CHAPTER 8 : Part 2 – Shogun

CHAPTER 8 : Part 2 – Shogun

  He opened the well-oiled lock and took out his private rutter to check some bearings for the nearest haven and his eyes saw the sealed packet the priest, Father Sebastio, had given him just before they had left Anjiro.

  Does it contain the Englishman’s rutters? he asked himself again.

  He weighed the package and looked at the Jesuit seals, sorely tempted to break them and see for himself. Blackthorne had told him that the Dutch squadron had come by way of Magellan’s Pass and little else. The Ingeles asks lots of questions and volunteers nothing, Rodrigues thought. He’s shrewd, clever, and dangerous.

  Are they his rutters or aren’t they? If they are, what good are they to the Holy Fathers?

  He shuddered, thinking of Jesuits and Franciscans and Dominicans and all monks and all priests and the Inquisition. There are good priests and bad priests and they’re mostly bad; but they’re still priests. The Church has to have priests and without them to intercede for us we’re lost sheep in a Satanic world. Oh, Madonna, protect me from all evil and bad priests!

  Rodrigues had been in his cabin with Blackthorne in Anjiro harbor when the door had opened and Father Sebastio had come in uninvited. They had been eating and drinking and the remains of their food was in the wooden bowls.

  “You break bread with heretics?” the priest had asked. “It’s dangerous to eat with them. They’re infectious. Did he tell you he’s a pirate?”

  “It’s only Christian to be chivalrous to your enemies, Father. When I was in their hands they were fair to me. I only return their charity.” He had knelt and kissed the priest’s cross. Then he had got up and, offering wine, he said, “How can I help you?”

  “I want to go to Osaka. With the ship.”

  “I’ll ask them at once.” He had gone and had asked the captain and the request had gradually gone up to Toda Hiro-matsu, who replied that Toranaga had said nothing about bringing a foreign priest from Anjiro so he regretted he could not bring the foreign priest from Anjiro.

  Father Sebastio had wanted to talk privately so he had sent the Englishman on deck and then, in the privacy of the cabin, the priest had brought out the sealed package.

  “I would like you to deliver this to the Father-Visitor.”

  “I don’t know if his Eminence’ll still be at Osaka when I get there.” Rodrigues did not like being a carrier of Jesuit secrets. “I might have to go back to Nagasaki. My Captain-General may have left orders for me.”

  “Then give it to Father Alvito. Make absolutely sure you put it only in his hands.”

  “Very well,” he had said.

  “When were you last at Confession, my son?”

  “On Sunday, Father.”

  “Would you like me to confess you now?”

  “Yes, thank you.” He was grateful that the priest had asked, for you never knew if your life depended on the sea and, afterwards, he had felt much better as always.

  Now in the cabin, Rodrigues put back the package, greatly tempted. Why Father Alvito? Father Martin Alvito was chief trade negotiator and had been personal interpreter for the Taikō for many years and therefore an intimate of most of the influential daimyos. Father Alvito plied between Nagasaki and Osaka and was one of the very few men, and the only European, who had had access to the Taikō at any time—an enormously clever man who spoke perfect Japanese and knew more about them and their way of life than any man in Asia. Now he was the Portuguese’s most influential mediator to the Council of Regents, and to Ishido and Toranaga in particular.

  Trust the Jesuits to get one of their men into such a vital position, Rodrigues thought with awe. Certainly if it hadn’t been for the Society of Jesus the flood of heresy would never have been stopped, Portugal and Spain might have gone Protestant, and we’d have lost our immortal souls forever. Madonna!

  “Why do you think about priests all the time?” Rodrigues asked himself aloud. “You know it makes you nervous!” Yes. Even so, why Father Alvito? If the package contains the rutters, is the package meant for one of the Christian daimyos, or Ishido or Toranaga, or just for his Eminence, the Father-Visitor himself? Or for my Captain-General? Or will the rutters be sent to Rome, for the Spaniards? Why Father Alvito? Father Sebastio could have easily said to give it to one of the other Jesuits.

