PASS THE PEN
Chapter 13: Duty or Dishonor
by M. Michelle
Horatio paced tensely across the small space, watching the
flicker shadows across the wall in the solitary silence. It was a
spartan cell at best, one chosen with either a lack of thought or a
parody of gentlemanly thought on Jourquin's part. It could also have
been product of the man's cruel sense of humor to offer him this view of
the bay where he watched the Indefatigable and her brave crew awaiting
who knew what. De Jourquin had sounded sincere, but then again, the man
was a Frenchman. And he was nobility, so how much of a chance was there
that the man could be trusted? After all, how many men would betray the
two different political sides of the country they had been born and
trained in, not a man of any trustworthy qualities. Then again, the man
was nobility. It would be against a gentleman's honor, even a French
gentleman to go to such desperate measures only for a prank and to tell
such a tale and swear by it. No, de Jourquin wanted out, but he had a
even more important reason by the way he acted than the one he'd offered,
and Horatio had a feeling finding it wouldn't be easy.
Meanwhile, what would Captain Pellew be thinking? Was he
to risk the men's lives just for him and the others? Undoubtedly, he
would. The man never let anyone under his command be left behind, not
without a fight. It was one of the many qualities Hornblower astutely
admired in the man, but he also damned it right now. He wouldn't have
the entire Indefatigable destroyed on their account.
Horatio took a slow, deep breath and halted, turning around
to pace back
the other direction. Five paces in each direction. Again. Again. He
had to think. He let out the breath in one solid sigh, blowing the
stubborn curl falling down his forehead out of his eyes, clasping his
hands behind his back. There had to be a way off this island that didn't
involve de Jourquin. He didn't *trust* him, and the more he saw of how
the Frenchman had tricked Pellew, the less he trusted him.
Inevitably, the Indy was going to attack, and a rescue party
However, what good would it do to attack this place or even approach it
without Jourquin's consent? This place was a fortress. The only way out
strategically would be from the inside, either over the wall in the blind
corner from the guards' view or to plan a more subtle escape involving a
much more complicated plan. Both would be impossible as it was, though,
as the rest of the men were still imprisoned and the guards wouldn't let
him in there and certainly would never allow them out.
So what now? Thunder rumbled in the background, accented
and the rush of the breakers against the rocks. Horatio paused and
stared out the window toward the rumbling skies with a slow swallow of
dread. Thunder; a storm was coming, which lessened any of their chances
a great deal. "Damn, damn, damn," he muttered aloud and kept pacing
until he reached the wall. He let out a sigh, and the tense anger and
anxiety drained out of him and all he could feel was the pain from the
angry, swollen bruises skattering across his body and face and worry for
his friends. What about his men in their cells? How were they being
treated with him gone; were they all right? And what of Archie back on
the Indefatigable. The younger midshipman had so much faith in him...
what would he be doing now? What would Archie think of him; captured,
beaten, and forced to work with Jourquin to save the other's lives
despite how he wanted to? If there was one thing he believed about this
Jourquin, it would be that the man would work with or without his
That declared them all dead already, didn't it?
He moved toward the window and gripped his hand around one
of the iron
bars, cursing himself for not being able to find the strength inside him
to refuse de Jourquin completely. But this would mean the lives of all
of them. Whether or not he could deal with the Frenchman determined the
possible win or loss of the war. There could be absolutely *no* trust in
him. No, before they were to leave, he ahd to find another way out.
But how? Damn.
Archie's cobalt blue eyes stared out after the men leaving
the boats now
that Cutter had delivered his message to de Jourquin, watching the
figures moving under orange light. A gust of cool storm wind whisked
bits of blond hair from its ribbon and he glanced up, watching the sunset
paint an array of brilliant pastel colors only the finest painter could
ever recreate on darkening clouds that weren't dense enough to mean a
storm, but the sight of it set him uneasy. The midshipman gritted his
teeth and whispered something under his breath, fighting to control his
temper. He kicked at the trunk sitting in the hold in an outburst of
frustration. Maybe he could understand how Pellew could want to keep an
officer on board his ship, but what of Horatio? Was he really alive, or
was he dead and this Monsiuer merely using his name to bait them? Had
they killed Horatio or not?! He had to find out.
Kennedy paced the length of the carpenter's walk and knocked
lightly against the wall repeatedly as had become habit whenever he was
trying to think over stress. If Hornblower was alive, there would be
hope they could get him and the others back. Perhaps if he could help
Then again, how much hope was it that they were alive? The
sunk far enough offshore, the hopes of his friend living were slim at
best. Archie sighed and closed his eyes, moving away from the porthole
where he wouldn't have to watch and leaning back against the wall outside
the sick berth. He slid to the deck, unsure how to cope with his
captain's orders. He could be locked away or executed for such a direct
disobedience of his captain if he went now that they'd returned. If we
went at all.. He had direct orders not to, and after all, an officer's
duty and honor went above all, Horatio had taught him... Or did it?
