CHAPTER 7 : Part 2 – Shogun

CHAPTER 7 : Part 2 – Shogun

  What about the barbarians? Now they’re your only profit from the ship. How can you use them? Wait, didn’t Omi give you the answer? You could use their knowledge of the sea and ships to barter with Toranaga for guns. Neh?

  Another possibility: become Toranaga’s vassal completely. Give him your plan. Ask him to allow you to lead the Regiment of the Guns—for his glory. But a vassal should never expect his lord to reward his services or even acknowledge them: To serve is duty, duty is samurai, samurai is immortality. That would be the best way, the very best, Yabu thought. Can I truly be his vassal? Or Ishido’s?

  No, that’s unthinkable. Ally yes, vassal no.

  Good, so the barbarians are an asset after all. Omi’s right again.

  He had felt more composed and then, when the time had come and a messenger had brought the information that the ship was loaded, he had gone to Hiro-matsu and discovered that now he had lost even the barbarians.

  He was boiling when he reached the jetty.


  “Yes, Yabu-sama?”

  “Bring the barbarian leader here. I’m taking him to Osaka. As to the others, see that they’re well cared for while I’m away. I want them fit, and well behaved. Use the pit if you have to.”

  Ever since the galley had arrived, Omi’s mind had been in a turmoil and he had been filled with anxiety for Yabu’s safety. “Let me come with you, Lord. Perhaps I can help.”

  “No, now I want you to look after the barbarians.”

  “Please. Perhaps in some small way I can repay your kindness to me.”

  “There’s no need,” Yabu said, more kindly than he wanted to. He remembered that he had increased Omi’s salary to three thousand koku and extended his fief because of the bullion and the guns. Which now had vanished. But he had seen the concern that filled the youth and had felt an involuntary warmth. With vassals like this, I will carve an empire, he promised himself. Omi will lead one of the units when I get back my guns. “When war comes—well, I’ll have a very important job for you, Omi-san. Now go and get the barbarian.”

  Omi took four guards with him. And Mura to interpret.

  Blackthorne was dragged out of sleep. It took him a minute to clear his head. When the fog lifted Omi was staring down at him.

  One of the samurai had pulled the quilt off him, another had shaken him awake, the other two carried thin, vicious-looking bamboo canes. Mura had a short coil of rope.

  Mura knelt and bowed. “Konnichi wa”—Good day.

  “Konnichi wa.” Blackthorne pulled himself onto his knees and, though he was naked, he bowed with equal politeness.

  It’s only a politeness, Blackthorne told himself. It’s their custom and they bow for good manners so there’s no shame to it. And nakedness is ignored and is also their custom, and there’s no shame to nakedness either.

  “Anjin. Please to dress,” Mura said.

  Anjin? Ah, I remember now. The priest said they can’t pronounce my name so they’ve given me the name “Anjin” which means “pilot” and this is not meant as an insult. And I will be called “Anjin-san”—Mr. Pilot—when I merit it.

  Don’t look at Omi, he cautioned himself. Not yet. Don’t remember the village square and Omi and Croocq and Pieterzoon. One thing at a time. That’s what you’re going to do. That’s what you have sworn before God to do: One thing at a time. Vengeance will be mine, by the Lord God.

  Blackthorne saw that his clothes had been cleaned again and he blessed whoever had done it. He had crawled out of his clothes in the bath house as though they had been plague-infested. Three times he had made them scour his back. With the roughest sponge and with pumice. But he could still feel the piss-burn.

  He took his eyes off Mura and looked at Omi. He derived a twisted pleasure from the knowledge that his enemy was alive and nearby.

  He bowed as he had seen equals bow and he held the bow. “Konnichi wa, Omi-san,” he said. There’s no shame in speaking their language, no shame in saying “good day” or in bowing first as is their custom.

  Omi bowed back.

  Blackthorne noted that it was not quite equal, but it was enough for the moment.

  “Konnichi wa, Anjin,” Omi said.

  The voice was polite, but not enough.

  “Anjin-san!” Blackthorne looked directly at him.

  Their wills locked and Omi was called as a man is called at cards or at dice. Do you have manners?