  And why does Toranaga want the Ingeles?

  In my heart I know I should kill Blackthorne. He’s the enemy, he’s a heretic. But there’s something else. I’ve a feeling this Ingeles is a danger to all of us. Why should I think that? He’s a pilot—a great one. Strong. Intelligent. A good man. Nothing there to worry about. So why am I afraid? Is he evil? I like him very much but I feel I should kill him quickly and the sooner the better. Not in anger. Just to protect ourselves. Why?

  I am afraid of him.

  What to do? Leave it to the hand of God? The storm’s coming and it’ll be a bad one.

  “God curse me and my lack of wits! Why don’t I know what to do easily?”

  The storm came before sunset and caught them out to sea. Land was ten miles away. The bay they raced for was haven enough and dead ahead when they had crested the horizon. There were no shoals or reefs to navigate between them and safety, but ten miles was ten miles and the sea was rising fast, driven by the rain-soaked wind.

  The gale blew from the northeast, on the starboard quarter, and veered badly as gusts swirled easterly or northerly without pattern, the sea grim. Their course was northwest so they were mostly broadside to the swell, rolling badly, now in the trough, now sickeningly on the crest. The galley was shallow draft and built for speed and kind waters, and though the rowers were game and very disciplined, it was hard to keep their oars in the sea and their pull clean.

  “You’ll have to ship the oars and run before the wind,” Blackthorne shouted.

  “Maybe, but not yet! Where are your cojones, Ingeles?”

  “Where they should be, by God, and where I want ’em to stay!”

  Both men knew that if they turned into the wind they could never make way against the storm, so the tide and the wind would take them away from sanctuary and out to sea. And if they ran before the wind, the tide and the wind would take them away from sanctuary and out to sea as before, only faster. Southward was the Great Deep. There was no land southward for a thousand miles, or, if you were unlucky, for a thousand leagues.

  They wore lifelines that were lashed to the binnacle and they were glad of them as the deck pitched and rolled. They hung on to the gunwales as well, riding her.

  As yet, no water had come aboard. She was heavily ladened and rode lower in the water than either would have liked. Rodrigues had prepared properly in the hours of waiting. Everything had been battened down, the men forewarned. Hiro-matsu and Yabu had said that they would stay below for a time and then come on deck. Rodrigues had shrugged and told them clearly that it would be very dangerous. He was sure they did not understand.

  “What’ll they do?” Blackthorne had asked.

  “Who knows, Ingeles? But they won’t be weeping with fear, you can be sure.”

  In the well of the main deck the oarsmen were working hard. Normally there would be two men on each oar but Rodrigues had ordered three for strength and safety and speed. Others were waiting below decks to spell these rowers when he gave the order. On the foredeck the captain oar-master was experienced and his beat was slow, timed to the waves. The galley was still making way, though every moment the roll seemed more pronounced and the recovery slower. Then the squalls became erratic and threw the captain oar-master off stroke.

  “Watch out for’ard!” Blackthorne and Rodrigues shouted almost in the same breath. The galley rolled sickeningly, twenty oars pulled at air instead of sea and there was chaos aboard. The first comber had struck and the port gunwale was awash. They were floundering.

  “Go for’ard,” Rodrigues ordered. “Get ’em to ship half the oars each side! Madonna, hurry, hurry!”

  Blackthorne knew that without his lifeline he could easily be carried overboard. But the oars had
to be shipped or they were lost.

  He slipped the knot and fought along the heaving, greasy deck, down the short gangway to the main deck. Abruptly the galley swerved and he was carried to the down side, his legs taken away by some of the rowers who had also slipped their safety lines to try to fight order into their oars. The gunwale was under water and one man went overboard. Blackthorne felt himself going too. His hand caught the gunwale, his tendons stretched but his grip held, then his other hand reached the rail and, choking, he pulled himself back. His feet found the deck and he shook himself, thanking God, and thought, there’s your seventh life gone. Alban Caradoc had always said a good pilot had to be like a cat, except that the pilot had to have at least ten lives whereas a cat is satisfied with nine.

