1637 No Peace Beyond The Line – Snippet 17

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.”