Pirates of Pamlico Sound: Chapter 7
🏴 1716 * Ocracoke Island.
“I encourage you to absorb all you can from these books,” Chogan said to Brenna, pacing around the table at which she sat. “However, do not neglect your ability to look inward for the answers you seek.”
Brenna welcomed the rainy spring afternoon on Ocracoke, as it afforded her a bit of leisure time. She’d been reading the books she’d taken five years ago when they’d brought her mother to the island for her burial. Among these was the diary her mother had kept during her time with Violette. Brenna cherished these not only for the knowledge contained within, but for the numerous observations Aithne had made about her family — her daughter’s early life in Boston and Bath, and also her memories of Zephan. The book also provided Brenna with information about her ancestral roots, a subject that would be entirely unknown to her without this book. She began to wonder how Chogan came to know so much.
“Chogan,” she asked, “what are the ways in which you have gained knowledge of our ways?”
Chogan sat down opposite her and made himself comfortable. Brenna could tell this would be a rather complicated and lengthy answer.
“This transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next has occurred in numerous ways throughout the history of our kind. In cultures such as yours, this has been done recently through texts and diaries passed secretly through the generations. However, before this was practical, your European traditions were similar to our tribal traditions. We passed the knowledge along through traditional songs and stories, through our families and teachers.”
“So,” said Brenna, “you learned everything you know from your teachers, through songs?”
“That is not entirely correct,” he said. “There exists in the world two types of knowledge. The first is what you learn from others — as in the examples I have given. The second is what you learn from yourself — from your unique ability to connect with a higher consciousness. This can be achieved in many ways — by building on the work of others, by concentrating on problems you wish to solve, or even by experiencing vision quests.”
“I understand,” she said.
“What I find particularly exciting about of this is the idea that all of these things — the entirety of what you learn — can be passed along to your children and your students so that each generation, in principle, can venture further into the unknown than their forefathers. You, Brenna, have been blessed in this way. You’re able to read your mother’s written thoughts, which also include the life lessons of Violette and your father. And, I will do all I can to pass along the wisdom I’ve gathered thus far along my journey. With these things, you will have a strong foundation on which to build the place from which your own journey shall begin.”
Chogan provided a powerful perspective for her. Even though she had been living in close proximity to him, among the Wokokon, for nearly five years, his ideas had a way of seeming almost counterintuitive at times. Anything she had learned through her mother during their nineteen years together had been largely procedural in nature. A potion should have this amount of mugwort, for example, or that amount of nightshade. Clearly, there were many world-views on this topic. If anything, Chogan continually reminded her that her own will was perhaps the most important ingredient available to her — and in abundance, at that.
Most people, he taught her, do not know where to look inside themselves for direction. And, for the fortunate few who do, a majority of them cannot understand how to navigate this area with the necessary clarity to achieve wisdom. This leaves only a fraction of a fraction — the truly superlative individuals — able to chart a course toward self-understanding.
Even for those with the predisposition, developing the talent can be a challenge. Brenna knew all along that certain of her latent abilities awaited discovery. And, so it was throughout this spring, this season of blossoming, that she began to develop her ability to perceive the world in an intuitive manner.
During one exercise, she focused inward on the concept of “direction” — meaning, discovering where her life was headed and possibly seeking guidance. In the course of this meditation, the word “clothing” came to her. At first, this seemed odd. But, when she began to consider the meaning, she was reminded of her mother’s passion for sewing.
Instinctively, she went to retrieve her mother’s favorite dress. For the past five years, it had been packed along with her mother’s sewing supplies and material in a large wooden box underneath her sleeping cot. As she pulled it from the box, she admired its beauty and quality; she felt relieved that she hadn’t burnt this on her mother’s funeral pyre.
What I’d like to do, she thought, is to update this a bit. Add some more decorative edging here and there, and reinforce a few areas. While obtaining material was a relatively easy task on Ocracoke, she didn’t have to worry about that step. Her mother had left a wide variety of silks, threads, and needles.
