The Weather Eye
Part Twelve: Dream a Little Dream of Me
by Skihee

 

A light sway, a breeze, a shaft of sunlight.  No!  Keep the eyes closed.  
Wait. Wait. The shaft will move.  The strip of sun disappeared.  His brain
was still on fire.  Where was he?  He tensed his pectoral muscles with an
idea of sitting up.  Fire ran through his every nerve all the way down to his
toes.  Still.  Stay still.  His jaw lowered seeking a broader expanse of air
for his lungs.  A tear seeped through the closed lids.  Pain.  Intense pain.  
Every where in his body.  His head ached as if he had been on a century long
bender, and it burned.  His brain had never burned before....but,..... he was
thinking.  He was still capable of thought.  Was the heat from outside his
body?  It felt like it was within him.  *Let me pass back into sleep, * he
thought.  *Pray this is a dream.*  And he did.

Someone's hand was on his back, a cool hand, centered between his shoulder
blades.

"Come on, lad.  Just a little more."

His brow furrowed.  Freezing liquid was being poured into his mouth.  He
gulped it down.  Swallow after swallow.

"Good lad.  That's an entire cup this time."

He began to shiver.  Every muscle that had burned when last he was conscious
was like ice now.

He was being covered.  He felt the rough blanket on his skin.  All his skin.  
Where were his clothes?  *Another.  Put another on me.  I'm fr...freezing.*
he thought.  *Who are you?  I don't recognize your voice.*  Could he move his
hand?  He felt a twitch as he commanded the muscle and then the explosion of
pain coming to burst in his brain.  Was that his voice moaning?  

"He is still shivering."

"Hand me that blanket."

"How long will he be like this?"

Hornblower forced his eyes to open but slits.  It was dark now but for a
candle.  The light of even so small a flame brought pain.  His father?  His
father was here?  It was him he saw....but no....the figure before his eyes
was changing.  A white coat and a hairy man, then the face of his father.  
The two visages seemed to blink in and out.  Which was true?  Who was here?  

"Poor Horatio."

That voice!  Could it be?  Was it another hallucination?  He closed his eyes.
*Open them very slowly.  Have the eyes already shifted before you open them.
Lessen the pain, lessen the pain.* he thought.  Slowly so slowly, he lifted
his lids.  

There were two.  Two men.  But their backs were turned to him and they were
leaving.  *Don't leave!* his mind shouted.  *Is it you?  Is it you, my
friend?*  He tried to talk.
Closing his eyes again, he felt exhausted, shivering continually.

"Is he trying to speak?  Horatio, can you hear me?  Horatio?"

"He's drifted off.  Still shivering though.  Give me another blanket."  

When next he woke his throat was on fire.  No light through his eyelids.  He
opened them slowly.  His body was on fire.  He felt the blankets restricting,
choking, aiding the fire within.  He had to get them off.  Commanding both
arms to move, his right responded.  Pushing the blankets off, he screamed in
agony as the nerves sent the message, the muscles responded, and the nerves
screamed back.  Tears streamed out his closed eyelids and steamed off his
reddened, burning cheeks.  His body was still burning.  The legs.  The legs
this time.  He kicked off the blankets, screaming with the pain of his
muscles, his nerves.  Thump!  The hammock overturned tossing him to the
floor.  His chest heaved, pumping air in and out.  The deck was cool.  He
pressed his cheek to it despite the nerves protest.  Footsteps.  The deck
vibrated with approaching footsteps sending pricks of pain from the portions
of his body touching the wooden surface.

Who was coming?  He wanted to move but he did not want to feel the pain.  
What had happened to him?  He tried to remember.  What was going on before
all this?

The deck of Kaliakra, he was standing next to the larboard rail.  They were
sailing into a storm.  He was navigating for a band of pirates.  
Captain....Roberts, that was his name, a well dressed, well spoken man for a
pirate.  

 

"MATOOMBO!  MATOOMBO!"

As those words were shouted, he felt a stabbing pain in his hand.  He jerked
his hand instinctively, seeing something green drop from the back of it.  He
turned to see the shouting native coming at him with a machete!  As he sought
to move out of the way of the oncoming native, he looked at the back of his
hand and saw a prick of blood.  The native slammed the side of the large
knife onto the rail.  The insect was crushed.  Raising the machete the native
yelled once again.