  A man was at his feet and he dragged him from the grip of the sea, held him until he was safe, then helped him to his place. He looked back at the quarterdeck to curse Rodrigues for letting the helm get away from him. Rodrigues waved and pointed and shouted, the shout swallowed by a squall. Blackthorne saw their course had changed. Now they were almost into the wind, and he knew the swerve had been planned. Wise, he thought. That’ll give us a respite to get organized, but the bastard could have warned me. I don’t like losing lives unnecessarily.

  He waved back and hurled himself into the work of re-sorting the rowers. All rowing had stopped except for the two oars most for’ard, which kept them tidily into the wind. With signs and yelling, Blackthorne got the oars shipped, doubled up the men on the working ones, and went aft again. The men were stoic and though some were very sick they stayed and waited for the next order.

  The bay was closer but it still seemed a million leagues away. To the northeast the sky was dark. Rain whipped them and the gusts strengthened. In Erasmus Blackthorne would not have been worried. They could have made harbor easily or could have turned back carelessly onto their real course, heading for their proper landfall. His ship was built and rigged for weather. This galley was not.

  “What do you think, Ingeles?”

  “You’ll do what you want, whatever I think,” he shouted against the wind. “But she won’t take much water and we’ll go down like a stone, and the next time I go for’ard, tell me you’re putting her into wind. Better still, put her to windward while I’ve my line on and then we’ll both reach port.”

  “That was the hand of God, Ingeles. A wave slammed her rump around.”

  “That nearly put me overboard.”

  “I saw.”

  Blackthorne was measuring their drift. “If we stay on this course we’ll never make the bay. We’ll be swept past the headland by a mile or more.”

  “I’m going to stay into the wind. Then, when the time’s ripe, we’ll stab for the shore. Can you swim?”


  “Good. I never learned. Too dangerous. Better to drown quickly than slow, eh?” Rodrigues shuddered involuntarily. “Blessed Madonna, protect me from a water grave! This sow-bellied whore of a ship’s going to get to harbor tonight. Has to. My nose says if we turn and run we’ll founder. We’re too heavily laden.”

  “Lighten her. Throw the cargo overboard.”

  “King Toady’d never agree. He has to arrive with it or he might as well not arrive.”

  “Ask him.”

  “Madonna, are you deaf? I’ve told you! I know he won’t agree!” Rodrigues went closer to the helmsman and made sure they understood they were to keep heading into the wind without fail.

  “Watch them, Ingeles! You have the con.” He untied his lifeline and went down the gangway, sure-footed. The rowers watched him intently as he walked to the captain-san on the forepoop deck to explain with signs and with words the plan he had in mind. Hiro-matsu and Yabu came on deck. The captain-san explained the plan to them. Both men were pale but they remained impassive and neither vomited. They looked shoreward through the rain, shrugged and went below again.

  Blackthorne stared at the bay to port. He knew the plan was dangerous. They would have to wait until they were just past the near headland, then they would have to fall off from the wind, turn north-west again and pull for their lives. The sail wouldn’t help them. It would have to be their strength alone. The southern side of the bay was rock-fanged and reefed. If they misjudged the timing they would be driven ashore there and wrecked.

  “Ingeles, lay for’ard!”

  The Portuguese was beckoning him.

  He went forward.

  “What about the sail?” Rodrigues shouted.

  “No. That’ll hurt more than help.”

  “You stay here then. If the captain fails with the beat, or we lose him, you take it up. All right?”

  “I’ve never sailed one of these before—I’ve never mastered oars. But I’ll try.”

  Rodrigues looked landward. The headland appeared and disappeared in the driving rain. Soon he would have to make the stab. The seas were growing and already whitecaps fled from the crests. The race between the headlands looked evil. This one’s going to be filthy, he thought. Then he spat and decided.

  “Go aft, Ingeles. Take the helm. When I signal, go West North West for that point. You see it?”


  “Don’t hesitate and hold that course. Watch me closely. This sign means hard aport, this hard astarboard, this steady as she goes.”