Did the command and duty rank above friendship? "Explain
H'ratio," he murmured, frustrated. No answer came, of course. Even if
Hornblower were here, he knew him well enough that he couldn't have an
answer to that question. Horatio lived for duty, but how much did he
know about the risks of friendship?
"Mister Kennedy, you sot! I'll 'ave your head, or better
yet, come in
here and give ol' Jack some fun!" A chillingly familiar drunken raucous
filled his ears from the sick berth. The young man pushed himself to his
feet quickly and didn't dare glance inside the door. That voice, those
taunts... they were all daily reminders of just how and who he had been
before Horatio came. He shuddered and shoved off, trying his best to
ignore the more angry shouts following him. "Kennedy! Do you hear me?!!
Don't be disappearing boy-! No... oh... oh, no, I-I do believe there
will be no wine at morning..." Now Simpson was rambling now, nonsense
words but Archie refused to listen or feel afraid. Simpson couldn't hurt
him; not under lock and key, and the words were only reminders of just
how he couldn't just stand by and let things happen as they were.
Horatio had given him the bravery to walk away; it was time he repay the
favor and help his friend.
If indeed, Horatio really was still alive...
**No, you must find that out yourself, Archie,** a whispering
niggled in his mind as he moved quickly through the ship toward the
topdeck. He climbed atop the stairs under the last remnants of a
blood-red sun and donned his hat. He'd already made up his mind what to
do now, despite the risk.
"Mr. Cutter?" he called out and the other blond
midshipman turned. "I
must speak with you."
"Yes, Mr. Kennedy?" Cutter wondered, surprised.
Archie beckoned him aside toward the mainmast. "I...
delivered the message to de Jourquin about the matter of the French
Kennedy pondered for a second just how to politely word himself,
eventually skipping the formalities. "Did you by chance see if there was
any possibility Mr. Hornblower could still be alive?" The man started,
but he cut him off quickly. "I believe this is a trap; de Jourquin will
probably want to take us all prisoners, and not make the trade at all.
Mr. Hornblower could simply be the bait they're using, but who's to say
they will release him? I adivse we go in there and rescue them as our
"Uh..." Cutter stuttered, hesitant. "Uh-yes,
Mr. Kennedy, you have a
valid point, b-"
This time the other midshipman drew up more determination.
"*However*... that would be a foolish idea.. The captain has a plan of
action, but you know as well as I do, any other action taken before that
he wouldn't allow. You will be asking to kill yourself, Mr. Kennedy to
take such a reckless action. No, I advise you'd better keep your plans
to yourself and I won't tell him what you just told me. The captain
would be, as I see, neither satisfied, temperate, or amused," Cutter
pointed out carefully.
Archie dropped his eyes and sighed, unsatisfied. "But
I believe the
captain is *wrong* this time, don't you understand?!"
"Yes, but in this case, I would suggest you let the captain
drown in his
own folly. He will not listen to you. And I would really rather, if you
must speak, you converse with the captain himself. I won't be a part in
any mutiny." The other man gave a dry chuckle and moved away back on his
way aft to report. Archie's eyes followed him sharply; if they were the
barrels of two pistols, he would have shot burning holes in the man's
Mutinous action had little to do with the motives of his desire
over on that shore. Though that would be what that sort of action could
entail, which would make for problems. If Horatio were alive, would he
speak to him again for such a dishonorable thing to do to Captain Pellew?
If Horatio were alive. **Damn, Archie, stop thinking that way!**
The young midshipman's eyes flashed worriedly in frustration.
clenched one fist, fidgeting across the deck. Whether his friend was
actually there imprisoned here and now, he had to know before anything
happened. He *had* to know... but could he? The could be no chance to
make it successfully unnoticed from the Indefatigable, and if he managed,
eventually, the search would be taken for him, in which he could be
flogged and forced to render an explanation and face the consequences of
his decision. Risking it would be risking his family title's pride and
disownment, his career, and very likely, his own life.
However, if there could be the slightest possible chance,
it would spare
the British Navy great embarrassment and the greatest young man Archie
had known. And that chance ranked above anything else. What was there,
in truth, to lose? His dignity. Kennedy watched the prison on the
cliffside under the dusking shadows. He had made up his mind.
Jack watched him from beneath the glow of the dark flickering
the shadowy form slipping silently away through the walk past the dimly
lit sick berth and felt a cruel smile twisting his lips. He knew where
the dingy little bastard was going; he could tell by listening. Had not
the captain earlier ordered Kennedy not to make a move onto the shore?