She went to work, reinforcing areas that she felt may benefit from such heavy stitching, adding silk borders to some of the edges her mother had left plain and, finally, adding additional decorative elements — an embroidered crow silhouette on each arm. The work had taken three days to complete.
After tying off the last thread, she decided the final step should be to try it on. She stood up, undressed, and then pulled the dress over her head. It felt soft and comforting, as though she were blanketed in the happy spirit of her mother. She had no mirror to admire herself wearing the dress, which led to an interesting experience. It had been five years since she’d seen that dress being worn. In fact, looking down upon her outstretched arms and the dress reminded her of more than just the animating force and presence her mother had possessed; it was, for one moment, almost as though she were looking at her mother’s ghost. Considering this, she was overcome quite unexpectedly with a profound thought.
At once, she understood the spell that had become Violette’s life’s work. She felt almost embarrassed at the ease at which the answer came to her. It was as though a group of scientists had devoted their lives to solving a problem, and then some completely uneducated fool happened by and offered up a perfect, elegant solution.
Violette’s quest to return her loving Florian to life required a simple yet unobtainable ingredient: an article of Mr. Daudet’s clothing. Brenna understood intuitively why this was the case. However, articulating her finding back to Chogan required considerable thought.
“Have you noticed,” she began, “that when the tribesmen talk of their departed, some have offered accounts of seeing their ghosts?”
Chogan nodded. “Yes, this is not uncommon.”
“In almost all of these cases, Chogan, the ghosts are described by their loved ones as wearing certain articles of clothing.”
“They do appear,” he said, “as a spiritual likeness of their normal physical appearance.”
“Exactly. And, this led me to surmise that there must be some kind of relationship that exists between a living person and the clothing that keeps that person warm, dry, and protected from the elements. You see, clothing,” she explained, “represents our human form in several intimate ways. Most obviously, it learns over time the form and contour of our bodies. But, beyond that, clothing touches our skin at all times, thus absorbing the entire spectrum of energies we release.”
Chogan looked impressed with her insight.
Brenna continued. “This, do you see, is the primary reason that Violette could never have realized her goal, for she had been entirely separated from her beloved. In addition, I feel that she would have needed to have performed the ritual as Mr. Daudet lived. I believe that one must first impart a living body with the ability to return to life before a human soul may be reinstated within its corporeal existence.”
Chogan recognized that her insight was correct. “And you realized this…”
“By looking within, Chogan,” she said.
He laughed. “It’s interesting, after such prolonged enquiry into advanced botany…”
Brenna finished his sentence. “That a solution came from elsewhere,” she said. “That is true. However, mine is likely the easiest way to have accomplished her goal. There could in truth be any number of approaches to this problem. It’s even possible that Violette realized that this possibility existed. If so, she would have known that it was impossible for her, and that could have led her to explore alternative methods.”
“And yet, I do not believe she had known about this possibility.” He paced around the room a bit, thinking it over. “You realize, Brenna, that with such knowledge comes the responsibility of stewardship.”
“And, with such a breakthrough, I hope you’ll take an opportunity to celebrate and reflect. By all means, write your thoughts down for posterity. And, when you’ve done that, take time to enjoy what the Earth is presenting you with this Spring.”
Brenna smiled. “I think a nice walk is in order. Would you like to accompany me?”
“No thank you, little raven. I must lead a hunt.”
* * *
An hour later, Brenna was deeply in love with a young pirate named Red Davies.
She’d taken Chogan’s advice and gone for a long walk along the shore in the warm sunlight. A few hundred yards ahead, she’d seen a man struggling in the surf, apparently exhausted. He seemed to have appeared from nowhere, as though he’d been dropped from the sky into the middle of the ocean. No ships could be seen on the horizon, nor anchored along the coast anywhere in sight.
