CHAPTER 8 : Part 1 – Shogun

CHAPTER 8 : Part 1 – Shogun

  “What do you think, Ingeles?”

  “I think there’ll be a storm.”


  “Before sunset.”

  It was near noon and they were standing on the quarterdeck of the galley under a gray overcast. This was the second day out to sea.

  “If this was your ship, what would you do?”

  “How far is it to our landfall?” Blackthorne asked.

  “After sunset.”

  “How far to the nearest land?”

  “Four or five hours, Ingeles. But to run for cover will cost us half a day and I can’t afford that. What would you do?”

  Blackthorne thought a moment. During the first night the galley had sped southward down the east coast of the Izu peninsula, helped by the large sail on the midships mast. When they had come abreast of the southmost cape, Cape Ito, Rodrigues had set the course West South West and had left the safety of the coast for the open sea, heading for a landfall at Cape Shinto two hundred miles away.

  “Normally in one of these galleys we’d hug the coast—for safety,” Rodrigues had said, “but that’d take too much time and time is important. Toranaga asked me to pilot Toady to Anjiro and back. Quickly. There’s a bonus for me if we’re very quick. One of their pilots’d be just as good on a short haul like this, but the poor son of a whore’d be frightened to death carrying so important a daimyo as Toady, particularly out of sight of land. They’re not oceaners, Japmen. Great pirates and fighters and coastal sailors. But the deep frightens them. The old Taikō even made a law that the few ocean ships Japmen possess were always to have Portuguese pilots aboard. It’s still the law of their land today.”

  “Why did he do that?”

  Rodrigues shrugged. “Perhaps someone suggested it to him.”


  “Your stolen rutter, Ingeles, the Portuguese one. Whose was it?”

  “I don’t know. There was no name on it, no signature.”

  “Where’d you get it?”

  “From the chief merchant of the Dutch East India Company.”

  “Where’d he get it from?”

  Blackthorne shrugged.

  Rodrigues’ laugh had no humor in it. “Well, I never expected you to tell me—but whoever stole it and sold it, I hope he burns in hellfire forever!”

  “You’re employed by this Toranaga, Rodrigues?”

  “No. I was just visiting Osaka, my Captain and I. This was just a favor to Toranaga. My Captain volunteered me. I’m pilot of the—” Rodrigues had stopped. “I keep forgetting you’re the enemy, Ingeles.”

  “Portugal and England have been allies for centuries.”

  “But we’re not now. Go below, Ingeles. You’re tired and so am I and tired men make mistakes. Come on deck when you’re rested.”

  So Blackthorne had gone below to the pilot’s cabin and had lain on the bunk. Rodrigues’ rutter of the voyage was on the sea desk which was pinned to the bulkhead like the pilot’s chair on the quarter-deck. The book was leather-covered and used but Blackthorne did not open it.

  “Why leave it there?” he had asked previously.

  “If I didn’t, you’d search for it. But you won’t touch it there—or even look at it—uninvited. You’re a pilot—not a pig-bellied whoring thieving merchant or soldier.”

  “I’ll read it. You would.”

  “Not uninvited, Ingeles. No pilot’d do that. Even I wouldn’t!”

  Blackthorne had watched the book for a moment and then he closed his eyes. He slept deeply, all of that day and part of the night. It was just before dawn when he awoke as always. It took time to adjust to the untoward motion of the galley and the throb of the drum that kept the oars moving as one. He lay comfortably on his back in the dark, his arms under his head. He thought about his own ship and put away his worry of what would happen when they reached shore and Osaka. One thing at a time. Think about Felicity and Tudor and home. No, not now. Think that if other Portuguese are like Rodrigues, you’ve a good chance now. You’ll get a ship home. Pilots are not enemies and the pox on other things! But you can’t say that, lad. You’re English, the hated heretic and anti-Christ. Catholics own this world. They owned it. Now we and the Dutch’re going to smash them.

