Previous Page Next Page

UTC:       Local:

Home Page Index Page

1637: No Peace Beyond the Line: Chapter Nine

       Last updated: Sunday, October 25, 2020 09:39 EDT



Petit-cul-de-sac Marin, Guadeloupe

    Even after the French survivors had all been removed to Intrepid, the Kalinago didn’t emerge from the forest until she lowered a longboat carrying the warriors they’d left behind when fleeing St. Eustatia.

    Two of them rose into view and approached at a brisk walk. As Eddie and Gallagher went to meet them, the Kalinago seemed to take notice of the unevenness of Eddie’s gait; he noticed that they were both missing an eye. They stopped when they were ten feet away.

    The taller, and considerably older one — still impressively muscled and with the chiseled features of a movie star — pointed at the longboat and unleashed a stream of French.

    Which Eddie had been expecting, and for which he had studied, but which now flew out of his head under the pressure of the situation. “P-pardon,” he stammered — great strong start, Eddie — “mais je ne parle pas français.”

    The two Kalinago glanced at each other. The smaller one jerked his head at Eddie and whispered, “Mais il le fait!”

    Uh, what? Eddie was conscious of the seconds ticking past as he struggled to remember words which resembled those. It didn’t help when Gallagher whispered, “Y’don’t parlez vous, Commodore?”

    “Geez, Gallagher, does it sound like I can?” Wait. “Do you?”

    “I’ve been known to aggravate a few Flemish gentlemen by doing business with them in that language they love so well.”

    “So . . . what’d he say?”

    “Ah. So, when you said, ‘Pardon, I don’t speak French’ that confused ’em, and the little one said, ‘But ‘e does!'”

    Under other circumstances, Eddie might have laughed, but the look in the remaining eyes of the two Kalinago made him suspect that it could be perceived as a grave insult. With the emphasis on grave.

    The taller of the two Kalinago pointed at the oncoming longboat. “Our mans.”

    Wait. “You speak English?”

    “Small of it.” He jabbed his finger at the boat again. “Our mans. You keep otage?”

    “Gallagher . . . ?”

    “Asks if they’re being held hostage by you. Shall I make introductions, sir?”

    “You go right ahead with that, Gallagher. You are now our designated interpreter.”

    Gallagher presented Eddie and learned that the tall one was the cacique, Touman, and the smaller his nephew Youacou. The tarnish of disuse rapidly fell away from the Kalinagos’ surprisingly good English. “We were taught by Tegreman, the last cacique of Liamuiga,” Touman explained.

    “Who your people killed,” Youacou added.

    “Whoa!” Eddie objected, hands raised. “I didn’t kill anybody! And I’m here to make sure that none of our people ever kill each other again. So, let’s start with this: the men on the boat just coming ashore are not hostages. They were wounded warriors left behind when you fled St. Eustatia — uh, Aloi.”

    The first of them were already leaping over the bows of the longboat and racing toward their cacique. Touman held up a palm against their rush: they stopped as if they’d struck a wall. He looked at Eddie. “My people — they are free? Without, eh, conditions?”

    “Free, yes. No conditions.”

    Touman waved sharply at the forest behind him; the twelve Kalinago prisoners sprinted for the trees. His one eye narrowed as he reconsidered Eddie. “You have not come from Liamuiga — St. Christopher — just to return these men.”

    “No, but I would have, had that been my only business with you.”

    Touman looked unconvinced but also seemed willing to listen. “Speak your other business.”

    Eddie nodded. “Firstly, we appreciate that you allowed the French innocents to live here until someone came to remove them from Guadelou — eh, um, Karukera.”

    Touman’s eye softened for the briefest instant when Eddie used the Kalinago name for Guadeloupe. “They are the last of the French who came here. After our attack on Aloi, the ship of D’Esnambuc, one of their leaders, was pushed away by storms. When he returned, we met him before he came ashore and told him that the other French chief, Du Plessis, had fled. He said he shared our anger.”

    Touman shrugged. “We knew that D’Esnambuc might be lying. But we also knew that he truly loved his nephew, he whom you met at the camp. So we told D’Esnambuc he would be welcome to come ashore again if he returned with the coward Du Plessis. He sailed away to find him.

     “Many months passed. The other Frenchmen tried to steal food from us. Du Parquet, the man you met, was good and honest but could not control them, so they were killed. We brought the others — the women and the children — to this shore.” Touman sighed. “Many became sick and died. We do not know why.”

    “Two days ago, D’Esnambuc returned, but he had not found du Plessis. Still, he wanted to take away his nephew and the other survivors. We were considering this when your ship arrived and destroyed his. Now, all matters are settled.”

    He fixed his one eye upon Eddie. “You say you came to make sure that no more Kalinago would die fighting your people. Are you a cacique, that you can you make such a promise?”

    Eddie shook his head. “I am not. However, my leaders have made it a law not to harm your people, and they will punish any who do so.”

    “And this applies just to the Kalinago of Karukera, or to all the Kalinago?”

    Eddie nodded. “All the Kalinago. And not just them. All the peoples of all these islands and the lands beyond.”

