sandalwood – and when is it expected?” The men were silent looking blankly forward or down at the ground. There was a long pause.
Captain Heyn spoke, “Broekel, motivate them.” Broekel knocked the morion helmet off of the garrison captain’s head. He quickly flipped his dag in the air catching it by its barrel and then swung its knobby club-like handle into the side of the Portuguese officer’s head. The blow knocked him down, but not out. The man sat up kneeling and holding his head with his left hand. Broekel turned the small highly decorated wheellock back around with the muzzle of the barrel pushing gently against the kneeling man’s head.
The garrison captain stayed stubbornly quiet, but the mayor stepped forward and spoke up, “We are expecting the fleet within a weeks time. They will be approaching from the north out of Goa, and avoiding the Molucca straits specifically to avoid your countrymen.”
Heyn replied, “Thank you Senor.” He turned around and began walking away towards the Governor-General and his officers, “You know what to do Broekel.” “Aye Sir”, Broekel answered. “Detail, take aim….”
The Jesuit priest Jacobi jumped in between the Portuguese officers and the Dutch firing squad. He yelled out loudly imploringly, “These men have done nothing that warrants a death sentence. They have given themselves up in good faith and have answered your questions. You will have to kill me as well.”
Admiral Allertszoon intervened, “Now see here Captain Heyn. You’ve easily taken this place with only a few of our own wounded. There is no remaining resistance and you must recognize that these men are valuable hostages that could be exchanged. Are not their lives worth the release of a few of our own countrymen from out of King Phillip’s galleys and prisons?”
Heyn responded, ordering loudly, “Luitenant Broekel, stand down your men and have the Portuguese officers taken aboard the Jupiter. I’ll not have them on the Hollandia. “What of the priest Sir?” Broekel asked. Heyn turned around to face the priest. “What are your wishes priest?” he enquired. Jacobi answered, “I have already been thrown out of my order – I am actually no longer even a priest. I stayed only because the people wanted me here and because I could still teach the word of God and heal the sick and afflicted. The only man that protected me and insisted I stay, lies dead on the church floor by your own hand. If I stay behind or follow the others to Bacau, I will probably be accused of being a spy and likely taken back to Goa to be tried by the inquisition. God obviously means for me to dwell with my own countrymen once again.” The Captain spoke, “Broekel bring the missionary aboard the Hollandia. I have many questions for him. Send patrols out to ensure there are no surprises while the spices are loaded.
As the sun began to set, a nimble well armed pinnace entered the harbor flying the Dutch Tri-Color with the V.O.C. letters prominently displayed in the center of the flag – identifying the ship as belonging to the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (Dutch East India Company). A courier came aboard the Hollandia and passed dispatches to the Governor-General. The Governor motioned for the whole party standing in the open air of the quarterdeck to move inside to the great gallery cabin, “Let’s see what the cook has put together for us shall we. Invite that priest to dinner. I think he will make for some interesting conversation.”
The men sat around the great table and the Governor-General poured over the numerous papers brought to him. The table was laid out with fine crystal and silver and a great meal of meat, fowl, and tropical fruits were layed out for the Dutch gentlemen. The officers began to verbally fence and debate with Jacobi. Heyn sat back and ate slowly. He quietly observed the debate with an air of amusement – smiling slightly.
Back in Europe the wars of the Reformation were still raging. The Netherland’s own eighty years war of rebellion against Spain was indeed part of this struggle and very idealogical at it’s core. It was not just a war to claim independence from Habsburg Spain for the seventeen provinces, but was also centered around citizen’s freedom of worship.
The Netherlands had actually been successful enough in this endeavor that religiously persecuted people from all over Europe fled to it’s large, prosperous walled cities. Hugenots, Lutherans, Hussites, and Jews were all welcomed as new citizens. The tolerance that came into being caused a different brand of more tolerant protestant Calvinism to become prevalent in the Netherlands. Catholics also were free to worship, however, because they were also seen as the enemy, many moved south. Catholics were seen as evil, insidious spies by many. It was a Catholic infiltrator that had snuck into Prince William the Silent’s retinue undetected, and assassinated him – the first head of state to ever be killed by a small firearm. This event shook the protestant world. Queen Elizabeth’s security was bolstered and indeed there was an attempt on her life. The “Gun-Powder Plot” caused the same sort of backlash in England. With Catholic Stewarts coming to the throne, the tension was made even worse, eventually causing that country to fall into civil war. Catholics were generally not allowed to hold any kind of public office in England, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the Independent Protestant German states.
In Rome, several successive Popes, very conscious of the increasing successes of the protestant movement, sought to reform the Catholic Church as Erasmus of Rotterdam and Luther had called for many years before. The wide-spread corruption was indeed largely curbed and indulgences fell off dramatically as a common practice. New orders like the Jesuits came about to assist with this new “Counter-Reformation” and to bring a new logic and intelligence to the application of Catholic doctrine. The men of the Jesuit order were called upon to convert protestants back into the fold and to go abroad to bring in new converts for Catholicism wherever European empires expanded.
“Tell me Jacobi, why do you insist on praying to the Virgin Mary instead of directly to God though our intercessor Jesus Christ?”, asked one of the zealous young officers sitting at the table.
“We do not pray to her, we venerate her. I myself, am not a fervent believer of this practice of veneration and there are many Catholics that believe as I do”, Jacobi responded.
“Not much of a difference in my mind between pray and venerate”, another officer responded, “they are both a kind of worship are they not?”
Jacobi responded. “Indeed, this is why I am no longer a priest. I argued this point with the Cardinal of Goa and was ejected as disobedient. Man has perturbed the truth and twisted it to help him achieve his own corrupt ends – but that does not diminish truth or make truth untrue. It is man that is defective, not the message of God. Do not reject the message because of the men that twist it. Because I was a novice instructed under Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, my beliefs were already Thomist, seen as overly humanist and as different, untrustworthy and heretical by many of my Portuguese brethren. Add to that my Dutch citizenship and you can imagine the challenges I faced.”
Luitenant Broekel spoke, “So are you just stupid then? If you don’t believe in veneration any longer, then why do you stay with the papists? Why not come over to the truth of Christianity as we all have?”
There was a long pause. Jacobi was clearly angry. He responded to Broekel, “You call what you did today following TRUE Christianity? You killed men just a few hours past for no other reason than their nationality and religious belief. You killed when your country is in a state of truce. You killed for a commercial endeavor in the name of profit. I ask you again, is that following TRUE Christianity?”
Heyn who had been silent and amused up to this point, suddenly jumped into the debate, his demeanor immediately changed to searing anger. Heyn exploded, “Do not presume you can question anything done by any man at this table! They were all carrying out orders from me. You do not know any man here. Is there any man at this table who has not had a relative or friend visciously murdered by a Spaniard? I myself can name dozens of my own family back to my Grandfather’s time that were mecilessly butchered by Spaniards. Tell me, does a “Christian” Catholic King approve and order the genocide and eradication of an entire Christian people? How many here have had relatives burned alive in their own homes or town’s churches by armed companys of Parma’s men? Raise your hands gentlemen.”
Every man at the table raised their hand – including Jacobi. Heyn looked confused and continued, “You Jacobi attest that you’ve had your own relatives killed by the Spanish, but yet you would stand with them and live with them. What kind of man are you?”
Jacobi answered, “I am a Christian and am upon the path that God has set me on – as all of us are.”
Heyn answered, “Do not the scriptures say, An eye for an eye, Jacobi?”
“Indeed they do Captain Heyn. Tell me, have you carried out your revenge to your satisfaction? Have you been able to right all of the wrongs done against you and your family from all of your killing?” Jacobi retorted.
Captain Heyn answered, “I will let you know when I get there. SO! – great dejected priest of the Jesuit Order, what would you have us do?”
Jacobi answered, “Do as our Lord commanded us, love your enemies and forgive all those that wrong you.”
Heyn answered, “I’m afraid the Heeren XVII would not be too pleased with me if I suddenly made that my prime mandate.” The men around the table all laughed out loudly.
Jacobi continued and began to preach, “Christ’s mandate is so simple gentlemen. He took all of Moses’s old commandments and crammed them into two simple rules. Love one another and treat your brother as you would want to be treated. Think about that. If I follow those two simple rules I do not rob or kill my neighbor, I do not lie to my brother or sleep with his wife – and I do not blaspheme against God. By living in this way I do not curse his name or live in rebellion against him, but am his creature in harmony with him. I tell you that revenge is the way of the devil and killing begets more killing and evil. I fear that the Dutch brand of Christianity no longer follows the ways of Christ, following the gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, but is now much more concerned with following the ways of the Guilder, Guinea, Florin and Ducat.”
Governor Coen interceded, “ENOUGH! I will not have our great enterprise or our native land slandered by your thoughtless papist rhetoric Sir! If you cannot keep a civil tongue I will have you clapped in irons. Now to business. Captain Heyn, I must return to Batavia with the utmost speed. Seems the damned English are acting up again. They have only managed to get a small foothold on the tiny islands of Ai and Run, and have their little trading post and Ambon. The Directors are very clear about preventing the English from gaining any ground whatsoever. Every time they try to start a new field or factory, I send raiding parties to confiscate the trees or cut them down and burn their buildings. I am taking the Gouda back to Batavia. Admiral Allertszoon will be returning with me. Captain Heyn your orders are to continue with the Hollandia and Jupiter to raid and harrass the Portuguese settlements around Timor and attempt to seize the incoming ships from Goa. When you’ve completed this task to the best of your ability, return to Batavia.”
Early the following morning, the warship Gouda and the pinnace Maas embarked for Batavia with the senior Dutch officers and retinue aboard. Captain Heyn was now free to raid on his own once again. Over night, the spices and sandalwood had been moved on board and preparations were being made to get underway. The village huts and remnants of the fort were still smoldering in the morning mists. The silouette of the stone church could be clearly seen through the mist.
Captain Heyn walked out onto the quarter deck wearing his orange-red great coat and a stylish Dutch black felted leather captains cap. He stretched out his arms wide and breathed in deeply. “It stinks”, he said. “Bosun, make sail. Master Schutter, for morning gunnery practice, an extra taut of rum to the gun crew that can bring down the steeple of that church.” “Aye Sir”, the Chief gunner responded, and turned around, walking away barking orders. The hollow sounds of guns being loaded and rammed could be heard all over the starboard side of the ship. Gun port hatches could be heard opening and smaking against the hull – ropes and pullies sqeaking and crews yelling “heave”, as the guns of the starboard battery were run out of their ports.
Jacobi approached the Captain, “Sir I implore you to let it stand.” The Captain answered, “Jacobi, you will be my clerck unless I find some better use for you. I advise you not to cross me. I heard your words at last night’s supper. They were not wasted, and they certainly do ring true. However, I still think you have much to learn about the world Sir, and perhaps there are some things I can learn from you. Now, lesson number one: The Captain is ALWAYS right.”
Captain Heyn commanded loudly, “Master Schutter, FIRE AT WILL!” As the Hollandia’s anchors slowly rose above the water and sails were dropped into the morning wind, the relative buzz of working noise was abruptly silenced by thunderous random blasts, as the guns mercelessly spat out heavy firey destruction upon the little stone church. In just a couple of minutes the tower fell backwards collapsing into the roof of the chapel, its bells could be heard eirily ringing out one last time as they broke against the stone below. “Well done!” Heyn exclaimed, glancing over at Jacobi who wore an expression of resigned regret. The Hollandia’s guns fell silent as her sails filled with wind and she gained speed heading eastward.
Part 5 of Reale Ocho: Silvern at Bahia de Matanzas
As the sun reached it’s zenith, the day was hot and humid. There was a good wind blowing down from the northeast. Even though their course caused them to beat largely against the wind, the currents were with them and the geography of the coastline of Timor allowed the ships to stay on a beam reach most of the time.
Captain Heyn paced the quarter deck observing the running of the Hollandia. He had spent much of the morning talking to Jacobi about how his ship’s routines worked and the two men compared their experiences of the Spanish concerning shipboard activities aboard both Spanish and Portuguese ships. Jacobi was as cold as granite and spoke with Heyn on a professional footing only. Heyn was amused by this and recognized the barrier for what it was – cracking the odd joke and testing the ex-priest’s humor all throughout the morning. Jacobi remained pleasant and polite, but icy cool.
Captain Heyn looked up at the sun. Clouds were moving in briskly and their changing pastel shapes obscuring it slightly. The breeze was freshening and the waves had become a little larger as the ships ever changing angles became more pronounced causing the vessels to bob more eccentrically and gracefully ever forward. “Good”, Heyn commented. “We are making good time. There is another Portuguese settlement on the east end of the island and it will be a good place to cruise and loiter, waiting for the convoy, before we proceed further around to the southern coastline settlements. Let’s go have some cheese Jacobi.” Heyn turned to Luitenant Van Broekel, “whose on watch?” Broekel responded, “Van Dorn, Sir.” Heyn gave orders, “Tell him to double the lookouts and then come have some lunch with us.”
At the mid day meal, Heyn and around half of his officers sat down around the great table. “You will sit on my right Jacobi”, Heyn instructed. The cook brought out a half eaten great cheese that was at least two and a half feet wide and eight or nine inches thick at its middle, along with some hard bread and soup cups. The men had removed their hats and Captain Heyn said a brief prayer. “Great God our Master, we thank you for this sustenance and ask that it strengthen us for all we must endure. Amen”, the officers all mumbled “Amen” in echo to their captain. The officers began cutting wedges out of the large remaining half circle of yellow wax covered cheese with their knives.
Jacobi was surprised by the brevity of the prayer and how excellent the meager meal was that they were taking at mid day. He began to attempt to pick up the earlier conversation he and the captain had been having on deck, when the captain spoke first instead. “So, Did my prayer meet with your approval Jacobi?” Jacobi answered, “Captain Heyn Sir, I am accustomed to much more time spent on the noon day prayer – and also much less being provided in the way of victuals.”
Heyn laughed briefly, his laugh’s raspy sound genuine, but coarse like sand on a stone floor. “Unfortuneately, your experience seems to be limitted only to Dago vessels man. This is a Dutch ship Jacobi. You papists grovel to God asking him to bless every little thing, taking way more time than is prudent to acknowledge our great creator. Don’t you think he gets tired of that? We honor him in our actions and the asking of our prayer. We ask only that he strengthen us and stand with us. If God is on the ship with us, then who can stand against us? It is useless to ask him for all the other trifling things if we have his blessing to begin with. Hard work and cleanliness pleases God. This is why you will notice that our ship is much cleaner than any Spanish vessel – believe me I know!”
He went on, in a mentoring fashion, but with a jovial smile across his face, “As far as the food is concerned, this is one of our great secrets and a main reason we attract so many recruits on our ships – plenty of food and usually good food. Do you know that only half of our crew complement is Dutch? The other half are Germans, Swedes, Norse, Poles, Danes, Balts, some French, and we even have some Englishmen aboard. Yes, yes, some captains embezzle their victualing budgets by only spending half of their provided admiralty or company funds on poor food stuffs – or not procuring enough quantities of rations for their journey. Then they pocket the rest of the money for themselves. Despicable behavior on their part and many captains have fallen to the practice. But not I! In my opinion Gentlemen, those men will never be successful Captains and they cheat their own men in the face of providence and their creator. If I ever hear of any of you doing that when you have ships of your own, I will say I never knew you and spit on the ground if ever I hear your names spoken.”
His expression was now accusative as he scanned his officers, looking into their eyes for a sense of their understanding of his message. “Jacobi, if you like, you may give this evening’s prayer.” There was a slight gasp as the men around the table fell silent. “Is there a problem Gentlemen? – Luitenant Leidel?” Leidel responded, “But Sir, He’s a papist.” Heyn responded, “Aye lads, but in truth we have a few papists among the crew and this one here I think is not exactly sure of what he is. He is a Christian. You all heard his speech last evening and that should tell you he is a man of conviction – not some fat predikanten looking to fill his pockets from donations. That’s good enough for me.”
The meal was not even halfway eaten when the Bosun entered the great cabin’s large double doors and reported saluting Captain Heyn. “Report Bruijn”, Heyn commanded. “Beggin your pardon Sir, the lookouts have spied sails on the northeast horizon”, the Bosun answered. Heyn enquired futher, “How many?” “We count five ships Sir, but can’t yet make out what they are”, the Bosun reported. “Bruijn, let us finish our lunch. In the mean times, give the helmsman a new course two points against the wind east by northeast. Strike our colors and run up Burgundy’s cross…. and Bosun – strike the t’gallants.”
Heyn suspecting that the ships might be the the Portuguese transports, ordered the helmsman to change course two points against the wind on a course east by north east hoping to intercept them. The Captain ordered the tri-colors be struck and had the Spanish cross of Burgundy run up in their stead hoping to deceive the enemy into believing they were on the same side. He also ordered the top-gallants struck, as most Portuguese ships of the time weren’t equipped with them.
The officers completed their meal and made their way out onto the quarterdeck. Captain Heyn opened his spyglass – a new state of the art invention only a few years in use that allowed viewing objects over distance, making them viewable three times larger in size and detail than they would be normally using only the naked human eye. In the scope’s view he could make out five lumbering wide round hulls with exterior ribbing. Additionally, he could make out the distant slivers of the familiar red X on the small white spots of distant waving flags. Heyn smiled, knowing he’d found his Portuguese convoy.
Slowly over the next hour and a half the distance steadily narrowed to about a mile. Heyn continued to watch his quarry with interest. Suddenly the Portuguese ships could be seen turning about trying to run south in an attempt to escape. The Portuguese captain had obviously identified the Dutchmen’s stowed t’gallants and could also make out the unmistakeable red Dutch lion figureheads and green colored clinker built foc’sles.
Heyn seeing their change in course, barked out orders, “Luitenant Broekel, run up the proper colors and set t’gallants.” “Aye Sir”, Broekel responded as he began to hastily move away. “And Mr. Broekel…” Heyn added. Broekel abruptly stopped in his tracks. Heyn continued, “Beat to quarters and run out yer guns. Have the officers report here immediately” “Aye Sir!”, he answered.
The drummers sounded loudly as gun crews scrambled to their stations and both wheellock and matchlock musketeers assembled at the gunwales and climbed into the fighting tops. The officers assembled on the quarterdeck and Heyn addressed them. Heyn had been watching the Portuguese ships closely and shared his observations with his cadre. “The enemy has five ships – four are carracks and one a small fighting galleon. All are obsolete, and no match for Jupiter and Hollandia. Only two of the vessels offer any threat to us. One of the carracks is larger than the others, and posseses a moderate battery of twenty guns or so run out on her primary deck. The other is the small galleon of about some thirty guns which is obviously their escort. I believe the galleon will lay back and challenge us, hoping to delay us as we’ve encountered so many times before. As usual, Hollandia will deal with her, while the Jupiter moves out ahead to capture the carracks – taking the largest first.”
As the captain had predicted the small fighting galleon changed course south-southeast bringing her starboard broadside to bare, reducing sail and slowly hanging back to delay the Dutch ships from intercepting the convoy. Heyn emerged from his quarters now fully armed and armored. The distance had narrowed to only five hundred yards and neither side had fired yet. Jacobi approached Captain Heyn and pleaded. His tone was no longer cold or angry, but now warm and loving, “Sir, I beg you to spare the lives of these poor men.”
Heyn turned to face the ex-Jesuit, “This is a ship of war Jacobi – you’d better get yourself below man. There is about to be a fight here, and there will be all manner of unpleasant things flying through the air very shortly.”
Jacobi responded, “I am not afraid Sir, and ask you again to please be merciful. Captain, YOU have the power here over life and death.”
Heyn answered, “Jacobi, my orders are to take this convoy and take it I will. I’m afraid that the men across from us will try to prevent me from successfully executing that mission by any means in their power. That means – very simply – the wounding and killing of the men here on this very vessel under my command. When that happens Jacobi, their fate is sealed. I have a ratio that I have always tried to adhear to. For every one of my own that is wounded or killed, I kill ten of theirs. From what I’ve heard, the enemy has heard about my technique and my ratio and after all of these years they usually fight to the death – to the last man – which is just fine by me!”
There was a pause while Jacobi thought for a moment – Jacobi spoke once more, “What if they don’t fire at or kill anyone Sir?”
Heyn laughed, “Really Sir, you do not know the ways of war. Your naivity is amusing, but is now becoming just a little annoying.”
Jacobi spoke again, “But if it were possible. If they did NOT FIRE or kill any of your men – if they gave up without a fight – would you spare their lives?”
Heyn was beyond annoyed now and exclaimed, “Very well Jacobi, IF by some grand miracle of providence, they were to give up completely without firing a single shot, I would SPARE their wretched Catholic lives!”
The Hollandia had matched the opposing galleon’s course and their waists had come in line across. The distance had almost narrowed to two hundred yards – optimal cannon engagement range. Jacobi knelt upon the deck and pulled a large polished bronze cross from out of his habit, hanging around his neck on a silken cord. He grasped it between his hands and prayed fervently looking to heaven. Heyn’s officers on the quarterdeck looked down at the priest as if he were crazy and glanced confusingly up at their captain, wondering why he had not yet given the command to fire. Jacobi suddenly arose and ran down the stairs amidships, nimbly jumping up onto the larboard railing and then climbing up the main shroud. Halfway up the ratline, he turned around facing the enemy galleon across from them. He precariously balanced himself on the rope ladder and held out his cross with his right hand while holding onto the shroud with his left. He yelled out as loud as humanly possible in fluent Portuguese, “If you do not fire, if you pull in your guns and close their port hatches, and if you heave to, strike your colors and signal your other ships to do the same, no man among you will be harmed!”
Part 6 of Reale Ocho: Silvern at Bahia de Matanzas
There was a long awkward pause that seemed to last forever. The only sounds that could be heard were the running of the ships through the waves as they got closer and closer. The Hollandia was less than ten years old and a fine fast warship, dwarfing the little Portuguese galleon at over 450 tons and with two proud full gun decks of large bronze culverines run out. The bright paint on her green clinker built focsle and sterncastle trimmed in yellow and red, gleamed in the sunlight. She had galleon lines but was built in the typical Dutch/Flemish style of the times – often classified as a “fregatte”. Opposite the large Dutch ship was the smaller Portuguese escort galleon. She was well maintained and an attractive ship even if over forty years old. She was about 180 tons, brightly colored with blue and red checkerboard patterns along her gunwales, and long bright red strakes running down her length – contrasting significantly with the dark heavy black paint of her primary planking. She had a single gun deck of mid-sized bronze cannon and she wore multiple banners. Although Portugal at this time was ruled by the King of Spain and the ship flew the mandatory cross of Burgundy out of respect, she also flew other flags and pennants to advertize her true identity. She was adorned with the long thin squarish red Portuguese cross and traditional red and blue coat of arms of Portugal on both her sails and banners.
