It was here in Cagliano that Fiona and her crewe first met Edward Baird, the son of the industrious Mr. Baird they had come across before, as my honoured readers will recall. He was the one who had arranged for Fiona and Hawk’s pardons. Today their meeting has a somewhat historical value and their common exploits are still part of the tavern tales. This chapter and some to come cover one of Fiona’s greatest coups – a coup that was long believed to be that of the Harrow-brothers, but that was off course all part of the plan. Many believe it might be the greatest coup to date of our Island nation. Plundering the codorian governor pales in comparison.
This is how Fiona described their meeting to me: “We’re lying there in Cagliano harbour when one of the ships there struck us as odd. A sloop called the Soleil, apparently out of Zorenstadt and thus ryendorian, but clearly of islander built. A closer looke on the nameplate revealed that it had been painted over. So – it was no doubt about it an islander sloop. That made us pretty cautious about it – anything islandic coulde at that time mean danger to us. Well, to shore we went – cashing in our prize for the Penelope – the wretched ship – and found the harbourmaster’s office in great commotion; he had recently purchased a huge painting which was being moved into his office. Some painting, a tell ya! A nude picture of an enormous and voluptuous woman – the proportions were uncanny! And the lady had a glint in her eye – quite naughty too. That was not what was most noticeable though; Jean Luc spotted the plaque with the name of the lady: Lady Edith Baird… Now you’ll remember Baird; big, loud fella, fiercely loyale to the queen and the one who arranged for the clearing up of that misunderstanding regarding the warrants on me and Hawk. We asked the harbourmaster off course, where he’d got it. He said he bought it from the captain of the Soleil… Now who could he be to be in possession of such a painting? We suspected and hoped that he was a Baird or at least loyal to him. So we invited him to tea on the Ienne to check the fellow out.
He was as islandic as they come – didn’t speak two words of ryendorian, but was more than fluent in islandic – and our hopes came true; he was a Baird; Edward Baird in fact, son of the deceased Mr. Baird, and fighting for the cause of William Greenwald Venduer, the then 16 year old true pretender to the crown. Truth to say I’d never heard of the boy at the time, I just thought that any other king than the present one would be more than welcome. So Ed (Edward Baird, ed.) swore us in, and we joined the good fight. Yes, yes, I was merely looking to prosper from it to begin with, secure better circumstances for my ship and crew, but eventually I was proper won over, as you know. First of all we needed money to get an army on its feet, armed and on board ships, so we could go and bash some lord White ‘wanna-be-king’ scull in. Ed had a plan; our arch-enemy, well, one of them; the governor of Jamestown, who had managed to alienate two regents in a row, was gathering up his belongings and quite a large amount of other people’s belongings, and was getting ready to leave Jamestown, before he was thrown out. All that treasure was pure lost on that wretched man, so we would kindly relieve him of it. We came up with a plan – and you may already have heard about this in many shapes and forms, but this is what we actually planned: We would steal ourselves a dispensable boat, turn it into a sailing bomb, sail it into Jamesport harbour, aim it at the escort ships, set them on fire, commandeer the treasure ship while everyone was busy with burning ships and whatnot and sail it away right under their noses, apparently to save it (which was what we were doing, off course). It was a bold plan, and reckless, but as you know; Fortune blesses the bold! There were a few catches to the plan; one of which was that we didn’t know which of the ships in the harbour would be the right one… Ed had connections though at the governor’s court, and would arrange to get tickets to some fancysmancy party the governor was giving, and where all the hobnobs would be present to be interrogated discreetly.
But first things first; we went ship hunting near Port Royal, hoping to find a Harrow ship to turn into a fire boat. Might as well attempt to blame them for the deed if at all possible. And there she was: a two masted rebuild sloop, perfectly built for smuggling – and for our purposes. We boarded them and took them quite easily. N’Gote took an unfortunately fall between the ships, however, and I’m afraid we feared we had lost him for a while there. To our great fortune, and his, Hawk finally fished him out and the victory was complete. In addition to the sloop we also confiscated a cargo of rum and a lot of paperstuff – Jean Luc told me they had registration papers from three different ports. Billy was sent to captain the sloop and Ernest went with him to begin setting up the explosives.
We met with Ed at Longpointe, us with the extra ship and Ed with tickets to the ball. Then Ed attempted to teach us fancy dancing, something I didn’t exactly excel at… Gad, one should have 3 feet, the grace of a swan and eyes in the back of the head to be a proper dancer! Not for me! Give me a mast to climb and a rig to settle any day! Well, we dressed in our fineries, armed ourselves lightly, made up some phoney identities and went to the party. Jean Luc, Dominique, Hawk and I were pretending to be hobnobs, while Ernest and N’Gote figured as servants. We attempted to dance with people who’d know something and really got our ears full of truths and tales alike – enough to confuse anyone’. (I must add a little something to Fiona’s tale here. She seems to forget to tell us that she danced with the renowned Georges Villiers, lieutenant at the time and in charge of the marines guarding the governor’s ship. To my islander audience I don’t have to go into details about Georges Villiers – everyone knows him, but to the rest I must mention first and foremost that he is without a doubt the handsomest man ever to have graced islander soil. In his presence women swoon and men either love or hate him. I have heard no tales about Fiona swooning, but I’ve heard tell they looked a lovely couple. I have also gathered that whatever they talked about, Fiona learning absolutely nothing of value to their cause – maybe this is why she fails to mention that little detail. J.W.). Fiona’s story continues:
‘Our stay at the ball ended quite sudden. The word was suddenly spreade that false invitations had been used by us, so while soldiers marched in one end of the ballroom, we quietly crept into a niche and jumped out the window. We had kept the horsecarriage at the ready and running, so to speak, and we left there in a rush fast enough to flee them. We went to Cousin Phoebe’s estate, or rather the estate belonging to Cousin Phoebe’s slaves. I must explain that Cousin Phoebe’s slaves aren’t really slaves, not in any way that matters anyway; they run the place completely, plan what crops to grow, when to harvest, they sell it and share the profits. Phoebe is merely the figurehead, the one that makes the whole place look normal. They see to that she is properly taken care of, well dressed, well fed, and in lovely surroundings. And they see to that she doesn’t blow up too many things (she has quite a knack for explosives and ingenious inventions) or get in too much trouble in general. I think it is an arrangement that suit all involved fine. Goodness know Phoebe wouldn’t know how to run a plantation if her life depended on it! When we told her our plan, however, she insisted joining in as best she could, and so she joined Ernest in building the firetrap ship and the mines we had planned to put in the channel to the Jamestown harbour’ (to those who don’t know; Jamestown is situated by a harbour at the end of a long channel that makes attacking the town from seaside very difficult. Especially since the last turnpike before the city was protected by a small fortress with half a dozen cannons. J. W). ‘She seeming quite in her natural element with a hammer in her hand, nails in her mouth and a barrel of gunpowder by her side, her hair the usual mess falling to one side of her head and her fancy dress in rags and stained with tar. What an oddball my cousin is! I love her.
Safe at Phoebe’s place we compared notes and gathered all the information (and misinformation) we had gathered. We concluded this: ‘Denise’ was our treasure ship. The ‘Interceptor’ was the ship we would most want to blow to pieces: a fast devil that one is! At the time of the ball they were waiting for the ‘Dominator’ to arrive to join the escort. ‘Denise’ was almost loaded and would be ready to sail within a week or so – we had men watching the ship and warehouse 37A, where the gods was being moved from. Finally the day had come; the wind was anorthwesterner, the moon was full and ‘Denise’s sails were rigged and ready, and she lay heavy in the water. Finally all our preparations would prove their worth!’