CHAPTER 14 : Part 2 – Shogun

CHAPTER 14 : Part 2 – Shogun

“Come with me, my son.”

  Without waiting, the monk hobbled down the cage, through the mass of men, into the gloom. Blackthorne hesitated, not wanting to leave his place. Then he got up and followed. After ten paces he looked back. His place had vanished. It seemed impossible that he had ever been there at all.

  He continued down the length of the hut. In the far corner was, incredibly, an open space. Just enough room for a small man to lie down in. It contained a few pots and bowls and an ancient straw mat.

  Father Domingo stepped through the men into the space and beckoned him. The surrounding Japanese watched silently, letting Blackthorne pass.

  “They are my flock, señor. They are all my sons in the Blessed Lord Jesus. I’ve converted so many here—this one’s John, and here’s Mark and Methuselah….” The priest stopped for breath. “I’m so tired. Tired. I … must, I must …” His words trailed off and he slept.

  At dusk more food arrived. When Blackthorne began to get up, one of the nearby Japanese motioned him to stay and brought him a well-filled bowl. Another man gently patted the priest awake, offering the food.

  “Iyé,” the old man said, shaking his head, a smile on his face, and pushed the bowl back into the man’s hands.

  “Iyé Farddah-sama.”

  The priest allowed himself to be persuaded and ate a little, then got up, his joints creaking, and handed his bowl to one of those in the middle row. This man touched the priest’s hand to his forehead and he was blessed.

  “I’m so pleased to see another of my own kind,” the priest said, sitting beside Blackthorne again, his peasant voice thick and sibilant. He pointed weakly to the other end of the cell block. “One of my flock said the señor used the word ‘pilot,’ ‘anjin’? The señor is a pilot?”


  “There are others of the señor’s crew here?”

  “No, I’m alone. Why are you here?”

  “If the señor is alone—the señor came from Manila?”

  “No. I’ve never been to Asia before,” Blackthorne said carefully, his Spanish excellent. “This was my first voyage as pilot. I was … I was outward bound. Why are you here?”

  “Jesuits put me here, my son. Jesuits and their filthy lies. The señor was outward bound? Thou art not Spanish, no—nor Portuguese …” The monk peered at him suspiciously and Blackthorne was surrounded by his reeking breath. “Was the ship Portuguese? Tell the truth, before God!”

  “No, Father. It was not Portuguese. Before God!”

  “Oh, Blessed Virgin, thank you! Please forgive me, señor. I was afraid—I’m old and stupid and diseased. Thy ship was Spanish out of where? I’m so glad—where is the señor from originally? Spanish Flanders? Or the Duchy of Brandenburg perhaps? Some part of our dominions in Germania? Oh, it’s so good to talk my blessed mother tongue again! Was the señor shipwrecked like us? Then foully thrown into this jail, falsely accused by those devil Jesuits? May God curse them and show them the error of their treachery!” His eyes glittered fiercely. “The señor said he has never been to Asia before?”


  “If the señor has never been to Asia before, then he will be like a child in the wilderness. Yes, there’s so much to tell! Does the señor know that Jesuits are merely traders, gun runners, and usurers? That they control all the silk trade here, all trade with China? That the annual Black Ship is worth a million in gold? That they’ve forced His Holiness, the Pope, to grant them total power over Asia—them and their dogs, the Portuguese? That all other religious are forbidden here? That Jesuits deal in gold, buying and selling for profit—for themselves and the heathen—against the direct orders of His Holiness, Pope Clement, of King Philip, and against the laws of this land? That they secretly smuggled guns into Japan for Christian kings here, inciting them to rebellion? That they meddle in politics and pimp for the kings, lie and cheat and bear false witness against us! That their Father Superior himself sent a secret message to our Spanish Viceroy in Luzon asking him for conquistadores to conquer the land—they begged for a Spanish invasion to cover more Portuguese mistakes. All our troubles can be put at their threshold, señor. It’s the Jesuits who have lied and cheated and spread poison against Spain and our beloved King Philip! Their lies put me here and caused twenty-six Holy Fathers to be martyred! They think that just because I was a peasant once, I don’t understand … but I can read and write, señor, I can read and write! I was one of his Excellency’s secretaries, the Viceroy. They think we Franciscans don’t understand …” At this point he broke into another ranting jumble of Spanish and Latin.

