1637 No Peace Beyond The Line – Snippet 16

Chapter 9

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.”