Friday, December 9, 2016

Friday Fiction: Vol 6: City Tales, Book: VI Corsair Trouble - Ch 1 & 2

VI: Corsair Trouble

Chapter 1: Amiens

After a restless night in his Paris inn Hippolyte de Bouchard and his friend Christian Fesmes, former galley slave and current fugitive from the King’s justice, left Paris by the Porte St. Denis. Years ago the two had shared on oar as slaves on a Barbary Corsair galley. This was also what had started de Bouchard on the career that earned him the name, the Foul Corsair. Once the pair were outside the city walls, they stopped briefly in the Fauxburg St. Denis to purchase clothes, shoes, and a rough wool cloak for Christian. As a fugitive, Christian was penniless, but fortunately for him his friend de Bouchard was still, ‘in funds,’ from his share of the sale of a captured Barbary vessel. With both men now suitably attired, they set out on foot along the road to Amiens.

That afternoon they were surprised by a patrol of light cavalry. Although spotted, the two dove into the brush. Unfortunately the thicket they had chosen was small, too small to evade the troopers who moved to totally encircle the thicket. Seeing that escape was impossible, the pair came out of the thicket and were questioned by the cavalry who learned that Christian’s name matched that of an escaped prisoner for whom they were searching. The Foul Corsair explained that Christian Fesme was a very common name and the similarity must be mere coincidence. Although the Corsair spoke well and was dressed well, the sergeant in charge of the patrol insisted that they return with them to straighten the matter out.

The Corsair asked the sergeant if he had spare horse that they could ride, but the sergeant said they did not. So, surrounded by the mounted troopers, the pair traveled back towards Paris. Their travel was uneventful up to the point at which they reached a bridge over a defile with a fast flowing stream below. Without warning the Foul Corsair ran to the parapet of the bridge then leapt into the rushing waters of the stream. He was quickly swept downstream through a set of rapids. His leap off the bridge was quickly imitated by Christian. Over the rush of the water the two heard the sound of several gunshots, but the only things that struck them were the rocks of the racing rapids.

Some miles downstream the two managed to drag themselves ashore, soaking wet. The cold October wind blowing over their sodden clothing quickly chilled them to the bone. They began walking to gain some warmth and to search for shelter. After a time they saw smoke rising from the chimney of a single large farm house. They knocked at the door and an old man with a crutch let them in. The Corsair offered the man a couple of livres to let them dry their clothes and to stay the night. They were draped in blankets and they chatted with the old man as their clothes were hung by the fire to dry. After their clothes had dried, they dressed and joined the family for a supper – a vegetable soup with bread and cheese and a rough country wine. Supper was crowded with the return of the rest of the family who had been hard at work in the fields during the day.

The next morning at breakfast they noticed that one of the teenaged boys who had been at dinner the night before was absent. After breakfast the housewife filled a flour sack with cheese, hard crusted bread, and apples for their journey. As they traveled, they walked a greater distance from the road than they had the day before. This time when they heard horses, they had plenty of time to hide. From their hiding place they saw the same cavalry patrol trot towards the farm house and with them, riding double with one of the troopers, was the absent farm boy. “Good thing we were off the road,” said the Corsair.

“Truer words were never spoken Captain,” said Christian. “But I wish you hadn’t mentioned we were on our way to Boulogne. I worry that the old lame farmer will tell those solders which port we are headed for and they will follow our course and catch us.”

“Ah, but they won’t know that we really are heading for Boulogne. I might have lied.”

“Right you are Captain. I hadn’t thought of that,” said the relieved Christian.

Their path off the road was rough and the autumn brush was dense with thorns and clinging creepers. The pair’s pace was slow and the days were tiring and long. Once the food they had purchased back at the farm house had run out, the pair stopped near sundown at a roadside tavern to buy more food for the road. To fool the innkeeper into thinking they would be staying the night, they asked for the price of rooms along with the price of some food for their journey. They bundled up the food they had purchased, told the innkeeper that they were going to fetch their horses, which they said they had left tied up down the road a ways, and that they would soon return to spend the night at the inn.

As they headed for the door, several patrons, muscular farmhands by the look of them, called out to the pair to come and buy them a drink. But the Corsair said that they needed to fetch their horses. “We will drink with you when we return.”

Two of the farm workers rose and followed the pair outside offering to help them fetch the horses, “Then we can all share a drink or three.”