The distance continued to narrow to less than a hundred yards and still not a shot had been fired. Jacobi continued to madly wave his large gleaming cross in the air and repeated himself over and over again loudly, “If you do not fire and strike your colors, no man will be harmed! If you do not fire and strike your colors, no man will be harmed”
Suddenly and amazingly, the little galleon began pulling its guns back into her ports and closing their hatches. She also started pulling down her primary banners and bagan reducing sail to heave-to. Heyn who had been watching with interest was both dumbfounded and somewhat annoyed. Heyn thought to himself that while it was indeed surprising, that if he were in the same situation (out-gunned and out-manned at least five to one), he might do the same thing if given the opportunity.
“Boarders make ready!” Captain Heyn cried out. “Hold your fire unless fired upon men!” he added. The ships drifted very close – only a few yards apart as the boarding parties threw grappling hooks and used boarding pikes to bring the two vessels together – then dropping gangplanks between the two ships. “Boarders away!” Captain Heyn ordered. Dutch company soldiers rushed onto the galleon. The galleon’s small crew did not resist. Luitenant Van Dorn led the boarding party and was surprised that the ship was manned with less than a hundred men. Captain Heyn walked aboard the captured Portuguese prize with a dag and sword drawn at the ready – Jacobi followed closely on his heels. Van Dorn reported to his captain with an odd smile, “Sir, the ship is ours – and without a shot fired.” “Well done Karl”, Heyn answered. “Now where is her captain?”
As the captain of the galleon was brought forward to speak to Heyn, fire rang out from the largest carrack upon the Jupiter. The Jupiter answered immediately with a devastating broadside, ten times louder and stronger than her opponent. This action caused the two groups of men on the galleon to look uneasily at one another. Most of the Portuguese were already disarmed or had thrown down their arms. A few still had dags and wheellock musketoons at the ready. The Portuguese captain was brought to the Dutch commander and looked fiercely angry as he addressed Heyn, “Captain Pieter Heyn I presume.” Heyn answered, “I am – and you Sir?” The Portuguese captain answered, “I am Capitan Hector Tarto and what I do now I do for God and my countrymen.” The Iberian captain quickly reached down into the splits of his brightly colored cloth pantaloon breeches, grasping an already cocked, short, small wheellock dag and pulling it upwards taking aim at Heyn. In the split second before he could fire, Van Broekel raised his own wheellock pistol and squeezed the trigger, releasing a fifty caliber lead ball which instantly passed into Torto’s eye, shattering the entire right side of the man’s face in an instant. The Portuguese captain collapsed in a bleeding heap, firing the pistol harmlessly into the deck as he fell.
The remaining armed Portuguese men reacted to the shocking death of their captain by instinctively firing their arms and drawing what weapons they had, charging into the Dutchmen. In a few fierce moments the Portuguese sailors were overwhelmed and slaughtered by the experienced Dutch soldiers. Jacobi stood next to Heyn gawking mouth open in shock at the events that had just unfolded in less than a minutes time.
Heyn looked down at Jacobi, “I admire what you tried to do my friend. Admirable. However, you see that hatred runs in all directions. I think it might have gone better for the poor wretches if we had fought it out without your actions. I owe you my thanks Sir. You see Jacobi, it should be clear to you now that God is with us and the Devil with them.” Jacobi sighed and shook his head in regret. Captain Heyn smiled and reached down to retrieve the small dag that had almost been his undoing. “I collect them”, he said to Jacobi. “This is not the only one I have that has had its muzzle pointed at my face.”
The men looked down at the grisly corpse of Tortola contorted on the deck – his face frozen in a painful grimace with half the mangled face unidentifiable with bloody exposed pink muscle layed open and strips of bloody flesh twisted like swabbing-mop strands on the deck. Captain Heyn turned to Broekel, “Formidable shot, Sir – and not the first to save my life. I thank you Andreas.” Luitenant Van Broekel responded, “I couldn’t let him kill you Sir, and by my accounting I still have a few more deeds like that one owed before we are even.” The two men laughed and Heyn slapped his right hand down onto his subordinate’s shoulder in thanks, acknowledgement and friendship.
The Jupiter had taken her quarry and all seven ships were now hove to rolling along on the low swells. The weather was fair and brilliant colors of crimson and purple were smeared across the eastern sky in a stunning panorama as the sun began to make her descent in the west. Officers moved back and forth between the ships in launches surveying the ships cargoes, survivors and damage. The ships had not cargo of value other than common ships stores. Their bottoms were empty awaiting the spices and sandalwood from Dili that was already in the Dutch holds. All of the captured officers were moved aboard the Jupiter. Heyn to everyone’s surprise, gave in to Jacobi’s suggestion to parole and release most of the other prisoners, allowing them to leave on the smallest oldest nao among the captured prize ships.
With all preparations made, Captain Heyn ordered the Jupiter to return to Batavia accompanied by the prize ships, cargo and prisoners – with the exception of the small galleon which he renamed the Wijsheid (Wisdom). Heyn put Karl Van Dorn aboard her as captain and she remained with the Hollandia as an escort. With orders issued and good byes said, the two groups of vessels seperated for their new destinations. The Hollandia and Wijsheid continued on their course to raid the east Timor settlements.
During supper that evening, the officers recounted the days events and joked about Jacobi’s behavior. They patted him on the back and gave him complements. Jacobi was not happy and shook his head in silence, unable to even crack a smile. Broekel commented sarcastically, “all things have a purpose and all events happen for a reason – the Jesuit has been sent to us as a new weapon of God against our enemies!” All the men laughed loudly. Jacobi scowled with his mouth turned up tightly at one corner – but he held his toungue.
After supper Heyn toiled, scrawling down and recounting the days events in the ships log. While this occurred, Jacobi began playing a slow haunting hollow tune on a miniascule recorder. Heyn stopped to look up at this new sound. For a brief moment he was annoyed and irritated, but the beauty of the airy music caused him to stop writing completely and to listen intently. Piet was truly impressed by the cleric’s musical talent. The tune seemed to lift him and cause him to float in thought. The notes painted pictures in his mind of his family and times long past. He wondered when he would return home again. With the tune concluded, Captain Heyn continued with his log entry and commented to Jacobi, “beautifully played man – blow me another tune.”
Jacobi smiled, glad that the prickly captain appreciated the music. At it’s conclusion, the men talked a little. “So I was glad that you spared so many lives this day Sir”, Jacobi said. Heyn responded, “I think that was your doing, not mine – those mens fates are in the hands of God now.”
“Indeed – tell me why you hate these men so”, Jacobi asked. Heyn responded, “I spent my whole youth aboard King Phillip’s galley ships and learned the full measure of Spanish and Catholic justice, ethics, and culture – cruelty, torture, lies and deceit all. When I finally made it home after so many years…. my father was dead. The last time I spent with him was in our recovery together from both being imprisoned on one of those damned hell-ships. God has clearly forged my purpose to be his avenging instrument and I am glad to bear his yolk and serve him in this capacity.”
Jacobi responded, “You cannot brand all men as wicked or good because they are Spaniards or Catholics, Captain Heyn. You cannot be both judge and executioner. Remember the words of our Lord. “Vengeance is mine!” It is for him to judge Sir, not you.”
Heyn answered, “Don’t think me simple or stupid Jacobi. I have sometimes thought the same and know God is our great and mighty judge, but when I am faced by their arrogant Dago faces, I simply want to kill every last one of them. We shall speak of this again later. I have some stories and situations to tell you about that I very much doubt you will have wise solutions for. Now I must retire for the evening.”
As the following morning dawned, the two warships approached the next Portuguese Timoran settlement. As the boats were launched and the ships opened fire, another Dutch vessel was spotted sailing around the coastline. Just as the assault was launched, the new-comer hove to and the small rakish single-decked Dutch fregatte launched boats full of Dutch soldiers to assist.
Heyn was in a dreadfully bad mood. Whenever he was this way his officers and men were just as cross and mean spirited as their captain. As a result a general slaughter ensued. Very few survivors were rounded up and Jacobi was mortified with righteous indignation. With the massacre over, Captain Heyn with his armor and weapons covered in blood, approached his officers and the officers of the newly arrived ship.
The two captains knew each other and shook hands in greeting. “How are you Piet?” the arrived captain warmly enquired. “I am well Captain Lucifer you old devil!”, Heyn answered. “So why do you join us?”, Heyn asked. I was on my way to you when I ran across the Governor-General’s ship and he told me where you were heading and to find you with haste. I have orders for you. Captain Lucifer handed Captain Heyn a bundle of papers – “You have been recalled to the Fatherland.”
*Authors note: Captain Lucifer was a real historical Dutch captain that raided in both the east and west indies during this timeframe – I did not make up this name.
As Captain Heyn poured over his new orders he let a slight smile escape his bloodied countenance. While he despised all Catholic subjects of King Phillip, he would much rather kill Spaniards than Portuguese. Even though the truce still held, the depredations of Spanish and Flemish privateers against Dutch shipping had become much worse since he had last seen his homeland. Indeed his orders transferred his commision to the Staats General. Heyn was now working for the Navy again. Piet was filled with mixed emotions of longing and excitement. The hardened commander completely locked away his feelings, only cracking a slightly pleased smile – but in reality he looked forward to returning home with more exuberance than he had ever felt before.
Much had changed since he had left home six years before. It was true. Rather than being seen as a rebellious, loose group of rogue Spanish possessions, The Netherlands had become a legitimate “Fatherland” to her citizens during the truce. Treaties and pacts had been signed with England, France, and the Hanseatic League recognizing the Netherlands as an independent sovereign state. There was no going back now. Even though the truce that had begun in 1609 still held, relations were as bad as ever and most believed it could not last much longer. While the Spanish Army of Flanders was holed up in the southern cities, Flemish privateers openly seized Dutch prizes. Captain Heyn was badly needed at home to deal with this increasing threat. The Heeren XVII had no issues with making the transfer of Heyn’s commission to the Admiralty of Rotterdam – as the VOC was losing more shipping to the privateers than any other merchant interest in the Netherlands.
Captain Piet Heyn’s reputation was now known far and wide. His bold leadership and experience would be utilized well in home waters against the Dunkirkers and Oostenders. The opposing piracy and privateering had become intolerable and the sources of their support could not be neutralized. Both cities possessed heavily protected harbors that were surrounded by formidable walls preventing attack from either land or sea. Each boasted numerous surrounding bastions and large, multiple massive sections of heavy cannon batteries, making them virtually impregnable fortresses.
During the course of the decades long war, the Spanish made great gains initially, but in the last decade prior to the truce, the Spanish Army of Flanders found itself pushed south beyond the great rivers. Cities were taken in prolonged sieges lasting for years and then retaken by the other side. Just prior to the truce, both sides had almost exhausted all resources, men and material. The Spanish now relied almost solely upon heavily fortified occupied strongpoints. Three great cities made up the backbone of this defensive bulwark. Antwerp which had fallen to the Spanish in 1585, Ostend which had fallen in 1604, and Dunkirk, allowed Spain to continue to maintain a strong military presence within the southern Netherlands(Flanders). These Spanish havens allowed Spain’s generals to resupply their occupying armies fairly easily by sea.
Antwerp which had been the richest entrepot in Europe hosting the first great banking houses and a magnet for investors, gave way to Amsterdam after Spanish capture. Antwerp quickly declined in importance after it’s fall, with an almost constant blockade of the Scheldt river maintained by the Dutch navy. Amsterdam’s own golden age as Europe’s (if not the world’s) entrepot had begun.
Not only was Spain commissioning the latest most advanced warships yet built in Dunkirk and Ostend’s dockyards, but also using their harbors as havens and refitting facilities for multiple squadrons of Spanish naval vessels. These squadrons had two purposes. One: to prey on incoming Dutch convoys from the East and West Indies with dubious privateering licenses. Two: to break and oppose the occassional Dutch blockades and Sea Beggar raids, as well as support and defend any incoming Spanish resupply or troop transport convoys.
Indeed privateering had become so widespread and profitable, that many Catholic Spanish and Flemish merchant captains had commisioned specially outfitted hybrid ships specifically built for privateering into the English channel. These Oostenders and Dunkirker privateers would also take their fast, nible, well armed pinnaces and fregattes further out to intercept vessels on the incoming Indies convoy routes and into the North sea as well, to prey on incoming spice, sugar, salt, herring, or timber convoys.
Despite the best efforts and depredations of the privateers, the investors in Amsterdam and the other six Admiralties cities still continued to become rich beyond reckoning from the majority of the returning ships that did make it safely home. Spain which desperately needed Flanders to maintain her empire was slowly losing “the northern jewel” in her crown. Attrition eroded Spain’s power and resources waging wars in multiple places against numerous enemies both in Europe and abroad. The truce was almost a necessity for both sides, but had the result of allowing the Netherlands to consolidate power, and increase in wealth beyond expectation. Holland’s merchant companies were constantly growing and uniting – and her investors continued to pour capital into them from all over Europe via her ever-growing banks.
Captain Heyn issued orders and men snapped to work loading cargoes, transferring supplies, and preparing the vessels for departure. With Heyn’s existing crew, soldier, and vessel disposition, he knew he had neither the time nor the numbers of men needed to leave behind a significant enough garrison in East Timor to make long-term occupation currently feasible. Heyn contented himself that the raids on Timor were more than successful – given the spices, sandalwood, prize ships and prisoners that had been seized, as well as the destruction they had wrought on their competitors. With the new orders in hand, Heyn transferred the Wijsheid over to Captain Lucifer, whose instructions from Coen were to continue to raid the south Timor settlements. Heyn also assigned a “plotton” of Dutch company soldiers over to him as well. Heyn recalled and retained Luitenant Van Dorn and some of his crew from the prize-ship and seperated himself from the little squadron, departing Timor alone for Batavia in the Hollandia.
The journey took less than a week’s time with an oddly favorable wind. As Captain Heyn entered the familiar, bustling Dutch East India port of Batavia once more, he was surprised to see how much it had changed in just the few months he had been away. The progress on the new fortifications and facilities was impressive. He wondered if he would ever see it again and what it might look like a hundred years hence. The voyage to get there from Europe could sometimes take as long as a year depending on the weather and the ship. Heyn had seen the east now and thought to himself that he would rather not go through the ordeal again. Rather he relished the idea of fighting in European or Carribean waters once more.
The harbor of Batavia rose from it’s low beaches into rolling tropical hills beyond, surrounded by strong walls and stone forts. A growing low, extensive stone fortress spread wide along the waterfront and against the banks of the Ciliwung river. The port had been hard won. The Dutch had established a presence there in 1595 with a trading post and an embassy to the ruling Prince Jayawikarta. In 1605 the Dutch seized the existing Portuguese fort on site and began contruction of a larger stone fortress of their own on the east bank of the river. Relations continued to degrade with the local population as the Dutch presence increased. Tensions came to a head when the Prince allowed the English to build a fort on the west bank of the river to counter the Dutch.
Just a year earlier the situation had degraded to the point of violence. Heyn had been there fighting alongside Governor Coen when the hostilities broke out with the Prince’s army – supported by an English fleet of fifteen ships and the English fort’s garrison. Coen lost the naval battle against the English and retreated to bring back reinforcements. The Dutch nearly lost the city in the subsequent siege and fighting. Only the arrival of Coen’s reinforcements and allies from one of the Sultans of Banten – just in the nick of time – allowed for a Dutch victory. The Sultan lodged complaints with the Rulers of Banten who subsequently deposed the Prince on the grounds that he had no authority to entreat with the English. The Dutch were then given full control of Jayakarta and the surrounding region. Subsequently, Governor Coen expelled the local native populous and burned the existing city of Jayakarta to the ground. He then laid out the new city of Batavia in its place on a European plan with extensive buildings and fortifications going up non-stop since that time forward.
The port itself was a wide forest of masts clad in countless yards of light canvas, topped in bright flowing colors. Mostly Dutch flags could be seen – fluttering ribbons of red, white, and blue – yellow ensigns emblazoned with the red sword wielding rampant lion of Holland. Flying along with them, a few red crosses of St. George from England, white – gold fleur-de-lis speckled flags and blue and white crossed ensigns of France, as well as multiple banners of other Asian and European countries like Venice sporting the Lion of St. Mark. This patchwork of colors contrasting against the dozens and sometimes hundreds of Dutch tri-colors. Craft of all types could be seen cluttering the slips and open harbor space tied off and at anchor. Ships were constantly moving in and out of the busy harbor – docking, careening, refitting, unloading, loading, and departing. Chinese junks, Javanese fustas and praos, Arabic dhows, Persian garukhas, and European galleons, naos, pinnaces and fregattes of every size and shape bobbed and drifted about the great eastern port city’s harbor.
Heyn went to the Governor’s new estate and VOC offices to say his good-byes to Coen and the other company officals he had come to know well during his years with the VOC. He closed out his affairs there and departed for home in two weeks time aboard the Hollandia. Still in command, Heyn’s ship had been restocked and victualed for the long journey home as well as loaded with spices destined for the warehouses of Rotterdam.
The Hollandia acting as flagship, was to lead a large convoy of some thirty heavily laden Dutch East Indiamen homeward. The great captain was allowed to take selected officers and men with him. Heyn made the move voluntary, but commanded such loyalty among his crew that most men wanted to come back with him – many just to get out of the tropics. He elected to take most of his luitenants (who were German or Dutch), as well as Mr. Bruijn his bosun, Mr. Maddocks, his Welsh navigator, Mr. O’Shiel, his Irish surgeon, and of course his new Dutch clerk, Jacobi – who was actually eager at this time in his life to return to his homeland.
The journey was long and arduous. Thankfully the storms were negligible and subsequently little in the way of a refit for any of the vessels was necessary during the customary stop-over at the European trading outpost of Kaapstad under Tafelberg (Table Mountain) on the Kaap de Goede Hoop(Cape of Good Hope), positioned strategically on the southernmost tip of the African continent. (*AUTHOR’S NOTE: Capetown would not become an exclusively Dutch VOC outpost until 1652) More supplies were loaded – mainly fresh beef traded with the local Khoikhoi tribesmen, who had allowed the European trading post to be set up there. Several of the convoy’s captains checked in with the VOC concierge to see if there were any messages, orders, or mail to be conveyed forward to their homeland. With all resupply and preparations made, the fleet convoy set sail once again heading west until they hit the northern trade winds – well out of sight of the west coast of Africa.
During this long passage Jacobi and Heyn learned more and more about one another. Numerous nights of discussion allowed the men to see into each others minds. Over this time Heyn came to appreciate and respect his new friend at a level he had never known for any other man before, save his own father. Heyn’s temper was soothed by Jacobi’s playing of the small recorder, indeed the ships officers came to appreciate the music as well after many a meal. Mr. O’Shiel was a fiddler and Luitenant Van Dorn played a respectable lute. This odd trio was soon making the most joyous noise the ship’s company had ever heard before. Heyn came to realize that Jacobi was an immensely knowledgeable scholar as well. As the unlikely friends played chess night after night, they discussed philosophy, religion, history, navigation, human nature, and morality. Three months later, the two men knew as much about one another as brothers might that had grown up together.
As the convoy entered European waters, Captain Heyn doubled the watches in fear of Spanish privateers or pirates. A few sail flying Spanish colors were seen in the distance on several occassions, but none of the sightings appoached to a threatening distance. No attacks at all occurred as Captain Heyn’s convoy entered the English channel only three weeks later. Small courrier vessels met Heyn as the rich convoy entered the “Hook of Holland” into the wide river estuary of the Maas and beyond to the great port of Rotterdam. As the covoy entered the burgeoning port of Rotterdam, the local populous gathered at the docks to witness the large returning warships and East Indiamen enter their slipways and come to anchor. Captain Heyn was dumfounded as he departed the ship’s large launch, stepping up onto the stone jetty surrounded by cheering crowds. As he stepped forward, he met an entourage of city fathers, clergy, burghers, and the Mayor of Rotterdam. Heyn was a hero and received a hero’s welcome.
The following day, Heyn entered a large aging, gothic styled, red brick building. As his boots clod along the large smooth stone slabs of the floor, his foosteps echoed in the spacious, vaulted gothic hall. As he moved closer to the men seated at the other end of the great hall, he looked upwards at dozens of tattered regimental and ships banners hanging from the ceiling. Some were slighly burned. Most had been captured from the Spanish and Flemish over the last fifty years. As he finally came to the end of the room and stepped upon a fine red Flemish rug, he removed his wide brimmed black hat and bowed low to the Admirals of the navy board of Rotterdam.
Heyn was dressed in his finest trappings and arose to respectfully gaze upon the assembled gentry – all sitting behind an immense, ornately decorated, darkly varnished oak table. The aged, but great and respected Admiral Van Noort (first Dutchman to circumnavigate the world in 1601) addressed Heyn.
“Well Captain Heyn, it seems that every report we’ve received concerning the East Indies over the last six years seems to mention your daring battles and countless captured prizes. The honor of the Hereen and the Admiralties are in your debt and we offer you our congratulations and most genuine gratitude. Tell me Sir, Do you believe that you can pull off the same sort of miracles here – against the damned tormenters threatening our home’s very threshold, close upon our own back steps?”
Heyn smiled respectfully and bowed slightly again. He thought a short moment and answered, “My Lords, I am certain of the outcome and assure you that I will bring these privateering mongrels of Oostend to heel.”
“How can you be so confident and so sure of this outcome where so many others have failed Sir?” Van Noort querried.
Heyn answered confidently with a widening smile, “Its simple really My Lord. You see your Honors, its a matter of knowing their tricks and how to turn them back upon themselves. In short, Mijn Heren… it takes a hopelessly damned wretched pirate, to catch a hopelessly damned wretched pirate.” The aged Admirals all laughed in unison in answer – their laughter echoing throughout the gothic hall with a pitch and noise that outshone the ghosts haunting the ancient place.
Part 8 of Reale Ocho: Silvern at Bahia de Matanzas is posted at Pirates Ahoy! here: http://www.piratesahoy.net/
“Captain Evertsen, Please inform Captain Heyn of the current situation.” Admiral Van Noort commanded.
“Very Well Sir”, young Captain Evertsen complied. “The Oostenders have been more aggressive than ever before in recent weeks. I am very surprised you were spared their attacks Captain Heyn. The convoy arriving just before yours lost nearly half their numbers to a lightning fast, well organized Privateer fleet. The pirates were so bold indeed that they seized the escort flagship Neptunus and took her a prize. The reports from the returning convoy captains was that the Ostender devils have built a new, specialized vessel. They say she came from nowhere and appeared to be some sort of a large fregatte-galleon combination. This hybrid warship was apparently the secret of their fleet’s success, and why they were able to so handily take the flagship. It is said that she is as large as any two decker, but with a single, long, low main gun-deck, with smaller half gun-decks above on each side of her waist. With this configuration, she mounts nearly as many guns as a two decker, and for short range raiding she can be manned with double a two decker’s numbers. But she is swift and low in the water as craft half her size. She is also shallower of draft and much faster than any equivalent ship of her size. Several of our agents lost their lives trying to find out who was in command of this fleet and this new ship. We have learned that she is named the Iris.”
