CHAPTER 1 : Part 2 – Shogun

 CHAPTER 1 : Part 2 – Shogun

  Another spate of words from the samurai. “Omi-san says, because you are the leader you are allowed to walk around the village freely, wherever you want, until his master comes. His master, the daimyo, will decide your fate. Until then, you are permitted to live as a guest in the headman’s house and come and go as you please. But you are not to leave the village. Your crew are confined to their house and are not allowed to leave it. Do you understand?”

  “Yes. Where are my crew?”

  Father Sebastio pointed vaguely at a cluster of houses near a wharf, obviously distressed by Omi’s decision and impatience. “There! Enjoy your freedom, pirate. Your evil’s caught up with—”

  “Wakarimasu ka?” Omi said directly to Blackthorne.

  “He says, ‘Do you understand?’”

  “What’s ‘yes’ in Japanese?”

  Father Sebastio said to the samurai, “Wakarimasu.”

  Omi disdainfully waved them away. They all bowed low. Except one man who rose deliberately, without bowing.

  With blinding speed the killing sword made a hissing silver arc and the man’s head toppled off his shoulders and a fountain of blood sprayed the earth. The body rippled a few times and was still. Involuntarily, the priest had backed off a pace. No one else in the street had moved a muscle. Their heads remained low and motionless. Blackthorne was rigid, in shock.

  Omi put his foot carelessly on the corpse.

  “Ikinasai!” he said, motioning them away.

  The men in front of him bowed again, to the earth. Then they got up and went away impassively. The street began to empty. And the shops.

  Father Sebastio looked down at the body. Gravely he made the sign of the cross over him and said, “In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti.” He stared back at the samurai without fear now.

  “Ikinasai!” The tip of the gleaming sword rested on the body.

  After a long moment the priest turned and walked away. With dignity. Omi watched him narrowly, then glanced at Blackthorne. Blackthorne backed away and then, when safely distant, he quickly turned a corner and vanished.

  Omi began to laugh uproariously. The street was empty now. When his laughter was exhausted, he grasped his sword with both hands and began to hack the body methodically into small pieces.

  Blackthorne was in a small boat, the boatman sculling happily toward Erasmus. He had had no trouble in getting the boat and he could see men on the main deck. All were samurai. Some had steel breastplates but most wore simple kimonos, as the robes were called, and the two swords. All wore their hair the same way: the top of the head shaved and the hair at the back and sides gathered into a queue, oiled, then doubled over the crown and tied neatly. Only samurai were allowed this style and, for them, it was obligatory. Only samurai could wear the two swords—always the long, two-handed killing sword and the short, daggerlike one—and, for them, the swords were obligatory.

  The samurai lined the gunwales of his ship watching him.

  Filled with disquiet, he climbed up the gangway and came on deck. One samurai, more elaborately dressed than the others, came over to him and bowed. Blackthorne had learned well and he bowed back equally and everyone on the deck beamed genially. He still felt the horror of the sudden killing in the street, and their smiles did not allay his foreboding. He went toward the companionway and stopped abruptly. Across the doorway was pasted a wide band of red silk and, beside it, a small sign with queer, squiggled writing. He hesitated, checked the other door, but that too was sealed up with a similar band, and a similar sign was nailed to the bulkhead.

  He reached out to remove the silk.

  “Hotté oké!” To make the point quite clear the samurai on guard shook his head. He was no longer smiling.

  “But this is my ship and I want …” Blackthorne bottled his anxiety, eyes on the swords. I’ve got to get below, he thought. I’ve got to get the rutters, mine and the secret one. Christ Jesus, if they’re found and given to the priests or to the Japaners we’re finished. Any court in the world—outside of England and the Netherlands—would convict us as pirates with that evidence. My rutter gives dates, places, and amounts of plunder taken, the number of dead at our three landings in the Americas and the one in Spanish Africa, the number of churches sacked, and how we burned the towns and the shipping. And the Portuguese rutter? That’s our death warrant, for of course it’s stolen. At least it was bought from a Portuguese traitor, and by their law any foreigner caught in possession of any rutter of theirs, let alone one that unlocks the Magellan, is to be put to death at once. And if the rutter is found aboard an enemy ship, the ship is to be burned and all aboard executed without mercy.

