TABLE OF CONTENTS
About The Natchez
I — Crossroads
Chapters 1 thru 8
II — Chilling Winds of War
Chapters 9 thru 15
III — The Silver Medallion
Chapters 16 thru 23
IV — Bienville’s Revenge
Chapters 24 thru 28
Some Folks Say
“Land ahead! Land, ahead to port!”
Mukta heard the crow nester yell above the noise of the gentle surf. “Louisianne!”
Somewhat expectantly, Mukta raised his large, muscular-gone-to-flab body
from the short stool upon which he sat and slowly ambled toward the
rough plank stairway that led from the lower deck of the Marianne, a
hastily converted frigate. A few moments later, he emerged shielding his
eyes from the brightness of the morning sun with his thick arms.
A beautiful day,
he said to himself. Almost too beautiful. But then, landfall was
always a beautiful sight, no matter what the conditions. He hated the
sea and always would, even if he was forced to sail it for the rest of
his life. But hopefully, his ordeal would end soon. And when that time
came, he would jump ship, leave the bitch, Marianne, and return to his
homeland deep in the interior of Africa.
Suddenly, he sensed something foreboding — something that sent an
ominous chill coursing through his body and causing him to shudder
despite the warmth of the morning sun. He lifted his nose and sniffed
audibly. What remained afterward was a fleeting odor that reminded him
of burning hair and rotting snake eggs. Not good, he said to
himself. Diablo, is it your presence I smell? If so, be gone. I’ll
have no business with you this day.
Almost reverently, he reached down and touched the small leather pouch
that he wore tied to the waistband of his filthy, canvas loincloth.
Within it was his life — his past, present, and future; a few small gold
trinkets and pieces of silver that he had managed to scavenge over the
past five years. Droppings left behind by the crew. Someday, when the
sack was full, he would jump the Marianne and return to his village a
wealthy man. There, he would settle down, resume his life, take several
wives, and father a hundred children. This was his dream, the only thing
that gave purpose to his otherwise worthless existence.
But before he jumped ship, there were three dogs of Hades that he had
marked to die. Three — he had sworn to kill with his bare hands.
Mendoza, the “Portuguese,” would be first. Then, Cecil, their homosexual
cook, followed by the grand Capitaine John Thomas Fortierre. The
Portuguese would die because he was the one who had gotten him drunk and
shanghaied him into slavery five years ago. Cecil would die because the
scurvy, little, rotten-tooth weasel would not give him his daily rations
except in exchange for sexual favors. The Captain would die just because
he happened to be Captain of the unholy Marianne.
With some remorse, he recalled the terror of waking from a drunken
stupor to find himself shackled and chained in darkness, deep within the
bowels of the Marianne. He was frightened and sick, and almost driven
mad from the incessant slapping of the sea against the ship’s hull. He
could still hear the Portuguese and several others laughing at him in
“Aye, matey, look what I catched me-self with a bottle of rum. What
would have cost the Captain ten stout men and a few broken skulls, I
catched with a small flask of rotgut.”
“And right you are. An ape that size ought to bring a better than fair
price on any block.”
He had strained on his shackles, but it was useless. The irons were
stout and strong. Finally, he gave up, his spirit crushed. In the
shadows of the swinging lamps, several of the slaves began to discuss
mutiny. A few days later, their plans were finalized, and the mutiny was
set to take place the next time they were taken up on deck to exercise.
In the beginning, thoughts of freedom made his blood race. But soon
after, the initial elation faded away. And the thought of a mutiny by
slaves, who had no knowledge of the sea, or the instruments necessary to
navigate its vast domain, frightened him even more than did his
uncertain future as a slave. So, out of concern for his own safety, he
warned the Captain, believing that the Captain would only alert the
slaves that he was aware of their intent and thereby discourage any
Nothing, however, could have prepared him for the slaughter that took
place two days later. The Captain had not warned the slaves. Instead, he
had prepared and lay in wait until the slaves made their move. Then, he
and his officers swooped down, cutlasses swinging, and pistols firing
aimlessly into the innocent and guilty alike. Within seconds, it was
Once the mutiny was quelled, the Captain brought everyone on deck
and forced him, Mukta, against his will, and in view of all, to identify
everyone who had participated. Then, he, along with the rest of the
slaves, watched while bodies were whipped with cats, and hands,
breasts, and penises were hacked off. And when that was finished, the
still screaming souls were chained together and tossed from the sides of
the ship into the shark-infested, blue-waters of Hell.