Admiral Van Noort spoke, “Word of this attack and this new fleeting ghost ship has spread like wild-fire. Insurance rates have spiraled upwards in undue excess. The subsequent panic among investors has caused the Hereen XVII to call for more warships to be built immediately and for larger naval escorts to be provided for all merchant fleets. Many inland towns have come forward with promises to fund new warships. Both the VOC along with the smaller merchant companies – and even the Sea Beggar captains have all pledged their support in doubling the blockading squadrons around Dunkirk and Oostend.”
There was a brief pause as all admirals turned their gaze upon Heyn. Admiral Van Noort added, “Captain Heyn Sir, your commission to continue as captain of the Hollandia has been unanimously extended and expanded with a promotion to squadron commander. In addition to Hollandia, you now command the 40 gun warships Vergulde Leeuw, Haarlem, and Isaiah, along with two escort pinnaces, the 26 gun Hermes, and the 20 gun Dolfjin. In addition, young Evertsen here is now under your command. He is currently Dolfjin’s captain. So Commander, will you take your squadron and go forward to bolster and command the blockade at Ostend?”
Piet did not answer immediately, smiling politely and surveying the faces of the sage, old admirals. He responded, “Nay Sir, I will not.” Van Noort reacted, “What, what? …then what will you do Sir?”
Heyn answered, “We must not tarry nor wait upon the whims of our offenders Mijn Herren. We must hit them hard my Lords. We must move into the port before first light under cover of fog and darkness. We must cut out and recapture the Neptunus. In addition, we must seize and bring back this new Flemish raider Iris. In short, we must make them pay for their audacity. If you wish to send the Habsburg Flemish and Spanish dogs a bold message that matters, put a quick stop to this absurd panic, and bring carrying rates back down to normal, we must do this.”
Heyn paused and surveyed his captive audience and then continued, “I tell you Mijn Herren, I will be successful. I know a certain reliable person that will be my eyes in the darkness. To add, I think it may be vitally important to consider having a good look at this new ship. If her design is so superior, then perhaps our own shipwrights may wish to copy her – and this Gentlemen, could possibly give us great advantage in what we all know certain – continuing and expanding future conflict.”
There was a sudden uproar of mumbling speech between the admirals as they all agreed and disagreed among themselves. Admiral Van Noort raised his voice, “Gentlemen if you please! ……Pray lets continue… you wish to add something Admiral de Zoete? You have a concern?”
De Zoete countered, “I do Sir. Pray, who is this man we must rely on for your certain sight in the darkness, of which the success of this raid wholly depends Heyn? I think we deserve at least knowing, considering how much we have to lose in the matter.”
“I cannot tell you that Sir.” Heyn answered. “I cannot compromise his identity or he will be useless to us. I can tell you that he is a both a Fleming and the most skilled of pilots – that should suffice.”
Van Noort turned his head towards a clearly wealthy, very opulently dressed man (for Dutch standards) that was sitting next to him, “Laurens?” The illustrious Dr. Reale, visiting from Amsterdam was grimly serious and spoke firmly, “Can so bold a raid be successful? What if you should fail Sir? How will you know in such poor conditions of visability what exact locations these specific vessels lie in? Rather risky don’t you think Heyn?”
Heyn fired back, “There is always risk in anything worth doing My Lords. But I ask you this…. where does my own Hollandia lie now? She is moored at the central pier where the people can gaze upon their newly returned symbol of national admiration. I must admit I remain dumbfounded by her popularity, but everyday since I have returned, there is a crowd of onlookers at the pier. This Gentlemen, is because of the stories of her success – which I never could have imagined would have travelled half a world away here – to stir and inspire Dutch pride.”
He continued, “I tell you that the Oostenders have done the same. This Iris and the Neptunus will be at the center of public attention and adoration for another fortnight at least. I will gather all the additional intelligence available concerning their locations. This raid WILL be successful….. or I will not return from it. Gentlemen, Last, I have to insist and stress that you MUST NOT utter any word of my plans outside of this hall – or we are doomed.”
That evening, Piet Heyn was invited to an event in his honor by the wealthy Rotterdam merchant Claes de Reus, in their fine home upon the Oude Haven’s waterfront. Also attending were many notable leaders in the community – some from as far away as Amsterdam, Dordrecht, and Den Haag. All of Heyn’s officers, to include his newly assigned captains were in attendance as well. Jacobi no longer wore his Jesuit habit and was now dressed in the dark breeches, doublet, and thick white lace colar of a Dutch gentlemen with a tall, black, swept brimmed hat topping off the ensemble. Musicians played, gentry mingled, and men discussed politics, commerce and war. De Rues introduced Heyn to his lovely daughter Anneke and the whole reason for the event was realized when terms for a scheduled courtship between Piet and Anneke were agreed upon.
Heyn was glad when the evening had ended, though he felt an exited thrill knowing that he was courting such a beautiful, humble young woman that also appeared equally eager to be in his company. Heyn had never been good with women. He abhorred vanity, arrogant pride and trifles which in his mind was what made up the majority of the character of most currently available young ladies. He always seemed to say the wrong thing and was not good at all in the art of flattery. He was no courtier and never wanted to be one of those churlish fops. He was a soldier and sailor and refused to present himself as anything but what God had made him. He was outspoken and told the truth no matter how unseemly, and this always seemed to deflect the weaker sex. Indeed Jacobi and Piet had spoken of this very subject and Jacobi had attempted to school the Captain in a little ettiquette concerning courting. Heyn had put the lessons to good use this evening and was beaming with happiness as he entered the carriage with Jacobi – imparting to him the good use of his lessons and the words that had been spoken between the couple. Heyn thanked Jacobi for his excellent tutoring.
After this grand social event was concluded, Heyn’s new captains and his own first and second lieutenants – Van Dorn and Van Broekel – as well as Jacobi all met in the dark third story chamber of Het Oude Desiderius, an old Rotterdam tavern that was a somewhat popular haunt of old Dutch seamen. Heyn and his father used to go there a thousand years past after returning from successful hauls. Heyn moved to a dark corner of the pub and sat down with a wisp of a man smoking a long white pipe at a dim table. He was grey haired and thin with a ruddy, leathery countenance. He wore a black cloak and low, wide brimmed black hat that hung over his face. His eyes were so grey that they almost seemed white and he smiled slightly as he looked up at Heyn sitting down next to him.
“Hello Frans, have you considered my proposal?”
The old pilot replied, “Aye Pieter. It’s all aranged. The plums are exactly where I said they would be – ripe for the picking. If you follow my lead exactly, we will have those oaks.” The men paused thoughtfully for a few moments.
Heyn spoke, “You know you will never be able to go back to Ostend again Frans.”
Frans answered, “I know Pieter. I owe your father my life and I am sick of the damned Dons in a city that used to be free anyway. I have held on to the past quite long enough. It’s time for me to move on. Aye, it’s true that my family are all buried there, but so are some eighty-thousand others from that damnable Dago seige. Been almost fifteen years now. I can’t bring back the dead. Need to move on now. I appreciate the opportunity Cap’n. You can rely on me Pieter.”
“So you think the plan we discussed last evening can be carried out then?” Piet asked. “Aye Sir, I know it can Sir. With my little hoy leading the way, and you close behind in the heavy morning fog, the watches will recognize both the cut of my prow and the answer of my voice.”
“Good man Frans”, Pieter replied. “Let’s join the others upstairs.”
The men clod up the thin stairwell to the third story of the aging building, the floor creaking as the mens footsteps trampled forward up to the table where the waiting officers all stood.
“Evertsen, do you have the maps Sir?” Pieter asked.
Jan Evertsen replied, “Indeed Sir”, as he rolled them out onto the great table that the men huddled around in the light of the lanterns. Heyn pointed down at the map moving his fingers and hands over it’s parchment features to point out their imminent destiny. He continued, “Mijn Herren, here before you is Oostend, the destination of our next enterprise. Out here is our own blockade. In the city’s outer northwest port are our objectives. We are to capture and escape with the ships Neptunus, a VOC 40 gun warship, and the so called ghost ship that I’m sure you have all been hearing about….the Iris.”
Jacobi laughed a little to himself and Heyn clearly annoyed and surprised at this behavior scolded his friend, “Is something amusing Jacobi?”
“Well yes Sir. Don’t you see it Sir? Quite an appropriate name don’t you think?” He looked at the officers, who all blankly seemed to miss the humorous discovery all-together. Jacobi continued, “I mean her name Sir, Iris….she travelled swiftly over the bridge of the rainbow. She was the messenger of the gods just as Hermes was…. but she was a goddess of discord. She brought all of the really bad messages of forboding and doom. An appropriate name for this “ghost-ship” don’t you think Sir?” He smiled sheepishly.
Heyn turned away in slight disgust from his scholarly friend and continued with his briefing. “Our first order of business two days hence will be to sail to join the Oostend blockade. Once there, the Vergulde Leeuw, and Haarlem will stay with the blockade and move the majority of their crews aboard the Hermes and Dolfjin. I want those ships crammed so full – with every man they can hold and every weapon that can be carried possible that there will be room for nothing else. I will be aboard the Dolfjin with Evertsen. The Hermes will follow closely upon our heels in the fog. I will capture the Iris….here, and Van Broekel aboard the Hermes – with his own sizeable boarding party, will seize the Neptunus…located here.”
“The Hollandia and the Isaiah will follow closely behind and then move to position their broadsides laterally, and if necessary, engage the gun batteries on each side of the De Guel channel in support of both the attack and withdrawal – as we enter and exit the main channel. No lanterns will be lit. When we have determined the wind conditions, my pilot will guess our entry time and I will flash a latern for every ten minutes of estimated time. Based on that signal, the whole blockade will move half a league closer to the shallows of the “Strand”, within cannon range of Oostend’s batteries. It will be light by the time we are on our way out of the channel and if the fog has cleared, they will be pouring fire down upon us. All ships outside of the harbor will offer supporting fire. Are there any questions gentlemen?”
Van Dorn spoke up, “Why don’t we take more of the squadron into Oostend and give the damned Dago, Flemish dogs a good pummelling Sir?”
Heyn chuckled lightly and smiled, shaking his head side to side, “Karl, while Oostend may be very well known by reputation, and is indeed immense as far as fortresses are concerned, it is quite small in the way of a city. The port is tightly enclosed and littered with a maze of drawbridges and fortified star or arrow shaped bastions. Any other ships going in behind our smallest would just get in the way of our escape and serve as great targets for our enemies. No, Van Dorn, I will not bring any larger ships into the channel. As you can see by the map, the city is surrounded by two starworks-fortified walls. The action of seizing and extracting our prizes, will actually occur at this northwestern section of the town on this single inlet between the first and second walls. Fortunately, my intelligence sources tell me that no warships currently reside in the Niewe Poort. All of the opposing fleet’s warships are a bit further inland anchored on the De Guel channel or within the city’s eastern entrance, here at the Spanichen Bulwarke. They will not have time to respond or to mount an effective counter-attack. The few patroling craft forward of the Strand will be small shallow-draft scouting craft of less than 30 tons and merely a nuisance. If you run into them, seize them as prizes and put their crews to the sword if they put up resistance.”
Two days later the ships of Commander Heyn’s squadron were assembled and ready for their intended mission – hove to and bobbing in the darkness a little over a mile off Ostend’s strand in a heavy fog on a high tide. The Dolfjin was moored closely to the side of the Hollandia. Heyn turned to face his men before departing. He shook hands with Jacobi and Van Dorn.
“Good Luck Sir”, Luitenant Van Dorn interjected.
“Indeed Sir, God’s blessings upon you Pieter”, Jacobi added.
“Thank you Gentlemen”, Heyn responded. Goodbyes said, Captain Heyn climbed down into the much smaller Dolfjin and joined Evertsen on the little quarter-deck. Evertsen saluted and shook Heyn’s hand. “Your man Frans just signaled from the little hoy that he is ready. He only left fifteen minutes past and stated that we have a perfect wind. We will be able to sail reaching both going in and out and will not be against it at any time. He said to signal four lanterns to the fleet.” Heyn knodded his head, “Forty minutes then…..God help us.”
Part 9 of Reale Ocho: Silvern at Bahia de Matanzas
The minutes seemed like hours as the ships moved through the heavy fog in line. A single small lantern in the stern windows of each ship – only viewable from the rear – allowed the group to barely keep close enough to one another that they stayed on course together in line east by south east. As they started into the De Geul channel it was clear that they were not alone. Lantern lights could be seen close-by coming from the southern gun batteries embrasures. In addition, the clear noises of ships working in the darkness towards them from the opposite direction was unmistakeable.
The Hollandia and Isaiah had hove-to as planned at approximate positions forward of Ostend’s strand in the darkness and quietly turned their already previously run out guns upon the shore batteries to support the raid – silently awaiting. As the Dolfjin and Hermes turned south, closing upon the opening into Ostend’s outermost wall entering the Nieuw Poort inlet, Heyn continued to look closely into the darkness towards the noises of the ships moving northwest out of the De Geul channel. The fog had cleared ever so slightly now and he could make out shapes against the lights of the southern shore batteries – distinct dark sillouettes of two small rakish galleons heading towards the open sea. He wanted to curse because he knew there were probably more enemy ships behind them making for the ocean. All he could do was snicker quietly to himself. Evertsen was aware of the situation as well and his expression was grim as Heyn looked upon his concerned subordinate in the foggy dimness. He whispered to Evertsen, “They are in for a surprise I think, with the blockade now twice its size and twice as close as it was just last evening. Let us pray that they don’t run straight into Hollandia or Isaiah.” Evertsen nodded in agreement, “Indeed Sir.”
As Frans’s little hoy pushed into the harbor, guards on the wall called out a challenge, “Ahoy there – what ship are you?”
Frans answered, “It is good King Phillip’s ship Delilah and I Frans Hecht her captain. I have two vessels with the King’s cargo following me.”
The guards yelled back in answer, “Hallo Frans, God’s safety upon you and welcome home brother.”
The ships silently seperated, heading to their pre-planned targets. The Delilah came up to the interior sea wall tethering herself closely to a group of small cargo pinnaces. Her crew debarked, running along the wall to where the Iris was docked. Dolfjin eased up next to Iris and her crew quietly crept aboard with Heyn and Evertsen leading the attack. The sentries aboard Iris knew they were being attacked and called out loudly for help as Hermes bumped up against the starboard side of the Neptunus. The foggy darkness was suddenly filled with the clash of metal blades and the loud sporadic barking of small gun-powder weapons.
Frans had set the fire aboard Delilah and the flames spread quickly into the rigging and drying canvas of the pinnaces next to her. As smoke filled the air, Frans abandoned ship and rushed to assist in the battle aboard Iris, whose cables had already been cut. He jumped over the increasing space just in time as she drifted out of her slip. Alarm bells were now ringing and bugles and battle coronets called out through the fog to muster their regiments. As armed Flemings and Spaniards emerged onto the harbor street, they were instantly drawn to the increasing fires of the ships on the south end. A bucket brigade began to form in the hopes of saving the southernmost vessels. Ostenders bravely jumped into the inferno to try to cut the burning ships loose from those not yet caught afire.
Heyn and his men quickly cut down the resistance from the Iris’s crew. As Heyn had hoped, most men were ashore on liberty and they faced only a small token force. As Heyn rushed aft towards the officer’s quarters, Iris’s well dressed and well armed captain emerged with rapier and main gauche drawn. The man wore a fine matching peascod breastplate and morion helmet raised and engraved with biblical scenes. His eyes were as black as coal and full of confident fire and anger, his well groomed black moustaches and goatee were greying noticeably. The two men joined in a well coordinated dance of complex fence moves, with blades scraping, tapping and ringing in the dim light. Suddenly Heyn knew who he was facing and a chill went up his spine.
Piet spoke loudly, “Alvorado!” The Spanish captain stopped in his tracks and lowered his guard slightly. He spoke in Spanish, “How do you know me? I do not know you Sir. You have me at a disadvantage.”
Heyn answered in perfect Spanish, “It is I Alvorado – the COSTURERA.”
Alvarado turned white as alabaster and dropped his sword upon the deck, “Madre de Deus, Can this be? Ghosts from long ago returned a world away.” There was a short pause while the two men stared at one another as if into a mirror.
Heyn broke the silence, “Yes my friend, we have travelled long distances over time. I have gone from being your slave, to commanding the whole blockade that surrounds this place – No longer Costurrera Pieter Heyn the galley slave, but now Captain Piet Heyn, the Squadron Commander.”
Alvorado answered, “I have heard of you Sir, but didn’t believe you to be the same person from the galley. I thought the similarities in name a coincidence only. This is indeed a twist of fate, and unfortunately for me, I am now YOUR prisoner Sir. However, the man you may truly wish to have words with – is THERE – upon the street.” Alvorado pointed to the harbor wall street to a flamboyantly dressed officer madly waving his arms, pointing and bellowing orders.
Heyn lowered his weapon and squinted through the smoke. The street was now full of men with torches, the fire cages had been lit, and this combined with the tall flames of the burning ships, caused the street to be bathed in flickering yellow-orange light. Heyn gasped, “Bazan???”
Alvorado answered, “He is.” Heyn spoke again loudly, “BAZAN!” Emotions as old as existence – that he hadn’t felt so strongly in years – flowed up through Heyn, emerging in a fiery reaction.
“Evertson, turn the ship around”, Heyn commanded.
Evertson’s facial muscles turned up on one side. Evertson looked at Heyn hard, “are you mad Sir? The ship is ours and we are making good our escape with her. The Dolfjin and Hermes are already back out into the channel and the Neptunus is cut out. She is just there on our starboard beam – making sail. You’re raid is succeeding Sir. Why do you wish to go back?”
Heyn sighed long and loudly. He sheathed his long shell hilted cutlass and stepped up to the gunwale staring across the increasing space at the spectre of Bazan fading into the increasing smoke and fog. “Never mind Evertson”, Heyn responded. “Ghosts of the past should remain in the past.” Heyn turned to Evertson and Alvarado, “Jan, I know this man. He is an honorable officer. Take him below as my prisoner and please see that he is treated well. He treated me with kindness long ago and now I shall repay the favor.”
As the Iris cleared the inlet with the Neptunus close on her heels, heavy cannon could be heard dead ahead. Muzzle flashes in several different directions lit the fog up in odd colors and shapes. Two distinctly different calibers could be heard – the unmistakeable Dutch 24s from the Hollandia and Isaiah, mixed with smaller sizes, perhaps eight pounders or twelves. As Heyn feared earlier, the small privateer galleons making for the open sea had run straight into the two large covering Dutch men-o-war.
To make matters worse, the fog was beginning to clear as a small sliver of sun edged over the horizon. The Flemish and Spanish battery commanders roused by the alerts and noise of gun-fire rushed to the walls to assess the situation. Standing on the parapets of large guns bristling outward from the southern bastions, they could make out the hazy enemy tri-colors below enmeshed in smoky conflict with their own countrymen’s black and yellow colors. Numerous gun-blasts from both the north and south sides of the De Geul channel, erupted in a heavy barrage of deadly iron projectiles upon the Isaiah and Hollandia.
As the escaping ships came within range of the escalating battle, the guns of Fortress Ostend opened up on them from abaft. Numerous high white plumes of water rose all around them from the impacts of near misses, cascading fountains of water down upon their decks. A few odd rounds hit home with telling effects, as wood splinters flew into the air, maiming and killing a few unfortuneate soldiers and sailors.
As the Iris approached to within a carbine’s shot of the Hollandia, it was clear that Van Dorn had beaten off the privateer galleons and was making a fighting retreat of it under sail. The Iris and one of the small galleons traded cannon and small arms fire as they passed one another. Hollandia’s guns thundered in the morning light engaging both the privateers and the fortified land guns. Because of this, she was becoming the focus of devastating fire from the forts. Heyn flinched as he witnessed the brutal battering his beloved ship was receiving. Captain Heyn commanded the Iris’ hastily composed new gun crews to fire upon the Flemings in assistance to Hollandia.
Suddenly a musket ball wizzed through the air striking Piet firmly in the left side of his chest. The captain fell to the deck, grasping the wound with his right hand as blood gushed from out of the hole covering his fingers. Officers and men knelt to help their fallen commander. As the incoming fire became even more intensive, Piet Heyn lost consciousness. Thankfully, the guns of the almost two dozen ships of the blockading Dutch fleet were now within range of the land batteries and opened fire upon the fortifications in support of the retreating ships.
More of the small nimble Flemish galleons emerged from the De Guel channel along with supporting fast-galleys. A dozen of the small, agile enemy ships were closing fast on Heyn’s fleeing vessels. Isaiah was surrounded by four of the little galleons. A fire had broken out during the fighting and was now spreading over half of the embattled ship’s hull and sails – blowing irrevocably into two of its smaller entangled attackers. There was no saving her and men could be seen jumping overboard for their lives and struggling to get into boats.
The fire aboard Isaiah had become a white hot inferno, engulfing the ships around her as numerous explosions sent debris high into the air. The heat from the rising pillar of fire could be felt several hundred yards away. Like it’s namesake, a prophet of old – protecting his flock and thwarting his enemies – Isaiah’s bright flames lit the way forward for the fleeing ships while preventing passage from their pursuers. Thick black and grey smoke from the burning pyre settled upon the water obscuring the retreating ships. The battle was over. The raid had succeeded with the loss of a single man of war.
When word of the successful raid reached Rotterdam, bells rang far and wide from the towers of the churches across the land. People assembled in the streets to hear the news from the arriving courier ships. As the Iris, Neptunus, and Hollandia slowly settled into their births, throngs of excited Hollanders lined the waterfront.
Before departing for shore, Heyn had awoken. “Where is O’Shiel?”, Heyn asked.
Jacobi answered, “He was shot himself while attending to the wounded on deck.”
Heyn thought for a moment, “What is his condition?”
“I don’t know if he will survive Sir. He was shot in the head and has not awoken. The ball didn’t penetrate his skull but hit him hard and cut his scalp to the bone halfway across the top of his head. I stopped the bleeding and was able to stitch and dress the wound. He is sleeping and his breathing is normal which is a very good sign that he will live”, Jacobi answered.
“You Jacobi? You mended the surgeon?”, Heyn enquired surprisingly.
“Yes me Sir”, Jacobi responded. The men paused and looked at one another, Jacobi hovering over Heyn who laid upon the captain’s bunk aboard the Iris.
Jacobi continued, “I mended your wound as well Sir. Praise our Savior that the bullet hit none of your vital organs. I extracted the ball and stitched you up. Your muscle was severed badly and you lost much blood. You must rest now Sir”, Jacobi responded.
“Your knowledge and skills never cease to amaze me my friend. I thank you”, Piet commented as he put his right hand upon Jacobi’s wrist and grasped it in friendship.
Heyn was moved ashore on a makeshift gurney of canvas and bedding. As they crossed the final distance to the shore, Heyn leaned up to look at the ships in the harbor, scanning carefully for his own Hollandia. Piet’s heart sank when he saw her. Her main topmast was gone and half of her stern looked as if it were shot away. There was no part of her that was not covered in holes. Heyn coughed, and Jacobi placed his hand upon his shoulder, “Sir you must lay back down. Hollandia can be repaired. You Sir cannot. Your flesh must be allowed to heal”, Jacobi entreated.