Brenna picked up her pace and began running toward the man. He’d made it to the shore, but seemed to be having great difficulty crawling beyond the high-water line. She reached him and extended a hand, which he accepted without question. She pulled as he crawled, eventually finding safety.
For quite some time, he lay motionless on his back, panting for breath. She sat beside him waiting for him to regain his strength. His clothing — a leather long vest and gold-trimmed sash — suggested that he may well be an outlaw, and yet his face revealed a certain kindness and a spirit that she found attractive.
In a few minutes, the man sat up and rested on his elbows. He began to survey his surroundings and looked up at Brenna, offering a slight nod and smile to acknowledge her assistance in escaping the riptide.
“My name is Brenna Reade,” she said, hoping the man spoke English.
“Pleased to meet you, Ms. Reade,” he said, still somewhat breathlessly. “My name is Red Davies.”
“Are you a pirate, Mr. Davies?” she asked.
“As of this moment,” said Red, “I’m nothing. Nothing but grateful for your assistance.” He extended his hand, which she touched cautiously in greeting.
“I like the name Red,” Brenna said. “Is that your given name?”
He let out a short laugh. “It is the name forced upon me, if that counts as given, Ms. Reade.”
“I see. Well, then, what was the name given to you at birth?”
He looked at her and she could tell he hadn’t thought about this in quite some time. “In my tribe,” he said reminiscently, “I was called Kokumuo.”
“I like that,” Brenna said. “Do you prefer to be known as Kokumuo?”
Red looked out toward the horizon. “Many years ago, I would have answered yes. But, that name only brings me pain to think of now. Kokumuo was a man who became an unfortunate victim of a tribal war in Africa. Red Davies, on the other hand, became a man who determined his own fate. It’s not the fate I might have chosen as a young warrior. But, as of this moment, I’m proud to be called by this name.”
“Well then, Mr. Davies. Why don’t you take a walk with me and I’ll show you around this island. You must be parched.”
“That I am,” he said. “And, did you just say ‘island’?”
She laughed. “Did you not know this is an island?”
“I suppose I have some swimming left to do, then, if I’m to make it to the mainland. But for now, yes, I’d love to tour your island paradise.”
She stood up and extended him a hand for the second time. He gently took it and stood up. As they began the walk back to the settlement, Brenna said, “I’m curious to hear your story, Mr. Davies.”
“Call me Red,” he said, brushing sand from his skin. “How far back shall I go?”
“As far back as you like, Red. How about Africa?”
“Africa it is, then. I know now that the year was 1711 as your people measure it. That was the year my world changed. Have you ever had a year in which your world changed completely?”
“Yes,” she said quietly, remembering her mother’s passing. “The year 1711 changed much for me as well. But, please continue your story.”
“My tribe in Senegambia had been at war with our neighbors for quite some time. For many generations, this war was local in nature — that is to say, it was our African tribe against theirs. Each tribe, of course, had additional allies and lesser enemies made up of other neighboring tribes. I wouldn’t call our lives peaceful by any means. But there was, in retrospect, a modicum of comfort in the knowledge of who our enemies were. Our people knew our territory, our boundaries — and our enemies knew theirs.”
“That doesn’t sound too terribly different from this world, unfortunately,” Brenna said.
“When a strong country invades another’s homeland — imposing their culture, their religion, their diseases on the other country — the result is a struggle that takes its toll on the weaker group. So, yes, I believe it is similar.”
“What happened then?” she asked.
“Whatever type of peace we had, if you could call it peace at all, was shattered when the Europeans arrived. Suddenly, our enemies cooperated with them, assisting them in capturing our people. In short, there was a raid and we became slaves. It is as simple as that.”
“But, clearly you aren’t a slave.”
“Like my brothers, I was captured and sold into slavery. Men, women, and children alike were corralled like livestock, forced to submit. Anyone who refused was beaten or shot. Eventually, we were loaded onto ships bound for the new world by way of the British West Indies. Our vessel, however, strayed from the group during a period of rough seas, and we became isolated. As the crew struggled to regain their bearing, the pirates intervened.”