As compensation for his role in saving the Captain and his crew, he was
made Master of the Slaves. His reward, however, was not without a price.
The burden of guilt weighed heavily on his mind for a long time. Many
times in the night, when the wind was just right, and usually at the
third glass of the dog’s watch, he was still plagued by the cries of
those he had doomed. And each time he lay his huge body down to rest, he
was forced again to watch in horror, the visions of black, faceless
bodies struggling to stay afloat in a fast reddening sea.
As time passed, however, so did much of his guilt, but not all. Most of
it, he supposed, would remain with him for the rest of his life.
Normally, he was not a violent man. He was, however, a survivor, doing
what he had to do, when he had to do it, in order to persist. At one
stage in his life, he was a humble and gentle herder of cows, trying to
survive on the vast, arid savannas of Africa. Content, he was, without
malice toward neither man, beast, or God
not even when the beasts killed and plundered his herd, or when the Gods
held back the blessed life-sustaining rains.
The Marianne and her crew, however, soon altered that phase of his life.
He was something else now. Something more in the eyes of some, something
less in the eyes of others. Yet, the fact that he was only one small
step removed from the fate of those subservient to him did not, in any
way, diminish the zeal with which he pursued his duties. Any compassion
he might have had for his unfortunate charges had long ago been secreted
away in a place inaccessible to him and mortal man.
But, because of his heavy hand, the Marianne was never again threatened
with mutiny, not once in all the five years he had served as her Slave
Master. Usually, by the time they had completed a crossing, even the
noblest of warriors had been reduced to something less than a sniveling
So, it was with pride that he went about his task deep in the bowels of
the superannuated vessel. The Captain ruled topside, but below decks
he, Mukta, was supreme.
“Channel ahead! Fifteen degrees right, then straight as a boar’s prick,”
the crow nester yelled to the helmsman.
Mukta raised his head and looked up at the crow’s nest, resting high,
near the top of the foremast.
“All hands on deck,” shouted the boatswain. And suddenly, the deck was
filled with hurried activity as the swarthy, ragged, unkempt seamen
hauled in the yards of mainsail, coiled the rigging, and stowed the
spit-kids tightly beneath the spar deck. Only the small topsails and an
aft spanker were left aloft to propel the vessel up the channel to the
mouth of the Mississippi.
Mukta glanced out over the starboard side and noticed the deep emerald
and blue color of the sea slowly changing into a soft muddy brown, a
sure sign that they had entered the correct channel that would lead them
up the illusive and mysterious river.
This would be his second trip into the French port of New Orleans. Most
of the time, they sold their slave cargo in Cuba, or Haiti, and
sometimes along the Eastern seaboard. Yet, of all the places he had
visited, he found the Louisiana coast the most intriguing
especially the swamps and marsh lands, crowded with thick growths of
willows, mimosas, tupelo gums, ungainly pines, and marsh elder.
Cattails, great cane breaks, and palmetto thickets grew rampant along
the water’s edge. And interspersed within, were giant cypress trees with
feathery, green foliage and cone-shaped trunks that rested on huge
knobby roots that reminded him of someone’s knees. Hanging from their
branches were long masses of gray moss-like hair that everyone called
“Capuchin’s beard”. He had no idea who Capuchin was, but the sound of
the name seemed more than fitting.
The wind caused the topsails to snap, shattering the stillness, and
rousing flights of pelicans, herons, swans, and egrets from their nests
and feeding grounds in the nearby marshes. Mukta marveled at the
spectacular sight, thousands of water fowl of every species, stretching
their long necks and filling the hazel-blue sky. When they were gone, he
stretched his massive arms and scanned the shoreline, hoping to spot an
alligator or some other type of reptile sunning or swimming lazily among
the lilies and irises.
Suddenly, the hair on his neck stood like the hackles of a dog. He
turned quickly to see why, and found the cold, gray eyes of Captain
Fortierre staring directly at him.
“How many dead?” the Captain asked solemnly.
“Four,” Mukta replied.