  Blackthorne’s spirit had been revived, his curiosity agog with what the priest had said. What guns? What gold? What trade? What Black Ship? A million? What invasion? What Christian kings?

  Aren’t you cheating the poor sick man? he asked himself. He thinks you’re friend, not enemy.

  I haven’t lied to him.

  But haven’t you implied you’re friend?

  I answered him directly.

  But you volunteered nothing?


  Is that fair?

  That’s the first rule of survival in enemy waters: volunteer nothing.

  The monk’s tantrum grew apace. The nearby Japanese shifted uneasily. One of them got up and shook the priest gently and spoke to him. Father Domingo gradually came out of his fit, his eyes cleared. He looked at Blackthorne with recognition, replied to the Japanese, and calmed the rest.

  “So sorry, señor,” he said breathlessly. “They—they thought I was angry against—against the señor. God forgive my foolish rage! It was just—que va, Jesuits come from hell, along with heretics and heathens. I can tell you much about them.” The monk wiped the spittle off his chin and tried to calm himself. He pressed his chest to ease the pain there. “The señor was saying? Thy ship, it was cast ashore?”

  “Yes. In a way. We came aground,” Blackthorne replied. He eased his legs carefully. The men who were watching and listening gave him more room. One got up and motioned him to stretch out. “Thanks,” he said at once. “Oh, how do you say ‘thank you,’ Father?”

  “‘Domo.’ Sometimes you say ‘arigato.’ A woman has to be very polite, señor. She says ‘arigato goziemashita.’”

  “Thank you. What’s his name?” Blackthorne indicated the man who had got up.

  “That’s Gonzalez.”

  “But what’s his Japanese name?”

  “Ah yes! He’s Akabo. But that just means ‘porter,’ señor. They don’t have names. Only samurai have names.”


  “Only samurai have names, first names and surnames. It’s their law, señor. Everyone else has to make do with what they are—porter, fisherman, cook, executioner, farmer, and so on. Sons and daughters are mostly just First Daughter, Second Daughter, First Son, and so on. Sometimes they’d call a man ‘fisherman who lives near the elm tree’ or ‘fisherman with bad eyes.’” The monk shrugged and stifled a yawn. “Ordinary Japanese aren’t allowed names. Whores give themselves names like Carp or Moon or Petal or Eel or Star. It’s strange, señor, but it’s their law. We give them Christian names, real names, when we baptize them, bringing them salvation and the word of God …” His words trailed off and he slept.

  “Domo, Akabo-san,” Blackthorne said to the porter.

  The man smiled shyly and bowed and sucked in his breath.

  Later the monk awakened and said a brief prayer and scratched. “Only yesterday, the señor said? He came here only yesterday? What occurred with the señor?”

  “When we landed there was a Jesuit there,” Blackthorne said. “But you, Father. You were saying they accused you? What happened to you and your ship?”

  “Our ship? Did the señor ask about our ship? Was the señor coming from Manila like us? Or—oh, how foolish of me! I remember now, the señor was outward bound from home and never in Asia before. By the Blessed Body of Christ, it’s so good to talk to a civilized man again, in my blessed mother’s tongue! Que va, it’s be
en so long. My head aches, aches, señor. Our ship? We were going home at long last. Home from Manila to Acapulco, in the land of Cortes, in Mexico, thence overland to Vera Cruz. And thence another ship and across the Atlantic, and at long, long last, to home. My village is outside Madrid, señor, in the mountains. It is called Santa Veronica. Forty years I’ve been away, señor. In the New World, in Mexico and in the Philippines. Always with our glorious conquistadores, may the Virgin watch over them! I was in Luzon when we destroyed the heathen native king, Lumalon, and conquered Luzon, and so brought the word of God to the Philippines. Many of our Japan converts fought with us even then, señor. Such fighters! That was in 1575. Mother Church is well planted there, my son, and never a filthy Jesuit or Portuguese to be seen. I came to the Japans for almost two years, then had to leave for Manila again when the Jesuits betrayed us.”