  “Nan no yoda?” one of the samurai said.

  “Do you speak Portuguese?” Blackthorne asked in that language.

  The man shrugged. “Wakarimasen.”

  Another came forward and deferentially spoke to the leader, who nodded in agreement.

  “Portugeezu friend,” this samurai said in heavily accented Portuguese. He opened the top of his kimono and showed the small wooden crucifix that hung from his neck.

  “Christ’an!” He pointed at himself and smiled. “Christ’an.” He pointed at Blackthorne. “Christ’an ka?”

  Blackthorne hesitated, nodded. “Christian.”



  The man chattered with the leader, then both shrugged and looked back at him. “Portugeezu?”

  Blackthorne shook his head, not liking to disagree with them on anything. “My friends? Where?”

  The samurai pointed to the east end of the village. “Friends.”

  “This is my ship. I want to go below.” Blackthorne said it in several ways and with signs and they understood.

  “Ah, so desu! Kinjiru,” they said emphatically, indicating the notice, and beamed.

  It was quite clear that he was not allowed to go below. Kinjiru must mean forbidden, Blackthorne thought irritably. Well, to hell with that! He snapped the handle of the door down and opened it a fraction.


  He was jerked around to face the samurai. Their swords were half out of the scabbards. Motionlessly the two men waited for him to make up his mind. Others on deck watched impassively.

  Blackthorne knew he had no option but to back down, so he shrugged and walked away and checked the hawsers and the ship as best he could. The tattered sails were down and tied in place. But the lashings were different from any he’d ever seen, so he presumed that the Japaners had made the vessel secure. He started down the gangway, and stopped. He felt the cold sweat as he saw them all staring at him malevolently and he thought, Christ Jesus, how could I be so stupid. He bowed politely and at once the hostility vanished and they all bowed and were smiling again. But he could still feel the sweat trickling down his spine and he hated everything about the Japans and wished himself and his crew back aboard, armed, and out to sea.

  “By the Lord Jesus, I think you’re wrong, Pilot,” Vinck said. His toothless grin was wide and obscene. “If you can put up with the swill they call food, it’s the best place I’ve been. Ever. I’ve had two women in three days and they’re like rabbits. They’ll do anything if you show ’em how.”

  “That’s right. But you can’t do nothing without meat or brandy. Nor for long. I’m tired out, and I could only do it once,” Maetsukker said, his narrow face twitching. “The yellow bastards won’t understand that we need meat and beer and bread. And brandy or wine.”

  “That’s the worst! Lord Jesus, my kingdom for some grog!” Baccus van Nekk was filled with gloom. He walked over and stood close to Blackthorne and peered up at him. He was very nearsighted and had lost his last pair of spectacles in the storm. But even with them he would always stand as close as possible. He was chief merchant, treasurer, and representative of the Dutch East India Company that had put up the money for the voyage. “We’re ashore and safe and I haven’t had a drink yet. Not a beautiful drop! Terrible. Did you get any, Pilot?”
/>   “No.” Blackthorne disliked having anyone near him, but Baccus was a friend and almost blind so he did not move away. “Just hot water with herbs in it.”

  “They simply won’t understand grog. Nothing to drink but hot water and herbs—the good Lord help us! Suppose there’s no liquor in the whole country!” His eyebrows soared. “Do me a huge favor, Pilot. Ask for some liquor, will you?”

  Blackthorne had found the house that they had been assigned on the eastern edge of the village. The samurai guard had let him pass, but his men had confirmed that they themselves could not go out of the garden gate. The house was many-roomed like his, but bigger and staffed with many servants of various ages, both men and women.

  There were eleven of his men alive. The dead had been taken away by the Japanese. Lavish portions of fresh vegetables had begun to banish the scurvy and all but two of the men were healing rapidly. These two had blood in their bowels and their insides were fluxed. Vinck had bled them but this had not helped. By nightfall he expected them to die. The Captain-General was in another room, still very sick.