"MATOOMBO!"  Now the crazed native was after him.  

What happened next became a blur.  He was aware that a man in a white coat
had emerged from the captain's cabin.  His hair was scraggly, shoulder
length, and untied.  A pair of wire rimmed glasses sat on his nose and his
lower face had an equally scraggly mustache that hung down on either side of
his mouth.  Roberts was behind him, yelling.

"STOP!  STOP!"

For some reason, Hornblower was not sure if Roberts was speaking to the
native or to him.  

Hornblower careened about the deck trying to avoid the mad machete man, but
his movements were getting slower.  The man in the white topcoat disappeared,
but reappeared quickly, it seemed.  

He felt the native grab him and throw him to the deck.  The native extended
Hornblower's left arm, holding his hand down with his bare foot.  Hornblower
saw the machete rise in aim over his left arm.  He tried to scream, "NO!" but
he was not sure the word was actually manifest.  But another call from
someone was.

"STOP!  It is too late!"  The white coated man was kneeling beside him,
tipping a vial into his mouth.  

That was the last thing he remembered.  His head ached.  He wanted to hold
his head.  His left arm would still not respond.  It was there, wasn't it?  
He began to cry.  Was he now a one-armed man?  His body still burned in fire.

The feet causing the deck to vibrate arrived and brought a light with them.  
It burned through his eyelids.  

"God!  Look at him, Styles!  Still red as a boiled lobster!"

"I've got him, Matty."

Styles was carrying him in his arms.  

"Hurts!  Pain!" It was his voice.  Who else could be saying those words
through the screaming.

"He's speaking!"

"Bloody hell!  I know!  Get the bucket!"

Styles sat with him on the deck, letting him rest against him.  It was dark
on deck.  More footsteps and more people and more pain....and his own screams.

"It hurts!" he sobbed.

"Hold on, sir," whispered Styles into his ear as a cold bucket of water was
thrown onto him, and another, and another.  He remembered.  This had been
done before, a faint memory.

The cold water seemed to sizzle on his skin and confused the reports of his
nerves.  He began to pant.

"He reacts!  Good!  Good!"  

That voice he did not know.  His head was beginning to throb.

"Styles...." he tried to speak.  Did he?

"Sir, d'ye know me?" he whispered back in wonder.

"My arm...." he swallowed with an effort as salty tears mingled with cold sea
water being tossed and poured over the two of  them.  "My arm..."

"What about yer arm, sir?"

He turned his stiff neck up towards the voice. He opened his eyes to look
into the pocked face of  his loyal seaman.  It was Styles.  Not a figment of
his imagination.  The muscled chest and arms that held him, the scraggly hair
dripping with the water flowing over the two of them.  "Is it there?"

Puzzled features stared back at him.  "Yer still out of yer head, sir," came
the kindly whisper.

He held his blood red eyes open and stared to be sure the face before him did
not alter into another he did not know.  "Answer," he beggingly whispered as
he closed his eyes to release the hot pools within them.

"I don't understand, sir.  Yer arm is still in a bad way, but ye've got both
of them, if that's what ye mean.  I want ta answer ye, sir."

With that reply he felt Hornblower's taught body release.

"Sir?"  Styles looked up at the others on the deck. "He's passed out again,
sir."

"Good.  It is for the best.  Continue the water until his skin is less red
and get him to drink again."

Swaying.  A breeze.  He was back in his hammock.  As consciousness came, he
began to take stock of his body.  The pain seemed less intense, at a level
that he could handle.  The fire, too, was less, or was it coming in small
waves, like the sea in a cove?   He concentrated on his thighs and commanded
his hands to move, the right, the left.  *Left hand move.  Please God.  Left
hand move.*  He felt a single finger tap his left thigh.  Tears streamed down
the side of his face.  

He instinctively raised his better responding right hand to wipe them away.  
Each movement upward seemed to have staggered, nerve-screaming pain, but he
could manage it.  He wiped the tears and furrowed his brow at the growth of
beard he felt on his face.  How long had he been like this?  

