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Rebellion: The Last Rebel
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Chapter 2: The New Mêlée
The sun was just below the horizon and the skyline slowly grew lighter and bluer while Angus laid in his little rowboat; he was sleeping heavily. His night-long row through miles of hazardous water had taxed his strength and it was with a last effort that he had tied the boat to a dock-post. He had fallen into a deep sleep.
Angus once again saw the grand entrance-pillars of the cloud-island. They snarled at him with a menacing red glare coming from the dawning sun. But where was the small cloud that would take his ship to the land of dreams, and his little family?
Angus felt that it was hours since he had prepared the recipe and the stinging smell of roots still lingered in his nose. Then he remembered! He had to have corks in his nose to experience the ride. But did that mean that he was dreaming now? Angus thought hard… Even so… he should be there by now, shouldn’t he? The questions ran through his mind.
He couldn’t take it anymore. Here he had managed to come back whole, and was trying to get back to his family and the cloud wouldn’t take him home… Was this one of the last horrifying acts of the Voodoo Lady? He called out in the upcoming wind that threatened to close the gate again. “What ill deeds have I done to deserve this?” he shouted, while tears started gleaming from his eyes in the cold wind. “Why can’t I enter the land of my family?”
The wind increased in strength, and as if in a booming response lightning came down from the gate, striking the ship’s mast. The noise was terrible, and the ship was near to capsizing, but in the last minute Angus managed to turn it towards the storm and stabilize it. And it was in that moment that Angus noted the burned rifts on the sail. The sail had holes, and the holes formed letters. And in grief and guilt (though he didn’t know why he had those feelings) Angus read: “The time of judging has come on the world. And for your sins you are condemned to solitude. The loss of your family is the prize for your selfish honour!”
Angus was horrified, and as he read the last line, lightning struck the mast, and the sail and the ship caught fire.
The ship turned into a great turmoil, fire everywhere and faint shouting. Angus didn’t move however. He was too paralyzed by the message on the sail to do anything. He only stood, dumbstruck, and watched the scene in front of him. They called after him, but he wouldn’t listen.
He could sense a small tugging at his jacket, but he still wouldn’t listen. He only wanted to die. They could call all they wanted; he wouldn’t listen. What was he anyway without his family?
A hard tugging at Angus’ jacket accompanied by a sick, heavy breathing, ripped Angus out of his dreams. He turned around to find the source of the tugging and breathing, and saw straight into a pair of bloodshot brown eyes, looking as mad and horrible as the gateways to hell. The eyes belonged to a brutish face covered with dirty sweat drops. The man in front of Angus smiled a toothless grin and jerked the jacket off Angus’ back.
Angus could now see that much of his belongings had been piled upon the dock. He turned again, and the brute smiled wildly at him with a sadistic glee. He reached for one of the oars and tried to smack Angus out of the boat. Angus’ inner instincts had however taken control of his body, and he bowed under the swooping stroke of the oar and jerked his right leg into the chest of the attacker. The act surprised the brute, who fell instantly into the water, but it surprised Angus even more when his sleepy mind again took control of his body, he couldn’t believe how he could have gained such force in his kick while he was crouched in the bottom of the boat. His thoughts were soon taken away from this musing over body-control however, as the brute now had appeared with his ugly face over the waterline and was swearing wildly. Angus quickly took up his jacket from the bottom of the boat, and gathered a couple of his most needed valuables from the dockside before running along the dock for someone to help him with the thief.
He didn’t have to run very far before he met a group of soldiers. They listened carefully to his tale before they followed him to the scene of the crime.
When they appeared at Angus’ rowboat, the brute had gotten out of the boat, and had started to load Angus’ stuff on a donkey-cart.
“That’s him!” Angus cried out, pointing at the brute. “And there are my things!”
The captain of the soldiers froze for a second.
“Oh hullo, Dockmaster,” he said, not just ignoring Angus’ comment but also trying to avoid eye contact with the Scotsman.
“What brings you here, Captain Smith?” the Dockmaster asked impatiently; he didn’t even look up from his work.
“We met this guy claiming that someone on this fair dock had stolen his goods,” Smith said testily.
“Let’s see him then!” the Dockmaster demanded. “I will sort these things out immediately.”