“They robbed a slave ship?”
“As you may know, a slave ship has little in the way of gold or provisions. In fact, they wanted the ship itself. It is as simple as that.”
“And what of your original captors?”
“The Europeans were summarily thrown overboard. The Africans, which represented little threat, were of little interest to them at the time.”
“So, they freed you?”
“Not exactly. They freed the women and children when we reached the West Indies. Most of the men, myself included, were told that in exchange for our freedom, we were expected to join with the pirates.”
“You were forced to join them?”
“To be honest, they offered us a choice. Those who accepted their offer could live among the ranks as shipmates, crew of the very ship originally meant to deliver us as slaves. Those who refused were repeatedly keelhauled. So, for four years, I looted, pillaged, and plundered.”
“Did you take the life of others — of those your ship captured?”
“There were battles, yes, but most ships submitted with little resistance.”
“And yet, here you sit, without your shipmates, without your treasure. Was the life not satisfying?”
“I suspect it was preferable to what might have been in store for me had our ship not strayed from the fleet. But, to answer your question, the only environment I’ve ever sound satisfying is living honestly among my tribe.”
“So, do you intend to return to your tribe?”
“That is impossible, I’m afraid. My tribe is forever dispersed among the new world as slaves. I may now be the only free man among them. Free as any bird from the sky.” Red pointed to a large group of crows that had flown overhead.
“Aha,” she said. “Do you believe those birds are truly free?”
She raised her right arm into the air and, with a shrill whistle, summoned the crow that she’d come to know so well. It swooped down to perch on her arm, and she brought it in front of her to introduce to Red. “Red, please meet my good friend, one of the many wonders of this island.”
Red gave the bird a friendly, although slightly hesitant, stroke. It didn’t stay long, however. After a quick hello, the bird took flight to catch up with the others from its group.
“Given this strange power you seem to have over animals, Ms. Reade, how am I to know if I’m drawn to you of my own free will or if I’ve been bewitched?”
“Do you feel that it would matter either way?” she asked.
Over the spring, Brenna introduced Red one-by-one to the wonders of Ocracoke — the village, the dunes, the harbor, the salt marshes, the wildlife. The Wokokon were initially hesitant to admit another outsider into the tribe, but Red proved himself a tireless worker, strong and productive as any two Wokokon. He also brought seafaring and other worldly skills that were warmly welcomed.
It was well known by all within the tribe that Red and Brenna would be together. This fact helped expedite Red’s acceptance into the community. Most of the men, few of whom would have dared approach Brenna in a romantic way, were secretly comforted in the assurance that Red would not become involved with any of the Wokokon women. And a fair number of the Wokokon tribeswomen, though they had accepted Brenna as one of their own, were secretly comforted in the assurance that she would not eventually express an interest in any of the Wokokon men.
It is not as though Brenna lived her life oblivious to the tension — albeit subtle — that existed because she was a white European woman living among this native tribe. She realized that there were limits to her acceptance. When she first joined the tribe, at nineteen, this was never an issue. She had many other important priorities to work through at the time, such as charting a general course for her life after her mother’s passing. But, after five years, she’d grown somewhat lonely, as would any young woman in her prime. She believed that her recent calls of loneliness had been answered; Red had been presented to her as a gift from the sea — a rough-around-the-edges pirate-type, but with a heart, and with a heart-breaking story.
The Wokokon had their own courting rituals, of course. However, it was decided a few years ago that these traditions would not be forced upon Brenna — most likely because it was not expected that Brenna would wed a tribesman. As such, she was free to escape unchaperoned into the dunes with Red as she liked for evening trysts. In her mother’s absence, the tribe mother had taken Brenna aside to provide her with instruction about the fundamental nature of men, women, and conception. Out of respect, Brenna did not tell the woman that her mother had informed her of this many years ago, nor that her mother had left extensive writings on the subject within her journal.