He opened his eyes.  They burned, but he could keep them open longer.  He
looked at the deck beam above him.  The muscles in his arm gave way and it
dropped on his chest.  He jerked as he tried to turn his head.  What was it
that caught his attention?  A scruffling, snuffing, gnawing sound.  A metal
cage was hanging from the beam not three feet away.  He stared seeing a bit
of whisker sticking through the bars.  The animal inside must have heard a
noise for it moved suddenly causing the cage to sway erratically.  
Hornblower's stare was returned by two beady eyes and a twitching nose.  It
was a rat!  He stared at it a long time assuring himself the beast was well
caged.  Why in heaven's name did they have a caged rat?  The thinking and
movement tired him, but not before he had begun to put two and two together,
and once again he sank into the abysmal of sleep.

He was next awakened by the feel of metal in his mouth.  Metal and some kind
of food.  Soup actually, though the taste was odd if there at all.  His body
ached.  The firey reports seemed to be fading entirely and now, just an
intense ache.  He commanded his left arm to move and felt his hand move
slightly on his thigh.  He smiled.

"I think he's wakin' up, Oldroyd.  Look.  Ain't that a smile?"

"Maybe he likes the food."

"If I was him, I'd like any food.  He's near skin and bone."

"I guess I best go get that doctor if he's wakin' up."

"I'd wager he'd rather see Mr. Kennedy than that weird duck."

"More than likely by the time I get back with either, he'll be sleepin'
again."  Oldroyd astutely pondered the situation.  "I'll get Mr. Kennedy."

Another spoon of soup was slipped between his lips.  He sighed and opened his
eyes.  Another spoon.  He looked up to see Hardy grin at him.

"Mr. Hornblower."  Hardy just grinned at him like some All Hallow's Eve jack
o'lantern.  "Stay awake now, sir, Oldroyd's gone to get Mr. Kennedy."

Hornblower looked over to see if the caged rat were still there.  Hardy
followed his gaze.

"I see you've spotted yer roommate.  We've given him a name, we have.  That
Dr. Grimaldi just had him numbered.  Ninety-seven, I think.  But we named him
Lucky.  That's Lucky, Mr. Hornblower.  Mr. Lucky, this is Mr. Hornblower."  
Hardy grinned and still continued to spoon nourishment into his officer.  
"You're doin' real good, sir.  Ye've eaten a whole bowl o' this stuff.  Try
this now.  Grimaldi said if ye finished the broth to try this on ye."  

A spoonful of something the consistency of porridge was placed in his mouth
but the taste did not concur.  

"Come on now, sir.  Ye've got ta eat."

Hornblower agreed and continued to try though the food was more like sawdust
mush than something of caloric value.  He was growing weary with the effort
of eating and drifted off.

"Sir, sir."

He felt someone taping his cheek.  He blinked awake.

"Swallow what's in yer mouth, sir, and I'll stop.  Come on, sir.  Good job,
sir.  Now drink this down.  Mr. Kennedy is on his way.  Can ye stay awake for
'im?"

He fought the drowsiness pulling him down.  He heard the sharp clomp of
booted steps and opened his eyes.  The figure came closer and his eyes
focused for a last time before he once again entered the land of healing
rest.  It was a man dressed in a billowing white shirt, open at the neck and
descending in a V down a lightly hairy chest.   Striped trousers ended at the
knee with hip boots folded down and over the knee.  A red-checked bandana was
tied around his blonde head, ... the head of his friend .... the head of a
pirate.

"Oh damn!  Asleep again."  Archie rested his hand on Horatio's.

"He ate well this time, sir.  A whole bowl of soup and a little porridge."

Archie sighed and smiled sadly.  "That's good news, Hardy.  Maybe next time,
eh?  I've got to get back on deck.  We're coming up on the last island.  
Whatever happens, we should be sailing soon."

Darkness.  He woke with a nagging worry.  What was it?  What was worrying
him?  He moved his left hand.  He could almost flex the fingers now.  He
carefully raised his right to his face feeling the beard, then resting his
palm on his forehead.  The pressure of his hand seemed to alleviate the
slight throb he was feeling.  He lay his wrist across his forehead and
thought about his temperature.  He was a little warm, but nothing like what
he seemed to recall, and would rather not.  A scuffle.  Lucky.  Hardy had
introduced him to Mr. Lucky.  He stared at the cage as he tried to remember.  
A single dim lantern hung from the beam.  He had his eyes open.  The light
was not piercing them like daggers.