The four walked side by side down the now darkened road. Once they were out of sight and sound of the tavern, the Corsair pulled the hat of the man on his left over his head and kicked him between the legs. Blinded, the man staggered in a circle moaning in pain. Meanwhile Christian and the second farmhand swung at each other with looping haymaker blows that didn’t connect. The Corsair kicked his foe again then grabbed him and choked him until he fell unconscious. Meanwhile, Christian had succeeded in subduing his foe. Tearing strips from the farmhands’ clothes, the pair gagged their unconscious foes and tied them with secure sailor’s knots leaving them in the brush.

As the Corsair and Christian traveled north and west, the weather turned colder and wetter and by the time they reached Amiens, their clothes had become tattered and torn and the Corsair’s frock coat had lost two of its brass buttons. With relief they noted the spire of the cathedral of Amiens ahead. To avoid being stopped at the gates, they decided to enter Amiens separately. Before they split up, the Corsair said to Christian, “You need to use another name.”

“I’ve always been fond of Pierre,” Christian said with a smile. The pair agreed to meet in the town square once they were both inside.

As he neared the town square, the Corsair saw a group of entertainers ahead of him, four jugglers tossing flaming torches in a complex pattern that blocked the entrance to the square. The Corsair paused and thought of retracing his steps. But in an unfamiliar town, he was afraid he might lose his way. “Well if the way back be blocked, then full sail ahead says I.” He put his thumbs in his belt opening his cloak so that his weapons were in view. Then he walked slowly forward without looking directly at any of the jugglers. As he did so the jugglers shifted positions slightly so that their torches now rose above his head forming an arch of fire for him to walk under. As he did so, the small crowd of watchers spontaneously applauded as if this had all been part of the act. Without a word, the Corsair continued on his way.

As he passed along the outside of the square, the Corsair noticed two men threatening a woman dressed in a low cut top. One man was tall and gaunt with an extremely thin face the other was short and slight. The tall man waved a knife in the woman’s face as he demanded her money. The Corsair paused thinking, this could be a trap. Then he shrugged and loosened his cutlass in its sheath. “What ho, mateys?” he asked as he walked down the alley.

The short man turned and snarled, “Get off you! This is none of your business.” The woman looked frightened as she mutely stared at the Corsair.

In response, the Corsair drew his cutlass and dagger and took one step forward. The would-be thieves stared at him, and then both ran for the opposite end of the alley. The woman stumbled towards the Corsair and fell into his arms thanking him. He helped her up and she pressed herself against him as she throatily said, “I’m Ellie. Thank you for saving me. You are so brave. So, how about we get a drink?”

“I have to find my friend. I’m supposed to meet him in the square.”

“The more the merrier,” Ellie laughed as she linked her arm through his.

The Corsair, Christian – who was using the name Pierre, and the Corsair’s new friend, Ellie were seated in the common room of the Auberge du Lys d'Or (Inn of the Golden Lily) which was located just off the main square of Amiens. In front of them were the remains of a duck pate in pastry, a bowl half-filled with summer apples, and several bottles of the innkeeper’s best Burgundy, which the Corsair was resignedly drinking since the Lily did not appear to carry grog. Most of the bottles were empty, but enough remained to refill the glasses of the three as the host set down the main course, a huge oven-baked cheese-topped crêpe with ham and mushroom filling flanked by a pair of puff pastry tarts made of leeks and cream.[1]

Their host, the innkeeper, had perhaps the most honest face that the Foul Corsair had ever seen. Of course considering many of the faces he had seen in his life, that wasn’t saying all that much. But still, it was nice to have warm food and wine in the belly and to be served by someone who didn’t look as if he wanted to stick a knife in your back over a couple of Spanish doubloons. The Lily’s common room was in the middle of the inn and flanking it were two wings with guest rooms. The Corsair and Christian shared a room in one of the wings.

After dinner the Corsair said goodbye to Ellie then turned to the honest innkeeper. “Say Matey, where can I find a tailor ‘round these parts to make things ship shape. This here land travel has been powerful hard on me new coat.” The Corsair held his coat open for inspection. “And I’ve lost two of me brass buttons.”

“Ah, Captain there is tailor just round the corner who has done work for some of my guests. I am sure you would be most happy with his work.”The Corsair found the tailor to be helpful. The tailor repaired the Corsair’s frock coat and stitched up the rips in Christian’s clothes as well. And he provided the Corsair with a suit of sturdy wool hunting clothes including a new bottle green jacket for the rough travel ahead. The Corsair also bought a hanger sword for Christian, which was the nearest he could come in Amiens to a sturdy cutlass.