  Sonk, the cook, a stocky little man, was saying with a laugh, “It’s good here, like Johann says, Pilot, excepting the food and no grog. And it’s all right with the natives so long as you don’t wear your shoes in the house. It sends the little yellow bastards mad if you don’t take off your shoes.”

  “Listen,” Blackstone said. “There’s a priest here. A Jesuit.”

  “Christ Jesus!” All banter left them as he told them about the priest and about the beheading.

  “Why’d he chop the man’s head off, Pilot?”

  “I don’t know.”

  “We better get back aboard. If Papists catch us ashore …”

  There was great fear in the room now. Salamon, the mute, watched Blackthorne. His mouth worked, a bubble of phlegm appearing at the corners.

  “No, Salamon, there’s no mistake,” Blackthorne said kindly, answering the silent question. “He said he was Jesuit.”

  “Christ, Jesuit or Dominican or what-the-hell-ever makes no muck-eating difference,” Vinck said. “We’d better get back aboard. Pilot, you ask that samurai, eh?”

  “We’re in God’s hands,” Jan Roper said. He was one of the merchant adventurers, a narrow-eyed young man with a high forehead and thin nose. “He will protect us from the Satan worshipers.”

  Vinck looked back at Blackthorne. “What about Portuguese, Pilot? Did you see any around?”

  “No. There were no signs of them in the village.”

  “They’ll swarm here soon as they know about us.” Maetsukker said it for all of them and the boy Croocq let out a moan.

  “Yes, and if there’s one priest, there’s got to be others.” Ginsel licked dry lips. “And then their God-cursed conquistadores are never far away.”

  “That’s right,” Vinck added uneasily. “They’re like lice.”

  “Christ Jesus! Papists!” someone muttered. “And conquistadores!”

  “But we’re in the Japans, Pilot?” van Nekk asked. “He told you that?”

  “Yes. Why?”

  Van Nekk moved closer and dropped his voice. “If priests are here, and some of the natives are Catholic, perhaps the other part’s true—about the riches, the gold and silver and precious stones.” A hush fell on them. “Did you see any, Pilot? Any gold? Any gems on the natives, or gold?”

  “No. None.” Blackthorne thought a moment. “I don’t remember seeing any. No necklaces or beads or bracelets. Listen, there’s something else to tell you. I went aboard Erasmus but she’s sealed up.” He related what had happened and their anxiety increased.

  “Jesus, if we can’t go back aboard and there are priests ashore and Papists…. We’ve got to get away from here.” Maetsukker’s voice began to tremble. “Pilot, what are we going to do? They’ll burn us! Conquistadores—those bastards’ll shove their swords …”

  “We’re in God’s hands,” Jan Roper called out confidently. “He will protect us from the anti-Christ. That’s His promise. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

  Blackthorne said, “The way the samurai Omi-san snarled at the priest—I’m sure he hated him. That’s good, eh? What I’d like to know is why the priest wasn’t wearing their usual robes. Why the orange one? I’ve never seen that before.”

  “Yes, that’s curious,” van Nekk said.

  Blackthorne looked up at him. “Maybe their hold here isn’t strong. That could help us greatly.”

  “What should we do, Pilot?” Ginsel asked.

  “Be patient and wait till their chief, this daimyo, comes. He’ll let us go. Why shouldn’t he? We’ve done them no harm. We’ve goods to trade. We’re not pirates, we’ve nothing to fear.”

  “Very true, and don’t forget the Pilot said the savages aren’t all Papists,” van Nekk said, more to encourage himself than the others. “Yes. It’s good the samurai hated the priest. And it’s only the samurai who are armed. That’s not so bad, eh? Just watch out for the samurai and get our weapons back—that’s the idea. We’ll be aboard before you know it.”

  “What happens if this daimyo’s Papist?” Jan Roper asked. No one answered him. Then Ginsel said, “Pilot, the man with the sword? He cut the other wog into pieces, after chopping his head off?” “Yes.”

  “Christ! They’re barbarians! Lunatics!” Ginsel was tall, a good-looking youth with short arms and very bowed legs. The scurvy had taken all his teeth. “After he chopped his head off, the others just walked away? Without saying anything?”