Angus was pushed towards the Dockmaster.
“Aha! You have already captured the thief!” the Dockmaster cried out. “Excellent, Mr.Smith!”
“No sir,” Smith protested with uncertainty. “That’s the victim.”
“And the Dockmaster is the thief!” added Angus firmly. Somehow his long solitude from a working society had made him blind to how they worked.
The soldiers froze. One of them started to snigger silently and soon the whole gang was in high pitched laughter.
“As I said, Smith,” the Dockmaster said in a cool, almost menacing voice, which instantly silenced the men, “you did a good work capturing the scallywag. He thought he could get away with the crime by claiming that these where his goods.” The Dockmaster looked around at the soldiers who instantly swallowed the story, and started despising Angus as it developed. “The truth is that I captured him in his little rowboat just five minutes ago, after he had had a quite night of crime. He got away from my grasp and begged you for help.” He now looked with distaste at Angus. “The only new ship came while this fool was looking for you, and who treks around the islands in a rowboat anyway?” The Dockmaster laughed lightly, and the soldiers joined in merrily before being abruptly silenced by the Dockmaster’s last command. “Now take him away Smith!”
Smith looked at Angus with distaste.
“Now come on you little joker!” Smith said sarcastically, while two of his soldiers took each of Angus’ arms. Angus looked miserably back, and watched with dismay as the Dockmaster rounded up his things. He tried to protest, but the only response he got was harsh grimaces and angry scowls. His hope in his mission faded quickly. Things had surely changed since his last visit to the fortified island.
Angus looked around the dock in search of someone or something that could save him from this injustice, but found nothing. The captain noticed this and laughed at him.
“Looking for more to steal, huh?” he said while giving Angus a mocking grin. “You should have waited a couple of days. The fleet won’t be here until Saturday.”
“Fleet?” Angus asked.
“Ha! Don’t play innocent with me,” the captain barked at Angus. “You can save that effort for the governor. As for me? Well, I know just as you know, and just as the Governor has PLANNED, that the Royal Trade Fleet will be appearing again Saturday.”
“Royal Trade Fleet?” Angus asked, he hadn’t heard of anything like that before.
“Aha!” the captain screamed out in a mixture between madness and joy. “You know perfectly well what I am talking about, and no, I won’t give you further detail when and how the trade will happen. It was enough that you brigands destroyed the last meeting; we won’t let that happen again, it is bad enough cleaning up after your last havoc.”
The dock indeed did look like a cleaning project after a battle. All around there were broken barrels, with their contents starting to rot, and caskets and sales huts were broken beyond repair. But alongside all this wreckage and destruction there were new festive banners of red, green and blue, and new huts being built. Someone had even started to pile up rubbish in several small heaps all along the dock. The cleaning job seemed barely started, and was obviously poorly organized.
Angus was in total confusion. How could thieves have rampaged and destroyed fifteen ships, which now barely floated in their wrecked state? And what was this mysterious trade fleet? Not anything he had ever heard of, that was for sure. It didn’t make any sense to Angus. The trade fleet was strange enough, but what really bothered Angus was the thought of a whole fleet being attacked by criminals. Was the fleet so poorly protected and so rich that every criminal on the island, and criminal wannabe, had gathered to pillage the dock? This could be an answer of course, but to Angus’ mind it felt wrong. The mess on the dock was more destructive than such, and the goods looked mostly untouched. And then there was the ships themselves; they had been sunk. Most had been damaged by fire, but also some by cannon-shots. Then there must have been other ships or artillery in the battle. The strangest thing, though, was that none of the ships had tried to escape. The few wrecks that still floated drifted around their anchor chains. And no one had even tried to hoist their sails. Perhaps they were surprised? But why would criminals only destroy the ships, and how did they manage to surprise the fleet so that no one managed to escape? The questions roamed in Angus’ mind as he came to the end of the dock.
The captain looked back at Angus and his eyes were filled with sadistic glee, and this drove Angus’ thoughts away.