While waiting for the tailor to finish the new hunting suit, the Corsair and Christian tried to keep to themselves and spent most of their time at the Golden Lily much of it in the common room. The next night the common room was crowded with patrons jostling to find a space. In the press a gentleman stumbled into the Corsair. The gentleman immediately blamed the Corsair claiming that he had stumbled into him. The Corsair tried to calm the man and to apologize but the gentleman had far too choleric a temperament and refused to accept the Corsair’s apology calling him a coward. As a result words were exchanged ending with an appointment at sunrise the next day by the Cathedral of Amiens with Blaise Dorat – the choleric gentleman. After agreeing to the duel, the Corsair asked Christian to act as his second and to watch his back in case of trouble.

The next day dawned cold and gray, the sunrise hard to make out past a thick bank of low, dark clouds. As they arrived at the Cathedral, de Bouchard and Christian saw that the gentleman was alone. Apparently he had no second. “Well let’s get started. It’s damn cold and I’m damned tired of waiting,” the gentleman said.

Dorat fought with a single rapier in his right hand using the circular formal movements of the Spanish style. The Corsair had his cutlass in his right hand and a wicked dagger in his left. His movements were neither formal nor circular. He closed in directly on his foe. Dorat and the Corsair cut at each other and circled. Heavy blows from the Corsair’s cutlass drove Dorat’s blade aside and only his quick sideways step saved him from a deadly slash from the cutlass. He countered, but his point was still too far out of line to score a hit. The Corsair beat Dorat’s blade aside again the thin steel of the rapier flexing away from the hammer blows of the cutlass. The Corsair shouldered Dorat aside then followed with a vicious chop to the ribs. Blood stained Dorat’s shirt as he stumbled backwards. The Corsair called on his opponent to drop his sword and apologize for calling him a coward.

An instant later the rapier fell from Dorat’s nerveless fingers as he slumped to the pavement. He coughed blood then said, “Apparently I was mistaken. My apologies.” He coughed still more blood. “I say, I think I am badly hurt. Pray can you send someone to help me?” The Corsair turned and without a word he walked away.

The journey from Amiens to Boulogne was wet but the horses the Corsair had rented in Amiens let them cover more ground despite the mud. Outside of Boulogne, the pair came upon a wagon full of actresses pulled by a single horse that had become stuck in a huge pothole. The Corsair stopped and put his strength to work to help get the wagon out of the hole. He succeeded and one of the actresses gave him a kiss on the cheek in thanks. As he and Christian rode off several of the actresses called out their thanks and waved farewell.

In Boulogne the Corsair was frustrated to find that in his absence some fool had moved his ship. He and Christian spent hours wandering the dockside streets searching for the galley to no avail. At last Christian suggested they ask one of the locals. Just then a woman with a large basket of shell fish wandered by crying,“Cockles! Muscles! Alive, alive’o!” They stopped the fisherwoman and asked her for directions to a Xebec style galley named the Yvette’s Revenge and offered to pay her to direct them there. She said that if they would buy her entire basket of seafood she would gladly take them to the galley…and she did.

Chapter 2: On the High Seas

March 21, 2015; introduction of new PC, Monkey Boy.

Ocean voyage from Boulougne to Marseille.

  • Day 7: French Warship; fly French flag, exchange salutes
  • Day 8: Lightly armed Portugese patrol ship, Mighty Success, Foul Corsair loses it in a fog
  • Day 17: Lightly armed Barbary Corsair patrol ship; engage and capture
  • Day 22: Arrive at Marseille

Combat with a Moroccan patrol ship, 14-gun Xebec galley

  • Corsair out sails the Moroccan galley fires broadsides then closes raking the galley’s deck with grapeshot and then grappling the galley.


  • Foul Corsair successfully leads the boarding party onto the Moroccan galley and engages the enemy captain in single combat.
  • Monkey Boy swings over to the enemy galley and defeats 2 Pawns, then engages a fat overseer armed with a whip they circle and attack without doing any damage.
  • After the Moroccan Captain is killed by the Foul Corsair, the patrol ship surrenders.

Reach Marseille with prize.

[1] Amiens is the provincial capital of Picardy. Amiens is known for a few local foods, including pâté de canard d'Amiens - duck pate in pastry, made since the 17th century; and la ficelle Picarde, an oven-baked cheese-topped crêpe with ham and mushroom filling", and flamiche aux poireaux, a puff pastry tart made with leeks and cream. The Summer Rambo apple cultivar originated near Amiens in the 16th century.

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