“Damn. One would think my job was to feed the sharks, rather than make a
livelihood. Well, step lively and get the bastards over the side. We’ll
be in port soon.”
“Oui,” Mukta grunted as he turned and lumbered back down into the
hold. He had almost forgotten to perform his most important daily chore,
that of throwing the bodies of those who had died during the night over
At the bottom of the stairway, he closed his eyes tightly to adjust them
to the darkness. Then, he crossed to a short ladder and crawled up into
the t’ween deck. He stopped before a young mother and attempted to take
the dead body of a small boy from her arms. The woman resisted, cursing,
and calling him vile names. Then, she made the mistake of spitting
directly into his face. Without another thought, Mukta drew back his
massive arm and swatted her heavily across the mouth. She released the
child quickly, and just as quickly, buried her bloody face in her
shaking hands. Mukta then picked up the cold, stiff, little body and
carried it topside leaving its mother to cry softly in the darkness.
Once topside, he avoided looking at the child’s face. In fact, he never
looked any of the dead in the face. Not that he was afraid or felt any
pity for them. It was just a matter of doing his job, and he could do
that very well without having to look into their glassy eyes, or their
infected, blotched, scaly, black faces. Handling their stinking,
maggot-ridden bodies was enough
He was just about to pitch the body over the side, when a wheel pin
struck him suddenly, and hard, across the upper muscles of his left arm.
He yelped, dropped the body to the deck, and spun around into a
defensive posture. He cowered immediately, however, once he saw it was
“Stupid swine. The Captain would carve your black rump if he knew you
were throwing his good irons to the fish,” the Portuguese said, pointing
to the single, rusty shackle still fixed to the child’s ankle.
Mukta looked down, grunted in acknowledgement, then stooped to remove
it, his eyes watchful, should the Portuguese decide to strike him again.
The Portuguese snarled, then sauntered off. After he was out of range,
Mukta picked up the dead body and heaved it angrily over the side.
Yes, Portuguese, you will be the first to die. Then, I will drain my
bladder down your slimy throat, he promised himself as he returned
to the hold of the gracious Marianne.
As Mukta went about his tasks, he was ever mindful of evil eyes staring
at him in the darkness from every quarter, watching his every move.
Stupid bunch of mongrels. It wasn’t his fault that they were in
chains. And it wasn’t his fault that he was the one tasked with the
responsibility of beating some sense and respect into their black
carcasses. Fate had done that, not him. Didn’t they realize that he was
trapped just as they were? That he was confined to the hold of a
stinking ship when his heart yearned for home and Niema, the girl he was
supposed to marry? No, he supposed not. Well, it did not matter.
It still would not change one thing. As the wind blows, so do the sands
of the desert. Besides, they deserved no better, he rationalized. And
you, you deserve less than that, he said with his eyes as he glanced
over at a young Mali boy who called himself Kiokera. What fool in his
right mind would beg aboard a slaving vessel for a look-see. Well,
you got your look-see all right — a look-see at Hell.
Mukta did not like the boy. In fact, for reasons he could not adequately
explain, he hated the boy almost as much as he did the Portuguese.
Maybe, it was because of the embarrassment he had sustained on the day
the boy was first lured aboard
the way the youth had kicked him in the groin. He could still hear the
crew laughing now. Then too, maybe, it was the boy’s eyes, the way they
slanted like a snake’s. Evil, want-to-do-me-harm eyes. Evil eyes,
waiting in the dark. For what? For me to fall down the steps and
break my damn neck? Mukta chuckled to himself at the thought.
When he had finished throwing the last body over the side, he returned
to his stool and sat down weightily to rest his sweating body. A large,
thick-furred rodent caught his eye. He watched unconcerned as it crawled
slowly in and around the huge hand-hewn timbers that formed the ribs of
the bloated vessel.
When it was out of sight, his attention shifted slowly to a young girl
lying, unchained, on her side near the forward bulkhead. Naked from the
waist up, her dark reddish skin glowed amber in the sunlight that
filtered from above through the cracks in the floor of the deck.
Quietly, a subtle warmth settled in his groin and slowly spread
throughout his body. With deft hands, he reached down and massaged
himself as he surveyed her well-proportioned body, her full breasts
standing like they had been carved from ebony, the outline of her ample
buttocks, tightly wrapped and straining against the small piece of
broadcloth that barely covered her nakedness.