“I guess you feel bad now, huh?” the captain asked. Angus gave him a despised look without really knowing what he was talking about. “You only were one day away from a real ship to plunder.” The captain pointed towards the bay. There in the deeper end of the bay, the “El Salvador” was docked. It was brightly coloured and its sails, which the men were carrying away, were so white that one couldn’t believe they had been used before. Angus saw that it ran with a flag which he only could outline the colours of at the moment; red, green and blue. He guessed it was the same flag as the banners on the dock. The ship seemed to be filled with movement and rowboats were constantly travelling back and forth between the ship and the dock, loaded with trade wares, and returning with provisions. Angus didn’t know why, but he felt a strong bond towards the ship.
Suddenly a wall of rocks blocked his visage of the clean lines of the boat. He had been forced through the gate of the fortifications of Mêlée. The stone wall instantly reminded Angus of his first visit to the island, but the thoughts about this earlier visit quickly disappeared as he arrived at the other side of the gate.
The next thing that caught his eyes, right after a hideous smell had caught his nose, was a small wreck of a hut in the middle of the dirty cobblestone road. The hut seemed to have been built out of wreckage goods, like planks from barrels and driftwood. The material was held together by rope, old iron spikes, other pieces wood, and frankly anything that could possibly be used or thought to be used to hold the planks together. All this was “fastened” to a framework of even more irregularly shaped wood pieces, with questionable quality. The whole thing was leaning heavily towards one side and was close to falling apart all together. Inside of the hut, Angus thought he could hear a dozen voices shouting, talking and fighting, as if it were a tavern buried underneath, with the hut as its opening. The fortification wall gained a whole new importance and use, as Angus noted that the entire town of Mêlée now was filled with shacks and “houses” just like, or looking worse, than this little hut in the middle of the road. Angus was convinced that the entire town would have been blown away if it hadn’t been for the walls.
And the smell! It was like half of the town had died and dragged their rotten corpses out in the sun to spread the scent, while the other half of the town had been used as a lavatory. It surely didn’t look worse either. This was the worst case of poverty Angus had ever seen.
The town had turned into a stinking slum! It seemed that everyone on the island had left their houses around the island and settled in the town. Angus speculations were strengthened when the captain mentioned, “Even the badgers won’t cut wood anymore.” Lumber had been Mêlée Island’s prime export, and adding the incomes the colony got as a gateway and trading post from the Tri-Island Area to the rest of the Caribbean, it had thrived, and was once the “wealthiest colony north of Havana.” Now however, little could be seen of the former wealth. The colony was poor and struggling under the rule of a puppet of the mysterious trade corporation, and the town itself had turned into a filthy slum. People had built small huts and shacks along the road, but after a while the building obviously had gotten out of hand. Now there were huts and shacks everywhere without any order at all; you could even find them blocking doorways and reeking in the middle of the street. The town was filled with dirt and decay, the houses were falling together (both the old stone-houses and the newer huts), and the inhabitants were poor and ragged. The stench of muck loomed in the town as thick as the smell of sweat had loomed in Angus’ quarters on his sail to the New World onboard the Lucky Price galleon. He winced as some particularly smelly kids came sprinting down the road rolling a barrel containing a smaller and quite unlucky boy. Angus couldn’t believe how Mêlée could have changed so much in only six months. He asked the captain about this, but the captain just continued to accuse Angus of being a criminal and claiming that Angus now saw the fruits of his labour in this poverty.
The sun rose above the western wall and marked the beginning of a new day for the inhabitants of the town. The smell of ruined and dying lives was greatly intensified by heat-bringing sun. Angus thought he now understood what hell must smell like, and he wondered, as the town woke up, how the inhabitants of the town could endure it.
It was about five minutes later, when the locals came out of their houses, that Angus understood the fullness of the decline of Mêlée. All around him flocked people clothed in rags, and with their ribs protruding like seals from their bodies. Among them Angus saw a skeleton-thin woman, holding a young likewise thin boy. Angus’ thoughts instantly went towards Xyzta and Jim. Was this their future if he didn’t return in time? Would that be their fate if he didn’t succeed in his quest? The woman was dressed in a rag of a dress filled with holes, and the boy barely had a cloth on his body. Angus had seen poor people before, but never like this. Here was a complete town filled with starving, half-dead humans, massing around the town and going, as Angus understood from the joking remarks from his keepers, to work on the new mansion some two miles outside the town. Apparently the new governor, the only one who had any money, couldn’t stand the foul stench of the town any longer, so he had hired the whole town to build him a new mansion far away from the town and the smell, and for that the workers would gain a minimum of food, on which they could barely survive.