Avoiding an unplanned pregnancy was important, of course. And yet, her mother had also written in her journal about how her own pregnancy had played an instrumental role in sparing her life for just long enough to have escaped death by hanging. Aithne had not indicated in her journal whether her pregnancy with Brenna was the result of a planned effort to start a family or simply the result of her mother’s passion for her husband. Brenna suspected the former, however. Her mother had been too powerful, she felt, to have left something that important up to fate.
One evening in late May, Chogan returned to the village after having been away for several days. He approached Brenna’s lodge and knocked at the door.
Inside, Brenna had been at work composing something on a large scrap of paper. She hurriedly covered this work up and said, “Come in.”
A few seconds later, she rose to meet him. “Chogan! I was wondering where you’d gone.”
“Am I interrupting your work?” he asked, glancing curiously at her covered parchment.
“Not at all,” she said. “It’s wonderful to see you. I wondered where you’d flown off to.”
“It is nice to see you too, little raven. However, I have a bit of news, and I’m not sure if it will be entirely welcomed by you.”
“Sit down, Chogan,” she said, somewhat concerned.
“As you know well,” he began, “nature is not always intuitive. There are times when fate joyfully answers your call via the rough ocean, and yet there are also times when fate sneaks up on you via peaceful waters of the sound.”
“Why be cryptic, Chogan?”
“I simply thought you may be interested to know that Mr. Grellier at this moment is perhaps one day’s journey westward from here, and he’s heading directly for the island. I expect he intends to pay you a visit after all these years.”
“What would that man be doing out this far?” she asked.
“From the looks of it, I’d say he’s on a long-distance hunting expedition.”
“I thought I’d seen the last of that man five years ago. You know how I feel about him, of course.”
“Yes, and that is why I wanted to give you a bit of notice prior to his arrival. I’m sure this,” he said, gesturing to her parchment, “is the sort of thing he wouldn’t want to find lying about.”
“Thank you, Chogan,” she said, bidding him good night.
When she awoke in the morning, she found her mind annoyingly preoccupied with two completely separate subjects. First, she ached to be close to Red. She wanted nothing more than to escape into the dunes with him once again, to profess her love for him, and to hear him do the same. But there was much work to be done today. There was a large building project underway that would require his assistance throughout the afternoon. This disappointing thought led her to the other subject — that of Mr. Grellier’s impending visit. It was bad enough to be separated from the one she desired, and now she would likely be seeing someone she had absolutely no desire to see.
No, she thought, I’m going to put that out of my mind for now, and I’m going to think only of Red — how he fills my heart with love, how he fills my life with joy and passion. Tonight, I’m going to read these words to him… She retrieved the parchment from her table and began reading out loud, as if carefully rehearsing. “I call upon the ancient power dispersed around the world, entrusted to those who have been gifted with sensory powers of vision beyond sight, of hearing beyond sounds, of sensations beyond touch, of fragrances…” She paused. Something was wrong.
She approached the window and threw it open. Hervé Grellier stood just outside, not six inches from the opening. The sight startled her, and him as well to a certain degree.
Grellier ignored any awkwardness that one might feel after having been discovered eavesdropping. Instead, he merely forced a polite smile and said, “Ms. Reade, I trust I am not interrupting you?”
“I’ll be outside momentarily,” she answered. She quickly folded the parchment and tucked it into her shirt before exiting the lodge.
“Good day, Mr. Grellier,” she said. The two began meandering around the village grounds. Chogan and Red were no where to be seen, which seemed a bit unusual to her.
“It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen you,” he said. “I’m pleased to find you in good health.”
“I expect things are well in Bath?” she asked.
“Things are fine right now, of course. In fact, our docks are overcrowded with merchants at times.” After a quiet moment, he added, “And, we had a dark period as well, as you may know. Chief Hancock and his Tuscarora sieged the city not long after you left. Scores were killed, I’m afraid. Many that you knew.”