Next to Hollandia laid the Iris. She was long, low, slender, and rakish resembling an East Indian plantain with it’s ends upturned in the water. She was as graceful as she was beautiful and was as carefully developed and birthed as any thoroughbred. Everyone looked upon her with great curiosity and interest.
As the group of men holding Heyn’s gurney moved upon the street, groups of soldiers dispersed the crowds to make room for them to place Captain Heyn into an awaiting carriage – to be taken to a quiet place of recovery in the country.
And now Part 10
Recovery and a new Mission:
Heyn suddenly found himself in the familiar and beautiful tropical bay once again. He decided to follow a path into the jungle behind him. The path rose steeply higher and higher until the soldier found himself climbing up one of the tall steep table-topped mountains ringing the bay. As he climbed ever higher the weather freshened into a strengthening, stormy wind with the sky darkening noticeably above him. As he reached the top of the cliffy precipice, he caught his breath in satisfaction and walked upwards a slight distance more upon the small plateau to get the best view possible. He turned to stand upon the highest ledge and looked out across the wide vista of endless ocean beyond.
Piet stared down into the undulating silver-laced swells from the high rocky cliffs above. The olive sea below churned turbulently and glistened with a strange greenish-blue light breaking its way through swirling grey and pastel clouds overhead. The wind was so loud that barely anything else could be heard. The clouds countinued to darken and the sky seemed to be more angry than a jilted woman’s scorn.
There were ships riding high atop that choppy turbulence, bobbing and tossing from one enormous wave to the next – burying their prows deeply into the watery cliffs ahead of them – looking as if they would burrow into the deep never to return – but then at once they would emerge again and slowly ride up – up, upwards to the crest of the next great swell. Suddenly beams of brilliant light burst forth out of the dark clouds in scores of widening angular beams from a dozen morphing openings. The light caused both the clouds above and the water below to take on the color and luster of glowing pearl.
More ships burst up from out of the depths. Some still displayed telltale signs of how they met their demise. Others bobbed atop the mixing deep in pieces coming back together, water gushing from out their holds and cabins. Visible holes in the sides and bottoms of many showed they had been destroyed by fires or cannon, or rocks and shoals. Pieter recognized several of them… and then even more. He saw lost ships that had belonged to his father’s herring fleet. He saw Portuguese and Spanish ships he’d sent to the bottom himself. He marveled at the spectacle of the churning ships rising and swirling above the angry waters whose waves seemed to rise even higher in protest of losing claimed possessions.
Then several rising luminescent streams of steam emerged from the deep – moving in circular motions above a now forming maelstrom below that the broken ships danced haphazardly atop. The glowing ghost-like strands ascended and crisscrossed in a lacey helix to the heavens and widened as they formed. Light glowing spirits of the dead surfaced and ascended through the light of the delicate other-worldly corridors. Pieter stared in awe, making out the features of some of the spirits that flittered by him. To his dread and fear, some he even recognized – he had sent them to the next life himself. His father swept by, smiling at him as he passed, his skin glowing as if it were something both of this world and the next. He beckoned to him to follow, but Pieter looking down at his own hands could clearly see that they were still of the same crude flesh he had always known. Then a great low voice boomed calmly out of the heavens and echoed across all space, “AND THE SEA SHALL GIVE-UP HER DEAD.”
Piet awoke breathing in deep and fast as if his breath had been stolen from him. The sudden movement stirred Jacobi from his light sleep in the chair next to the captain’s bedside where he had posted himself in vigil.
“Where am I?”, Piet asked.
“You are home Pieter”, Jacobi responded.
“I had a dream Jacobi – a terrible and disturbing dream”, Heyn commented.
“Tell me about it Sir?” Jacobi said curiously.
“I witnessed the terrible beginnings of the ressurrection Jacobi. The dead were rising upwards from the sea. I saw many men that I had killed. I saw my father rising above me – beckoning me….but I could not follow. All I could do was watch in disbelief. And then God himself announced that he was calling all to judgement that had been claimed by the sea. God’s power to move the deep was so great that all of the lost ships below were spewed forth above once again. I tremble to think about what I have seen. I fear I have seen this for a reason – as a warning perhaps.”
Piet paused for a moment and then continued, “I fear that I will never be able to follow my father Jacobi. He was a good, godfearing and happy man. He was never bitter or mean spirited or revengeful. I could never follow him. I am angry and vengeful. I have killed without thought. The debt I carry of the souls I’ve killed – heretics or not – is too heavy to be forgiven I fear. What do you think Jacobi? Can there be a such an event as I have witnessed and such a grand power as to seperate the whole ocean sea from her own wide bed?”
Jacobi immediately answered, “Oh Pieter of course. I believe so with all my heart. If God could make the world itself and set the stars upon their axis, use time as a plaything, and create all life upon earth’s surface and below, do you not think that he could just as easily pull it back apart?
Pieter my friend. You should not worry so. I can see that you are a good man within, or I would not be your friend. There are reasons for what you have done and God our great Judge considers all things a man has to contend with in this life. No burden of sin is too heavy for our Lord’s forgiveness. This is indeed another reason I have broken with my church. I have learned through diligent study that if a man believes in our Lord Christ’s sacrifice and forgiveness, that – that man will repent and make amends to the daily living of his life. Good will come from that man thereafter, and when that man stands before God on that great day of reckoning – that you have seen yourself the beginnings of – Christ will say, “His name is written in the lamb’s book of life and he is absolved of all he has done – I myself have paid his debt.”
Jacobi observed Pieter closely to see if he understood what he had said and added. “You are a soldier and a leader of men Piet Heyn, and you must follow your calling in this life and defend our Fatherland. BUT, always remember in the carrying out of your duties that killing for killing’s sake is of the devil. Remember that the women and children are not your enemies. Remember that those who beg for mercy, who are naked or starving, should be given mercy, shelter and fare. The greatest leaders are the ones that remember this. You can be strong and ruthless while still being compassionate and forgiving. Choose who is to live and die for the RIGHT reasons and try to allay the suffering of those who have borne your wrath when your victory is complete.”
The two men looked awkwardly away from one another in contemplative silence. After a moment, Piet broke the silence, “Thank you Jacobi. I do believe there is still hope for me. Thank you for reminding me thus. You are a true friend to do so. I hope you are right. That man I told you about Jacobi – the cruel thoughtless Spaniard captain Bazan I told you of..(pause)…he was there at Oostend on the stone wall as we were making our escape. I wanted to go back and kill him more than anything I’ve ever wanted. I have not forgiven him nor do I know if I ever could. I hate that man with every fiber of my being and that hatred has kindled my vengeance and caused me to kill many that I may have spared otherwise. And that Jacobi makes me hate him and want to kill him even more. As you can see, I am still quite vengeful and I do not know if that twist in my trunk can ever be undone.”
Jacobi countered, “You can only do your best Pieter. You must pray for the power and the serenity of spirit to be able to someday forgive this man and finally give up all the hate and anger that have consumed you for so long. I will pray for you Pieter.”
“Thank you Jacobi, Now where is my ship?” Piet enquired as he began to struggle to sit up in his bed.
“You must lay back down Pieter. You are still weak. Hollandia is being refitted Sir, but you have a new ship now.” Jacobi answered.
Heyn looked confused as Jacobi called for assistance. The wounded captain had been in and out of consciousness for over a week as he recovered from an infection that had developed in the hole left by the musket ball he received off Oostend’s strand aboard the Dolfijn. During this time the Admiralty had posted their best physicians to Heyn’s bedside as well as lingering couriers that moved back and forth to report on the captain’s condition.
In the days that followed the veteran captain healed quickly and was soon walking in the gardens with Anneke to take the air. Anneke visited everyday and Pieter was at this point completely smitten. Only a short time later the couple were married in a great celebration that not only marked the union of the distinguished pairing, but also of the victorious raid upon Oostend and the brazen seizure of the sleek and mysterious privateer warship Iris. The wedding and banquet were held at Noordeinde Palace and Prince Maurice himself attended the festivities and personally congratulated Heyn.
After the feast and entertainment were concluded, the two men walked together in the gardens behind the Oude Hof. The two men spoke to one another in an amicable fashion as if they were longtime friends. Heyn had met the Prince briefly once before, prior to his succession, and was duly impressed with the man. Prince Maurice of Nassau was dressed modestly in a black coat, breaches and socks. While the embroidery was of fine quality, only the extremely fine lace of his silken collar belied his wealth and station. He also wore a fine but soldierly and functional rapier, that gave another small hint of his nature.
Maurice was a soldier and despite his wealth and education, had spent as much time or more on campaign than at home. When at home, he ceaselessly studied military science and history and looked for ways to improve the Provinces military forces. His reforms were dramatic and he was certain they would give the Netherlands a great advantage against the Spaniards when hostilities broke out once again.
The Prince spoke to Heyn, “Captain Heyn, you are audacious Sir, but you are a thinking man. I have reviewed your actions in the east and am aware of your strategem in this latest action as well. Some say you are reckless, but I see meticulously calculated forethought in your operations. You are a captain among captains Sir. You can best serve us where your talents can be brought against a thinking enemy. You are a fox hunter Sir and have shown adeptness at outsmarting the fox. We are cut from the same cloth you and I Heyn. I myself am making preparations for renewed conflict with the Spanish. In the meantime I must strengthen our position.”
The men were surrounded by a large and heavily armed body guard. These men were hand selected and were sworn to give their lives to protect the Prince. They came from only the most trusted families and were trained in swordsmanship and marksmanship from their youth. Prince Maurice’s father William the Silent had been shot and killed by an assissin that infiltrated his household and hid among his courtiers as a trusted agent for some time before he finally acted. That had been the second attempt on the Prince and was the first assassination of a head of state with a hand-gun. The assassin was actually a Catholic fanatic who had been inspired to act for the betterment of his impoverished family by the publicly advertized reward of 20,000 gold reales offered in return for the Prince’s death by King Phillip II of Spain himself.
The Prince continued, “I am seeking to strengthen our position by making alliances and friends wherever possible. The French could set the balance against us if they so chose to. We have signed a treaty with the French and I am sending Admiral De Zoete with a couple of squadrons to assist them. We have agreements with many Hansa cities and German Princes. They desire our trade, the movement of their goods through our ports, as well as our capital and specialists to develop their industry – especially in guns. While the English are our competitors, they are also Protestant brothers. We should not worry about them too much. We have double their ships and many of their men serve in our army.
The Prince stopped walking and extended his hand out to gently pull a daffodil towards his nose as he bent over slightly to inhale its sweet light perfumed scent. He stood back up smiled and breathed the air in deeply and belched. “A fine banquet that. Mmmmm, the meat was so savory. – Ah well…The English have just formed a pact with Venice to assist them in their fight against the Habsburgs. You’ll remember that just a few years back the Venetians completely broke with the Babylonian whore of Rome, completely ignoring their entire nation’s excommunication for over a year. Perhaps with our help and England’s help they may do the same again. The Doge faces off with both Spain and the Empire in the Adriatic. I have spoken with both the English and Venetian ambassadors just yesterday and have agreed to assist them as well. We will honor our treaty with the Venetians by sending a squadron. The ambassador has expressed an interest in you Heyn. I would wager that if they are smart and put you in command, I think you could bring those pesky Uskoks to heel in a few months time.”
Heyn answered, “Uskoks your Excellency?”
Prince Maurice answered, “Yes Uskoks. The Admiral will brief you. I wish you the best of luck Sir. We may be in a state of truce with Spain here at home, but you will do whatever is necessary against the Spanish supporting these Uskoks in the Adriatic in compliance with our treaty to Venice. Good hunting Captain Heyn.”
Heyn acknowledged, “I will not dissappoint your Excellency.”
The two men shook hands and Heyn bowed as the Prince and his retinue headed back up the decorative stone walk to the Palace. Heyn turned to face Admiral Van Noort. The Admiral smiled, “Ever been to Venice Heyn?”
“No my Lord”, Heyn answered.
The Admiral snickered to himself and continued, “Strange people those, with strange customs. Decadent and self loving. They care more about their clothes and the way they look than where they live. A finely dressed Count might just live in a piss hole when he leaves the Doge’s court in the evening. I think you will find it interesting. You will most certainly learn patience. These Uskoks the Prince spoke about are nothing but Croatian pirates that are being supplied by the Austrians and Spanish. The Hollandia is months away from being finished with her refit. I want you to take the Neptune in her place along with the rest of your squadron. I have no other ship to replace the Isaiah with at the moment, but will send another ship to you when possible. My best word of advice to you Heyn is to play the part of the polite and compliant diplomat to the Venetian’s faces, but act on your own best judgement when you’re in action.”
Heyn replied shaking his head in resignation, “I can do nothing but use my best judgement Sir, because I am a woefully poor actor or liar. There is a reason that I’m not a diplomat. I will endeavor to do what I am able according to my best judgement and God’s guiding hand.”, Heyn shook the Admiral’s hand.
Van Noort bid him farewell, “God’s speed Sir.”
And now Part 11. Voyage to Venice…
The voyage to Venice was frought with danger from the day after the convoy cleared the Maas onward. Numerous small storms and privateer attacks occurred on the path to the pillars. Fortunately the Dutch squadron was not alone. Accompanying Heyn’s five ships (Neptunus – 42 guns, Vergulde Leeuw – 40 guns, Haarlem – 40 guns, Hermes – 26 guns, Dolfijn – 20 guns) were two large merchant galleons of over 40 guns each: a Venetian ship of over 500 tons – the Maddalena, and another of nearly the same burthen, built in Holland as a gift to the Doge – the Sint Mark. In addition, the convoy rendevoused with a small English convoy of three small galleons of around 30 guns each, also on their way to Venice for the same purpose – the Thomas Moore, Nell, and Stag. The convoy found itself under attack numerous times by Spanish patrols and Moorish corsairs once they entered the Med.
The Venetian ambassador Count Tommaso Orfini returned with Heyn’s fleet and preferred the spartan quarters offered aboard the Neptunus rather than the luxurious apartments aboard the Maddalena. Piet was both surprised and impressed by this, but soon regretted it. The ambassador followed Heyn about like some sort of admiring shadow. He cocked about the quarter deck as if he were one of Heyn’s own officers and asked so many numerous questions to the point of not just annoying the Captain, but also every other officer aboard as well. Heyn did not wish to offend the Count and knew he was just trying to get to know them better, and learn something of how the Dutch handled their vessels. Heyn actually was duly impressed by the ambassador’s quest for knowledge, but was forced to form covert briefings with selected officers in order to escape the eavesdropping Orfini – who never missed a meal with Neptunus’ officers.
The convoy did not take the route Heyn had originally planned. Because of the storms and the attacks, the small fleet had to put in at the Spanish port of Palma on the great island of Majorca. Captain Heyn was very concerned the wide low fort, flanked by an old castle on its north end, would open fire as they approached. Luckily the harbor was almost empty with the exception of small fishing and transport vessels. Spain and the Netherlands were still under a truce regardless of the blatant state sponsored privateering on both sides. The Spanish Governor of Mallorca was a polite and generous host and the fleet stopped for a week to undergo repairs and take on fresh water without incident. The Governor knew Heyn’s force could very probably seize Palma if he so chose to. With Heyn’s reputation being that of a well known pirate to the Spanish, the grandees of Palma sighed with a collaborative relief as Heyn’s convoy dissapeared over the horizon.
After this break, the wind blew the fleet east-southeast. Heyn put the fleet in a diamond formation with the smaller more agile ships in the center. The Stag and Dolfijn were placed forward as advance guards. The fleet was attacked again by a sizeable force of Moorish galleys southwest of Sardinia. Despite this force being over twice as large as Heyn’s little fleet, they were handily beaten off by the better armed Galleons and Fregattes. Several of the disabled galleys that had come very close in failed boarding attempts, were broken up and mowed under the keels of the much heavier Northern European galleons – with their sturdy construction and high freeboard offering great advantages.
After this battle, the fleet was forced to put in at the north African port of Annaba for repairs and provisions. As the fleet approached, Heyn ordered the Dutch ensigns and other colors struck from the convoy’s fore and mainmasts. He hoisted a white flag of truce from the mainmasts of the Neptunus and Dofijn.
Anchored in the harbor before them, laid a large old Italian carrack flying the flag of Genoa and a couple of unidentified naos. More importantly, several well-manned large war galleys flying the long green pennants of the yellow crescent moon of the Ottoman Navy, bristled with small caliber weaponry, but made no signs of preparation for combat. The port was surprisingly lush and green with beautiful hills rising to its rear. A large old castle overlooked the harbor atop rocky cliffs rising above the protruding south spur of the port’s semi-circular mouth. Below, behind the defensive walls to the rear of the ancient stone docks could be seen several Muslim minarets. On the main hill above the town was what looked to be a modest old romanesque bassilica, but it was devoid of any towers or crosses to identify it as Christian.
Annaba was formerly the ancient Carthaginian and Roman city of Hippo. Saint Augustine himself hailed from the old city and had written the famous “City of God” there. Some of his bones lay in the old church above the town, and despite the fact the city dealt in the Christian slave trade (just as many other Ottoman north African cities did), a Christian and Jewish quarter still existed there – just as in Jerusalem. The infamous Turkish pirate Barbarossa had taken the city for the Ottoman Empire in the 1520’s and the castle and walls flew the bright red Ottoman flag with a single yellow crescent moon in their centers.
Heyn’s entourage was greeted by numerous distiguished men of trade and administration. Oddly enough several were dressed in European attire. The men were disappointed to find that Heyn was not there to trade and also had no interest in buying slaves. An agreement for harbor services and even a prisoner exchange was brokered through the local Sultan of Annaba. Captured Moorish and Turkish prisoners taken in the numerous attacks and the recent battle, were exchanged for imprisoned Christians. Heyn kept his men and the fleet in a high state of alertness throughout this time. The commander was constantly on the lookout for suspicious activity and convinced the Moors would attack. However, the Sultan kept the accord and the Europeans were allowed to depart without incident.
The remainder of the journey went off without any significant encounters until Heyn’s convoy sailed mid-way up the Adriatic Sea. As the fleet began navigating into the wide channel between the Adriatic islands of Bisevo and Vis, the lingering light fog of morning’s first light began to clear. Just as the round-topped rocky islands began to show their bare hilltops, the Sint Mark and Maddalena came under attack by an almost unseen enemy. The large Venetian ships clearly identified their nationality, both flying the Lion of Saint Mark. In addition, they were the furthest ships to the rear – making up the aft point of Captain Heyn’s diamond formation. The sudden cannon and musket fire immediately alerted the rest of the fleet that they were under attack.
Heyn aboard the Neptunus had positioned himself at the forward point of the diamond formation behind the advance guard. The convoy had been beating nor’norwest against the wind coming mostly from the north. The Maddalena, with a sudden shifting weather wind, was able to take advantage of the situation by speeding herself forward into the protection of the smaller central ships that were simultaneously turning themselves to assist in engaging the unknown antagonists. The Maddalena’s now scattered attackers haphazardly broke off their assault and moved to join in the attack upon the Sint Mark.
Heyn immediately peeled the Neptunus off from the convoy upon the prevailing northwest wind sailing quickly to the east side of the formation coming about reaching south. The Vergulde Dreak and Haarlem also broke off from the formation, pointing east and bringing their starboard broadsides to bear in support of the assailed ships. Neptunus handled and pointed well and gained speed quickly, “Still not as fast as Hollandia”, Heyn thought to himself.
As Heyn approached the beleagured Sint Mark he surprisingly believed they were under attack by yet more Barbary corsairs. He was dumbfounded that they would attack this far north and east, but then noticed the small attacking craft were notably different. The attacking vessels resembled Moorish galleys, but were smaller, thinner, and longer with no masts or sails. These long fast boats were like some sort of low oversized canoe bristling with oars.
The Sint Mark was surrounded by these little craft and their swarthy crews swarmed upwards – climbing the sides of their intended prize on dozens of grappling lines. “Uskoks!”, the Count exclaimed with surprise and disgust. “Don’t they know when they are outmatched? They would attack the very host of Heaven itself”, he added.
The besieging warriors looked as if they were from another age. Most of them were covered in dark, protective leather jerkins trimmed in furs. Many wore bits of mail and plates of armor added to these crude harnesses. Roughly half of their complement were bare headed with the other half wearing leather or fur covered protective gear and helmets of every type and age – from rusty old skull-caps, to the latest captured Venetian morions. Over their shoulders and backs hung all manner of the latest to the most obsolete of firearms, crossbows, and bladed weapons.
Captain Heyn ordered his gunners to seize all cannon fire and musterred every musketeer to the starboard gunwales and crow’s nest – fighting tops. “So these are Uskoks”, Heyn spoke loudly. “Let’s see how well they retire. MAKE READY! Take aim! FIRE!”
The Uskoks were now receiving fire on three sides. The Sint Mark had lost nearly a third of her numbers, but put up a good fight, doing an admirable job of repelling the beseiging attackers in a fiersom hand to hand battle. Musketeers in the tops poured fire down into the ascending Uskok ranks.
The Neptunus was now opposite the Sint Mark, no more than forty yards distance with every matchlock and wheellock brought to bear over the starboard gunwale. The Vergulde Draek was forward of the attack just out of musket range, but was lobbing rounds into the open kill-sack hitting the Uskok fastboats and any men still aboard with withering cannonfire. The water below soon became the scene of floating furry corpses and the debris of broken boats. The dark bodies were thick in the water and upon the shattered debris, resembling dead animals.
Captain Heyn barked orders, “Luitenant Van Dorn, launch boats to assist the Sint Mark. Try to pick up some living prisoners if you can.” “Aye Sir,” Van Dorn complied.
The Uskoks were now in full disordered retreat. With very few boats still seaworthy, the living swarmed aboard the few still floating vessels with many bailing as the rowers pulled for their lives. Count Orfini exclaimed loudly, “Molto ben fatto! By God’s good grace Captain Heyn! You’ve routed the brutto Habsburg dogs! Well done Sir! Well done indeed!”
Captain Heyn smiled. “Poor devils. It’s apparent they thought us a merchant convoy. They expected to find twenty or thirty sailors aboard the Sint Mark, not two to three hundred experienced soldiers. Brave men these. They fought on with the fiercest voracity even after realizing what they had run into. No one can doubt their bravery despite their retreat.”
Signal flags were hoisted and the fleet hove to in order to assess damage, collect prisoners, recover boats and begin treating the wounded. Van Dorn returned to the Neptunus with roughly a dozen Uskok prisoners. As the disarmed and defeated men began climbing onto the deck amidships they looked around themselves with defiant curiosity, not one showing any signs of fear, facing the alert and well armed Dutch crew of the Neptunus. Luitenant Van Dorn stepped forward with one of the Uskok prisoners beside him, “This is supposedly one of their leaders Sir. He speaks fairly good Spanish.”