  “Christ Jesus, an unarmed man, murdered, just like that? Why’d he do it? Why’d he kill him?”

  “I don’t know, Ginsel. But you’ve never seen such speed. One moment the sword was sheathed, the next the man’s head was rolling.”

  “God protect us!”

  “Dear Lord Jesus,” van Nekk murmured. “If we can’t get back to the ship…. God damn that storm, I feel so helpless without my spectacles!”

  “How many samurai were aboard, Pilot?” Ginsel asked.

  “Twenty-two were on deck. But there were more ashore.”

  “The wrath of God will be upon the heathen and on sinners and they’ll burn in hell for all eternity.”

  “I’d like to be sure of that, Jan Roper,” Blackthorne said, an edge to his voice, as he felt the fear of God’s vengeance sweep through the room. He was very tired and wanted to sleep.

  “You can be sure, Pilot, oh yes, I am. I pray that your eyes are opened to God’s truth. That you come to realize we’re here only because of you—what’s left of us.”

  “What?” Blackthorne said dangerously.

  “Why did you really persuade the Captain-General to try for the Japans? It wasn’t in our orders. We were to pillage the New World, to carry the war into the enemy’s belly, then go home.”

  “There were Spanish ships south and north of us and nowhere else to run. Has your memory gone along with your wits? We had to sail west—it was our only chance.”

  “I never saw enemy ships, Pilot. None of us did.”

  “Come now, Jan,” van Nekk said wearily. “The Pilot did what he thought best. Of course the Spaniards were there.”

  “Aye, that’s the truth, and we was a thousand leagues from friends and in enemy waters, by God!” Vinck spat. “That’s the God’s truth—and the God’s truth was we put it to a vote. We all said yes.”

  “I didn’t.”

  Sonk said, “No one asked me.”

  “Oh, Christ Jesus!”

  “Calm down, Johann,” van Nekk said, trying to ease the tension. “We’re the first ones to reach the Japans. Remember all the stories, eh? We’re rich if we keep our wits. We have trade goods and there’s gold here—there must be. Where else could we sell our cargo? Not there in the New World, hunted and harried! They were hunting us and the Spaniards knew we were off Santa Maria. We had to quit Chile and there was no escape back through the Strait—of course they’d be lying in wait for us, of course they would! No
, here was our only chance and a good idea. Our cargo exchanged for spices and gold and silver, eh? Think of the profit—a thousandfold, that’s usual. We’re in the Spice Islands. You know the riches of the Japans and Cathay, you’ve heard about them forever. We all have. Why else did we all sign on? We’ll be rich, you’ll see!”

  “We’re dead men, like all the others. We’re in the land of Satan.”

  Vinck said angrily, “Shut your mouth, Roper! The Pilot did right. Not his fault the others died—not his fault. Men always die on these voyages.”

  Jan Roper’s eyes were flecked, the pupils tiny. “Yes, God rest their souls. My brother was one.”

  Blackthorne looked into the fanatic eyes, hating Jan Roper. Inside he was asking himself if he had really sailed west to elude the enemy ships. Or was it because he was the first English pilot through the Strait, first in position, ready and able to stab west and therefore first with the chance of circumnavigating?

  Jan Roper hissed, “Didn’t the others die through your ambition, Pilot? God will punish you!”

  “Now hold your tongue.” Blackthorne’s words were soft and final.

  Jan Roper stared back with the same frozen hatchet face, but he kept his mouth shut.

  “Good.” Blackthorne sat tiredly on the floor and rested against one of the uprights.

  “What should we do, Pilot?”

  “Wait and get fit. Their chief is coming soon—then we’ll get everything settled.”

  Vinck was looking out into the garden at the samurai who sat motionless on his heels beside the gateway. “Look at that bastard. Been there for hours, never moves, never says anything, doesn’t even pick his nose.”

  “He’s been no trouble though, Johann. None at all,” van Nekk said.

  “Yes, but all we’ve been doing is sleeping and fornicating and eating the swill.”

  “Pilot, he’s only one man. We’re ten,” Ginsel said quietly.

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