  What nonsense it all is! Catholic and Protestant and Calvinist and Lutherist and every other shitist. You should have been born Catholic. It was only fate that took your father to Holland where he met a woman, Anneke van Droste, who became his wife and he saw Spanish Catholics and Spanish priests and the Inquisition for the first time. I’m glad he had his eyes opened, Blackthorne thought. I’m glad mine are open.

  Then he had gone on deck. Rodrigues was in his chair, his eyes red-rimmed with sleeplessness, two Japanese sailors on the helm as before.

  “Can I take this watch for you?”

  “How do you feel, Ingeles?”

  “Rested. Can I take the watch for you?” Blackthorne saw Rodrigues measuring him. “I’ll wake you if the wind changes—anything.”

  “Thank you, Ingeles. Yes, I’ll sleep a little. Maintain this course. At the turn, go four degrees more westerly and at the next, six more westerly. You’ll have to point the new course on the compass for the helmsman. Wakarimasu ka?”

  “Hai!” Blackthorne laughed. “Four points westerly it is. Go below, Pilot, your bunk’s comfortable.”

  But Vasco Rodrigues did not go below. He merely pulled his sea cloak closer and settled deeper into the seachair. Just before the turn of the hourglass he awoke momentarily and checked the course change without moving and immediately went back to sleep again. Once when the wind veered he awoke and then; when he had seen there was no danger, again he slept.

  Hiro-matsu and Yabu came on deck during the morning. Blackthorne noticed their surprise that he was conning the ship and Rodrigues sleeping. They did not talk to him, but returned to their conversation and, later, they went below again.

  Near midday Rodrigues h
ad risen from the seachair to stare north-east, sniffing the wind, all his senses concentrated. Both men studied the sea and the sky and the encroaching clouds.

  “What would you do, Ingeles, if this was your ship?” Rodrigues said again.

  “I’d run for the coast if I knew where it was—the nearest point. This craft won’t take much water and there’s a storm there all right. About four hours away.”

  “Can’t be tai-fun,” Rodrigues muttered.


  “Tai-fun. They’re huge winds—the worst storms you’ve ever seen. But we’re not in tai-fun season.”

  “When’s that?”

  “It’s not now, enemy.” Rodrigues laughed. “No, not now. But it could be rotten enough so I’ll take your piss-cutting advice. Steer North by West.”

  As Blackthorne pointed the new course and the helmsman turned the ship neatly, Rodrigues went to the rail and shouted at the captain, “Isogi! Captain-san. Wakarimasu ka?”

  “Isogi, hai!”

  “What’s that? Hurry up?”

  The corners of Rodrigues’ eyes crinkled with amusement. “No harm in you knowing a little Japman talk, eh? Sure, Ingeles, ‘isogi’ means to hurry. All you need here’s about ten words and then you can make the buggers shit if you want to. If they’re the right words, of course, and if they’re in the mood. I’ll go below now and get some food.”

  “You cook too?”

  “In Japland, every civilized man has to cook, or personally has to train one of the monkeys to cook, or you starve to death. All they eat’s raw fish, raw vegetables in sweet pickled vinegar. But life here can be a piss-cutter if you know how.”

  “Is ‘piss-cutter’ good or bad?”

  “It’s mostly very good but sometimes terribly bad. It all depends how you feel and you ask too many questions.”

  Rodrigues went below. He barred his cabin door and carefully checked the lock on his sea chest. The hair that he had placed so delicately was still there. And a similar hair, equally invisible to anyone but him, that he had put on the cover of his rutter was also untouched.

  You can’t be too careful in this world, Rodrigues thought. Is there any harm in his knowing that you’re pilot of the Nao del Trato, this year’s great Black Ship from Macao? Perhaps. Because then you’d have to explain that she’s a leviathan, one of the richest, biggest ships in the world, more than sixteen hundred tons. You might be tempted to tell him about her cargo, about trade and about Macao and all sorts of illuminating things that are very, very private and very, very secret. But we are at war, us against the English and Dutch.

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