He was young and handsome with a long thin face and pronounced beakish nose. His eyes were a searing greyish green and he was clean shaven except for a neat downturned moustache. His armor was of a better quality than the men behind him, but still a hybrid harness of plates and mail allowing for good protection while providing full freedom of movement. He wore a gold chain around his neck with a well smithed shield and crest ornament hanging below the center point of his gorget plate.
Heyn stepped forward to meet him and greeted him in Spanish, “I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation Starship Enterprise”…..sorry couldn’t resist – as if anyone is actually reading this anyway- no one ever comments – I must really stink. “I am Captain Piet Heyn of the United Provinces.” The Uskok leader responded, “I am Bosko Lenkovic, and if you mean to behead us I can promise you that ten of yours will be beheaded for every one of mine.”
Heyn was taken aback by the young man’s bold words, but confused by the statement. He responded, “See here lad, why would I want to behead you?”
Count Orfini engaged the discussion, “We beheaded scores of them a few years ago, including many of their leaders, in an attempt to stop the piracy. It just made things worse and they have never forgotten it.” Orfini querried the young Uskok, “Lenkovic eh? You wouldn’t be grand relations to Ivan Lenkovic would you?”
Bosko answered, “He was my Grandfather.”
Orfini smiled wide and clapped his hands together in an exuberant and effeminate little gesture. He spoke in Dutch, “This man is the son of a legend. He is the closest thing those damned Uskoks have to a prince! The Doge will be so pleased Captain Heyn. This is a sure destiny Sir. You were meant to come here and help us! The count laughed out loud and the young Uskok leader scowled seemingly knowing what was being said without understanding the language.
Heyn answered the young man, “I will not have your head Sir, and we will see to your men’s welfare.” He paused and turned to his officers, “Mr. Van Dorn, take these men below. See that they receive water and rations, and have Mr. O’Shiel see to their wounds.” “Aye Sir”, Luitenant Van Dorn replied.
As the fleet finally approached the outer harbor of Venice two days later, men moved to the gunwales to get a better look at the thousands of vessels and the many islands of distant buildings slowly revealing a panoramic spectacle of waterbound architecture to the onlookers. The miles of colorful stucco structures revealed seamingly endless expanses of red, pinkish and orangey roof tiles broken up occasionally with the numerous green leaded domes and the higher lead rooftops of churches and large republic buildings. Though of a distinctly Italian style and of an obviously much earlier construction, Venice was perched upon the waters much like many of their own home cities.
The ships were moored at the outermost docks and large decorative gondolas moved into position to pick up the officers and prisoners going ashore. As Heyn finally stepped atop the stone jetty into the city itself he was spellbound by the beauty and oppulance of St. Mark’s Square, the skirting stone rennaissance arcades gracefully framing the square with the Doge’s palace to his right. He had been in great cities before, but the granduer of this one set him awestruck with the great bell tower to his left, the impressive statuary atop massive monumental columns, and the beautiful Byzantine styled cathedral just beyond the palace.
There to meet Captain Heyn, Count Orfini and their entrourage at the dock was the Dutch consul to Venice. “Ah Captain Piet Heyn I presume, I am Dirck Van Sonnevelt and this is my son Jurgen.” The men shook hands and tipped their hats. The man refused to look Piet straight in the eye and his hand shake was soft and giving like rotten fish. Piet knew he did not trust him. He actually knew the man’s family. His father had gone over to the Spanish side during the seige of Leiden and many of the family took positions far away from their homes after the Spanish were repelled. Van Sonnevelt was very serious and did not smile at all. He continued,“The Doge will be anxious to receive you – possibly in a day or two. We were not expecting you so soon. My attendant Giacomo will see you to quarters.”
Count Orfini interjected, “Nonsense Sir, I will see Heyn and his officers put up in style! Leave it to me. I will take care of the Republic’s guests in a grand style.”
Van Sonnevelt paused with a slight scowl that was hard to read as being unhappy with the way events were unfolding or his own regular and natural facial expression. “Very well Mio Signore. Captain Heyn I will send a messenger twice or more daily with news of a possible meeting time with the Doge. Until tomorrow Sir”, He bowed slightly and the two men tipped their hats.
The Count faced Heyn and smiled wide. “Follow me gentlemen. We have not far to walk. Wait tilla you see my house. You will love it Sir – and the food, the food itsa the best in Venice. I have a cook that is not only beautiful but (he paused)….I hope she is stilla there. I have been away in your country for almost three years…..” Heyn looked at Jacobi and the two men smiled at one another and the others following. They were all hungry and could hear the grumbling of one another’s stomachs as they stepped forward upon the meandering, smooth, worn stone walks and bridges of the ancient waterbound city.
And now Part 12.
The Dutchmen were treated like royalty by Count Orfini and his entire staff. As the days slowly passed, courriers came to Count Orfini’s home once or twice daily with the same message – the Doge was pleased that the Dutch had come to assist him, and that Captain Heyn and his party had arrived safely. They would soon meet when the Doge’s busy schedule allowed.
Orfini did his best to entertain his guests with divertions, excellent fare and company. He introduced Heyn’s men to his own daughters and their friends as well as several other charming local ladies of the middle gentry. Mr. O’Shiel made his way back and forth reporting to Captain Heyn on the crew’s condition. Jacobi and O’Shiel thrilled the group with lively duets they had been working on playing fiddle and recorder. After a few days of this and no movement forward from the Doge’s palace, Orfini decided to leave the confines of his great old rennaissance house for other entertainment.
Orfini took Heyn’s officers to a new and secretive place south in the district of Lida, only known to the very wealthy – the Regetto cassino. The Dutchmen cavorted with courtesans and gambled with cards and dice to pass the evening. The place was obviously a large old Italian villa converted for this new illicit purpose. It was well decorated but not well maintained with numerous cracks visable in its dirty yellow-brown stucco walls. Music was playing in the background from an ensemble of viols, lutes, and a viola da gamba. Men and women strolled about in their best dress. Some wore fine masks to hide their identities.
Heyn was noticably uncomfortable in this environment and became both irritable and annoyed by the situation. Their position worsened as Luitenant Van Dorn became embroiled in an argument over cheating. Van Dorn stood a dashing figure in his clean uniform pointing accusingly towards a thin middle aged Italian. The man was well dressed in dark grey silk and rose from the table angrily throwing his cards down. The men were animatedly hurling insults but neither could understand the other – and no one bothered to translate. Insults are insults in any language. Several other well dressed “noble” gentlemen stepped up to support their embattled comrade. When it looked as if the two would draw blades, Jacobi quickly stepped in to attempt diffusing the situation while Heyn stepped forward to Van Dorn’s rear showing steely resolve to the men that were supporting the Italian gambler.
In spite of the escalation and attempt to diffuse it, the angry Italian briskly slapped LuitenantVan Dorn across the left cheek. An obvious challenge had been thrown. Orfini who had just walked up to see what all the ruckus was about looked very frightened. He commented to Piet, “Is he crazy!” He rushed in to try to put a stop to what was happening, but it was no use. A challenge to duel had been thrown and accepted to take place the following day behind the old churchyard cemetary on the island of San Michele. Orfini implored the Italian, telling them that these were special guests of the Doge.
It did not matter. The old count looked nervously at Heyn as he walked away from the table. “I hope Van Dorn is an expert with a sword. That man is Randolphi Manzi. Many consider him one of the greatest duelists in all Italy.” Heyn answered, “I would wager Van Dorn has a few tricks Manzi has never seen before.”
As tempers cooled, the groups of men formed up on opposite sides of the salon looking suspiciously across the space at one another. Heyn and Jacobi looked hard at the men on the other side of the great room. Heyn inquired to Count Orfini, “who is that fat man they assemble around?”, Orfini answered, that is the Spanish ambassador to the Doge.”
Heyn paused and thought a moment, “I thought you were at war with Spain.” Ofini responded, “quite so, but it is somewhat unofficial you see, with the real enemy their Austrian cousins. Nevertheless, they maintain their embassy here – mostly to spy on us I think. Manzi himself is friends with Camillo Agrippa who taught him everything he knows. He is also a desciple of Fransico de Quevedo and in the employ of the Duke of Osuna.”
Jacobi spoke up, looking in the direction of a young man that had just emergered out from behind an arch and handed the Spanish ambassador a scrap of paper, “Isn’t that the younger Sonnevelt?” The man nervously looked toward the group of Dutchmen, dropped his glance and quickly dissapeared again behind the arch.
“By God it is!”, Orfini responded.
“This stinks of three day old red mullet”, Heyn added. “We must be on our guard.”
A little time passed and the group of Spanish and Italians dissapeared around the arch behind the Spanish ambassador, no doubt leaving the cassino by some back entrance. The Spanish ambassador smiled and nodded at Orfini, who smiled and nodded back quietly uttering an unintelligible insult back at him behind closed teeth. Orfini turned to Heyn, “We should tarry here a while and allow me to collect additional allies for our journey home.” Heyn answered, “No your excellency, That gives our friends more time to prepare and lay their ambush for us. We must leave now.”
Luckily as the group prepared to leave, three familiar English officers who had just lost a months pay between them at dice, joined the band bringing their numbers to nine. As the group assembled upon the front steps of the Regetto, Heyn addressed his party, “I believe that before we reach the safety of the good Count’s residence, we will be fallen upon by villainy. I can feel it in my bones – and I always trust my bones. The Italians and Spaniards are known for their abilities with a blade and I feel that we must ready any advantage we may enjoy to counter this.”
The captain smiled. He had worn his large bulky orange-crimson great coat the whole evening. His officers just assumed that he was feeling a chill. Heyn unbuttoned the coat and pulled back its lapels revealing his waistcoat. Draped around the captain’s neck was a thick sash holding a brace of six large wheellock dags. Heyn’s men smiled and Van Dorn pulled back his own coat revealing two dags. Mr. Maddocks, their Welsh navigator sported four small pistols. Between the whole party they had nineteen dags in all. Heyn gave one of his pistols to Jacobi and offered another to the Count. Orfini refused stating, “I consider myself as good a swordsman as any here in spite of my age Captain.”
As the group alertly made their way north from the fields of Lida into the blocks of aging three to four story houses and churches all was quiet. Heyn had formed his men into two rows. Luitenant Van Dorn, Jan Evertson, and the Englishmen led the party in the first row, and Captain Heyn, Count Orfini, Jacobi, and Mr. Maddocks made up the second. The experienced band finally crossed the south bridge from Lida to Venice proper. Just as they reached the north side, they were beset upon by a dozen sword and knife wielding men emerging from the shadows. There was no path of escape save jumping over the bridge into the water below. The moon was nearly full and the light revealed the features of the attackers. Their was no doubt about their identies, it was Manzi and his gentlemen killers.
Piet cried out, “Aanval Heren!” Heyn’s Luitenants and the Englishmen bravely engaged in a counter attack with Heyn, Jacobi and Orfini behind. Manzi went straight at Van Dorn and the two were engaged in a fiersom fight with rapiers tapping, ringing and scraping. Manzi was pressing the Dutchman hard and Van Dorn was retreating back into his own group. Heyn knowing Manzi’s reputation, aimed straight at him. The large dag barked and kicked upwards filling the air with smoke. Other dags went off breaking the night’s silence filling the confined street with thick grey smoke. Maddocks was able to get one shot off before he was decisively engaged in a fight for his life. Heyn quickly aimed and fired each pistol until they were all empty and then drew his long shell handled sword and jumped into the fray. The sounds of men’s bootsteps, wounded cries of agony and scraping blades filled the night.
As quickly as the encounter had begun the sounds of bootsteps running northward in retreat could be heard. As the smoke cleared, the moaning of the fallen drew the attention of those that were left standing. Heyn’s party had handily beat off the ambush and it was clear the wheellock dags had been the decisive factor that brought the scales down on their side. Laying in the road was Mr. Maddocks, run through, and two of the Englishmen wounded almost as bad. Evertson stood, but his coat was covered in blood and he grasped his left shoulder with his right hand grimacing in pain. Orfini was bleeding from his hand but was smiling wide. His blade was covered in blood and he had shown himself an able swordsman to the amazement of those around him. Five of their attackers lay bleeding upon the stone street in front of them. Spatters of blood could be seen glowing in the moonlight northward telling of the wounded status of those that had run from the fight.
Lamps and candles lit up the windows of the houses on either side of them. Citizens emerged out onto the street to see what was amiss. Orfini yelled out, “Auito qui, per favore!” Local men helped the party move the wounded back to Orfini’s residence. Their attackers were left in the street to be helped by those that would help them. Four of the five lay dead, two killed by Heyn’s dags, another run through by an Englishman and the last dispatched by the Count.
Later that night Maddocks died of his wounds. Mr. O’Shiel who had tried to save him stood vigil the whole night in old Gaelic tradition. The following day the wounded continued to be administered to. Mr. O’Shiel addressed Heyn and Orfini, “Maddocks was a papist as am I Sir. Can we arrange a mass and burial for him?” Orfini answered, “I will see to it. We shall bring him with us to San Michele.”
Heyn spoke, “Do you think the duel will still happen. I would stake my reputation that I shot Manzi through the chest or at the very least winged him.”
Orfini responded, “Nonetheless, Van Dorn is bound by honor to show up.”
“Quite right”, Heyn agreed, and Van Dorn nodded in acknowledgement.
At about ten o’clock, those able, made their way in Orfini’s gondolas to the monastic island of San Michele. The place had been chosen because of its out of the way vicinity and knowledge no one would interfere with what was intended to take place. An old monastery had stood there for centuries surrounded by green fields and trees. An old and growing cemetery surrounded the bassilica. Orfini spoke with the Abott and arrangements for Maddocks were agreed to.
Before the mass could be conducted, the party moved to a green meadow behind the cemetery at the appointed hour of noon. Manzi’s combined Italian-Spanish band of gentlemen killers showed up on time. They all appeared angry and several sported fresh blood soaked wrappings. Manzi himself wore a thick bandaged wrapping around the shoulder of his sword arm. Heyn smiled at the sight and commented, “by my reckoning this makes them even.”
The two men wearing only their silk shirts and breeches took their places across from one another swinging their blades in the air in preparation. The men touched the tips of their swords together and began a conservative bout of small movements of sensing tippy cuts and parries. The swords rang quitely in the early afternoon air. They disengaged for a moment looking one another in the eye. All was quiet but the sounds of the birds in the trees. Suddenly the sounds of the monks singing mass could be heard coming from the bassilica beyond. Manzi thrust forward with a more determined attack which Van Dorn handily countered and reversed causing him to fall back several paces before the men disengaged again. Manzi turned his back on Van Dorn, cursing to himself and swinging his arm and sword in circular motions as he walked around in a wide circle before reengaging the awaiting Luitenant Van Dorn again.
This time the attack was amazingly vicious with combinations of sensational engaging thrusts and slashes. It was all Van Dorn could do to counter the assault, yet he did, retreating back five paces and then standing his ground throwing back an engagement causing Manzi to retreat a couple steps before he disengaged again. As Manzi started to turn his back again, Van Dorn was not goin to allow him his breath and launched his own assault. Manzi could not counter Van Dorn as he performed a fatal disengagement disarming Manzi and throwing his rapier out of his hand. The rapier flipped twice in the air and stuck into the ground two paces to Manzi’s right. Manzi put his hands up. It was obvious he was not nearly at his best. He was wounded and tired and did not posess his usual range of motion. Van Dorn dropped the point of his blade and pointed it toward Manzi’s own. Manzi stepped away and pulled the blade from the ground and drew his main gauche with his left hand. Van Dorn responded by drawing his own long dagger as well.
The two men reengaged in flowing circular motions combining their rapiers and daggers in play – ringing in life saving blocks, parries, and deadly thrusts. Manzi was clearly tiring and Van Dorn was good in close. Van Dorn stepped forward giving Manzi a left uppercut across the chin with his dagger’s cup hilt. Manzi fell to the ground. Van Dorn allowed him to get back up and resume his stance. This time Van Dorn attacked with close combinations again knocking Manzi to the ground with a right cross combined by a back handed blow to his face from his elbow. Manzi was down and clearly dazed from the blow. Van Dorn stepped forward and put his sword to Manzi’s throat.
Van Dorn looked towards his captain and Count Orfini, “I cannot continue this fight. There is no honor in it. He is clearly already been beaten by my own captain’s hand.”
Manzi looked upwards at Van Dorn and calmly spoke, “Misericordia il mio amico.”
Van Dorn withdrew his blade from the man’s throat and walked away. Manzi’s companions helped him up and the two parties withdrew from one another. Manzi saluted Van Dorn as he walked away. Heyn patted Van Dorn on the shoulder, “Well done Karl!” Heyn’s men all retired to the bassilica of San Michele to pay their final respects to their fallen comrade. Heyn spoke to his officers at the service. He commented that he had never had a better navigator. He wagered that he would have been wrecked and perished long ago in the treacherous waters of Indonesia if it hadn’t been for Maddocks. After the service, the men returned to Orfini’s home where Heyn checked upon Evertson and the English officers. Heyn was glad Van Dorn had won, but his anger continued to kindle as he thought more and more upon the loss of Maddocks.
Heyn discussed the occurrences of the last couple days with Orfini and Jacobi trying to make sense of it all. He was especially troubled by the younger Sonnevelt passing messages to the Spanish ambassador. “I think gentlemen that providence allowed the argument between Manzi and Van Dorn to occur and that its action allowed us to be ready for what happened after. I am certain that the attack was previously engineered and would have happened anyway – even if the argument had never occurred at all.”
Heyn’s anger continued to grow and his suspicions festered. Count Orfini sensing the Captain’s worsening mood suggested hunting the following day. Captain Heyn refused, “I appreciate the offer your excellency and would do almost anything to get away from crowds and out of the city. However, there are too many questions that need to be answered. Also I feel a slight sense of guilt and obligation to my ships and men. It would be impossible for me to fully enjoy hunting while my crews are aboard ship.”
The following day, Heyn insisted on going to check up on his ships and men. Count Orfini went with him. The ships were moored closely together in an out-lying semi-circular dock, tethered there with almost as many English ships. Many Englishmen had come aboard to trade with the Dutch sailors and socialize. All manner of local women were about as well. None of this was out of place, but Captain Heyn realized that the many Englishmen aboard were playing dice on the main deck. He’d observed their officers at the regetto two nights prior doing the same, and knew what was afoot.
The Englishmen were out of control. Throwing dice had been outlawed in their own country since 1380, because their King believed that it took men away from practicing their skills and trades. The law was particularly focused on soldiers and longbowmen. The English had no such establishments in their own country and seemed to believe they could get away with it while away.
Heyn shook his head. He chastized poor Van Broekel who had been left in charge and told him to move the dice games aboard the English ships or ashore. He called for his captains and officers to assemble in the great cabin. Several were unaccounted for.
He addressed his companions, “Gentlemen, we are in the business of providing service to our country and in that capacity we are sailors that move to defend what is ours and seize what our masters order us take. In short, we undertake our country’s bidding upon ships of war. At the moment, we do not appear to be too formidable a force. I do not know how much longer we may have to linger here, but we must have discipline. I want these ships cut out of these close moorings and anchored further out. If the harbor master doesn’t like it, then I will have words with him.”
“Our men will convey themselves to and from shore in our own ship’s boats and I want a constant accounting recorded by the officer of the watch. The business of shuttling alone will keep our men busy and exercised. In addition, it improves our own readiness. We all know a sailors life is hard, and it cannot hurt morale to allow liberty as well as sailor’s regular idle pastimes. However, in the spirit of maintaining good order and discipline, I want training drills to be perform several times a day – making, trimming, and shortening sail, as well as mock gun drills. I can assure you that we will have orders soon enough. Thank you gentlemen.”
Heyn turned to Orfini, “Now Sir, it is imperative that we go and see Sonnevelt at once. I think he may provide the key to all our recent misfortunes. Don’t you find it odd that the Doge has not granted audience to us yet when we were sent by the Prince himself to honor a treaty? Don’t you find it odd that he would not want to accept the gift of such a fine ship as the Sint Mark? Don’t you find it odd that he would not want to discuss our encounter with the Uskoks and the capture of Lenkovic? What has been done with Lenkovic? I need answers and cannot believe that the Doge would be so oblivious of all that has transpired in the past weeks. I am beginning to believe that the Doge does not even know that we are here at all. God help Sonnevelt if he is in any way responsible for any of this.”
And now Part 13.
Heyn could see the Count looked troubled. He did not meet Heyn’s gaze and seemed to stare beyond him years into the past. His expression belied feelings of frustration, anger, and fear. There was a long pause while he thoughtfully chose his words. Count Orfini finally broke the silence. “My friend, I wonder if it would not be better if I questioned Van Sonnevelt myself. I would also like to speak with some of my friends on the Ten before this meeting. If Van Sonnevelt is involved in some kind of intrigue or betrayal and is in league with the Spaniards, we must proceed very cautiously.
Count Orfini paused. His expression was deathly sombre and stone cold serious – not the usual positive and jovial countenance those around him had come to be familiar with. He continued, “Pieter, if your countymen are involved in a Spanish plot, it will be very hard for the Doge to ever trust a Dutchman again. Venice is only just recovering from the Spanish intrigues of the past few years. The Spanish attempted the forcible siezure of Venice from the inside. The Spanish ambassador bribed the mercenary condottiere of the Doge’s army, while at the same time secretly debarking several companies of French mercenaries from Spanish ships that had arrived from Naples.
This happened while I’ve been away in your country, so only a short time ago. The Bedmar plot as they call it was thwarted just in time by loyal anti-papist Venitians. The vile serpente responsible for this villainy – ambassador Alfonso de la Cueva-Benavides the Marquis of Bedmar, fled for his life to Flanders – where I might add, he was awarded the cardinal’s red hat by the Pope and has been plotting all kinds of trouble for your own countrymen since – as well as assigning his relatives and friends to important positions in the Habsburg government. One of my duties while ambassador to your land was spying on him.
His prodigies – the current ambassador Zuniga and his high born killer Manzi, with many of their followers, remained behind, braving the purges that followed the plot. How they saved themselves when hundreds of others were garotted and hanged – including many innocent men, can only be explained by trickery, bribes, and blackmail. Sadly, these clear seditionists are still in our midst, and you yourself have met them and drawn their own blood. Our Doge, Francesco Contarini, is Venice’s third ruler in only three years, and the last two before him came to their ends under strange and mostly unexplainable circumstances. Many still suspect foul play by the Spanish in their deaths. Spain lost its war with us three years ago when their fleet was defeated in the Adriatic. They signed a peace with us soon after, but then attempted the Bedmar plot. Just as with Holland’s current truce with Spain, agreements mean nothing to Spaniards unless they give advantage to them at the time they’re drawn up. I am certain that both our countries will soon be at war with them again.”
Heyn’s blood boiled as he pondered what the Count had told him, “Damnable Spaniards! They are like a plague upon the earth. It would be far better for all men who dwell in the world if Christian kings and infidel potentates alike, would unite together to put every last Dago to the sword. If Van Sonnevelt is guilty in this damned business, he will not have a chance to be extradited or go before trial…I will dispatch him myself before he can hide or flee.”
