The Last Meeting

A hot, late-summer breeze kept the rigging of the Catellina swaying as night closed in on the ship. The ship’s bell rang out to mark the hour. The entire complement of the Catellina’s passengers gathered under the light of many lanterns, in a great, ragged circle below the mainmast. Sir Diarmait FitzGerald sat on a wooden crate, his back to the mast, his golden whiskers bristling with mirth. Next to the Irish knight stood Abbot Clement, his black habit immaculate, his face stern, his back as straight as if it were a rod of steel. To FitzGerald’s right hand, standing comfortably behind the mast, was Estevam Nunez, Captain of the Catellina, his long fingers running thoughtfully through his beard. The passengers had formed into two rough groups, one oriented upon FitzGerald and the smaller group centered upon the Abbot. Sir Diarmait cleared his throat and stood to his substantial height.

“This will be the last opportunity that we will have to speak to you before we reach the mouth of the Gé. As most of you know, we all face what could be considerable danger there. The badger-men have occupied the old elf tower that sits on top of the island at the river’s mouth. The last time that good Captain Nunez and his crew sailed past the island, these creatures attacked the ship with huge metal projectiles. I think that it will be necessary to take control of the island before our two ships can pass safely onto Èrainn. At the very least, we must disable the enemy’s long-range weapons before we risk the ships. I have called you all on deck for this discussion because you all have a special status. In previous trips, we have supplied the colony with farmers, families; skilled workers. All of the good people that make the land function and drive the wheels of our society. On this trip, we have gathered leaders. You have been chosen for your knowledge, for your special skills and abilities; for your unique accomplishments. All of you know that we expect your skills to be placed at the disposal of the colony.” Here, FitzGerald paused and gazed into the faces of the assembly.

“You will, of course, be compensated for the risks that you take. In battle, in exploration, or in services; your reward shall be commensurate with your contribution. If you are not sworn to the Church, each of you shall be granted land with hereditary title of ‘Freeholder.’ Those of noble birth will gain higher titles and additional lands as our realm grows. Once the realm is large and populous enough, I will be styled as King of Èrainn, swearing fealty to the High-King of Ireland. Individuals sworn to the Church shall become leaders and stakeholders in a growing number of parishes. Abbot Clement has been given an open charter from the Vatican that allows his status to grow as our realm grows, until, God willing, he becomes the Cardinal of Èrainn. The Abbot has also been given broad authority to establish offices below him for those worthies who earn them. I will remind all of you—the purpose of this new realm is to strengthen Ireland. After we establish the colony, we will grow the colony. As the realm grows and we produce surpluses, we will funnel that wealth directly to Ireland’s crown. We will be the force that finally balances the power of Eire with the power of England. I personally see this as a holy quest. If, after three years, you decide to move on to other pursuits, you will do so with my blessing. You will, of course, also forfeit lands and titles in Èrainn.” Here, Sir Diarmait motioned to the Abbot, “Abbot Clement?”

“Thank you, Sir Diarmait,” the Abbot’s voice was cool and measured. “I also see our collective quest as a holy endeavor. The Holy See agrees. Most of you know my opinion of the…person…seated on the English throne. Recent events have shown us that England will stop at nothing to realize her ambitions, including the violation of the most sacred laws of Holy Church. It is for this reason that I have volunteered for the great task before us. There is limitless possibility in our new realm—and also great danger. The savages are numerous, powerful, and under the sway of the Enemy. Our work will be the work of generations. Within the nearer span of time, I plan to occupy the greater elf ruin on the northern end of Èrainn’s principal island. We will convert this building into a large monastery and the spiritual heart of the new realm. The monastery will include positive industry in order to contribute to the colony. The monastery will also become a center for education. Some of my retinue represent great leaders in their respective academic fields. I felt that is was necessary to focus on education because of the…unique…isolation of Èrainn. Establishing the monastery must be my first priority. With this place of strength secured, I will turn my energies, and the energies of the Church in the New World, toward bringing the light of the Gospel to all of those ears in the wilderness. I echo Sir Diarmait’s words of reassurance. Those who aid the Church will realize reward that equals their contribution. May God bless and keep you all.” The Abbot took one crisp step back to stand next to the mainmast. Captain Nunez pushed off from the mast and stood up. His resonant voice seemed to mesh with the wonderful breeze.

“My ship, my crew—we are all but limbs of the colony. Our lives and our service belong to this realm. There can be no question that my crew man is also a colony man, and every soul has sworn so before the wheel of our beautiful Catellina. Let us now consider matters that lie closer to hand. The tower at the river’s mouth commands all entry to the interior. To the north and the south of the river, tribes of the Blood guard the impassable wilderness. No large party may move there without challenge from the natives. The island on which the tower rests is a sheer plug of stone. The strange weapons commanded by the tower can throw projectiles to the south bank of the river, across the navigable channel, with ease. My second mate, Burry, has prepared maps and sketches so that you may see the situation more clearly. I fear that, if the tower is not reduced, we shall be cut off from Èrainn. So the questions remain: shall we disable the weapons to reach the colony, knowing that we must return to finish the job? Do we have the power to permanently reduce this garrison of beast-men? We must decide before I weigh anchor and pass one more day to the south—for the Gé is less than one day from where we sit now.” As Captain Nunez finished this thought, his Quartermaster approached the circle. Nathaniel Good addressed his Captain in a heavily accented, booming voice, his head wagging in a strange, jerking motion.

“Sir—the reconnaissance has returned. A great fire burns on the spit on the south side of the river’s mouth. There are forty of the badger creatures there, perhaps more. We have not seen savages on the north bank, nor in the forest, nor on the coast of the long dunes. The crew and all boats stand ready.”

“Thank you,” was the Captain’s terse reply. The Quartermaster spun on his heel and seemed to be swallowed by the darkness outside of the lantern light.

Sir Diarmait turned from this conversation back to the group. He placed his huge hands upon his breastplate and a bright smile erupted from his whiskers.

“First opportunity, my friends. I will take the cavalry to land on the spit. Who wants the tower?”

The Last Meeting

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