Archie was a pirate?  No.  No.  He would not do that, would he?  He scrunched
his forehead, and pressed on it again,  feeling his head throb as he tried to
recall.  The natives.  Seemsun, the rain god.  Traveling over land.  Sold to
the pirate, Captain Roberts.  That part he was almost positive was real.  He
remembered telling him about Archie and the others and pleading with him to
rescue them from the natives.  The Matoombo part had to be real, too.  He
reached for his left arm, took it in his right hand, and lifted it. His arm
seemed to be swollen.  His hand was enlarged, dark, purple or black, he was
not sure.  He lowered it feeling thankful it was still there.  Something had
bitten him.  Matoombo.

Massaging his forehead he asked himself,  *What else do I know?*  Jack
Simpson alive?  Impossible.  Jasper Simpson, a brother who exchanged places
with him?  Impossible.  I was not there.  I could not have been there.  To
know it, it must be a dream.....no, a nightmare, a venom induced nightmare.  
What the hell was a venomous insect doing on a ship at sea?  It must have
come aboard with provisions.

What else?  A ghost ship and Hal Trevelyan?  Hal was in London with Guido de
Cesare.  Impossible.  *Well, the ghost ship is impossible, Hornblower,* he
replied to himself in his thoughts, smiling sardonically.  Wait a minute!  
That hairy man poured a vial of something down his throat.  What was that?

That strange man, Steve somebody, who tried to feed Archie to the sharks!  
But had he not seen Archie?  Archie, the Pirate?  Was that possible?  

What else?  Captain Pellew.  Captain Pellew in a pink mob cap!  Utterly
impossible!  He chuckled, but it made his head hurt worse.  

Quarter-deck pounder?  No, those are called caronnades.  

An island of naked women.  We were naked.  *No.  No.  I was naked and they
were pouring buckets of water on me.*  His arm dropped to his chest.  He was
still naked.  Where were his clothes?  Was he a pirate too?  Where was his
cloak?!?  The papers in the hem!  He tried to pull himself upright, but the
strain in his weakened muscles would not allow him and he fell back against
his pillow.  He sighed.  Sleep.  Sleep.  And, he did.

He awoke, feeling the spoon in his mouth again.  More of that so-called
broth.  Who was it this time?  Styles?  Matthews?  It was good to know his
men were safe, even if they had become pirates.  He would deal with this
somehow.  Would he be willing to take on the pirate life rather than turn his
mates in?

"Good man, Horatio," smiled Archie.  He saw his brow furrow.  "Are you
waking?"

Horatio opened tired eyes and watched his friend's face crack into a beaming
smile.  He could not smile though.  He needed to confront him.  He was still
dressed in his billowing white shirt.

"Archie."  He tried to raise himself and Archie assisted.

"Horatio!  You don't know how pleased I am to see you consciously awake."

Were Archie's eyes glistening?  He was stuffing the extra blankets under his
pillow to prop him up.  

"There.  Better?  Here now, eat and speak no more."  He stuffed the spoon
into his mouth again until the broth was finished.  Hornblower could not take
his eyes off him, and he was laughing and smiling over him eating.  "That's
grand, old man!"  He skipped to the door.  "Oldroyd!  Oldroyd!  Get the cook
to send up some eggs!"  

Hornblower saw Archie was still dressed in his pirates garb, except for the
bandana.

"Archie," with an effort, he asked.  "Why?"

Archie grinned.  "Why what?  The eggs?  You need to build up your strength.  
I should have asked for milk, as well."  He turned, but Horatio placed his
hand on his.  Archie could feel the weakness in his grip.  It was like that
of an eighty year old man.  

Horatio was shaking his head slowly.  "No..."

"Well, well, my navigator lives, by God!"  Roberts stood beaming in the
doorway, stepping into the sick berth beside Archie.

"Captain Roberts, sir, he does indeed," replied Archie happily.

Hornblower was tired but that dark simmering scowl was unmistakable even in
its weakened state.  "What have you done?  What have you done to my men?  I
will not have it!  It will not be so!"