Oh, he recollected that, he supposed.. So of course, he wouldn't wish
the captain to know of his little journey. But then, unfortunately,
perchance it could slip by accident from his lips. He would never
intentionally hurt his little Kennedy... However, many things had
slipped through delirious lips, and spread by whispers through the ship
like wildfire. Unfortunately, if he made such an accident, it would
cause grave consequences...
The twisted smiled widened slightly, his eyes glittering with
"Oh, rise up me lads! The day has drawn nigh!"
he shouted through the
sick berth and tossed back his head to laugh aloud.
De Jourquin spun and threw down the message from the Indefatigable's
captain in a flight of rage. "Disreputable, utter fools! He does not
care about his man as enough to care that I will kill him!" The other
men in the room said nothing as the French nobleman flung his arm across
his desk and sent objects flying and crashing against the walls as he
paced, trembling with fury. He stalked over and snatched the paper,
snapping his hand on it with a crack. He gripped the guard's uniform,
clenching it in his fist and shouting. "Does he not know what I will do
if he refuses me?! He refused! REFUSED!!!" he screamed and threw the
man against the wall.
The thick man cried out and scrambled away into the corner.
Jourquin closed his eyes and crumpled the paper tightly into
breathing slowly to regain a tight rein on his composure. He tilted his
chin high again, his eyes burning fiercely with aristocratic pride and
rage. He met the fearful guards' gazes, certain they had likely not seen
him so infuriated, and likely were never to again. "Bring Hornblower in
two hours. He shall suffer for this." Unless he could convince his own
captain to spare him a great deal of pain, Hornblower would feel it. It
would not be against the young officer; he rather appreciated the loyalty
in him. But because Pellew must feel it, so would he. The men exited to
do their task and de Jourquin stood alone tall in the center of the room.
Slowly, he walked across the space and clasped his hands behind his
back, staring out through the evening twilight onto the dark form of the
defiant little ship below.
If they could know what New France would bring. It could
usher in new
possibilities for a brighter, glorious world. All he required was
passage on the ship for he and others and young Hornblower would not be
harmed. De Jourquin narrowed his eyes and whispered words of hatred in
French. He turned from the window and back to his desk, glancing around
himself at the objects strewn about the floor. He should call someone in
the clean up the unsightly mess. The nobleman sat and took out a sheet
of paper, spreading it onto the desk. He dipped the quill into the
crystal inkwell and began to pen his intentions.
To Esteemed Sir Edward Pellew. Dear sir,
Do not tread lightly; I warn you. Realizing that
I do have
your Mr. Hornblower. Perhaps we haven't made ourselves clear
to each other. If you do not listen to my words, I shall have
to make him suffer and you shall hear his cries across the
bay, to be a consolation to you for refusing my proposal of
trade, sir! I will not allow this refusal to go unnoticed!
Take my sworn oath, I will not let this go unpunished.
You shall have until exactly ten this evening to
Pray you do not force me to take my wrath out on Hornblower
for a misunderstanding between us.
Your Humble Servant,
Sir Monsieur de Jourquin
Horatio listened to the rustle of insects in the leaves through
bars, continuing to pace and watch slowly in tense silence as the candles
dripped slowly away and pooled down. Without hours, they would be
nonexistent. Much as the Indefatigable if she were to risk the hidden
shore batteries that would tear her apart once they opened fire. He
sighed and began another round through the darkening room. Perhaps this
was to be his cell, his tower of London imprisonment, but he would escape
here, if he could know how. He ran through his mind the list of notable
details he had seen that could be twisted to use in escape. One element
was Jourquin's obvious hatred for Ouimette and his Republican side.
Perhaps that would buy him a political catch.
That option, however, was unacceptable; it would be risky
involve a use of time which he did not have to borrow. If he made an
escape, the best chances would be now before anything else happened, but
what of the chances of any others? What of the chances of the
Indefatigable, perchance he could not make it to the ship and his escape
was discovered. He closed his eyes and felt his breath ease softly from
his chest in a weary sigh, flinching at the pain of the bruises inflicted
by the Frenchmen earlier. However, in his mind as he thought of the
Indefatigable, he could only see Archie at first for the second time that
evening. Worried cobalt blue eyes wondering what had happened, where he
was, and hearing the faith there had been in the younger midshipman's
voice. Archie was still counting on him.
**More options,** his mind reminded him. There were few others.
guard was a drunken fool, but even intoxicated, the man could yell. The
lock was on the outside of this small room of solitary confinement.
Evening meal could prove some promise, unless there were more guard
reinforcements. Which were likely. **Damn...**
Archie crept up the coast silently, ducking carefully behind
brush as he climbed the perilous slope in the darkness, guided by the
glow from the fortress windows in the towers. It was new moon; there
would be no moonlight tonight. Nothing but blackness. Kennedy had
already forgotten the urgent conflicts that had tugged him and made him
wonder if the risk of this was worth it. But he couldn't give up
Horatio; it wouldn't be *right*. A boat would have been far too
conspicuous and so he had made his flight silently down the side of the
ship and slipped into the water off toward shore. The cloth stuck to his
skin now, and he ignored it, crawling carefully up the rocks so as not to
be seen by the sentries above.