    Touman narrowed his eye again. “In the places where both our peoples live, your people take land and then refuse to share it or even let us walk upon it. How then will there not be war?”

    “Actually,” Eddie said uncomfortably, “after we remove the last few French remaining on Martinique, there will be no islands where both your people and those of us from over the sea have communities. We have searched carefully and found no more Kalinago on any of what we call the Leeward Islands.”

    Touman shrugged and nodded. “That seems true, yet you do not speak of leaving those islands so that we may return.”

    Eddie had known this moment would come, but had not expected it to arrive so quickly. “Cacique Touman, just as no leader has the power to undo what has been done, those people no longer have homes to which they may return. Here is what we propose: unless we are invited, we shall not visit the lands where your people still live, the ones we call the Windward Islands. My people shall live only on those lands where your people no longer dwell, the Leeward Islands”

    Eddie leaned back. So now, Touman, it’s raise, call, fold — or kill me where I sit.

    When Touman did not answer immediately, Youacou glared at him. “You cannot –“

    “I am cacique. I ‘can’ whatever I wish,” Touman interrupted quietly.

    Youacou’s lips sealed into a rigid horizontal line.

    Touman’s one eye had not left Eddie’s two. “What you say is not pleasant to hear. That is why I am inclined you mean what you have said, and that you are an honest man. But there is another matter: our ancestors.”

    Eddie nodded. “Cacique, we know that many of your people trace their roots to Tegreman’s tribe on Liamuiga. We shall set aside a haven for them on the windward side of the island, which they may visit at any time, and from there, travel to all other parts of the island.”

    Touman could not keep his face completely free of the tell-tale hints of surprise.

    Eddie wasn’t done. “We also know that you have burial sites among the Leeward Islands, where you go to honor your ancestors–“

    Touman leaned forward sharply. “And you mean to allow us to return to those places?”

    “As often as you like.”

    “And we would be the only ones allowed to go there?”

    “We presumed anything else would desecra — er, destroy their holiness.”

    “And when we go to such sites, none will intrude upon us?”

    Eddie hadn’t even thought of that. “No.”

    Touman looked suddenly, even ferociously, suspicious. “Then how may you be sure that we will not use such places and permissions to gather a force and attack one of your nearby settlements?”

    Eddie shrugged. “Because it wouldn’t achieve anything, Cacique Touman.” He gestured toward Intrepid. “You are a wise man. You understand the significance of the changes you see around you. That is why you were willing to help the French attack the radio on St. Eustat — uh, Aloi.

    “So you must also know that sneak attacks such as you describe would only bring retributions and hardship. There are those among my people who might then be able to convince my leaders that you cannot be trusted and so, should not be allowed to live on any of these islands. Or anywhere else.”



    Touman nodded soberly, stood, and faced back where his invisible entourage was waiting. After a moment, they rose. He pointed at Eddie and started speaking loudly in French.

    Gallagher whispered the translation over Eddie’s shoulder. “This pale man from over the sea has come with words and proposals of peace and respect” — and he rattled off what Eddie had proposed. 

    At the end of that list, he paused for a moment to let the gathered warriors reflect on it. “He is the first pale man who has even tried to understand the ways in which we honor our ancestors in their old places. I have looked into his eyes as he said these things. He respects our ways, and as a war leader of his people, has come to seek an agreement that shall not only end the wars between us, but keep new ones from arising.”

    Touman’s tone became slightly more grave. “He knows that what he offers cannot right all the wrongs that have been suffered. But if his leaders honor his words, then we shall regain through peace what we can no longer reclaim by war. Our numbers are too small, and their weapons are too powerful. Two of you: send word. Despite the cannons we heard today, we have peace.”

    He sat and then smiled at Eddie. “And now you will tell me what your leaders want, Edd-ee Kant-rell.”

    “It’s that obvious?” Eddie said miserably.

    “I am a cacique. I know leaders always want something. What is it that yours want?”

    Trying to feel like he wasn’t in kindergarten, Eddie shrugged. “At this moment, a great fleet of ours is in battle with the great fleet that the Spanish send every year.”

    “Ah-mm,” Touman said with a nod. “La Flota.”

    Eddie wondered just how many languages Touman spoke. He also wondered how the Europeans had even thought to label indigenous peoples as “ignorant.” “Yes. Messages through our smaller radios tell me that we shall win. However, the victory will be so great that we will have more prisoners than we can care for. Far too many.”

    Touman looked perplexed. “How is this a difficulty? They are your enemies.”

    And here comes the cultural disconnect. Eddie pointed to the longboat that had brought the former Kalinago prisoners. “When we take prisoners, we do not kill them later. There is a word — a French word, I think — that explains this rule of war among us: parole.”

    Touman nodded. “Yes. We know this word. But among us, this honor is only given to those of the same people. Otherwise, prisoners live only if a cacique wishes it.”

    Eddie nodded. “I understand. Among us, if one side signals that it wishes to surrender, the leaders of both armies meet and, if they can agree to terms, those losers become the prisoners of the winners. Or they are given parole.”