  “Very well.”

  “By the Virgin, you’ll wait for my orders and you’ll obey my orders?”

  “You want me to take the helm or not?”

  Rodrigues knew he was trapped. “I have to trust you, Ingeles, and I hate trusting you. Go aft,” he said. He saw Blackthorne read what was behind his eyes and walk away. Then he changed his mind and called after him, “Hey, you arrogant pirate! Go with God!”

  Blackthorne turned back gratefully. “And you, Spaniard!”

  “Piss on all Spaniards and long live Portugal!”

  “Steady as she goes!”

  They made harbor but without Rodrigues. He was washed overboard when his lifeline snapped.

  The ship had been on the brink of safety when the great wave came out of the north and, though they had taken much water previously and had already lost the Japanese captain, now they were awash and driven backward towards the rock-infested shore.

  Blackthorne saw Rodrigues go and he watched him, gasping and struggling in the churning sea. The storm and the tide had taken them far to the south side of the bay and they were almost on the rocks, all aboard knowing that the ship was lost.

  As Rodrigues was swept alongside, Blackthorne threw him a wooden life ring. The Portuguese flailed for the life ring but the sea swept it out of his reach. An oar crashed into him and he grabbed for it. The rain slashed down and the last Blackthorne saw of Rodrigues was an arm and the broken oar and, just ahead, the surf raging against the tormented shore. He could have dived overboard and swum to him and survived, perhaps, there was time, perhaps, but his first duty was to his ship and his last duty was to his ship and his ship was in danger.

  So he turned his back on Rodrigues.

  The wave had taken some rowers with it and others were struggling to fill the empty places. A mate had bravely slipped his safety line. He jumped onto the foredeck, secured himself, and restarted the beat. The chant leader also began again, the rowers tried to get order out of chaos.

  “Isogiiiiii!” Blackthorne shouted, remembering the word. He bent his weight on the helm to help get the bow more into wind, then went to the rail and beat time, called out One-Two-One-Two, trying to encourage the crew.

  “Come on, you bastards, puuull!”

  The galley was on the rocks, at least the rocks were just astern and to port and to starboard. The oars dipped and pulled, but still the ship made no way, the wind and the tide winning, dragging her backward perceptibly.

  “Come on, pull, you bastards!” Blackthorne shouted again, his hand beating time.

  The rowers took strength from him.

  First they held their own with the sea. Then they conquered her.
  The ship moved away from the rocks. Blackthorne held the course for the lee shore. Soon they were in calmer waters. There was still gale but it was overhead. There was still tempest but it was out to sea.

  “Let go the starboard anchor!”

  No one understood the words but all seamen knew what was wanted. They rushed to do his bidding. The anchor splashed over the side. He let the ship fall off slightly to test the firmness of the seabed, the mate and rowers understanding his maneuver.

  “Let go the port anchor!”

  When his ship was safe, he looked aft.

  The cruel shore line could hardly be seen through the rain. He gauged the sea and considered possibilities.

  The Portuguese’s rutter is below, he thought, drained. I can con the ship to Osaka. I could con it back to Anjiro. But were you right to disobey him? I didn’t disobey Rodrigues. I was on the quaterdeck. Alone.

  ‘Steer south,’ Rodrigues had screamed when the wind and the tide carried them perilously near the rocks. ‘Turn and run before the wind!’

  ‘No!’ he had shouted back, believing their only chance was to try for the harbor and that in the open sea they’d flounder. ‘We can make it!’

  ‘God curse you, you’ll kill us all!’

  But I didn’t kill anyone, Blackthorne thought. Rodrigues, you knew and I knew that it was my responsibility to decide—if there was a time of decision. I was right. The ship’s safe. Nothing else matters.

  He beckoned to the mate, who hurried from the foredeck. Both helmsmen had collapsed, their arms and legs almost torn from their sockets. The rowers were like corpses, fallen helplessly over their oars. Others weakly came from below to help. Hiro-matsu and Yabu, both badly shaken, were assisted onto the deck, but once on deck both daimyos stood erect.

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