“I’d heard the city had seen unimaginable trouble,” she said.
“Governor Hyde slaughtered most of those responsible, of course, including Hancock. Others were captured and are now slaves as a result of their actions.”
“And the Tuscarora?”
“They have a new leader — a man called Blunt.”
“Chief Blunt,” she said.
“Oh no, I’m afraid he’s renounced the title of chief. This one prefers to be known as ‘king.’ ”
“That’s certainly peculiar. One wonders what his agenda must be,” she said. “And, speaking of our agendas, how is your congregation?”
“Fine and growing, thank you,” he said. “In fact, I’ve just performed another marriage. Well, I assisted, strictly speaking. The governor himself performed the ceremony. A rather successful man named Edward Teach has taken up residence in the city. He married William’s Ormand’s daughter, Mary. You remember her, I expect?”
“Vaguely,” she said, trying to recall the name. “Wasn’t the girl but eight or nine years old?”
“She may have been somewhat younger than her husband, I suppose. And, don’t forget, you’ve been away for five years now. In any case, this Mr. Teach… He mentioned a man formerly in his employ — one Red Davies. Apparently, Mr. Davies ended his employment somewhat unexpectedly, leaving quite a debt with Mr. Teach.”
“You seem to dignify this man, Mr. Grellier,” she said in a rather puzzled tone.
“Mr. Davies? Certainly not.”
She corrected him. “I’m speaking of this Mr. Teach, of course. My understanding is that this man you call Mr. Teach is a pirate, known better here and on the Caribbean Sea as Blackbeard.”
Grellier seemed taken aback by this — slightly insulted, even. “Mister Teach is a gentleman, Ms. Reade. He has even financed my current hunting expedition. And, while I’m out on the sound, he’s asked me to inquire with the local tribes as to whether they’ve seen this man.”
“You’ll have no luck here, I’m afraid,” Brenna said. “The Wokokon do not make a practice of harboring pirates. Do you plan to stay long, Mr. Grellier?”
“Only for the evening, I’m afraid. We’ve come a long way, and we have quite a journey back to Bath, although I suspect we’ll head there directly from here.”
“Very well,” Brenna said. “I’ll see that your men are provided lodging.” She began to walk away from him, thinking that she needed to locate Red as quickly and quietly as possible.
“Brenna,” he called, stopping her. “Your mother… She’s buried on this island, I expect? I would like to visit the grave, if you don’t mind. To pay my respects.”
“My mother’s body was ceremonially burned, as is customary for the Wokokon, on a pyre. Her ashes were then scattered over the tribal burial ground near the harbor.”
“I see,” he said quietly, and then walked away.
As far as Brenna could tell, Chogan must have escorted Red to safety. She didn’t believe any of the Wokokon would knowingly surrender Red to Mr. Grellier, but they could surely be tricked into admitting the man’s presence on the island. Brenna needed to find him quickly to truly ensure his safety.
After looking among the new building projects, near the smokehouse, near the cistern, and in several other places, she came upon Chogan returning to the village from a path to the south.
“Chogan,” she said desperately, “they’re here for Red.”
“He is safe, Brenna,” he said. Chogan had stashed Red about a mile south of the main harbor near another smaller, much lesser used pier. She knew the place, and had been there a number of times over the years on walks. It had a small, old storage building and a dock. From there, she recalled being able to see other islands along the outer banks. She felt extremely relieved to know Red’s whereabouts. There would be little chance, she thought, of Grellier’s party exploring the trail south.
During the day, the visitors spent their time hunting for small game and practicing their skills at the bow. They’d even taken up some accuracy games with a few of the Wokokon warriors. Each group had been impressed with the other’s skill at archery. Even Mr. Grellier hit the small target numerous times.