Count Orfini replied, “This is why I must go alone first to make covert inquiries. We must not let them know we suspect anything. It is also possible still that the man is blameless and a pawn himself in a dangerous game. Please leave everything to me my friend.”
Heyn responded, “Very well, your Excellency. But I cannot sit idly by doing nothing for much longer.”
Orfini left his home about midday, boarding an ornate gondola with a small retinue of protection – gliding upon the stagnant waterways to another prominent Venetian’s villa within the central cities canals. Renier Zen was a “Capi”, one of Venices ruling “Ten” – the council of advisors to the Doge and ruling administrators of the city. The Ten were somewhat like a small parliament of sorts but were chosen and appointed, not elected. They along with the nobles “the Patricians”, elected the Doge, raised armies, paid expenses and levied taxes. They had been an enduring and necessary tradition since the middle ages.
Reaching their destination, the men stepped out onto the small private stone jetty, and one of Orfini’s men knocked upon the decoratively carved rennaissance door of Zen’s mansion. The door creaked open a few inches and a servant peered out. When he saw Orfini, he opened the door widely and bowed, “please come in your excellency. I will announce you to my master.
Zen appeared from out of a barrel vaulted hall making straight for his colleague through a large gothic archway. He was middle aged, but had a youthful appearance. He was well liked and charismatic. He was an oddity in an oligarchy made up of mostly very old men. The two men shook hands and embraced. “I am glad you finally came to see me Tomasso”, Renier exclaimed. The two men sat down to confer. They exchanged pleasantries and small-talk and informed one another about the welfare of their family members. Orfini finally got down to business, “Renier, what do you know about Van Sonnevelt and Cornaro?”
Renier looked troubled but smiled slightly, “Only that they are making a hefty percentage on contraband goods via the portuale di controllo.”
Orfini raised his eyebrows and smiled as well. “Hmmm, and you haven’t complained to anyone yet Renier? You the righter of wrongs? You’ve had it in for Cornaro for some time haven’t you? What are you waiting for?”
“I am watching them Tomasso. There is more going on here than meets the eye – I know it”, Renieri boldy announced while closing one eye and touching his right index finger to the side of his nose. He continued, “I have so many men following them that I know every meal they take in detail. Something’s amiss. Cornaro has gone to see the Doge twice this week and the rumor is that the Doge has taken ill and is seeing no one. I had supper with him just last week and he was fine. Cornaro’s son was not there and he and the younger Sonnevelt have taken up with Manzi and their ilk – they think they’re going to become infamous duelists no doubt.”
Orfini became deathly serious, “So there’s the connection. Did you hear about Manzi’s duel with the Dutchman on San Michele?”
Zen answered, “Indeed I did and the attack upon your party the night before by Zuniga’s thugs.”
“Can you prove Zuniga’s involvement? Orfini inquired. “Before the attack we saw the younger Sonnevelt – Jurgen I think is his name – passing a scrap of paper to Zuniga. The Van Sonnevelts may be Dutch, but they have been accused by their own countymen of being papal sympathizers.”
“It all makes sense”, Renier responded. “Cornaro is leading the pro-papists to vote on reconciliation with Rome again. They are also voting on reversing the expulsion of the Jesuits and officially readmitting the order into the city proper again. For days they have been pressuring Sapi to ask for the Pope’s forgiveness, but he has stubbornly refused. More and more becomes revealed – Cornaro’s son has fallen in with the Spaniards and now you tell me that his little Dutch friend is passing messages from some unknown person to the Spanish ambassador.”
Orfini interupted, “Add to this, that the well known Dutch commander Piet Heyn captured a notable Uskok leader in a brave engagement on the way here – as well as – that he has brought the Doge one of the finest warships you’ve ever laid eyes on as a gift from their prince. BUT, according to Van Sonnevelt, the Doge has not yet been able to make the time to see him. This has been going on now for almost two weeks.”
Zen’s eyebrows now rose high causing the skin upon his forehead to wrinkle up in horizontal lines. “When I was having supper with the Doge, it was all he could talk about. He asked when he could see Heyn. He was more excited than I’ve ever seen him. Van Sonnevelt informed the Doge that Heyn had taken ill and would bring him to his Excellency as soon as he was well!”
Orfini paused and looked down at the floor while massaging his scalp with his left hand. “Sonnevelt doesn’t want Heyn to see the Doge, and I think given the recent events, he intended that the two men never meet. I think that both the Doge and Captain Heyn are in danger.”
Zen cursed, “If we act too quickly, we may never get the proof I need to reveal the whole conspiracy. However, if we don’t act quickly enough we may forever regret it, and innocent men may lose their lives.”
Orfini replied, “Can you get Heyn an audience to see the Doge?”
“I think I can. I will go to the palace at once”, Zen replied.
“I will return to my home and await word from you”, Orfini responded.
“Please travel carefully my friend”, said Zen.
“And you as well”, Orfini countered. The two men again shook hands and quickly parted, going their seperate ways.
And now Part 14. “Illumination and Tragedy”
Piet once again found himself standing in the beautiful tropical bay with which he had become so familiar in his dreams. He was walking upon its soft white sand in his bare feet. He sloshed about in the warm clean water as if a young child. The sun shone down brightly from a perfect azure blue sky. Piet smiled as he felt its rays warm his face.
He suddenly noticed distant figures ahead of him sharing the beach. The first figure was clothed in white and much closer to him. Following some distance behind was a figure so black that the light did not even highlight it’s form. As he walked closer to the first figure its lines became more defined as a young female running towards him and then recognizeable as his own lovely wife Anneke.
The couple smiled at one another as the distance finally narrowed to a paces length. The two embraced but as Piet attempted to hold his beloved close, she pushed him back and pleaded with him to listen to her. Her smile was replaced by seriousness as he stirred from his exuberance to listen. “Piet, you must awake and flee! You are in grave danger my love. You must awake and get to your ship now!”
Piet was befuddled by his wife’s exhortation. He looked over her shoulder at the black figure that was steadily approaching and now much closer than when he first saw it. “Who is following you?”, he asked Anneke.
Anneke answered, “You don’t remember him Pieter? He says he knows you quite well and has been after you for some time. He told me that he is here to take several people away with him – People that you know very well – and that he will take you too if he can get you. You must not allow him to Pieter!”
The malevolent figure’s lines were now hardening and becoming clearly pronounced. The dark figure was completely wrapped from head to toe in a hooded cloak that concealed it’s actual form beneath. The darkness within the hood’s recess was as black as midnight from the earth’s deepest places. The figure held a long, wickedly curved scythe in one gnarled boney hand and gripped the thin waist of a large hourglass in the other. The figure did not seem to tread over the shallow shoreline, looking more as if it were slowly and unhurriedly floating unstopably towards them.
Piet spoke, Yes I know him only too well my dear.”
“Awake Pieter! You must awake!”
Pieter awoke. He took a moment to determine where he was. It was still dark and a candle dimly flickered, casting odd shadows of the ornately carved furniture upon the walls. He sat up in his bed. He was sharing the room with a couple of his lieutenants. “Karl!” Pieter addressed.
Van Dorn who was a light sleeper anyway stirred and abrubtly snorted, “aaah…Sir? Aye Sir?”
Piet continued, “Mr. Van Dorn, help me wake the others. We must assemble our party in the kitchen.”
“Aye Sir”, Van Dorn acknowledged.
In less than ten minutes time, Heyn’s party, to include the still recovering wounded, was assembled upon the ground floor of Orfini’s villa in front of an immense open brick oven in the old kitchen. They were all confused and a little misoriented, but always trusted and obeyed their commander’s orders.
“Gentlemen, I trust you slept well. As you all know I always trust my bones. My bones tell me that we are in danger and must get to the ship at once”, Captain Heyn explained.
Heyn walked to the back door of the villa and pulled up its thick wooden bracing bar. He pulled opened the large aging door with a protesting creak and the men followed him out onto the stone walk without question. Rather than take transport by gondolas, the men walked north upon the stone walks towards the Realto bridge where they would find a large conveyance to the docks and beyond.
At nearly the same time Count Orfini and his party approaced his own front door. Orfini had been out most of the night confering with other prominent Venetians. Three of the Council of Ten now knew of the current situation.
As the Count and his men stepped forward out of the gondola upon the stone jetty into the shadows of morning’s first light, their lanterns shown into the open front threshold of his home. The door was unexplainably ajar. Orfini’s men approaced the opening with caution pulling out daggers and blades to defend themselves if the need arose.
As they entered the lantern light revealed the shape of Orfini’s old doorman Aldo, dead upon the floor in a puddle of his own blood, eyes still open blankly staring upwards into nothingness. Orfini was livid. “MURDER!”, he yelled out loudly. He turned to one of his men, “Go and fetch the Conestabile at once!”
Before the man could exit, feminine screams echoed throughout the spacious main hall from levels above. Orfini’s party dashed up the large staircase towards the disturbing sounds. Confusion reigned as servants and Orfini’s daughters ran through the dark corridors of the great villa for their lives making for the stairs and freedom. Cries of agony and the last breaths of death came from those unfortunate enough to run headlong into the dozen dark assassins that faced them.
Orfini led his men into one of the large chambers where Heyn’s officers had slept just minutes before. They were met with a cloud of floating feathers from the shredded bedding the assassins had just destroyed and left behind. The killers realizing their quarry had already fled, separated and made their way out of the place by any exit possible to include the windows. Orfini’s party caught several of the assailants attempting to escape via the upper hall and a dark savage duel of close in-fighting commenced. The assassins fought with a strange conservative style not attempting decisive fatal slashes or thrusts. After each parry they would attempt small slicing cuts to arms and legs. Orfini had experienced this style before and quickly pulled the cloak from round his shoulders into his left hand to use as a guard. “Do not let them cut you men! Their blades are poisoned! Giuseppi, bring up the muskatoon!” He commanded.
The Count’s men immediately parted to make an opening for the large wheellock scatter gun. Orfini yelled out loudly in rage and anguish as the lanterns from his men bringing up the rear suddenly bathed the corridor in light. The nobleman realized they fought standing above the corpse of one of his innocent daughters. The young beauty laid motionless with her eyes wide open. No large wounds could be seen. She was a clear victim of the killer’s deadly poison blades.
Meanwhile as the sun rose, Heyn’s men emerged onto the open court adjacent the Realto bridge.
Captain Heyn approached a group of gondoliers huddling together in the usual early morning routine preparing for the days work. As Captain Heyn began to arrange for passage to the Neptunus, a Conestabilere with roughly two dozen armored guards stepped out from the surrounding narrow streets and surrounded Captain Heyn’s group. Dirck Van Sonnevelt stepped out of the shadows and nodded to the Conestabilere, “These are the men Captain. Arrest them all and throw them in the Piombi.”
Heyn now smouldering in anger, rebuked Sonnevelt in Dutch, “Villain! You will pay for your deception!” Heyn moved towards the consul, but before he could draw his blade was struck in the back of the head with a dag’s handle, collapsing unconscious upon the smooth flagstone street.
Heyn floated upon his back looking upwards at a dark purple starry sky. He was surrounded by calm cool water which was lit up in a gently moving brilliance reflecting the purple tapestry of countless bright stars above. Heyn heard his father speaking to him from a time long past, “Remember my son, with God’s help alone, YOU are the master of your own destiny…destiny…destiny.” Then he heard the rising echo of laughter from his hated nemesis Bienavides y Bazan, “You must learn your place in the world Costurrera. It is clear that God has ordained it so – and that you will always be a slave of Spain. You must accept this esclavo.” Suddenly Franz Hecht’s raspy voice joined the chorus, “It’s true my family are all buried there, but so are over eightly thousand others killed in that damnable Dago siege. I must move on…on…on.” He heard Jacobi’s familiar preaching, “At our faith’s core center, there are just two simple Christian rules really – love one another and treat your neighbor as you would wish to be treated – and Captain please always remember when people’s lives are at issue, mercy is of God and killing of the Devil.” Old Admiral Van Noort then took over, “Ever been to Venice Heyn? Strange self worshipping people those. You will most certainly learn patience.” Anneke’s voice then overshadowed the others, “You must not allow him to take you Pieter. Come home to me Pieter – come home.” The Prince then spoke, “I would wager that if they put you in charge Heyn, that those pesky Uskoks would be brought to heel in a few months time.” Bosko Lenkovic was next, “If you behead us I promise you will lose ten for every man killed…killed…killed.”
“Captain Heyn, are you well Sir? Captain Heyn? Can you understand me Sir?” The blurred vision of Piet’s eyes slowly cleared and he could gradually make out a familiar face in front of him. He was laying on his back with a wooden block under his head. Bosko Lenkovic was leaning over him, his hands holding a damp cool cloth over the top of his head. Captain Heyn sat up on the stone floor of what was clearly a prison cell.
“Lenkovic? Where are we?” Heyn enquired.
“We are in the Doge’s Piombi, also known as The Leads, because of the roof”, Lenkovic answered pointing up at the ceiling which was covered with oxidized thick green colored lead sheets.
“I wondered what had become of you man. Where are my officers?” Heyn asked.
Lenkovic answered,”They are in the cell across. You’ve been out for several hours and your men continue to call across the hall to enquire as to how you are.”
“Any news? Have you tried to get out of here? Is there any chance of escape or release?” Heyn further enquired.
Bosko responded, “I have had visitors. The Doge is very sick – they say near death. The Capi readmitted the Jesuits into the city and several have come to visit me. They tell me that my release has already been arranged. I am to board a ship bound for Istria in the morning as part of a prisoner exchange. The ship will be stopping at Trieste on the way where the prisoner exchange is to take place. I was surprised, but the Venetians are clearly fragmented. The centrists want me dead. The pro-papists and patricians want me to be let go even though they are not necessarily pro-Habsburg. I even heard the Doge wanted to talk with me but I do not know what is happening now. I thought about attempting to break out and try my best to find him.”
“And just how do you propose doing that?”, Heyn glibly asked.
“With this.” Bosko whispered, producing a small stiletto dagger.
“How did you manage to sneak that in?” Heyn said curiously.
“The Jesuits gave it to me. As part of the conditions for leaving on the ship to Trieste, I am supposed to kill you”, Lenkovic commented with a smile.
“Surely you would have already killed me while I was knocked out if you meant to do me harm, so why didn’t you?” Heyn pronounced.
“I am not an assassin or a murderer Captain. You spared my life and the lives of my men when I attacked you. I would not have done the same if our positions were reversed. I owe you a debt and will make good on it. If you help me find my comrades we could all make our way out together”, said Bosko.
Heyn answered, “I doubt you will be able to pick the lock with that stilletto. Are there any other options?”
The two men looked around the room. There were no windows except the small barred opening in the door. They were able to speak back and forth through it across the corridor between cells to Heyn’s officers, who were relieved to see their commander standing and articulate. There were also two openings in the floor opposite one another in the outer corners of the room. One was round and obviously a toilet hole. The other was square and had a pulley mounted in the ceiling above it as if a rope had at one time been used to bring things up into the chamber. The opening was far too small to get a man through. It looked like some sort of dumbwaiter, but Bosko said no food had been brought up that way.
Bosko began to play with the door lock while Piet paced the cell trying to think of a way out. The two men conversed to pass the time finding that they actually had much in common. They found that they had a natural admiration and respect for one another.
Gradually, light scuffling noises could be heard coming from the small square hole and getting louder. Piet observed the hole intently when in a few moments a dirty young boy of eight or nine years emerged from it. The boy stood up brushing the dust off of himself. Bosko turned around from the door in surprise and the boy began to speak in Italian. Piet was shocked by the unmistakeble resemblance the boy had to Count Orfini. The boy looked as if he could be Orfini himself in childhood.
Bosko listened intently to the boy and then translated into Spanish for Heyn, “He says he is Adolfo – Matilda’s son – Matilda is Orfini’s cook…..he says that there is a plan to get us out.” The boy pulled a large bronzen key from a thick leather cord around his neck and held it out for Captain Heyn to take. Captain Heyn took the key and the boy continued to jabber in Italian. Bosko translated again, “He says that this key is Capi Zen’s master key and will open every door in the palace. He says his mother and one of the Count’s daughters are coming with food baskets so that the jailer will let them in. When they open the door they will drop bags from inside their skirts containing loaded dags and knives. We must over-power the jailers while the door is open and use the key to open the other cells. Once we have made our way out of the palace, there is a large gondola below that will take everyone out to a fast-galley bound for Trieste.” Bosko smiled wide, “See how God works Captain? He will get me to Trieste even when I don’t kill you. He must like you…and me.” Bosko laughed to himself.
Soon the sounds of a heavy lock unlatching – and a large door opening, could be heard echoing down the corridor. A moment later two young women were seen with baskets of bread. One of the jailers opened the cell and the women rushed in giving Piet and Bosko as much space possible to act. Piet grabbed the first jailer and pulled him into the cell. As the second jailer attempted to resecure the door, Bosko grasped its edge and with all of his strength bashed it back outwards into the man’s head knocking him to the floor of the corridor. Piet had knocked the first jailer unconscious and threw the key to Bosko who reopened the door, ran into the corridor, kicked the face of the second jailer who was beginning to stand again, and opened the cell door to Heyn’s officers. He then ran down the hall to find his own men.
Heyn threw one of the bags the women had dropped into the officer’s cell and soon most of the men were armed. As they made their way down the corridor, the door into the prison was still ajar. They rushed through and over the suspended enclosed stone bridge that joins The Leads with the Doge’s palace. At the other end of the bridge was another guard room with two more guards sitting bored playing dice at a table. Above them hung the key rings with all of the keys to open the individual cells. The men looked up in surprise and Heyn’s men quickly overpowered them. They were happy to find all of their own personal weapons and equipment laying piled up in a corner of the room. Now fully rearmed they made their way down another unguarded corridor and found their way to the great stairs that descended three stories downwards. At the bottom of the stairs were several guards, but they were engaged in coversation with Count Orfini and Capi Renier Zen. The two parties met and Lenkovic’s men soon joined them on the street.
Orfini motioned to the whole group, waving and pointing to a very large gondola at the stone dock joined to the palace, “This way my friends! Quickly now!
Before they could get to the boat, young Jurgen Van Sonnevelt ran out of the arcade from Saint Mark’s square with Randolphi Manzi and his gentlemen killers closely behind. Jurgen pointed at them and yelled out in Italian, “There see! I told you – they have escaped!” Manzi smiled and walked slowly towards the group pulling out his rapier. His followers did the same. The Conestabile walked up behind with another dozen armed men.
Renier Zen spoke, “Stand down your men! This is my affair and these men are under my protection.”
Manzi spoke, “I’m afraid I can’t do that Signore.”
Zen engaged the Constabile, “Captain, I am a Capi, and I order the arrest of Randolphi Manzi and his men.”
The Constabile looked sheepishly back and forth between Manzi and Zen and replied, “I am afraid that I am not actually in your employ Signore.” With that he pulled out his sword and ordered his partisan-pike armed men forward.
Manzi smiled wide and the two groups engaged. It was utter chaos. The Dutchmen all immediately discharged their dags and then pulled out their swords. Tragically as Matilda tried to escape the carnage she fell mortally wounded. Adolpho ran to her crying, “Mama, mama!” Orfini yelled out in anguish as he saw her fall, but was blocked by the fighting around him from reaching her.
Heyn took on several of the partisan armed men. He was all too familiar with avoiding their obvious thrusts, and moving quickly inside the long weapons to run his opponents through.
The Uskoks ran up to assist Captain Heyn against the mercenary guards and fought as men possessed – quickly throwing them back in disarray. Heyn was now free to engage the corrupt Conestabile that had incarcerated him. The mercenary captain was clearly afraid as Heyn’s enraged figure attacked. The man had little talent with a sword and Heyn’s rage dissatisfied with simply killing him fast began to cut him everytime he made a fence mistake. Soon the man had gaping gashes covering his torso and arms. Heyn finally administered the coup de grace and skillfully ran the man through his groin. The man fell gasping in pain – bleeding to death upon the flagstone.
Van Dorn was beaten back by several men while trying to reach Manzi and forced to engage them – fighting for his life. Orfini and Manzi found each other and began a stunning array of expert fence combinations. Manzi was impressed with the old Count and spoke, “Your skill with a blade is not exagerated your excellency.”
“I’m so glad that you think so”, Orfini sarcastically replied.
As their blades sought any weakness and continued to lightly ring in deadly combat, Manzi continued, “You have truly been a thorn in all of this. If you could have just left it all alone, you would not have to die today.”
Orfini answered, “I Sir, am an honorable man who does not seek to murder my brothers or young innocent women. I will be judged by God as such and you as well for your wicked deeds.”
Manzi countered, “But not today I think. I guess I will not see you in Hell then, but I’m afraid you are the only one of us that will be judged today.” With that comment Manzi performed a strange lunging side step to the right while wraping the guard of his rapier in a clockwise motion around Count Orfini’s sword disarming him in a fatal disengagement. The Count’s sword flew into the air and over the stone pier into the water while Manzi thrust his long main-gauche deep into Orfini’s belly. Orfini gasped and fell to the ground as Manzi pulled out his blade and wiped the blood on Orfini’s fine decorative coat.
As Van Dorn finally overcame his last attacker, his blade was snapped in two. As he lowered the broken blade and thrust deep into one of Manzi’s henchmen, he witnessed Orfini fall and Manzi kneeling over him. The experienced Dutch Lieutenant was filled with rage as he ran for Manzi. With the broken sword in his right hand and his wheellock dag grasped by its barrel in his left, he quickly reversed them as he ran towards the duelist. He did not wait for Manzi to rise and face him. He immediately bashed his enemy in the side of the head with the dag’s clublike handle. Manzi fell disoriented. Van Dorn gutterally screamed out, “I should have killed you the first time”. The Dutchman then battered Manzi’s head in relentlessly with the dag’s club handle – over and over again until a bloody puddle spread below his head. He then took his broken sword and fatally thrust it through the Italian duelist’s neck. He paused for a moment to catch his breath and picked up Manzi’s rapier claiming it for himself.
In a few violent moments bodies and pools of blood and spatters covered the street next to the Doge’s palace. Heyn’s and Lenkovic’s men had overcome their assailants. Jacobi and Zen who had little skill in combat had stayed out of the fight behind a column of the arcade. With the fight over they moved to ascertain Orfini’s condition. Heyn leaned over Count Orfini and lifted his head. The count was breathing hard and put his bloody hand onto Heyn’s wrist in final friendship, “I am dead Pieter. I have something to ask of you. The boy Adolpho…he is my bastard by my true love Matilda. With his real mother now dead, my own wife would raise him as a servant and treat him with contempt his whole life. Piet, please take the boy with you.”
Piet answered, “Of course I will my friend.”
Orfini smiled, “You are a good man Piet Heyn. I bid you farewell.” The count gasped as his last dying breath floated out of his body and his head turned slowly sidewards unsupported by life. Orfini’s remaining daughter began to weep uncontrollably over the body of her father.