Archie looked at him quizzically.  "Horatio!" he said amazed.  "Captain
Roberts rescued us!  And very timely, too!"

"I bet  he did!  Needed another navigator, did you?  Why did you bother to
save me, or was I some FURTHER experiment for Doctor Grimaldi?"

Roberts smiled oddly trying to comprehend the suppositions.  "Well, I have my
reasons, Mr. Hornblower."

"I will never be a pirate for you, sir.  Nor will my men.  They will renounce
whatever allegiance they have sworn to you!"

"Horatio!"  Archie shook his head at him.

"It is all right, Mr. Kennedy.  I'll leave you to explain it to him."

Hornblower was seething and amazed that anger could provide him with the
strength to confront his adversary.

Archie was staring in wonderment.  "How could you speak to him that way?"

It was Horatio's turn to look amazed.  "The man is a brigand, Archie.  How
could you?  How could you join him?  Have you forgotten your duty to king and
country?"

Archie began to laugh.  "Horatio!" he grinned. "No!  I have not!" and he
chuckled.

"What is so damned funny?"

"You!"

Hornblower sighed, slipped down in his hammock, and turned his face to the
wall.

"Horatio."  

Archie placed his hand on the back of his.  Hornblower pulled his away.  

Oldroyd arrived with the eggs, noting the strain between ...or was it just
Mr. Hornblower?

"Get some milk, Oldroyd," said Archie softly.

"Aye, aye sir."

"Horatio."

"You will never talk me into being a pirate, Archie.  Save your breath."

"I wanted you to take these eggs."

"I won't be fed by a pirate.  I would sooner starve."

Archie laughed.  "You can be so obstinate.  Who told you I was a pirate?"

Hornblower turned to look at him.  "Your clothing for one thing.  Or is that
a costume?"

"Yes."

"What?"

"Take a bite of eggs first."  

Hornblower opened his mouth for him.  Archie smiled as he chewed.  Then,
offered him another forkful.  He would not open his mouth but stared at his
friend.  Archie chuckled again.

"It is a costume.  Captain Roberts is not a pirate.  I am not a pirate.  Nor
is any of the rest of the crew."

Hornblower gave him that sardonic look of disbelief.  Oldroyd arrived with
the milk.  

"Oldroyd.  Am I a pirate?"

"Oh, yes, sir," he grinned.

"No, really.  Oldroyd.  Am I a pirate?"  

Oldroyd studied the question he thought he had answered correctly.  Was that
not what he was supposed to say?  So he asked.  "Ain't that what I'm supposed
to say, Mr. Kennedy?"

"To outsiders, yes, but not to Mr. Hornblower."

"Oh.  No, sir, you ain't a pirate.  You're Leftenant Archie Kennedy of His
Majesty's ..." Oldroyd clamped his hand over his mouth.  "I ain't supposed to
say that."

Archie sighed.  "Yes, Oldroyd, you can.  Mr. Hornblower is one of us.  Tell
him."

"He's Leftenant Archie Kennedy of His Majesty's..." he lowered his voice to a
whisper  "...Spy Ship, Kaliakra."  Oldroyd grinned at the two officers and
handed the milk to Archie.  "Glad ta see ya up, Mr. Hornblower.  You had us
all right worried.  But them stories ye told were roight jolly!"

Hornblower blinked.  It was a lot of new information to absorb.  He looked at
Archie.

"Is this true?"

"Yes.  Drink.  That spider that bit you?  Grimaldi is trying to come up with
some new super poison for field work.  Thank God, he had found a workable
antidote.  It seems the spider had escaped its jar just before you arrived
and they were looking for it."

He let Archie give him milk, did not take his eyes off him, and formulated
his next question.  

"What stories?"

Archie chortled.  "You were delirious, Horatio, and talking out of your head.
That venom must be a halucinogenic as well.  You talked about Jack Simpson
of all people and naked women.  Most entertaining, sir!"

"A spider bit me."