Just before sunset, the group dined together as usual. Brenna sensed everyone was being a little more quiet than usual. She hoped this didn’t strike Mr. Grellier and his party as curious. Apparently, Chogan didn’t think the men would suspect anything; he offered Brenna a few reassuring nods surreptitiously during the meal.
Shortly after they’d eaten, Mr. Grellier thanked the tribe for their hospitality. He raised his glass into the air and spoke. “On behalf of my group, I would like to thank the Wokokon once again for their warm and generous reception. Normally, we would look forward to sitting up with you all by the fire. However, as you know, we have quite a journey ahead of us tomorrow morning. Therefore, if you’ll excuse us, we should like to retire for the evening.”
This wasn’t unexpected among the Wokokon, as it was well known that the men were leaving at dawn. Mr. Grellier and the guests politely shook hands with the natives and retired to their lodge. When they’d gone, quiet looks were exchanged between numerous members of the tribe who wanted each other’s opinion as to how well they’d done at putting up the charade. All, including Brenna, seemed satisfied.
A few hours later, Brenna awoke well before dawn as the entire settlement slept. The fire had died down to a large pile of smoldering embers with just few smaller logs burning in the center. Vision was easy, as the moon waxed to nearly full. She could wait no longer to see him, to be near him and to know he was safe. The thought entered her mind that she should surprise him, and dressed as beautifully as possible. She unpacked the beautiful dress that had belonged to her mother, the one she’d embellished with embroidered symbols and extra silk borders. She combed out her coarse black hair until it felt soft as fur to the touch. And, before leaving, she grabbed her mother’s diary, into which she’d placed the parchment she’d been working on the previous morning.
She slipped quietly away from the village, sticking to the perimeter in hopes of avoiding being seen. When she found the trail, she proceeded at almost a light run, arriving at the small encampment in perhaps ten minutes. A small fire smoldered outside the lodge while a much larger one smoldered within her chest.
She stood at the open door for a moment, looking inside across the room at him. It was amazing to her to consider the trust he must have had in Chogan to be able to sleep so soundly considering his vulnerability. She stood there and whispered to him as he slept, “You are dreaming of your beloved, who has searched the night to find you. If you will her to be here, simply open your eyes and it will be so.” The words entered his dream with such clarity that, even before opening his eyes, he knew she would be standing there.
He kept his eyes closed and sat up on the small cot. He placed his hands over his eyes and, uttering an inaudible wish to see her, removed his hands. She stood directly before him, radiant in the moonlight in her beautiful dress. He smiled broadly and embraced her around the waist, lifting her off the ground as he stood from the cot.
She laughed a bit and said, “We shouldn’t stay here. Would you like to watch the sunrise over the ocean?”
“Show me the way,” he said.
With that, she turned, grabbed his hand, and swiftly led him eastward from the small lodge. They each ran barefoot over the thin pathway, which was overgrown on each side with tall, thick grasses. Leading the way, she ran through a number of spider webs, and called back to warn him occasionally to watch out for a tree to jump over or a branch to duck beneath. Within a few minutes, the soil became noticeably softer and sandier. The ocean could be heard pounding the beach over the next dune. They reached the shore well before the sun turned the horizon pink. It was all a semi-lit grayish blue.
Red placed his arms around her waist as the both stared out at the waves. She said, “I’ve written something for you. It’s kind of a poem. Would you like to hear it?”
“I’d love to,” he said.
She took the parchment from her mother’s diary, and held it up to see if the light was sufficient. She believed she could make out the words, or at least enough to provide cues if she couldn’t remember word for word. As she’d learned, though, the words were less important than the place from which they came. And, she was sure of her feelings for him, so she began, speaking over the waves as much as possible.
“I call upon the ancient power dispersed around the world, entrusted to those who have been gifted with sensory powers of vision beyond sight, of hearing beyond sounds, of sensations beyond touch, of fragrances beyond smell, and of thirst beyond quenching.”
