Aug. 23rd, 2007

bringmethatnpc: (cabin boy)
On a beautiful day in the Caribbean, the drums roll.

A soldier's officious voice rings out, matter-of-fact and crisp, as the cart piled high with corpses is wheeled through the yard, and an empty one takes its place. “The condemned are hereby sentenced to hang by the neck until dead.”

The long line of the condemned, snaking through the yard and beyond, shuffles forward in defeat, the threatening muskets of the soldiers of the East India Trading Company doing their work. Six strangers take the hollow, echoing steps up to the hallows, irons clanking, and find their places beneath the nooses. The lone woman among them breathes unsteadily, her face streaked with tears.

The final set of footsteps makes next-to-no sound, as the young cabin boy climbs the stairs. His face streaked with dirt, lank hair falling in his eyes, he looks up at the noose twisting in the warm breeze several feet above his head. He lowers his gaze, watching the doubloon in his manackled hands as he slowly turns it between his fingers.

He sings softly to himself, his voice a low, steadying mumble. “The king and his men stole the queen from her bed.” The wind toys with his ragged sleeves and ruffles his hair, and he barely hears the rising roll of the drums again. His voice rises, high and true. “And bound her in her bones.”

The black-clad executioner crosses behind him, and the cabin boy sings louder, shaking his head once to himself as the heavy footsteps set the gallows to creaking. He will not look. “The seas be ours, and by the powers...” He bites his lower lip for the beat's rest, and then he raises his head, defiant and afraid, as he looks up into the blue, blue Caribbean sky. “Where we will, we’ll roam.”

The barrel hits the wooden gallows with a loud thud, directly in front of the cabin boy. The executioner's hands are large and cold, and he lifts the boy up onto the barrel in one heave. The boy falls silent as the noose is fitted around his neck, and he watches the way that the light catches his coin, his mouth shut tightly.

The condemned man to the left of the cabin boy stares at the ground, dark eyes defeated, and when he murmurs, “Yo ho,” it starts out weak, like the last gasp of a dying man. “All hands,” he sings, quiet and shaky, “hoist the colours high.”

The cabin boy's eyes dart to the side, and he begins the next line -- with a chorus of six adult voices. “Heave ho,” sing the seven with ropes around their necks, and that is when something curious begins to happen.

The next seven condemned to take the gallows take up the song, and the next seven, and the next seven. “Thieves and beggars, never shall we die.”

The song ripples through the line of prisoners, growing stronger by the second. “Yo ho,” pirates and whores and thieves sing together, their voices coming together into one strong, resonant roar. They stomp in time to the song, leaning toward the few East India Trading Company soldiers guarding the line, and the yard echoes with the rattle and clank of manacles and chains. “All together, hoist the colours high!”

The outnumbered soldiers cast wary glances at each other and begin to back away from the glaring, snarling, spitting, furiously proud prisoners.

On the gallows, the cabin boy's voice soars. “Heave ho, thieves and beggars.” The boy closes his hand tight on his coin and lifts his eyes to the heavens. “Never shall we die!”

The executioner pulls the lever.

A coin spirals down into the dirt as one pair of feet dangles limp in the breeze, high above the other six.
bringmethatnpc: (edinburgh trader)
Today the Pacific honors its name. It's one of those days the sea is dark blue and the sky is a lighter blue, and the line of the horizon between them is a perfect circle, and both are like twin tin plates reflecting the merciless heat of the sun. The wind is barely enough to push the stolen Spanish ship forwards towards Singapore, but not little enough to excuse the crew from work.

The scaffold rises in the middle of the fort's yard like the sun-bleached skeleton of a shipwreck. A monotone voice numbers the list of new crimes punishable by death under the East India Trading Company rule as the line of chained figures marches forwards.

So while below deck some people conspire to jump ship early and head for a certain temple, above deck sailors work in a dull silence under the stifling sun. The only sounds are the splash of the waves as the prow cuts through them and the creaking of the wood and the rigging.

Funny thing, how these little sounds can combine in a way that almost, almost sounds like they had a rhythm of their own, isn't it?

A thin, trembling voice rises from the gallows. The boy slowly turns the coin in his hands, eyes low.

" The king and his men
stole the queen from her bed
and bound her in her Bones."

How the wind and the voice of the ship itself seems to insinuate a melody into the crew's minds as they go about their duties.

"The seas be ours
and by the powers
where we will we’ll roam."

And through the rattling of chains, and the cry of the seagulls, hidden in the splash of the waves ashore and the howl of the Atlantic winds. In the crashing of glass and the roar of the cannon,  the song travels. And those for whom its sung, even those who don't know yet, hear it.


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