  “Konnichi wa, Anjin-san,” Omi said at length, with a brief smile.

  Blackthorne dressed quickly.

  He wore loose trousers and a codpiece, socks and shirt and coat, his long hair tied into a neat queue and his beard trimmed with scissors the barber had loaned to him.

  “Hai, Omi-san?” Blackthorne asked when he was dressed, feeling better but very guarded, wishing he had more words to use.

  “Please, hand,” Mura said.

  Blackthorne did not understand and said so with signs. Mura held out his own hands and parodied tying them together. “Hand, please.”

  “No.” Blackthorne said it directly to Omi and shook his head. “That’s not necessary,” he said in English, “not necessary at all. I’ve given my word.” He kept his voice gentle and reasonable, then added harshly, copying Omi, “Wakarimasu ka. Omi-san?” Do you understand?

  Omi laughed. Then he said, “Hai, Anjin-san. Wakarimasu.” He turned and left.

  Mura and the others stared after him, astounded. Blackthorne followed Omi into the sun. His boots had been cleaned. Before he could slip them on, the maid “Onna” was there on her knees and she helped him.

  “Thank you, Haku-san,” he said, remembering her real name. What’s the word for “thank you”? he wondered.

  He walked through the gate, Omi ahead.

  I’m after you, you God-cursed bas—Wait a minute! Remember what you promised yourself? And why swear at him, even to yourself? He hasn’t sworn at you. Swearing’s for the weak, or for fools. Isn’t it?

  One thing at a time. It is enough that you are after him. You know it clearly and he knows it clearly. Make no mistake, he knows it very clearly.

  The four samurai flanked Blackthorne as he walked down the hill, the harbor still hidden from him, Mura discreetly ten paces back, Omi ahead.

  Are they going to put me underground again? he wondered. Why did they want to bind my hands? Didn’t Omi say yesterday—Christ Jesus, was that only yesterday?—‘If you behave you can stay out of the pit. If you behave, tomorrow another man will be taken out of the pit. Perhaps. And more, perhaps.’ Isn’t that what he said? Have I behaved? I wonder how Croocq is. The lad was alive when they carried him off to the house where the crew first stayed.

  Blackthorne felt better today. The bath and the sleep and the fresh food had begun to repair him. He knew that if he was careful and could rest and sleep and eat, within a month he would be able to run a mile and swim a mile and command a fighting ship and take her around the earth.

  Don’t think about that yet! Just guard your strength this day. A month’s not much to hope for, eh?

  The walk down the hill and through the village was tiring him. You’re weaker than you thought…. No, you are stronger than you thought, he ordered himself.

  The masts of Erasmus jutted over the tiled roofs and his heart quickened. Ahead the street curved with the contour of the hillside, slid down to the square and ended. A curtained palanquin stood in the sun. Four bearers in brief loincloths squatted beside it, absently picking their teeth. The moment they saw Omi they were on their knees, bowing mightily.

  Omi barely nodded at them as he strode past, but then a girl came out of the neat gateway to go to the palanquin and he stopped.

  Blackthorne caught his breath and stopped also.

  A young maid ran out to hold a green parasol to shade the girl. Omi bowed and the girl bowed and they talked happily to each other, the strutting arrogance vanishing from Omi.

  The girl wore a peach-colored kimono and a wide sash of gold and gold-thonged slipp
ers. Blackthorne saw her glance at him. Clearly she and Omi were discussing him. He did not know how to react, or what to do, so he did nothing but wait patiently, glorying in the sight of her, the cleanliness and the warmth of her presence. He wondered if she and Omi were lovers, or if she was Omi’s wife, and he thought, Is she truly real?

  Omi asked her something and she answered and fluttered her green fan that shimmered and danced in the sunlight, her laugh musical, the delicacy of her exquisite. Omi was smiling too, then he turned on his heel and strode off, samurai once more.

  Blackthorne followed. Her eyes were on him as he passed and he said, “Konnichi wa.”

  “Konnichi wa, Anjin-san,” she replied, her voice touching him. She was barely five feet tall and perfect. As she bowed slightly the breeze shook the outer silk and showed the beginnings of the scarlet under-kimono, which he found surprisingly erotic.