Horatio continued to pace, watching the candle slowly dying,
beginning to fade and flicker with his thoughts. Something rustled
suddenly outside his door, a shuffling that alerted him and he spun,
alarmed and uncertain. The stifled sound eased away as slowly as it had
come, and Horatio stood for a moment, studying the door as though he
could see right through it, wondering what that had been. He turned back
again to the window as the familiar sharp click of the latch opened from
the door and he heard the bolt being slid back. The solid wood slab was
moved aside quietly, as a man slipped inside, moving the door latched
behind him. Dark eyes met his, cold and sensual from the Frenchman now
inside the same room with him with his shirt already undone in the
beginning of stripping.
"I like to get my own way, Hornblower," Ouimette
threatened, roving his
eyes with intensity.
Archie leaped up the dark side onto a boulder, grasping a
stability. He had nearly made it toward the ridge without being seen.
He listened and could hear conversation now, grasping only small bits of
French. He heard his friend's name in the sentence and hesitated,
listening with dread. Something about tomorrow, and Hornblower... Was
Horatio really still alive? Could he be right?
The midshipman climbed through the darkness. A few more steps-
"Get away from me, bastard. You are not supposed to
be here!" Horatio
shouted, moving away from the door. "Jourquin will kill you-"
"De Jourquin is a fool," the other man snorted with
idealistic ideas for our political future." Horatio stared at him in
disbelief. Ouimette smiled. "Oh, I forgot. You never knew I knew about
his precious new France, did you? Ha! I know everything! His guards
will tell me for a price everything he does. I know everything. I know
he is not Republican; I know the man is a traitor to my country..." He
trailed off, feasting his eyes on Hornblower in a way that made Horatio
shiver, before those eyes met his again. "And I know tomorrow he is
going to use you to be his means of having his New France. Now, we can't
let that happen can we?"
Ouimette moved into the room casually, shrugging off the shirt
draping it on the window, continuing as Horatio watched the Frenchman
carefully, fully aware of just what this man wanted and searching
frantically in his mind for any way out of here. There were none, the
door had been locked as the other man had closed it behind him and there
was nothing to fight with. This cell was secure and both of them were
now locked in it somehow, alone. It was obvious this man didn't care
what Jourquin did to him, but how had he managed to slip past the
sentries? Horatio said not a word as the man continued on his topic of
"He is like a child, Mr. Hornblower. Weak and selfish;
he wants nothing
but this New France dream of his and will stop at nothing to have it.
It's an obsession with him, like a child's favorite toy. Anyone who
touches his plans finds themselves slaughtered." Ouimette smiled again,
shrugging one shoulder as he unfastened the belt of his trousers. "I
have to give the man credit; he has found a most interesting captive for
his plan..." The man's voice deepened and trailed away again, heated.
He reached up one hand to touch Horatio's cheek and Hornblower jerked
away onto the other side of the small room again.
He had to keep him talking about something else; it was safer
Horatio took a deep breath and broke in. "I rather think Jourquin was
hoping for another method to get New France. I don't think he'll kill
Ouimette laughed aloud and gestured off outside. "Ha!
He's going to be
sending his guards in two hours to pick you up so he can start a very
slow, painful torture in order to get your captain to agree to him."
Horatio's jaw tightened defensively. "And don't refuse to believe it,
Hornblower, I heard that one *myself*!"
Horatio felt sick to his stomach. Torture... But wouldn't
what this man
wanted be torture as well...? **Oh God,** he thought, almost ready to
turn to prayer whether or not he believed in it. "What's the difference
between that and what you have in mind?" he forced himself to ask softly,
knowing the answer.
"There could be a difference... if you don't refuse me
Ouimette's grin and tone turned silky. Deadly. "You should have given
me what I wanted earlier. I could have loved you better than any woman.
Now I'll have to show you what happens when you don't give me what I
Horatio's eyes widened and he jumped away again as the man
Why did this sound so familiar? Simpson was probably like this for
Archie. "No! Come closer, and I'll kill you!" **With what?** his mind
He spun, trying to escape, and Ouimette moved so fluid so
fast he found
a hand suddenly girpping his arm and yanking him against the wall. He
fought with every last strength he had against him, crying out at the top
of his lungs.
"Help!! Damn you!! Guards!" he yelled, striking
out and moaning in
pain as Ouimette wrenched his arm until his head spun and he
half-collapsed. And he had a feeling he knew it --
There could be no help this time.