Silently, he wished that she could have been his own, or someone like
her. This one, however, would never do for a mate. This one had been
ruined. Barely a week out to sea, the Captain ordered him to bring the
frightened girl up to the quarterdeck where he ravaged her. To make
matters worse, the Captain had forced him to stand and watch, knowing
that his balls were aching and burning like fire for want of a woman.
After that, it seemed as if every other day, he was directed to bring
her topside where other officers and privileged crew members took their
pleasure. It happened so often, that he stopped bothering to replace her
chains. She wasn’t the only one forced to submit. They did it to some of
the others, too. The younger, the better. She, however, quickly became
their favorite, primarily because the little bitch had started to enjoy
her excursions. And before long, she was nothing but a wicked, little
conniving whore, using her woman’s wit indiscriminately to maintain her
favor among the slimy bunch of lice-ridden cutthroats. This had both
surprised and angered him
to see her smiling and grinning up in their faces and switching her tail
around like some bitch-dog in heat. Then, what really angered him
further was the fact that the girl had rejected his advances, forgetting
that he was the one, in the beginning, who had nursed her bruises and
tried to make her comfortable after her initial ordeal. Well, he took
care of that. Had to knock her around a little to get her attention.
But once that was accomplished, from then on, it was nothing but milk
and honey. Milk and honey.
Normally, he was not allowed to enjoy liberties with the slave women in
his care. That right was reserved only for the Captain and a chosen few.
But occasionally, when the need was severe enough, he accepted the risk
and stole a few moments of pleasure. Most of the time, however, he was
forced to obtain relief through the services of Cecil, their homosexual
cook. He detested this liaison with a passion. But had he refused, Cecil
would have withheld his daily rations of salt pork and biscuits. Just
thinking about the act made him sick to his stomach. And there were many
times, when he was laboring over the cook’s, red-like-a-monkey’s
backside, that he had to restrain himself from snapping the filthy,
little weasel’s neck
like a chicken’s.
The throbbing urgency of the turgid growth in his loins again demanded
his attention. Casually, he glanced up the stairs. The moment was
opportune. All hands were occupied on deck. And if he hurried, he could
take his pleasure now, without undue risk.
He stood up, glanced quickly up the stairway again, then made his way
over the bodies to where the girl lay. She looked up at him
apprehensively, her arm half raised as if she expected him to strike
her. Then, her eyes dropped to the pulsing protrusion beneath his
loincloth, and he could see that she knew what he wanted. Without
prompting, she rolled onto her back submissively and raised her knees.
Mukta smiled in satisfaction as he stroked his hugeness into a hard
Well, my cunning, little she-devil, tomorrow it will be some other
bewitched fool who will be praying at your dark, sacred altar.
Then, he lowered his huge body awkwardly between her dark thighs and
rubbed the head of his soul across her moist portal. Suddenly, he
plunged deeply. She groaned in pain, but did not attempt to escape.
Instead, she gritted her teeth, forced herself to relax and following
thereafter, was the slapping sound of flesh upon flesh — a sound not
unlike the snap of the wind against a high-flying canvas sail. Milk
and honey. Nothing but, milk and honey...................continued
(End of Chapter One Excerpt)
E p i l o g —
~ ~ ~
evening following the funeral, and while Emanuelle’s children played a
game of sticks on the floor of the sitting room, François sat
outside on the gallery steps gazing out at the setting sun, watching
intensely as it struggled to remain aloft. Louis, his master’s son, had
left earlier to go carousing in town with other boys his own age. Behind
him, his mistress sat in a weathered, split cane chair, absentmindedly
fingering the ends of the light shawl that hung loosely about her
shoulders. Beside her, his wife, Marie, stood cooling their mistress
with a small, palmetto frond fan. They, too, were watching reverently,
the last rites of day....
“How many fires do you think there are in
the sun — one, or many?”
“Many, I suppose.”
“I agree. I, too, think there are many —
all small. I think that there are so many, that from a distance they
only appear as one. Has anyone ever tried to follow the sun — to see
where it goes and what happens once it arrives at its destination?”
“I’m sure there are those who have tried,
but the sun is fleet of foot and nothing living, not even the fastest
horse, can match its stride.”