Angus was horrified. Could Marley have done this to his people? No! Definitely not, he might be a fool when dealing with Lindy, but he could never arrange this disaster to continue if he were still governor on the island. The woman and the small boy walked past the captain, and the captain laughed mockingly at them.
“There, you see,” he said to Angus, “there is your fruit of labour. That is what happens when you criminals destroy our trade possibilities. People think that crime is okay, and whores and pickpockets like these two come sticking their ugly faces around.” He frowned and spat towards the little family.
This, Angus thought, would surely be the future for Jim and Xyzta if the quest failed. And he hardened his heart and resolve. He would attain and destroy any information about the whereabouts of island in the clouds, and he would pursue this goal to his death if it was needed.
They had now come to the end of the town, and Angus felt his hopes rise as the air slowly got clearer and cleaner.
He had just been led through the gate of the town, when Angus heard alarming cries coming from over his head.
Angus looked up with shock, just in time to see three shadows flying down at him and the soldiers. The cries turned into war-shouts. And soon the intruders, armed with daggers in hand, and hidden in dark cloaks, had killed off the captain and his men and taken hold of Angus.
The leader took out a piece of paper and fastened it to the captain’s forehead with a small knife. Angus got a chance to read what was written on it before he was dragged away from the horrid scene. Upon the paper which quickly drenched itself in dark blood there stood: “Captain John Baker, a gambler and a drinker. Once he was quite helpful to us, but lately his lip has been too busy, and his gold impure. Let that be a warning to the rest of you! Either you pay us and keep quiet, or get off the island. This place is ours, and moving the mansion some miles away won’t change that! Neither will another Trade Fleet; if you try anything fishy, we’ll sink that fleet too. You have been warned, by the most ferocious and noble Black Defenders, the only association which can save Mêlée from Phatt and Woodman.”
Angus looked up with renewed interest at the rebels; it seemed that these men wished to redo whatever had happened to Mêlée and its relations with the mysterious trade fleet. Angus already seemed to be an enemy of the Governor, so why not? Perhaps these Black Defenders could help him in his own quest?
He smiled at them and opened his mouth in an attempt to start a conversation, but the attempt was soon ended by a rag stuffed into his mouth, and by rough hands jerking his own hands behind his back and tying them fast. Then he was quickly frogmarched away from the road and through some bushes. They crouched into the bushes and followed them along the wall. After a while they came to an enormous Pride of Barbados with spikes searing out of the plant, alongside the red long-stemmed flowers, like bloodthirsty daggers. Angus got uneasy by the look of it. Then the men forced him inside the Pride of Barbados. Angus panicked but calmed quickly as his face came clean of the plant and he saw a small tunnel before him, then he was dragged through it by new, unknown hands coming from the other side of the wall.
Angus looked around in the small backyard of one of the remaining respectable wooden houses of the town. The place reminded him instantly of the old Mêlée, and Angus felt that this was fitting headquarters for the rebels of the new Mêlée regime. He didn’t see any of the riches that Jack Long (the rather research-lacking historian who, quite dubiously, spearheaded the “Fabled Years” documentations) would later talk about (hanging gardens and golden fountains filled with jewels), when he would lament about the Mêlée Rebels, and their importance in the change of powers in the Tri-Island Area.
Angus stood silent for a moment, feeling sure that some of his questions now finally would be answered. Then someone came out silently and cautiously out of the house. Angus instantly recognised him as the leader of the gang. His guards, and anyone else he guessed, were dressed in brown dusty crude cloaks, while the man who had appeared from the door was dressed in a quite impressive dark blue cloak. Angus couldn’t guess what fabric it was, but it seemed to shine in hues of light blue and gold when the sun hit it, and turn into a pitching dark where shadows ruled. Angus tried to get up but was held down by his keepers; he was supposed to bow for this man. The man looked down at him for a long while before he surprisingly commanded his men to untie Angus. After they had untied him, the leader spoke to him.
“You must excuse my men, poor traveller,” he said in a calm voice while lending Angus an arm so that he could get up from the ground. “They are sceptical towards foreigners, and they obviously don’t know who you are.”
“But you know?” Angus asked. Where had he heard this voice before? Angus wondered.