  The monk stopped and closed his eyes, drifting off. Later he came back again, and, as old people will sometimes do, he continued as though he had never slept. “My ship was the great galleon San Felipe. We carried a cargo of spices, gold and silver, and specie to the value of a million and a half silver pesos. One of the great storms took us and cast us onto the shores of Shikoku. Our ship broke her back on the sand bar—on the third day—by that time we had landed our bullion and most of our cargo. Then word came that everything was confiscated, confiscated by the Taikō himself, that we were pirates and …” He stopped at the sudden silence.

  The iron door of the cell cage had swung open.

  Guards began to call names from the list. Bulldog, the man who had befriended Blackthorne, was one of those called. He walked out and did not look back. One of the men in the circle also was chosen. Akabo. Akabo knelt to the monk, who blessed him and made the sign of the cross over him and quickly gave him the Last Sacrament. The man kissed the cross and walked away.

  The door closed again.

  “They’re going to execute him?” Blackthorne asked.

  “Yes, his Calvary is outside the door. May the Holy Madonna take his soul swiftly and give him his everlasting reward.”

  “What did that man do?”

  “He broke the law—their law, señor. The Japanese are a simple people. And very severe. They truly have only one punishment—death. By the cross, by strangulation, or by decapitation. For the crime of arson, it is death by burning. They have almost no other punishment—banishment sometimes, cutting the hair from women sometimes. But”—the old man sighed—“but most always it is death.”

  “You forgot imprisonment.”

  The monk’s nails picked absently at the scabs on his arm. “It’s not one of their punishments, my son. To them, prison is just a temporary place to keep the man until they decide his sentence. Only the guilty come here. For just a little while.”

  “That’s nonsense. What about you? You’ve been here a year, almost two years.”

  “One day they will come for me, like all the others. This is but a resting place between the hell of earth and the glory of Everlasting Life.”

  “I don’t believe you.”

  “Have no fear, my son. It is the will of God. I am here and can hear the señor’s confession and give him absolution and make him perfect—the glory of Everlasting Life is barely a hundred steps and moments away from that door. Would the señor like me to hear his confession now?”

  “No—no, thank you. Not now.” Blackthorne looked at the iron door. “Has anyone ever tried to break out of here?”

  “Why should they do that? There is nowhere to run—nowhere to hide. The authorities are very strict. Anyone helping an escaped convict or even a man who commits a crime—” He pointed vaguely at the door of the hut. “Gonzalez—Akabo—the man who has—has left us. He’s a kaga-man. He told me—”

  “What’s a kaga-man?”

  “Oh, those are the porters, señor, the men that carry the palanquins, or the smaller two-man kaga that’s like a hammock swung on a pole. He told us his partner stole a silken scarf from a customer, poor fellow, and because he himself did not report the theft, his life is forfeit also. The señor may believe me, to try to escape or even to help someone to escape, the man would lose his life and all his family. They are very severe, señor.”

  “So everyone goes to execution like sheep then?”

  “There is no other choice. It is the will of God.”

  Don’t get angry, or panic, Blackthorne warned himself. Be patient. You can think of a way. Not everything the priest says is true. He’s deranged. Who wouldn’t be after so much time?

  “These prisons are new to them señor,” the monk was saying. “The Taikō instituted prisons here a few years ago, so they say. Before him there were none. In previous days when a man was caught, he confessed his crime and he was executed.”

  “And if he didn’t confess?”

  “Everyone confesses—sooner is better, señor. It is the same in our world, if you are caught.”

  The monk slept a little, scratching in his sleep and muttering. When he woke up, Blackthorne said, “Please tell me, Father, how the cursed Jesuits put a man of God in this pest hole.”

  “There is not much to tell, and everything. After the Taikō’s men came and took all our bullion and goods, our Captain-General insisted on going to the capital to protest. There was no cause for the confiscation. Were we not servants of His Most Imperial Catholic Majesty, King Philip of Spain, ruler of the greatest and richest empire in the world? The most powerful monarch in the world? Were we not friends? Was not the Taikō asking Spanish Manila to trade direct with Japan, to break the filthy monopoly of the Portuguese? It was all a mistake, the confiscation. It had to be.