The wind began to pick up, send sand rising in spiraling whorls around them as she continued. “I call the power of eternity among us, between us, surrounding us. Before we venture upon this everlasting marriage, we must bear our souls and bodies to each other.”
She began removing her clothes, and then his, as she spoke. “Therefore, I cast away the power of these words, leaving us alone, leaving us unobscured to the earth and to the firmament. I shed these words as we shed our clothes, asking an essence of myself and of this spell to reside within them as we demonstrate complete vulnerability and create a transparency through which we may each glimpse the other’s soul. And, after we have joined physically as woman and man, and have redressed in these clothes, we redress ourselves in a bond of eternal love.”
When she finished speaking, they stood completely naked in the breeze, which had calmed to a steady wind blanketing them as the rough surf rhythmically pounded the beach. Brenna held her mothers book and she handed the parchment to Red to see it in the first dim light. He folded the paper and inserted the page into the book as he took her in his arms. She dropped the book onto the sand as they laid atop their clothes, swept into their own world as the sun rose slowly into the sky. Gulls flew overhead for the first time that day and, out near the horizon, families of dolphins broke the surface as they migrated southward for the day.
As the pair slept into the early morning, Grellier and his men descended upon them like predators. For a minister, Grellier seemed quite enraged as the men stormed the area shouting, “Red Davies!”
The pair awoke and jumped suddenly to their feet. Brenna instinctively went for her clothing, but Grellier snatched it up as his men pushed the two naked lovers away. He held their clothes and her book in his hands. “What do we have here, Ms. Reade? This does appear to me to be a book of witchcraft.”
“Leave that alone,” she shouted. She then turned toward Red. The couple faced each other and held each other close in order to cover themselves. He was greatly outnumbered and understood that he should not put up a fight.
“Yes,” Grellier said, “I heard your strange incantations yesterday morning. You didn’t think I planned to leave without following you to investigate your ways more closely, did you?”
She shuddered in Red’s arms. One of the men in Grellier’s party threw a couple of bed sheets at the pair, shouting, “Go on… Cover yourselves!”
“Do you realize the penalty you’ll pay for this?” Grellier asked Brenna.
“What do you intend to do?” she asked.
“I don’t intend to do a thing, young lady. What more can I do to you other than to pray for your soul? Which, I should add, will burn in hell for eternity.”
He then looked at Red. “And you! There’s a penalty for you as well, I’m afraid.”
“Leave him!” Brenna shouted. However, in this state, she failed to command their attention in the way that she perhaps could, had this turn of events not taken place. The embarrassment and shock had reduced her, at least for the moment, into a helpless victim, completely at Mr. Grellier’s mercy.
“You, my friend,” Grellier said to Red, “have an overdue appointment with one Mr. Edward Teach.” He turned to his men and shouted, “Take him!”
The men bound Red and began to drag him back up into the dunes. When he began to resist violently, one of the men shouted, “Do you resist?! Then I have no choice.” The man walked back down to Brenna and violently punched her in the face, shouting “whore!” He then kicked her into the waves and returned to Red, who was shouting and struggling fiercely. “Shall I do that again?” the man asked with a rage, “Or, will you come along?”
Red let out a scream of frustration that turned to a desperate cry. Grellier recoiled a bit at witnessing this whole scene, but said nothing. He grabbed Brenna’s dress, Red’s clothes, and the book, and marched away with the others. As he crested the hill and looked back, he saw her fighting her way out of the waves. She then sank to her knees and collapsed face-first into the sand. As he turned away, he hoped she’d realized the error of her ways and had repented.
☠️ Jim Dee maintains his personal blog, “Hawthorne Crow,” and a web design blog called “Web Designer | Web Developer Magazine.” He’s also contributes to various Medium.com publications. You can reach him at: Jim [at] ArrayWebDevelopment.com. “Chapter number” background photo atop piece is adapted from “Light Reading” by Martin (Flickr, Creative Commons).