    Youacou’s voice was careful. “From what I have heard and seen, many of your leaders kill those who attempt to surrender.”

    Eddie nodded. “I cannot deny that is often true. So yes, Youacou: there are many faults with this.” He returned his attention to Touman. “Cacique, we have no way to keep all those who surrender after the sea battle as our prisoners. So we must leave them in a place where they may survive long enough to build boats and sail to a Spanish colony.”

    Touman nodded. “Au-hmm. Now I see what your leaders wish of us: to leave the prisoners here.”

    “Well, not here on Guad . . . uh, Karukera itself. We were thinking of one of the smaller islands not too far away. They will be left with the means to depart, but no weapons.”

    Touman frowned. “Will there be wounded? Women, children?”

    Eddie shrugged; more questions he hadn’t anticipated. “Wounded, surely. Probably some women: wives and passengers. Children? Maybe, but only a few.”

    “Then those persons shall wait on Karukera, beside us. Let the Spanish see what it is to have the Kalinago as friends, and regret that they shall never know us as such.”

    Oh, boy: how to handle this one? “Cacique Touman, that is a great kindness you offer, but even if you only take the ones who seem least dangerous among you, they might find a way to pass information to the men we have marooned, who might then try to come ashore by stealth and take what they want rather than build their ships.”

    Touman expression was one of disappointment, possibly disgust. “They might be so bad as that?”

     “Would it be so surprising if they were that bad, given what men from over the sea have already done to you and people?”

    Touman nodded. “It requires a strong heart to speak a truth that shames one’s own people.”

    Eddie’s spine had gone ramrod straight before he was aware of it. “Cacique, these prisoners might look like me, but they are not my people.”

    Touman frowned and nodded. “That is fairly said. But it will be a happy surprise if I meet more men who look like you who also speak truth like you. For now, bring the Spanish, but not to Karukera itself.”

    Eddie nodded. “Thank you, cacique Touman. With your permission, we shall maroon them on the small, linked islands to the southeast. We call them by one name: Petit-Terre.”

    Touman’s eye widened slightly; if he noticed the grim satisfaction on his nephew’s face, he gave no sign of it. “Men cannot live there for long.”

    “Which is precisely why it suits, cacique Touman. The Spanish will understand that they must work quickly to depart or they will perish. But be careful if you must visit them; having tools, they may be able to fashion crude spears.”

    “We have experience of the Spanish,” Touman assured him with a nod.

    Okay, segue time. “In the event that they become worrisome to you, we could leave you the means to contact us.”

    Touman looked wary but also intrigued. “And how might we do that?”

    Well, here goes nothin’ . . . “You have seen us signal with lights?”

    Touman nodded. “Flashes that are a code for making words.”


    “And this is also how your radio communicates, yes?”

    He’s more interested than wary, now. “Yes. You understand it perfectly.”

    “Are you offering us the means of such communications?”

    Uh-oh, didn’t see him jumping to that. Time to manage heightened expectations. “Teaching you how to send light-signals with what we call a heliograph is fairly quick and simple. Radios are much more difficult. However, before you can use either in your own language, you must have, um, codes for each word you want to send. We could only teach you the codes in one of our languages, one that you know how to read. French, perhaps?”

    Touman was evidently considering other complexities as well. “First you promise we shall have complete privacy on our islands. Now you hold out the temptation of communication.” The eyebrow over Touman’s empty socket raised, pulling the scarred flesh into an ugly cluster of wrinkles and folds. “These are your leaders speaking through you, once again.”

    Eddie cocked his head. “Actually, the communication was my idea. And I believe it will help us both. But if you are not comfortable having it, I will not mention it again.”

    Touman seemed even more intrigued by that response. “Tell me how it would help us both.”

    Eddie shrugged. “From the top of the Leeward Islands to the end of the Windward Islands, the greatest gap between any two sequential islands is between here and Antigua. Even that is well within heliograph range.”

    Touman nodded. “So messages could travel from mountain top to mountain top.”

    “Yes, cacique. All the way up and down the Lesser Antilles. Complex messages take a long time to send. But there are also short codes — alerts — that can be sent and spread quickly.”

    “Such as if a fleet of your enemy’s ships is sighted,” Touman offered knowingly.

    Eddie nodded. “Or ships bringing invaders back to your shores.”  

    Youacou’s tone was suspicious, but measured. “I like this not, my cacique. Why would these men be so concerned for our welfare? This is for their benefit alone.”

    Touman shook his head, then nodded toward Eddie. “He thinks like a chief. He knows that if his enemies return to attack us, then our problems shall become his problems quickly enough.” He lifted his chin. “How many of your people would it take to operate these ‘heliographs’?”

    “It could be done with five men. And you would be free to enter their station any time you wish.” He shrugged. “It is your land.”

    Touman smiled sideways at his nephew without taking his eyes off the up-timer. “And now you see how he shows that his intent is genuine: he gives us hostages.” He nodded at Eddie and stood. “We shall do well together, Edd–ee Kant-rel. Come: let us eat.”

Home Page Index Page




Previous Page Next Page

Page Counter Image