  “I went with our Captain-General because I could speak a little Japanese—not much in those days. Señor, the San Felipe had floundered and come ashore in October of 1597. The Jesuits—one was of the name Father Martin Alvito—they dared to offer to mediate for us, there in Kyoto, the capital. The impertinence! Our Franciscan Father Superior, Friar Braganza, he was in the capital, and he was an ambassador—a real ambassador from Spain to the court of the Taikō! The Blessed Friar Braganza, he had been there in the capital, in Kyoto, for five years, señor. The Taikō himself, personally, had asked our Viceroy in Manila to send Franciscan monks and an ambassador to Japan. So the Blessed Friar Braganza had come. And we, señor, we of the San Felipe, we knew that he was to be trusted, not like the Jesuits.

  “After many, many days of waiting, we had one interview with the Taikō—he was a tiny, ugly little man, señor—and we asked for our goods back and another ship, or passage on another ship, which our Captain-General offered to pay for handsomely. The interview went well, we thought, and the Taikō dismissed us. We went to our monastery in Kyoto and waited and then, over the next months while we waited for his decision, we continued to bring the word of God to the heathen. We held our services openly, not like thieves in the night as the Jesuits do.” Friar Domingo’s voice was edged with contempt. “We wore our habits and vestments—we didn’t go disguised, like native priests, as they do. We brought the Word to the people, the halt and sick and poor, not like the Jesuits, who consort with princes only. Our congregations increased. We had a hospital for lepers, our own church, and our flock prospered, señor. Greatly. We were about to convert many of their kings and then one day we were betrayed.

  “One day in January, we Franciscans, we were all brought before the magistrate and accused under the Taikō’s personal seal, señor, accused as violators of their law, as disturbers of their peace, and sentenced to death by crucifixion. There were forty-three of us. Our churches throughout the land were to be destroyed, all our congregations to be torn apart—Franciscan—not Jesuit, señor. Just us, señor. We had been falsely accused. The Jesuits had poured poison in the Taikō’s ear that we were conquistadores, that we wanted to invade these shores, when it was Jesuits who begged his Excellency, our Viceroy, to send an army from Manila. I saw the letter myself! From their Father Superior! They’re devils who pretend to serve the
Church and Christ, but they serve only themselves. They lust for power, power at any cost. They hide behind a net of poverty and piousness, but underneath, they feed like kings and amass fortunes. Que va, señor, the truth is that they were jealous of our congregations, jealous of our church, jealous of our truth and way of life. The daimyo of Hizen, Dom Francisco—his Japanese name is Harima Tadao but he has been baptized Dom Francisco—he interceded for us. He is just like a king, all daimyos are like kings, and he’s a Franciscan and he interceded for us, but to no avail.

  “In the end, twenty-six were martyred. Six Spaniards, seventeen of our Japanese neophytes, and three others. The Blessed Braganza was one, and there were three boys among the neophytes. Oh, señor, the faithful were there in their thousands that day. Fifty, a hundred thousand people watched the Blessed Martyrdom at Nagasaki, so I was told. It was a bitter cold February day and a bitter year. That was the year of the earthquakes and typhoons and flood and storm and fire, when the Hand of God lay heavy on the Great Murderer and even smashed down his great castle, Fushimi, when He shuddered the earth. It was terrifying but marvelous to behold, the Finger of God, punishing the heathen and the sinners.

  “So they were martyred, señor, six good Spaniards. Our flock and our church were laid waste and the hospital closed up.” The old man’s face drained. “I—I was one of those chosen for martyrdom, but—but it was not to be my honor. They set us marching from Kyoto and when we came to Osaka they put some of us in one of our missions here and the rest—the rest had one of their ears cut off, then they were paraded like common criminals in the streets. Then the Blessed Brethren were set walking westward. For a month. Their blessed journey ended at the hill called Nishizaki, overlooking the great harbor of Nagasaki. I begged the samurai to let me go with them but, señor, he ordered me back to the mission here in Osaka. For no reason. And then, months later, we were put in this cell. There were three of us—I think it was three, but I was the only Spaniard. The others were neophytes, our lay brothers, Japaners. A few days later the guards called out their names. But they never called out mine. Perhaps it is the will of God, señor, or perhaps those filthy Jesuits leave me alive just to torture me—they who took away my chance at martyrdom among my own. It’s hard, señor, to be patient. So very hard …”

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