“An eagle could do it, if he was smart. If
I were an eagle, I would station myself on the evening side of the
world. There, I would wait. Then, when the sun arose the next morning, I
would precede it with all haste so that I could be at the appointed
place at the appointed time.”
“There are those who say the world is
round, that the sun travels in an arc and never sleeps.”
“Who are those who say this?”
“Scholars and men of learning.”
“Maybe, these scholars should ask the
Dogans. They would know for certain.”
“Yes. An ancient tribe in Africa whose camp
is near the river Niger. I have never seen these people myself, but the
elders of my village say that these people can see what no man can see;
that they know the stars, their names, and the paths they travel well.
They also say that the Dogans worship a black star, a dead star that
moves about a larger star once each sixty years; that they have
celebrated this event for more than three thousand years with a festival
called Sigui. Yes, I suspect that they would know.”
“The stars are beyond me. I am satisfied
just to marvel at their beauty.”
“If the world is round, as these scholars
suggest, maybe the Commandant is not dead. Maybe, he has just dropped
from our view to arise again on the other side of the world. Maybe...”
“François...,” Marie said with an air of
caution. “You’re disturbing m’selle.”
François glanced back, saw the last rays of
the sun flicker in the moist eyes of his mistress, and was immediately
sorry for having spoken his clumsy words. This had not been the intent
of his conversation. He had only intended to entertain her, and maybe,
lighten her burden. Now, he wished he had kept his mouth shut, stayed
out of it, and let time cure her broken heart. The sun had vanished from
both of their worlds, and no man living had the knowledge or the
strength to draw it back into its place, and certainly not him. He could
be of no further assistance here. It was time for him to prepare himself
— like the eagle he spoke of. For if an eagle, or a man, could outwit
the sun, then either could claim the greatest reward of all — the
fulfillment of a dream.
With a sudden sense of urgency, François
stood and approached his mistress.
“M’selle?” he said softly.
“Yes, François.” Emanuelle replied
“Forgive me. I did not mean to disturb you
with my foolish talk.”
“Ne vous en faites pas (Do not
worry). Your talk was not foolish. It was very endearing.”
“M’selle, there is nothing more I can do
here. With your permission, I will be leaving. I must get back to my
chores. Marie will stay to tend your needs.”
“Must you leave tonight?”
“Yes. My fields have gone unattended for
too long, and there is much to be done.”
“I understand and agree. M’sieur Leblec,
the overseer, is quite capable of overseeing my interest here. Marie,
tell Zolare to pack a sack of food for François, and François — take my
husband’s horse, Diablo. He will be of more service to you than to me. I
will send Marie to join you in a few weeks — as soon as things are
While François went to the barn to saddle
up Diablo, Marie instructed Zolare to pack him a sack of food. Then, she
went directly to her cabin to gather François’ personal belonging.
“My, what a handsome pair of black
stallions the two of you make,” Zolare said softly from the shadows as
she entered the dimly lit barn with a small food sack.
“Damn, Zolare. You scared the Hell out of
“Zolare chuckled as she sauntered towards
Diablo’s stall and stopped in front of François. “That was not my
intentions, chéri. There are things more desirable that I would like to
do to you.”
“Zolare, be careful. I have no time for
“I am not interested in mischief. I am on a
mission with a purpose, and it concerns you.”
“François, I want a child,” Zolare said
with a serious tone as she closed in and took his hand in hers. “I want
a child more than anything else in all this world.”
“As much as I would like to, I cannot
assist you. Give Cecil an opportunity.”
“François, you know, as well as I, that
Cecil is not capable. Despite all his bragging, he is an old man and not
capable of fulfilling his manly duties. You are my only hope. I…”
“Sorry, I’m late,” Marie interrupted as she
entered the barn with another sack containing François’ clothing.
François coughed, stepped back from Zolare,
and hurried back to his tasks.
“I did not intend to startle you.” Marie
added sarcastically. “I was delayed by the children.”
“Oh, Marie,” Zolare replied
self-consciously, “I was just telling François that when you leave to
rejoin him on the Isle, I would like to accompany you to see my husband.
If m’selle allows me to do so, won’t that be wonderful — the four of us
in the wilderness?”