“Of course I do!” The man replied in a merry tone, as if anything else would be unlikely.
Angus waited for a further explanation, but didn’t get any. Suspicion started to arise within him.
“Then who are you?” he asked, feeling just as tied now as when his limbs had been restricted earlier.
“If my spies on the docks area told the truth about you and the Dockmaster,” he started, while looking at some cloaked men sitting in a corner, “I would definitely say a friend.”
“Then what should I call this friend of mine then?” Angus asked in an ironic tone. Obviously his captor was quite a playful fellow, and Angus hoped to gain more information by playing along.
“Ah, names!” the man said while laughing a forced laughter. “Such unimportant labels.” A small silence followed; Angus thought the whole conversation seemed strangely rehearsed. “You may call me whatever you like, Angus.”
Angus froze a moment when he heard the stranger mention his name, but he had somehow expected it from the man’s earlier lines.
“What about your real name?” Angus finally asked when his curiosity had taken over him again.
“My real name means nothing to me anymore,” the man said with what seemed to be faked sadness. Then he silenced a moment to recover before continuing harshly, and with poorly hidden hate in his voice. “At least not until the Trade Fleet, and its influence on Mêlée is dealt with.” Another silenced followed, in which the man seemed to calm himself down. “Until then my friend, it might be wisest to not call me anything at all.”
“The Trade Fleet?” Angus asked. His earlier thoughts about this seemed now to be ready to be answered.
“You don’t know of it?” the man said, puzzled but not surprised. “Well I guess the rumours must have been true then…” He looked around at his men. “But surely this is neither the place nor the time to be talking about such matters.”
Angus looked at the cloaked man with interest and doubt. What rumours could be floating around which could possibly be about him?
Angus started to wonder where the discussion was heading; he seemed to just gain more questions, but no answers at all.
“Ah, of course! This might be exactly what we needed!” the leader suddenly cried out, disturbing Angus’ thoughts. “A reunion! Ah, so simple and yet so powerful.”
Angus wondered what the man was talking about. A reunion? Between whom? Ben (from his trip through the storm gate)? Or maybe Marley and his gang?
Angus thought about possible reunions and didn’t hear anything of what the man said. The man didn’t seem to bother about this though, and he just continued to talk to himself for a while.
“Well, I think we could work this out,” the leader finally said while looking right over Angus’ head. It almost seemed like he had thought silently then finally reached a conclusion and now thought about this out loud. “I guess you want to meet up with your old crewmates.” His attention had now returned to Angus, and he was speaking to him more directly and with what seemed to be a calming voice, at least as calming as he could muster. “At least, after those rumours. Well, it’s quite simple actually, I can send you there even with some gold to live off…” He abruptly stopped, as if another thought had stricken him speechless.
Angus was now greatly confused, but he at least was sure of who would be at the reunion.
Still, what rumours were floating about? And what did this man know of his earlier crewmembers? Angus got more and more nervous.
Suddenly the leader again spoke up, and focused on Angus.
“…And the only thing I want from you, my dear friend, is for you to deliver a small package. Could you do that?”
“What are you talking about?” Angus wanted to know. He didn’t like the sound of this. Even if he wanted to, he had a hard time trusting this man who seemed to know everything about Angus while Angus didn’t know anything at all about him, and whose gang had brutally dragged Angus to this backyard.
Angus was sceptical and tried to back away. This however must have been pretty obvious to the leader.
“I had hoped we were going to take the quiet and easy route here…” he said finally, in an effort to stop Angus’ retreat. He stared long upon Angus’ face before continuing, as if he were searching for something. “Ah well, if it works it will work!” He made some small hand movements to his men. ”When you awaken you will find a package under your head, in that package you will find all the information you need to know.” He waited till his men were right behind Angus. “I only hope, for your sake, that you make the right decisions, Angus!”
The next moment Angus felt a sharp thud against the back of his head, and the world turned black instantly before his mind travelled away.
The Mêlée Rebels had knocked him down, Angus understood later, and had carried the unconscious Scotsman down to the docks and loaded him onto the El Salvador. There he had been lain on a bed and had slept until the next day. The El Salvador had at that moment left Mêlée Island, and left the coming trade-fair of the Trade Fleet.