"Yes.  They would have cut off your arm if you had given them the chance.  
You should thank Dr. Grimaldi that you still have your arm.  Apparently when
an islander gets bitten by one, the remedy, if it is done quickly enough, is
to chop off the limb.  Of course, if it is another part of the body, I guess
the victim would be out of luck.  From what I was told, you thought the
native was trying to kill you and you ran from him, letting the venom escape
into your system to the point where it was too late to cut off your arm.  So,
Grimaldi gave you an antidote he had been working on."

"And, Mr. Lucky is another one of his survivors."

"Good deduction, Horatio.  I can see you are mending well indeed.  Yes, he
was number ninety-seven in his experiments."

"No more food, Archie.  I am too tired."

"Very well.  Get some rest.  Maybe tomorrow I can get you out on deck for
some fresh air and a shave.  Rest now, old man."

Archie began his exit.

"Archie..."

"Yes?"  

Hornblower's eyes were closed.  "I'm glad you're not a pirate.....those
clothes do nothing for you."

"Ha ha ha!  You made a joke, Horatio!  Will wonders never cease!"

The next day, Archie kept his promise.  He helped Horatio dress...in his own
uniform, mind you, and had Styles carry him out on deck for a shave.  One of
the sails was rigged for shade as Hornblower's eyes were still sensitive to
light.

"Archie, there are still a few unanswered questions."

"Yes."  He was trimming Horatio's beard with scissors first to get rid of the
long hair.

"The navigator business.  Did Roberts need a navigator?"

"No.  He does fine on his own.  And, he has other knowledgeable men besides."

"Hm.  Well, that answers why this ship seemed so well ordered the day I came
aboard."

"Yes.  Fine bunch of men.  Hand picked seamen for this job, Horatio.  I could
be tempted to sail with such a crew."

"Indeed.  Why the pretense of wanting a navigator then?"

"The Captain's current mission was tracking down a group of mutineers.  
They've caught nearly every one except the navigator and a couple of ratings.
Word was he had escaped to these islands.  So, whenever he came upon the
natives, not being able to communicate too well as to what a navigator is, he
would show them a sextant, and relay by whatever means, that there would be a
reward for any man, any Englishman, they found that knew what one was.  That
is why you were shuffled off into the jungle.  I worried about you day and
night, I'll tell you.  I feared seeing your head added to those at that
temple of theirs."

"Indeed.  How did you come to escape them?"

Archie chuckled.  "Well, that wizened old man!  You know, he thought because
my eyes were blue that I had intimate knowledge with the gods, their rain god
Seemsun in particular, and they expected me to ask him to make it rain!"

"Yes. Go on."

"Well, I thought back to my days as a wee tike when the maids of my father's
estate would do the washing.  I could remember they would say the same thing
over and over."

"Your maids?"

"Yes.  That no matter how clear the sky was, the minute they laid out the
sheets, and so forth, to dry, it would rain."  He laughed again.  "So, I told
the natives they needed to wash their clothes."

Hornblower raised an eyebrow to this unbelievable scenario.  "Archie, as I
recall the natives did not have much in the way of clothes.  

"No, but they had enough.  And then a stroke of brilliance occurred to me to
make it more *godlike* for them.  Well, maybe sorcery or witchcraft would be
a better description."

"Wait a minute, Archie.  That bit about drying clothes bringing rain, is just
a saying by frustrated maids of all work!  Are you going to tell me that when
they laid the clothes out to dry it started raining?"

"YES!  Isn't it marvelous?  But let me tell you the rest.  I really got them
going with this one.  I found a couple of Petrels that knew how to make soap!
We got a huge black cauldron, ash, fat, and I don't know what all else we
put into it.  One of them even suggested putting some flowers in it to make
it smell good!  It was a marvel, Horatio!  It worked!  And, best of all, old
man..." he hit Horatio on his upper right arm, not the still swollen one,  
"...I got your cloak back!"  He grinned.  "Aren't you proud of me?  The chief
had taken to wearing it and your hat!  Parading around his people.  He looked
desperately funny the day of the wash, minus clothing and just your hat on!"

Horatio closed his eyes, pleased with what he was hearing.  

"The soap idea worked really well, eh?"

"It was a wonderful touch!  Just brilliant!"

"I guess I should mention in my report the Petrel men who did the soap
making.  Which ones were they, Archie?"

"Those two over by the rail.  Crabtree & Evelyn."