“Yes, it would,” Marie replied as a matter
of courtesy even though she felt a little ill at ease about what might
have transpired in her absence. Then to her husband, she said sternly
and somewhat curtly, “You go directly home and straight to bed without
delay, and stay there. I will join you as soon as m’selle releases me.”
“I will be waiting anxiously, chéri.”
“And be watchful of the Natchez boy.
Remember — he kills.”
“You worry too much. The boy is no threat
to us. The Englishmen received exactly what they deserved.”
“Still, he is a savage, and one cannot be
too cautious. You heed me, do as I say, and stand your guard.”
“I will do that, chéri,” François answered.
Then, he kissed her, climbed aboard Diablo, and departed with a wave of
When he had gone, Marie turned to Zolare
and said quite sternly, “Whatever you may have on your little feeble
mind, forget it.”
Then, she left a speechless Zolare standing
uncomfortably in the shadows of the barn as she walked briskly back
toward the house.
As Marie retrieved her fan and resumed her
post, Emanuelle released a long, audible sigh and flipped her shawl
angrily at several unwelcome mosquitoes. In the distance, above the
pines, several birds of an unknown variety circled the purple sky as if
searching the night for a place to roost. A tiny jack rabbit wandered
leisurely across her front yard, saw her, then darted quickly, deep into
her flower bed near the roses. She followed it with her eyes, wondering
how it, and the other vulnerable creatures of the world, managed to
survive in the midst of so many predators like wolves and alligators,
lawyers and judges, and powdered male scavengers who passed themselves
off as governors.
Soon, Lieutenant Taillefert would come with
his cadets and clerk to inventory and appraise what was left of her
husband’s assets, and it irritated her to think of them pulling,
plucking, and rummaging through her things with their filthy hands. If
they would but ask, she could save them a considerable amount of time
for she knew the count of every worthless item in her possession.
There were six chests of linen and clothes,
twelve of her husband’s surtouts — some a little better than others, but
all with beautiful gold and silver braids and tassels. Beneath the house
there were forty-two sacks of last year’s pecans and four hundred and
fifty pots of stinking bear oil waiting for shipment to New Orleans.
In her care, were sixteen adult slaves,
twelve African and four Indian. And among them were seventeen little
slave children, twelve African and five Indian — all darlings and
especially dear to her heart.
On the land of Casa de Sombrilla, there
were twenty-two arpents of corn. There were also fifteen arpents planted
with beans, and eight with indigo. In the meadows, they had exactly one
hundred and eleven horned beasts, twenty-seven fine Spanish horses, four
wagons, two carts, and one carriage with a loose wheel.
She had ten slave cabins in various states
of repair, a barn, a weaving house, a curing shed, a cookhouse with
three iron cooking pots and a cauldron, and she had a modest home.
Inside, she had twelve forks and spoons, twenty-four plates, a speckled
blue Chinese vase, two silver goblets, some utensils, five mattresses,
two pieces of printed calico, and a few jewels, some given to her by her
grandmother, and a few that she had purchased for herself in New
Orleans. And, if they insisted — she also had seven pairs of drawers to
cover her naked ass.
It seemed like a large estate, but even if
they sold everything she owned, she knew it would never satisfy her
debts. She supposed most of it would go toward paying the nine thousand
livres she still owed the Company of the Indies. If that wasn’t enough,
she suspected they might even confiscate her home. They could. And
what about Marie and François? She loved them dearly, and she knew
that they loved her; that they would work their fingers to the bone in
an attempt to save her and salvage their dreams of liberty; that they
would do this in spite of the fact that time was clearly to their
With the estate in such disarray and tied
to the courts, she doubted that they would ever realize their quest.
But, they would try. Of that, she was never more certain. How she wished
her husband had listened to her. They could have sold what they could,
taken the money and ran — back to Mexico. Her beautiful, beautiful
Mexico. Debts be damned.
Bienville — you old, fat-assed heifer...
I salute you. You did your dirty work well.
“Let us retire. I’m ready for bed.”
Without answering, Marie took her
mistress’s arm gently and escorted her into the house. Once inside,
Emanuelle paused above her daughter, Marie des Nieges, and baby Coincoin.
Both lay fast asleep on the floor of her sitting room.
“They are adorable, aren’t they, Marie?”
“Oui, m’selle. Yes, they are.”
— ~ ~ ~ —
A Cane River Saga