Renier Zen knelt over Orfini and put his hand upon his chest, “You will not have died in vain I promise you. I will watch over your family Tommasso. Rest well my friend.” He turned to his sobbing daughter and put his hand on her shoulder in consolation. He pulled a small pouch of gold coins from his vest and put it in her hand, You must be strong now Francesca. You must see to your father and to Matilda. You must go tell your mother what has happened. I will help you when I return.”
Zen stood with a grimly serious aire, “Gentlemen you are still in much danger. You must board the gondola and get out of the city. The jaded party quickly moved into the large gondola and the crying boy was pulled away from his dead mother to join them.
As the gondola made its way out to the fast-galley, Van Dorn approached Captain Heyn, “Sir couldn’t we just as easily commandeer this boat to our own ships and transport Lenkovic under the safety of our own arms?
Heyn answered, “Yes we could Karl, but I’m afraid we would not learn the whole truth of this ugly matter if we did. We will be in Trieste by morning and I believe all will be made clear once we arrive.”
The large gondola bumped up against the fast-galley and everyone climbed aboard – up onto the sleek long ship. The gondola debarked and headed back to the docks and the galley made sail on a favorable wind as her oarsmen strained to achieve maximum speed. Piet had some quick fleeting flashbacks to his own youthfull experiences on similar vessels and shuddered slightly, glad to be above in the open air, but somewhat nauseous to be on a ship driven by enslaved men and consequently not on good terms with the wind. He grieved over the devastation that had befallen the Orfini family. He couldn’t help thinking that some of what had happened was his fault. He stared out over the calm waters at the sun reflecting off of it’s surface and thought to himself, “it will all become as clear as that reflection – tomorrow.”
And now Part 15. “Villainy Revealed: A Grievous Journey”
The clear crisp morning found the fast-galley closing upon Trieste. The city began to appear on the horizon seven miles distant as the wind lulled into a dead calm. The advantages of the galley were immediately obvious as the oarsmen closed the gap to the shoreline.
The fortified city of Trieste loomed ahead larger and more detailed as it came into view. Numerous towers and bastions dotted the skyline and the city’s defenses were impressive. Atop the city’s highest central hill was a contemporary palace surrounded by a massive stone citadel. The port itself was defended by two long fortified sea walls that embraced the central space of harbor like two great enveloping arms. Instead of hands at their ends, there were two thick low round stone towers bristling with cannon. The space between the towers was the only way in or out of the city’s harbor. The heavy defensive walls, towers, gun embrasures, and the massive enclosed sea walls, turrets and chain booms had been a necessity developed in response to a turbulent and bloody past. Although situated on the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea, opposite Venice, the city was not currently a Venetian possession. Venice had taken the city several times over the centuries but had only ruled it for short times.
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Because of Trieste’s prominence as a large and excellent natural harbor – and because of it’s strategic location at the north-easternmost corner of the Adriatic sea, the fortified city had always been surrounded or invaded by enemies. Dalmatians under Venetian rule dominated to the south and clashed constantly with the Habsburg supported Croatian Uskoks.
Spain had taken the city in a bloody siege a century past. Spanish troops had held Trieste off and on again for years with negligible successes after multiple plagues and famines wiped out most of their occupying forces. Venetians, Spaniards, Pirates, Germans, other powerful Italian city states, as well as the Grand Turk all counted among enemies or occupiers that had sieged, taken or lived in the contested city for short times over the centuries. The old Roman city had become accustomed to fending for itself and maintained a fiercely guarded sense of independence because of it. Much like the Hansa cities to the north, Trieste had been consistently ruled by its own independent council of merchant burghers since the fall of Byzantium. The citizens of Trieste maintained linguistic, cultural, and religious ties to Italy and were extremely loyal to their prominent mercantile families. However, their ruling council paid fealty to the German Emperors in a political move two centuries past – cementing an alliance that allowed the retention of Trieste’s overall political and trading independence, while providing the intermittent protection of Imperial Habsburg troops. The city proved to be a useful port for the German Empire to allow trade and project some meager naval ambitions into the Adriatic and Mediterranean.
The independent nature of the city was evident as numerous ship types and their banners became visible. Topping the scores of masts – dozens of diverse flags caught the eye with bright streaming wind driven colors. The harbor was full of ships – square rigged and lateen rigged – warships and merchantmen – oar-driven and sail-powered. Cluttered among the enclosed space were Barbary xebecs flying no colors, Black Sea Turk fast-galleys, Uskok fastboats, English armed merchentmen, Venetian Genoese, Neapolitan, Florentine, Pizan, and Sicilian galleys, naos, and galleons – as well as several aging Imperial carracks. Independent merchant vessels and ships of war – some from as far away as Poland – all rode at anchor and moored to the wide crescent shaped dock-space.
Oddly enough several Spanish warships rode at anchor close to the northwest sea wall. Heyn shook his head and pointed them out to his officers when he spied the sinister crosses of Burgundy. The Dutchmen all looked on with expressions of concern until Jan Evertson pointed in almost the opposite direction and exclaimed, “We are not alone Gentlemen, look there!” The men all looked beyond the stern of a large Italian carrack that their fast-galley was passing by, suddenly allowing a clear view of around ten well sized English and Dutch warships. These ships were riding at anchor just opposite the Spaniards across the harbor – close to the end of the south wall’s enclosure.
As the shallow draft fast-galley glided the final distance into a slip located on the city’s main frontage, they were dwarfed by a great obsolete Imperial carrack tied off to the stone dock to starboard. Heyn’s officers looked up at the shielded gunwales far above, spying a few helmet wearing German and Austrian soldiers peering over the side back down at them. The galley’s oars were shifted into the hull and sailors threw mooring lines to the dock-workers ashore.
Heyn, Lenkovic and their men stepped off of the galley onto the wide stone dock-space. No one was there to meet them but the piers were bustling with activity. Heavily armed Dutch Infantry stood in a formation to their right. Heyn looking in the opposite direction could make out the bright yellow and red uniforms of Spanish musketeers through the crowds of dockworkers and meandering civilians to the north. “Do you know where we need to go?”, Heyn asked Lenkovic.
“No. They are expecting me to arrive on a different ship that departed just this morning – not the galley Capi Zen had waiting for us last night”, Lenkovic answered.
Zen walking up and overhearing the end of the discussion asked, “What was the name of the other ship?”
Bosko responded, “The Orizzonte”.
Renier Zen acknowledged, “Ah yes, I know her – an old Pizan galleass.” He then addressed the group assembled on the wide stone pier. “Gentlemen, I know the proprietor of the tavern just across the piers there.” Zen pointed to a wide three storied dark yellow painted stucco facade in the center of the frontage buildings – running along the wide main cobble-stoned street ringing the piers. “He will lodge us while we find out where Lenkovic needs to be.”
On the way across the wide frontage street, Heyn watched the Dutch troops assembled on his right. As they passed by the forward edge of the formation, the officers became visible and a prominent captain stood in front of the group barking out instructions.
“By all that’s Holy!”, Captain Heyn blurted out and moved away from his men towards the other group of Dutch officers. Heyn’s officers and Lenkovic with his ten remaining Uskoks, stood confused for a moment and then followed. As Heyn approached, the other Dutchmen all began to turn their heads to watch him. Their leader still speaking forward of the formation, was about to dismiss them when he turned to see Heyn walking up. He smiled wide as Captain Heyn stepped in front of him and grasped his hand in familiarity, “Moses you old rinking son of Abraham, I’m very glad to see you.”
Moses Cohen Henriques was an odd cut figure for a captain. He was still in his twenties (young for a captain) but appeared middle aged. He was tall and thin – strong and swarthy. His profile was somewhat typical of his Jewish ancestry, with large deep dark eyes and a pronounced well shaped nose. He sported a neatly trimmed heavy black mustache and a larger than usual beard. He wore the typical dark tailored breaches and doublet of a Dutch captain in warm weather. His ornate sword hung from a thick orange silk sash that draped across his chest – suspended from his right shoulder from below a large lacey white collar. Atop his head was a large swept brimmed black hat topped with several horizontally placed peacock feathers on its left side. He looked every bit a pirate, his face framed by fine black braids and ringlets. He was both distinguished looking and mildly handsome.
Jews while both welcome and common in the United Provinces rarely took up the profession of arms. Even more rare were those that ascended the ranks to become a captain. Henriques and his brother Abraham both had a reputation of great bravery. Henriques had distinguished himself in combat over and over again against Barbary and Dunkirk pirates and privateers. The Spaniards declared the brothers pirates – that received their instructions from Satan himself – and the Inquisition offered considerable rewards for their capture. Bigotry while less prevalent in the Netherlands than in most places was still a common evil. Most 17th century countries required Jews to wear identifying dress or hats. This was not required in the United Provinces. However, most Jews in public positions attempted to hide their ancestry because of discrimination. Henriques made no such attempts to hide his identity – but neither did he overtly display it either.
No one could deny the contributions of Jews to their new homeland. Jewish ship owners often hired out their vessels to be used in the risky endeavors of defense against Spain and the many pirates that harassed the rich returning Dutch convoys. The names of these ships like Solomons Ordeel, Sampson, Jozua, Gideon, and David en Goliad bore testament to the undeniable Jewish contribution to Dutch society and its defense. Many officers and men refused to serve on a ship led by a Jewish captain, but Henriques crew were made up of men from all over Europe and beyond. A much larger than usual contingent of Jewish sailors served aboard Captain Henriques ship, the Judith. Many dark skined sailors from Indonesia and Guinea were aboard. Indeed Henriques’ 2nd Lieutenant was an immense black man who would sooner box a mans ears than to allow anyone to look upon his captain with the slightest disloyalty.
Heyn had originally distrusted Jews in his youth, but had come to have a much different opinion serving with them over the years – seeing that their loyalties were generally to country first and religion second.
Captain Henriques responded to Heyn’s greeting, “Captain Piet Heyn! I wondered when you would arrive. We’ve been expecting you for the last several days.”
“What? Why were you expecting us.”, Heyn asked confusingly.
Henriques answered, “Captain Florissen arrived directly from Holland less than a week ago with two ships and orders from Admiral Van de Noort to debark all soldiers from Trieste. The orders impart an intent to engage the pirates at Rijeka when the Doge’s squadron joins us to bolster our attack. English scouts report that there is an Imperial build up just north of here and the worry is that they will trap our forces in Trieste, or force battle upon us. The combined Dutch and English contingents here do not have nearly the ships or troops necessary to to repel an Imperial attack to forcibly oust us from Trieste. So far things have been peaceful enough, but Spaniards arrived in the city yesterday – and rumor has it for the specific reason of ensuring we do not attempt seizing the city for ourselves. If the Venetians had acted more quickly, Trieste would already be in our hands now and we could have used it as a valuable base of operations against the pirates. The orders also state that all Dutch captains are to put themselves under your command when you arrive with the Doges forces. So here you are. Where are the Doge’s forces?”
Heyn groaned and shook his head. “I have been kept in the dark my friend. Attempts have been made upon my life. The Dutch consul in Venice is a traitor and prevented my audience with the Doge or any orders from reaching me. It is only luck that brings me to you now. My ships along with a small English squadron are safely in Venice, but I know of no Venetian squadron belonging to the Doge. There is a clear Spanish plot in execution here and we must be on our guard. We will not attack Rijeka until we get a Venetian order to do so. What is your strength here?”
Henriques answered, “We have four warships – all over four-hundred tons – and roughly twelve hundred men here. The English have six smaller warships and about seven hundred men.”
“Listen well Moses”, Heyn responded, “I want you to get all Dutch troops aboard ship and move our fleet outside of the seawall. Have two large launches with well armed men stationed dockside to await orders. I need answers to everything that is happening. We are awaiting an old galleass, the Orizzante. It should arrive before dark. I need ten good men from you to add to my own. We need to quickly seize upon several passengers arriving from that ship. I need to question them so that we may get to the bottom of this mess. Also, please give the English squadron commander my regards and tell him of my orders for you. I do not believe that Venice requires our help any longer. The political winds of war seem to be shifting and we are caught in the middle. If the English are smart they will follow us away.”
“Consider it done Captain”, Henriques acknowledged, as the two men shook hands and then turned away from one another. Captain Henriques immediately began issuing new orders to his men.
As Heyn, Zen, Lenkovic and their men entered the “L’Ursus” Inn, Renieri Zen met and warmly greeted the old tavern’s owner. The group moved upstairs while Zen made inquiries to find out exactly when the Orrizonte was due to arrive and where.
While the group lingered in a long hall bathed in natural light from its windows, the men huddled around numerous tables to change dressings and discuss the last days events. Jacobi consoled young Adolpho in Italian imparting a message of hope in a beautiful, blissful and wonderful hereafter – focusing on the message that his parents were now very happy in Heaven.
After only half an hour, Zen returned and shared what he had found out. “They must have expected that Lenkovic would be released not long after we fled. The Orizzonte was actually due to depart under cover of darkness, only a few hours after we did. She is a large old galleass, so will not likely arrive until late this afternoon or early evening. It will probably still be light. We must all go out together to meet her. Whoever was supposed to convey Lenkovic here will undoubtedly attempt to meet their contact – with news I might add – of the fight that took place in Venice and Lenkovic’s departure on a different ship. As Captian Heyn has made plain, we must seize that man – or men – and question them.”
The men waited in the tavern until just after ebb-tide. The sun was still above the horizon but beginning to set as the men moved to and waited upon the south docks close to where the larger galleases anchored. The Dutch ships could be seen just beyond the sea wall hove to with sails half set. Several English ships were there with them and more were making sail and moving through the wide central passage. Passengers were being conveyed to and from shore on small oar propelled barges, pollacres and urcas. A large galleas was slowly entering the defensive stone enclosure of the inner bay and shifting her oars. She did not stop in the bay like the other large oar driven ships, but was piloted directly to the deep wharf in front of them. She was clearly the Orizzante, but for some currently unexplainable reason, she flew the Doge’s colors and Lion of St. Mark. She groaned to a halt and her men threw great hawser lines down to docking crews below as she dropped her great anchors mounted aft. Slowly the great prow of the galleass, looking like a large round wooden castle tower of medieval times – bristling with cannon – lowered two wide drawbridges down onto the stone pier.
As the drawbridges dropped with loud wood and metallic “thunks” onto the stone wharf, the echoing hoof beats of numerous horses could be heard through the streets. Soon a seemingly endless contingent of rag-tag cavalry and infantry soldiers emerged, escorting a heavy open wagon within their formation, approaching from the south gate.
Adding to the confusion, two large, finely appointed coaches – one open and one enclosed – approached from the opposite direction upon the frontage street.
Lenkovic smiled and excitedly uttered something unintelligible in his native tongue. The soldiers marching into the piazza from the south were obviously Uskoks and their wagon contained several bound, somewhat disheveled and dirty, but well dressed Venetian noblemen.
Several Jesuit priests and local noblemen exited the coaches that had come to a stop in front of the galleass. There were now several small contingents of soldiers assembled on the wide frontage street. Dozens of Uskok cavalrymen and a several hundred infantry made up the majority, but behind them was a disciplined troop of armored Austrian cavalry trotting into the piazza led by a nobleman wearing a finely decorated suit of Milanese plate armor.
A company of Spanish wheellock musketeers approached from the north and awaited in line at the ready. Stuck in between the moving masses of activity was Heyn’s small group of Dutchmen standing and watching with interest on the waterfront’s edge.
An entourage of finely dressed Venetian noblemen, a Roman Cardinal and several Jesuits escorted by armed mercenaries walked down the drawbridge ramp of the galleass stepping onto the stone pier. Among them was Giovanni Cornaro, the Spanish ambassador Huzinga, and the Dutch consul Van Sonnevelt.
Piet Heyn and his men stepped forward to meet them.
When Huzinga saw Lenkovic, he laughed and commented, “There you see your excellency – nothing to worry about. Here is Lenkovic waiting for us safe and sound.”
Then Van Sonnevelt glancing at Heyn commented, “However he does not seem to have carried out his instructions.”
Heyn pointed at Van Sonnevelt accusatively and in a loud oration, “I must insist that you surrender the traitor Van Sonnevelt to me at once.”
Cornaro responded, “Why Captain Heyn, on what grounds do you accuse him?
Heyn answered, “This man has purposely withheld orders received from our homeland intended for myself and my command. In addition he has deliberately put Dutch citizens directly in harms way. I suspect that he is in the employ of the Spanish government and until it can be proven otherwise, I demand his arrest in the name of the Dutch Republic and Stadholder Prince Maurice.”
Van Sonnevelt laughed wryly and turned to face Cornaro, “You see Excellency, he is a mad man.” Sonnevelt then faced Heyn, “No Captain Heyn, it is you that will be put under immediate arrest for the murder of numerous prominent Venetians, to include the Conestabile of Venice and the late Count Tommasso Orfini.”
Renieri Zen exploded, “This is an outrage! There are witnesses of what actually occurred. Heyn is blameless. Orfini told several of the Capi everything that has occurred. I was there when Orfini died, and it was not by Heyn’s hand.”
Cornaro responded, “If he is so innocent, then what of his unlawful escape from the Piombi without parole and his deliberate interference of the prisoner exchange – and the peace accords with the Uskoks and the Imperial Army of Istria that has brought us all here? He has abducted Bosko Lenkovic when he had no business or authority to do so in this affair.”
Zen answered, “You seem to forget that it was Heyn that captured Lenkovic in the first place. In addition it was Orfini and myself that were responsible for the galley that brought us here. Lenkovic simply came along.”
“Enough!”, Cornaro cried out. “Nothing you say can be relied upon as truthful Zen. You are a known liar and libertine rake. I hereby demand your arrest as well and recommend to the Capi that you be stripped of your titles.”
Renieri Zen countered, “I demand that myself and Captain Heyn be taken before the Doge immediately so that he can hear the whole truth of all the events leading up to the present debacle and decide upon this matter himself.”
Cornaro laughed long and smiled at the Spanish ambassador Huzinga who smiled back. “Gentlemen, then look no further.”
“What do you mean?”, Zen enquired.
Van Sonnevelt answered, “Tragically, Doge Contarini has been dead these two days past. Six of the Capi of Ten were summoned and assembled hastily in an emergency session yesterday to elect our new Doge to office. We now simply await confirmation from the Patricians. So you see Gentlemen, technically you already stand before his Excellency the new Doge of Venice, Giovanni Cornaro.”
“This is impossible!”, Ranieri Zen commented.
“Guards, arrest those men!” Van Sonnevelt ordered.
The mercenary guards drew their weapons and began walking towards the Dutchmen. The Dutchmen formed into line around Heyn, cocked their wheellocks and aimed. The mercenaries stopped. Their captain looked uncertain and glanced back at the entourage. The Spanish ambassador yelled out loudly to his captain of musketeers, “Capitan Make Ready!”
The Spanish tercio captain commanded, “mosqueteros, hacer listos! Coseletes avanzar!”
Immediately, the musketeers stepped forward in unison raising their muskets into their forks and cocking back their dozens of locks simultaneously in quick purcussive steely snaps. Their defending cohort of cosetelete infantry stepped out from around their flanks without their usual pikes – dressed in half armors and babacete helmets. They drew their heavy hilted infantry swords as they advanced.
Cornaro, looked at Heyn and smiled. He stepped forward several paces, standing behind his mercenary captain. He spoke loudly so that everyone could hear, “Heyn you are hopelessly outnumbered. You should not have disembarked your men. You might have had a fighting chance if they had they stayed. Now be a good man and come back with us to Venice.”
Heyn was full of anger, but swallowed it and calmly answered, “Might I remind your honor that those men were sent here to assist Venice in its fight against Adriatic piracy. My ships and men – as well as those of the English – are here to honor our treaty with you. We came in good faith to balance power in your favor against Imperial forces, including the Habsburg Uskoks, and to deal with increasing Spanish aggression. But here now I see that you openly entreat with our enemies assembled before us.”
Cornaro responded, “I see no enemies here Captain Heyn – except yourself. Things change my friend. As soon as I can call for a council of war, it is my intent to suspend all hostilities with the Empire and its allies. It is not conducive to good relations or trade.”
“In addition, we no longer require Dutch or English assistance in a conflict that has all but ended. Van Sonnevelt will send word back to Price Maurice, thanking him for all his help over the last few years. However, we do not want to get in between our friends both Spanish and Dutch in their renewed conflict and we hereby choose to remain neutral in these matters.”
Heyn replied, “What do you mean renewed conflict?”
Van Sonnevelt answered, “You mean you haven’t heard Heyn? The truce is dissolved – Spain and Holland are once again at war.”
Piet barely held back his rage. All he wanted to do was step forward and choke the life out of Dirck Van Sonnevelt, “Well you’ve managed to do a wonderful job keeping me completely in the dark Sonnevelt. I cannot believe that you have knowingly allowed our forces to be put into such a position of complete peril. When word reaches home of your dealings here, you will be a hunted man.”
Sonnevelt answered, “Do you really believe that Heyn? Are you as naïve as you are incompetent? I AM the word that gets home. It IS what I say it is. And I’m afraid that your version of events will never reach the Prince’s ears. Guards! Continue with your arrest!”
Bosko Lenkovic quickly stepped in front of Heyn, “NO!” He pointed at the Uskok commander who spurred his horse forward. The large white stallion raised up briefly on its haunches and trotted quickly forward to Lenkovic. Bosko spoke quietly in Croatian to the man and he reared his horse around and trotted back to the Uskok officers. Before anyone could do anything, multiple orders were issued and the Uskok’s forces, outnumbering all others present by the hundreds, surrounded everyone. The Uskok officers stepped up into the wagon with the Venetian prisoners and pointed loaded dags at their heads.
Then Lenkovic spoke, “You may think us just simple lapdogs of the Empire, but we will make peace when WE have been satisfied – not before! There must be further concessions before I call off my corsairs – and that Imperial captain astride his charger does not speak for me. If I wished it I could reduce this city to ashes and kill you all where you stand with the men I have here. I owe this man Piet Heyn a debt and I always pay my debts. I will not allow you to arrest him or harm any of his men.”
Cornaro answered, “Very well Lenkovic we will talk. I can assure you of our good intentions and that we will entertain any concessions you wish to levy upon us. However, concerning Piet Heyn, he is a known pirate and murderer. He must come to trial. It is very simple. If he does not surrender himself of his own free will, Dutch – Venetian relations may be put into grave jeopardy. I’m certain the Prince would not be too happy if he learned that Venice entered into an alliance with Spain simply because of a few pirates and criminals.”
Lenkovic, Heyn, and Zen huddled together and counseled in quiet murmuring. Several minutes went by and Captain Heyn turned to his men. “Captain Henriques, get out to the ships and take all our remaining men here with you. Get underway with best possible speed. Moses, it is very important that you convey KAPITEIN Van Dorn back to the rest of our ships in Venice.”