  The girl’s perfume still surrounded him as he turned the corner. He saw the trapdoor and Erasmus. And the galley. The girl vanished from his mind.

  Why are our gun ports empty? Where are our cannon and what in the name of Christ is a slave galley doing here and what’s happened in the pit?

  One thing at a time.

  First Erasmus: the stub of the foremast that the storm had carried away jutted nastily. That doesn’t matter, he thought. We could get her out to sea easily. We could slip the moorings—the night airflow and the tide would take us out silently and we could careen tomorrow on the far side of that speck of island. Half a day to step the spare mast and then all sails ho and away into the far deep. Maybe it’d be better not to anchor but to flee to safer waters. But who’d crew? You can’t take her out by yourself.

  Where did that slaver come from? And why is it here?

  He could see knots of samurai and sailors down at the wharf. The sixty-oared vessel—thirty oars a side—was neat and trim, the oars stacked with care, ready for instant departure, and he shivered involuntarily. The last time he’d seen a galley was off the Gold Coast two years ago when his fleet was outward bound, all five ships together. She had been a rich coastal trader, a Portuguese, and she was fleeing from him against the wind. Erasmus could not catch her, to capture her or sink her.

  Blackthorne knew the North African coast well. He had been a pilot and ship’s master for ten years for the London Company of Barbary Merchants, the joint stock company that fitted out fighting merchantmen to run the Spanish blockade and trade the Barbary Coast. He had piloted to West and North Africa, south as far as Lagos, north and eastward through the teacherous straits of Gibraltar—ever Spanish patrolled—as far as Salerno in the Kingdom of Naples. The Mediterranean was dangerous to English and Dutch shipping. Spanish and Portuguese enemy were there in strength and, worse, the Ottomans, the infidel Turks, swarmed the seas with slave galleys and with fighting ships.

  These voyages had been very profitable for him and he had bought his own ship, a hundred-fifty-ton brig, to trade on his own behalf. But he had had her sunk under him and lost everything. They had been caught a-lee, windless off Sardinia, when the Turk galley had come out of the sun. The fight was cruel and then, toward sunset, the enemy ram caught their stem and they were boarded fast. He had never forgotten the screaming cry ‘Allahhhhhhhh!’ as the corsairs came over his gunwales. They were armed with swords and with muskets. He had rallied his men and the first attack had been beaten off, but the second overwhelmed them and he ordered the magazine fired. His ship was in flames and he decided that it was better to die than to be put to the oars. He had always had a mortal terror of being taken alive and made a galley slave—not an unusual fate for a captured seaman.

  When the magazine blew, the explosion tore the bottom out of his ship and destroyed part of the corsair galley and, in the confusion, he managed to swim to the longboat and escape with four of the crew. Those who could not swim to him he had had to leave and he still remembered their cries for help in God’s name. But God had turned His face from those men that day, so they had perished or gone to the oars. And God had kept His face on Blackthorne and the four men that time, and they had managed to reach Cagliari in Sardinia. And from there they had made it home, penniless.

  That was eight years ago, the same year that plague had erupted again in London. Plague and famine and riots of the starving unemployed. His younger brother and family had been wiped out. His own first-born son had perished. But in the winter the plague vanished and he had easily got a new ship and gone to sea to repair his fortune. First for the London Company of Barbary Merchants. Then a voyage to the West Indies hunting Spaniards. After that, a little richer, he navigated for Kees Veerman, the Dutchman, on his second voyage to search for the legendary Northeast Passage to Cathay and the Spice Islands of Asia, that was supposed to exist in the Ice Seas, north of tsarist Russia. They searched for two years, then Kees Veerman died in the Arctic wastes with eighty percent of the crew and Blackthorne turned back and led the rest of the men home. Then, three years ago, he’d been approached by the newly formed Dutch East India Company and asked to pilot their first expedition to the New World. They whispered secretly that they had acquired, at huge cost, a contraband Portuguese rutter that supposedly gave away the secrets of Magellan’s Strait, and they wanted to prove it. Of course the Dutch merchants would have preferred to use one of their own pilots, but there was none to compare in quality with Englishmen trained by the monopolistic Trinity House, and the awesome value of this rutter forced them to gamble on Blackthorne. But he was the perfect choice: He was the best Protestant pilot alive, his mother had been Dutch, and he spoke Dutch perfectly. Blackthorne had agreed enthusiastically and accepted the fifteen percent of all profit as his fee and, as was custom, had solemnly, before God, sworn allegiance to the Company and vowed to take their fleet out, and to bring it home again.