Heyn turned to Van Dorn, “Karl, you are in command of the Neptunus now. Tell Florissen that he is now the senior commander and my orders are to get the entire squadron back home as quickly as possible. We are in a state of war with the Spaniards once again, so take all precautions and seize or destroy any Dago prizes as you are able on your return journey.”
Van Dorn looked upset, “But Captain! What are YOU going to do?”
“Don’t worry about me Karl. Lenkovic has things under control. Jacobi and the boy will remain here with me”, Heyn replied.
Several of the men shook hands and embraced Heyn as they made for the pier’s edge and the large awaiting Dutch launches.
Lenkovic and several of his officers began talking and walking towards the coaches. Heyn turned to face the entourage in front of the great galleass and spoke in perfect Spanish, “Gentlemen, I hereby give up my commission as a Captain in the Dutch Navy and renounce all claims of citizenship. Much as my Uskok friends here I find myself a rejected citizen of the world. You yourself said it Cornaro – I am a criminal and a pirate. Prince Maurice would never support such a man as that, so I content myself to fleeing for my life in the company of thieves and robbers. But I ask you, who are the real thieves and murderers here and who shall God judge as such on that fateful day that we all know is coming? I would wager that no tithe, indulgence, or confession will wash the heavy amounts of blood off of your hands. Good luck to you all in the next life!”
Heyn laughed almost maniacally as Uskoks threw coachmen off of the large enclosed carriage belonging to the local dignitaries, and took their places. The coach’s horses trotted forward a dozen meters or so and it stopped just short of the Spanish tercio. Captain Heyn, Zen, Jacobi, and the boy Adolpho scrambled on board and slammed the heavy wood door shut. Lenkovic lept up onto one of his officer’s horses and before anyone truly realized what was happening, the coach was speedily making for the northern gate of Triest escorted by a dozen Uskok horsemen.
As the coach sped out of the gate and north, the cobblestone gave way to older Roman road scattered with old stones and interspersed with dirt ruts. Piet looked out of the large open window towards the sea from the high overlooking stretch of road. He could see the Dutch and English ships under full sail making their way southward into the open Adriatic. He thought for a long moment hoping they would be safe and muttered a little prayer to that effect. “God protect you my boys. God protect you.”
And now Part 16. “Homeward Bound: The Reaper’s handiwork”
As the escapees sped forward into the darkness of the foothills of northern Italy, a conversation took place in the bumping and bouncing dark confines of the plush carriage. Jacobi, who had been both confused and shocked by the plotting and intrigues of the last several days had many questions. “Pieter, where are the Uskoks taking us? Where are we going now?”
Piet answered, “We are going home Jacobi. I’m sorry to have dragged you along on a dangerous trip overland and would have much preferred to send you with the others aboard ship, but I need you to help me with the boy. I am understanding the Italian dialects better and better – indeed they are very similar to the Spanish. My German is also fairly good as much as I have served with Germans over the years, but still I have much to learn, and you are a master of languages Jacobi. I would wager that we will need that knowledge before this trip is over. If we are lucky we shall beat our own ships home.”
Renier Zen added, “We have already covered an impressive distance. Lenkovic is taking us to the village of Stanjel ahead. It is good that we have the Uskoks with us. Italian coachmen are usually unwilling to travel during the night. There is an Inn and coach stop at Stanjel. We will be safe there for the time being. I imagine we will go our separate ways from there.”
“Won’t they try to follow us?”, Jacobi asked.
“Not as long as we have our Uskok escort I wager”, Heyn answered.
Zen added, “I don’t think they were prepared to follow us and those Austrians were clearly elite heavy guards – not scouts suited to tracking or moving in the darkness. Besides, it would likely be just as dangerous for anyone coming after us in these parts. However, as badly as they seemed to want you dead Heyn, who knows to what lengths Van Sonnevelt will go to prevent you from talking to Prince Maurice. He may hire professionals. Remain vigilant in the days ahead my friend I pray you.”
A few miles more and the coach pulled into the little walled town of Stanjel. The dirt gave way to cobblestone as they approached the town and the horses shorn hooves clapped metallically upon the stone with dozens of noisey trotting footfalls once again. The night was very dark and only the flickering lamps atop the coach and mounted upon the outer wall of the Inn lit up the dim street. The Uskok coachmen pulled upon the reins, halting the carriage’s horses to a stop just in front of the inn. There was another carriage sitting in front of the Inn and its adjacent stables – as well as a few men lingering around it in the dark. Heyn flung the heavy wooden door of their coach open and everyone exited onto the street and moved inside the inn.
As the party entered the rustic establishment they were greeted by the family that took care of the old place. Most of Lenkovic’s men went to the stables and took up watch on the street. Lenkovic and two of his men, as well as Jacobi, Adolpho and Heyn sat down around a long rustic heavy old table. One of Lenkovic’s men and Zen spoke to the innkeeper and his wife for some time. Zen gave the man some coins and then came back to the table to sit with the group.
“Captain Heyn, I would recommend leaving at first light. I have procured our lodging and arranged for your passage as far as Fussen on the northern side of the Alps. After that the rest of the way will be up to you. The next leg of the journey will be by coach, but once you get to the foothills, you will have to cross the mountains via the Loibl pass by means of trains of asses and pack horses”, Zen informed.
“I can’t thank you enough Capi Zen”, Heyn responded.
Zen answered with a smile, “I am guessing that I may not have that title for much longer Signore. It is a distinct honor to assist you Captain. I am only sorry that I cannot do more for you and that you were the unfortunate victim of such a villainous plot. Please do not think too badly of Venetians. There are many good and honest men among us. Remember good Count Orfini as a model of our best Venetian gentry.” Zen sighed long and shook his head side to side with a look of regret. “I grieve the passing of the Count and the unfathomable misfortunes which have befallen the good Orfini family.” He paused momentarily. “I promise you that I will return to Venice and fight against Cornaro with every fiber of my being – in ways he can’t even imagine. I can tell you that he will NOT have the full cooperation of the Capi during his administration. Many of the Ten are both anti-papist and anti-Habsburg. It would take either a miracle or barrels of blood to change that.”
Zen turned to Lenkovic, “Our real thanks should go to our savior here. Lenkovic you are a saint Signore. I cannot believe that you took up for us in the face of so much danger. I was certain the Spaniards would fight. I salute you for both your independence and audacity.”
Heyn smiled in agreement, “Indeed! I thought for certain there would be blood in the streets. If it had come down to a fight, I assure you that I would have killed Sonnevelt where he stood. I am indebted to you Lenkovic.”
Lenkovic responded, “No my friends, by my reckoning our accounting is even now. No one owes the other. Captain Heyn, I hope that you will tell your Prince of the bravery and honesty of the Uskoks.
Lenkovic paused and then waxed philosophically, “People who have grievances or believe they have been horribly wronged – and have no other way to obtain justice – will always band together. Among ourselves we undertake a righteous endeavor to better the plight of our people. To those that oppose us, we are simply pirates. It was refreshing to me that Spain looks upon you Dutchmen in the same way. My people will always be good Catholics, but we recognize dishonesty and injustice when we see it. Don’t judge all Catholics by the measure of your dealings with Spaniards and the recent deceptions of the Venetians Heyn. Tell your Prince about the good you’ve seen.”
Lenkovic paused a moment, “I will entreat with the Venetian delegation when I return. Despite the desires of our Imperial supporters to end the conflict with Venice, I will myself decide if we stop fighting or not. For the Uskok the fighting never stops. We have always faced the Turk and their infidel settlers to our east, Greeks and Dalmatians to our south, and Italians to our west. I tell you this my friends…. everything moving forward is all part of God’s great work. God meant for you to spring me Heyn and in turn meant for me to spring you. The Jesuits dishonor themselves by weaving webs of intrigue with murders at their ends. Their deception helped me to make the choice I did for the RIGHT reasons over the wrong – good over evil. I wonder do the Jesuits even know their ten commandments?”
Jacobi sighed and commented, “I assure you that they do know. They know THOU SHALT NOT KILL as well as all of the others. They have come to legalize everything they do in the name of God and for a greater good that they arrogantly believe they alone understand. With their holy mandate of countering the Lutheran, Anti-Baptist, and greater anti-Catholic movement of reform, they see themselves as above the law on a crusade to bring all they see as deceived by the devil, back to the true faith. They justify everything they do with small legalistic exceptions and exemptions. They were not murdering you see. YOU Lenkovic were the one that would do the actual killing and they would absolve you of it as God’s righteous instrument. At least that is how they see things. Before I was expelled from the order, I became more and more disturbed by the dealings I saw every day – the twisting of God’s truth by simple minded fallible men that had allowed power to completely corrupt them. I am certain that if I had been expelled here in Europe rather than in the east I would have been burned or imprisoned. I agree with you Lenkovic…my destiny too has been set forth as part of God’s great plan – and I too came to where I am now by following Heyn. I hated him when I first met him, but it is as you say – he is a good man and I am proud to know him. I want to believe that in some small way I have made the good captain and his officers consider the moral choices in what they do.”
Heyn laughed, “Indeed you do my friend. I have not felt so much guilt moving in me since I was a child being scolded by my mother – listening to your regular orations.”
There was brief laughter and then a long pause. The men became sombre and serious again considering their current situation. Renier Zen broke the silence once more. “Captain Heyn I can’t caution you enough about your journey overland. For a hundred years the reform movement has been mostly peasants rebelling. Since the English broke with the church and then you Dutchmen with Spain, the violence and upheaval on the continent have become much worse.”
Heyn interrupted, “You needn’t worry so Capi Zen, I have lived through the worst depredations of war imaginable. Spain’s armies have made my homeland an almost constant battleground since my grandfather’s time.”
Zen countered, “But it has never been as bad as now Heyn. The Empire seems to be coming apart at the seams. It’s no longer confined to just peasant revolts in Germany. Many powerful German princes have taken to leading the revolts and abandoning both the Emperor and the Church in the name of reform. They have been banding together for protection, and since the Bohemian revolt began at the Battle of White Mountain it is worse than ever. The Catholic League’s armies have been ravaging entire regions. I would just urge you to travel with the utmost caution. There are entire counties and duchies that have been almost completely depopulated by plagues or destroying armies for decades – the abandoned ruined cities and towns are now inhabited with only wild beasts and bands of brigands and highwaymen. I myself barely returned alive the last time that I was north of the Alps. For God’s sake please avoid traveling to your homeland via northern Swabia. It is one of those horrible regions of death I spoke of.”
Heyn could see that Zen was truly concerned and he assured him they would take every precaution. Zen had offered to take the boy Adolpho back with him as well, but Heyn wouldn’t hear of it noting that it was Orfini’s last wish that the boy go with him. The night passed uneventful. As additional coaches arrived, Heyn, Lenkovic, and Zen all said their good byes going their separate ways.
After the coach reached the foothills, Piet, Jacobi and Adolpho met a guide taking a merchant convoy over the Loibl pass. The party left the coach behind riding on pack horses and donkeys. The rugged zig-zagging switchbacks over the mountains were rough going. The convoy would stop for rest at periodic intervals on naturally occurring rock shelves. Heyn and Jacobi had seen the towering rocky and sometimes volcanic peaks of the islands of the east, but had never seen massive snow-capped mountains like these before. They were awestruck by the panoramic beauty of the Alps spread across the horizon before them. The mountains seemed to go on forever – in many ways like the oceans. Their jagged peaks and cliffs looked as if they almost pierced the brilliant cornflower skies – in a colorful contrast of divided blues, greys, and whites. Often low lying clouds obscured whole sections of mountains across from them or even the trails ahead. The views were constantly changing and each new scenic overlook seemed to outmatch the one previous.
The sweat of the pack animals and unfamiliar gait in riding them caused unique chafing, aches and pains. Often Heyn and his companions would dismount and walk for long legs of the journey to offset this. Even though it was summer, there were heavy accumulations of snow above the treeline. However, the trail was mostly clear from the nearly continuous trodding of the numerous trading convoys that passed regularly back and forth. Indeed, with some difficulty, their own convoy shared the narrow path with several others going in the opposite direction. For Pieter, he never fully appreciated being able to move the massive amounts of goods in the hold of a ship with so much more ease – than in witnessing the difficulties in transporting the same amounts by pack animals over rugged terrain.
After ten days of slow and tedious traveling the convoy finally descended into the foothills on the northern side of the southern Alps. The group had never experienced such aches and pains in their lives, and welcomed the sight of the inn and coaches at the base of the mountains. After a night of sleep in wonderful beds, they met another coach the following morning and sped west through the breathtakingly beautiful deep green valleys of Tyrolia for several more days. Each night they slept in comfortable beds in several Austrian towns including Innsbruck. As they approached the northern Alps, they again dismounted their carriage and joined another caravan of pack animals trekking over the northern branch of the mountain chains.
Another week of hard mountain traveling passed as they finally descended and approached the large walled town of Fussen below. The town wall’s gates and shuttered windows were all closed. The wood covered openings all displayed colorful downturned red and white chevrons painted upon their planking. A couple of church towers and spires jutted above the red tiled roofs of the defensive hoardings topping Fussen’s thick walls. As the caravan approached they were met by a troop of local horse militia. The convoy’s chief guide and the militia sergeant talked with one another in German and Jacobi relayed the discussion to Heyn. “He says that Fussen is quarantined for plague and that there is a road around the west side of the city that leads to a coach stop a few leagues more up the road that is plague free. That is the first place that we will be able to board a coach once again.” Heyn nodded, “Yes thank you Jacobi. I actually understood them.”
The guides refused to go on any further and arguments broke out between some of the merchants and the guides. Many of the guides untethered the loads upon their pack animals and threw them next to the roadside. Others that were local to the north side of the mountains kept their loads intact – and a few were willing to put the extra weight of the additional dropped packs upon their animals. Unfortunately for Heyn, Jacobi and Adolpho, their horses were needed for the return trip and they were forced to go on without mounts.
The boy and two men began to walk north upon the road ringing the outer wall of Fussen. Several of the former members of the now disbanded caravan joined them. In less than twenty minutes time they approached the opposite gate of the town as it slammed shut and guards took up positions on either side. The strong smell of burning wood wafted in the air and smoke flowed out from the gates as the inner latches could be heard being made fast.
A couple of strong swarthy men pulled corpses from the area forward of the gate towards a pile of more naked dead bodies on the roadside. A fire burned next to the unclothed dead and the smoke swirled around them, surrounding them in an unearthly scene. As Heyn’s group slowly approached, the men were busy working in the smoke, throwing the last of the bodies into a large heavy wagon.
The men were an odd pair. Both were tall and broad shouldered dressed in rustic hunting styled, oiled leathern breeches, coats and hats. One was old and one was young. The younger was noticeably taller than the elder. As the party came closer the gravedigger’s facial features became visible. The younger wore a look of child-like simplicity. The older smiled in his work. His face was scarred and weathered. His right eye looked as if the thickened flesh around it was deformed from burns and his face sported the dark spotty permanent black marks of traumatic tattoo. Obviously he had been a soldier at one time and the victim of a matchlock malfunction. The man sang a strange tune in German as he worked,
“Hey – ho – awayward we go with a tale never ending,
Listen now to the warning I sing and the message I am sending,
You can master your trade, skills with a blade or measures for survival and fending,
And it does you no good to run and hide for the masters will is unbending,
Try as you might you can run or fight but your efforts all will be futile,
Matters not who you are, the treasures you guard, or your knowledge and your style,
Matters not what you have, what you take or you give, or how much you live in denial,
Matters not how you look, ugly or fair, handsome or homely or vile,
Be it King or pauper, Prince or cooper – Bishop, fishmonger or knight,
Be it goose-girl or whore – soldier or more, burgher or banker or farmer,
Be it beggar or saint, goldsmith or mate, captain or gypsy or charmer,
Be it surf or Lord, in peace or by sword we will all come to see the same sight,
The refrain is the same for us all –
everyone! – with invite for final ball,
We all have to bow so low to the ground, in meeting our last partner.
He will bow in return and greet us we’ll learn –
with bone hands he will spin us and twirl us.
We’ll all of us end up much the same –
on our backs looking upwards from cold earthy graves –
as we all dance a jig with the reaper,
Yes we all have our dance with death,
Yeay we must all finally dance with death…..”
As the song ended Heyn’s group walked up maintaining a cautious distance from the dead. Piet spoke in German, “Is this the road to the coach stop and Inn I’ve heard about?”
“Aye”, the old gravedigger responded as the two men threw the last of the bodies into the wagon, “The Bilderberg Inn is less than two leagues up this road.” He turned to face Heyn. “Not as many dead today.
The dead always ride better if you shift them to the front of the wagon. There is more space than usual to the back. We are going that way if you wish to ride with us…that is – if you don’t mind sharing my wagon with the dead.”
Jacobi answered, “Pieter I would rather walk. I have no desire to die of plague.”
The old gravedigger laughed, “Been doing this for years in many places. I’ve never died of plague. People don’t believe old Golo when I tell them that there are only three ways that you can catch plague. The first is to be coughed or spat upon by a one that has it. Obviously, these lot are not going to cough or spit any longer.” He chuckled. “The second is if you were to be bit by the fleas in their clothes. This town is smarter than most. They’ve figured that out. They burn their clothes. The fleas don’t like them as much when they’re dead and they hate the smoke. By the time they take their final ride in my wagon it’s very unlikely any more fleas are upon them.”
There was a pause and Heyn spoke, “And the third way to catch plague?”
“AH!” Golo laughed, “The third way is if you decided to lick their buboes. I don’t think any sane man would lick their sores, but animals do – I’ve seen them – and animals can catch and spread plague too. So you see my wagon is just as safe to ride upon as the fine coaches I’m sure you gentlemen are regularly accustomed to.”
Heyn responded, “Very well Sir we will ride with you.”
Jacobi’s eyes got big and he grunted in protest.
“What’s the matter Jacobi?”, Heyn inquired. “You have told me more times than I can count that we move upon a path that God intends for us. Here he provides us transportation along with a vivid reminder of our own mortality. If he intends for our demise to be by plague then don’t you think we will catch it in one place or another eventually?”
Jacobi thought about what Heyn said longer than usual and seemed a little perplexed that the captain had come to embrace his logic so thoroughly. For a moment he felt a little ashamed at his own lack of faith and then jumped into the wagon with Pieter without protest. They both helped Adolpho aboard, each taking one of his hands. None of the other travelers was willing to climb aboard.
As the wagon lurched forward, the long heavy steps of the draft horse’s trotting quickened. Both Jacobi and Adolpho faced and looked to the rear of the wagon – avoiding even a glimpse of what lay behind them. Heyn on the otherhand decided to get comfortable and rested his back upon the wagon’s left bed slats. He looked to his left watching the dead bodies bounce lifelessly as the wagon moved over the dirt road’s bumps and holes. He looked up at the gravediggers. The younger drove and faced forward. The elder was sitting on the wagon’s forward bench facing backwards with a smile observing his living passengers. Heyn and the gravedigger’s eyes met and the old man spoke, “I am Golo and this is Kristof. He can’t speak.”
Heyn nodded and there was a pause.
Golo continued, “You look like a soldier. Are you a soldier?”
“Of a sort.” Piet answered.
Golo smiled wider and nodded, “Knew it – some kind of officer I’d judge by those fine wheellock’s you carry. I used to be a soldier. Long time ago. I’ve had lots of balls wedged in this old flesh”, he bragged as he pounded his chest with his hand. “Where are you going?”
“Rotterdam”, Piet answered.
Golo shook his head side to side and whistled, “Long way to go. You’ll definitely find work along the way if you want it. Troops of raiding Leaguers and Reformers clashing north of here for a while now. The armies seem to get bigger and bigger all the time. We never fielded that many men in my time. They couldn’t feed or pay so many. When they couldn’t pay or feed us they simply set us loose on the close-by towns, looting and burning whatever we pleased. Oh those were the days. The pure carnage. Ah to only go back and do it all again.”
Heyn was puzzled, “I too often wish I could go back, but I would not let my blood burn so hot if I had it all to do again. Do you mean to tell me that you love all of this death around you and that you enjoyed the killing?”
The gravedigger answered, “Oh yes. I would kill even more if I could go back. You see Death and me go way back. I am a good friend of his you might say – we are almost related. Death and me have an understanding. All this religious dogma that thousands fight and die over is just a way for the reaper to maximize his harvest. Death is the only thing that is certain in this damnable, wretched, painful and unfair life. He will always come no matter what. And he is the most fair. You cannot cheat or pay off the reaper. It’s as I was just singing in my favorite song – the Totentanz. It doesn’t matter how rich or powerful you are or how beautiful you are. You can be unfairly blessed in this life, but death is still coming for you. Of that you can count on. It always makes my heart glow inside nice and warm like, knowing that those high born gentlemen that wronged me and my family years ago will all end up in the earth. If anything, I may end up in an even better situation than they in the afterlife considering what good friends I am with Death and all. I am very content to help the reaper in his handiwork.”
The men stopped talking and there was a long silence. Golo turned himself around on the bench facing forward once again. Pieter thought to himself that the man was clearly insane. He looked down at the lifeless bodies riding and bouncing about forward in the wagon. He watched as a mildly fair young woman shifted slowly downward from the bodies she lay atop moving towards an equally young man. The two corpses hands almost touched as if in greeting. Suddenly a bump in the road caused the naked young man to be tossed upwards a few inches as he came back down into the embrace of the young dead woman. Piet wondered if the two had even known one another in life and thought it cruel how death seemed to mock living opportunities for love and closeness that could never happen now. He wished to himself that he had never witnessed such a sight and looked up into the woods.
Another league passed quickly as the wagon moved forward into a slight misty fog. Golo tapped his companion on the shoulder, “Stop here Kristof.” The wagon stopped at a fork in the road. Two more corpses lay on the side of the road at the fork.
The old man turned his head around and spoke, “Well my friends, here is where we must part. I must go east up this fork in the road. More dead to pick up and then to the pit. If you look up the road there, you should just be able to make out the buildings of the Bilderberg Inn on the left. The group jumped down from the wood bed as the gravediggers also dismounted and threw the two dead men up into the wagon.
The wagon lurched forward again. Golo waved to the living. “Farewell my friends, may you have a good journey.” The old gravedigger laughed and began to sing the Totentanz again as the wagon of the dead disappeared into the misty fog of the road entering into the tall dark forest. “Hey ho awayward we go with a story never ending…..”
Heyn, Jacobi and Adolpho were on foot again walking north on the road a short distance more to the Inn ahead. It was obviously a small crossroads stop, and several coaches sat in front of the fine two storied, black and white, half-timbered wattle and dawb buildings. One of the coaches was unbelievably ornate and as fine as any moving thing Heyn had ever seen. Its four horses were all pure white and they were perfect examples of the finest equine breeding. Feathers topped the harnesses of each one. Heyn and Jacobi looked at one another and Jacobi spoke, “I wonder what dandee, royal or prince this belongs to.”
Heyn answered, “hopefully they are civil and reasonable.”
Stay tuned for Part 17. Homeward Bound: Bankers and Battles….(To be published before January 1st 2015) The story will continue!!!
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