  By God, I am going to bring Erasmus home, Blackthorne thought. And with as many of the men as He leaves alive.

  They were crossing the square now and he took his eyes off the slaver and saw the three samurai guarding the trapdoor. They were eating deftly from bowls with the wooden sticks that Blackthorne had seen them use many times but could not manage himself.

  “Omi-san!” With signs he explained that he wanted to go to the trapdoor, just to shout down to his friends. Only for a moment. But Omi shook his head and said something he did not understand and continued across the square, down the foreshore, past the cauldron, and on to the jetty. Blackthorne followed obediently. One thing at a time, he told himself. Be patient.

  Once on the jetty, Omi turned and called back to the guards on the trapdoor. Blackthorne saw them open the trapdoor and peer down. One of them beckoned to villagers who fetched the ladder and a full fresh-water barrel and carried it below. The empty one they brought back aloft. And the latrine barrel.

  There! If you’re patient and play their game with their rules, you can help your crew, he thought with satisfaction.

  Groups of samurai were collected near the galley. A tall old man was standing apart. From the deference that the daimyo Yabu showed him, and the way the others jumped at his slightest remark, Blackthorne immediately realized his importance. Is he their king? he wondered.

  Omi knelt with humility. The old man half bowed, turned his eyes on him.

  Mustering as much grace as he could, Blackthorne knelt and put his hands flat on the sand floor of the jetty, as Omi had done, and bowed as low as Omi.

  “Konnichi wa, Sama,” he said politely.

  He saw the old man half bow again.

  Now there was a discussion between Yabu and the old man and Omi. Yabu spoke to Mura.

  Mura pointed at the galley. “Anjin-san. Please there.”


  “Go! Now. Go!”

  Blackthorne felt his panic rising. “Why?”

  “Isogi!” Omi commanded, waving him toward the galley.

  “No, I’m not going to—”

  There was an immediate order from Omi and four samurai fell on Blackthorne and pin
ioned his arms. Mura produced the rope and began to bind his hands behind him.

  “You sons of bitches!” Blackthorne shouted. “I’m not going to go aboard that God-cursed slave ship!”

  “Madonna! Leave him alone! Hey, you piss-eating monkeys, let that bastard alone! Kinjiru, neh? Is he the pilot? The Anjin, ka?”

  Blackthorne could scarcely believe his ears. The boisterous abuse in Portuguese had come from the deck of the galley. Then he saw the man start down the gangway. As tall as he and about his age, but black-haired and dark-eyed and carelessly dressed in seaman’s clothes, rapier by his side, pistols in his belt. A jeweled crucifix hung from his neck. He wore a jaunty cap and a smile split his face.

  “Are you the pilot? The pilot of the Dutchman?”

  “Yes,” Blackthorne heard himself reply.

  “Good. Good. I’m Vasco Rodrigues, pilot of this galley!” He turned to the old man and spoke a mixture of Japanese and Portuguese, and called him Monkey-sama and sometimes Toda-sama but the way it sounded it came out “Toady-sama.” Twice he pulled out his pistol and pointed it emphatically at Blackthorne and stuck it back in his belt, his Japanese heavily laced with sweet vulgarities in gutter Portuguese that only seafarers would understand.

  Hiro-matsu spoke briefly and the samurai released Blackthorne and Mura untied him.

  “That’s better. Listen, Pilot, this man’s like a king. I told him I’d be responsible for you, that I’d blow your head off as soon as drink with you!” Rodrigues bowed to Hiro-matsu, then beamed at Blackthorne. “Bow to the Bastard-sama.”

  Dreamlike. Blackthorne did as he was told.

  “You do that like a Japper,” Rodrigues said with a grin. “You’re really the pilot?”


  “What’s the latitude of The Lizard?”

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