A Tall Ship Tale #9: Crimean Punishment

From the continuing saga by Paul de Anguera, The next chapter.

Captain Quid and the First Mate were sharing a bottle of Grand Fenwick 1897 in the Captain’s cabin. Beyond the stern windows the grim crags of Transylvania were receding; watching them do so was a pleasure and a relief. So was the rocking motion of the water; for, although the H.M.S. Legume could now fly, they had decided to cross the Black Sea in the usual way.

“The Brotherhood has requested that we put them ashore on the Crimean peninsula,” the First Mate said. “That is where their high priests meet every year. Since we are headed that way anyhow, I told them we would do it.”

“Aye?” said the Captain.

“Yes, it’s highly irregular for a King’s ship to cater to passengers. But I have my own reason for agreeing with them.” He paused, but the Captain merely looked at him expectantly. “That is,” he continued in a way Anne should approve, “there is a saboteur on the ship — very likely an agent of the Tsar’s secret police who has penetrated the Brotherhood. He mangled the spanner in Moscow. He has had no opportunity to disembark. So, a criminal remains here among us — and could strike again at any time!”

“Aye,” said the Captain, reaching for the bottle. The First Mate took this to mean that the Captain agreed and was not simply announcing the bottle’s destination.

“I knew you’d see it too sir. This is our best chance to flush the criminal out!”

A low, thick fog closed about the ship as it sailed eastward. Since the new recruit, Emma Talligeist, was familiar with the area, the First Mate sent her aloft to pilot the ship. As he had hoped, she reported that the upper main mast was above the fog.

“What do you see?” He called from the deck.

“Krym!” she replied.

“I’ll send a clean-up detail to the crow’s nest later,” he noted. “Now, what do you see?”


“Yes, I suppose you could describe the Black Sea as a vast pool. Nice poetic imagery. But, what do you see?”

“Yalta — look out!”

“I ought to look out? That’s your job! Boatswain, write that woman up for insubordination!” But at this point the steersman, who had been listening more carefully, yanked the flying lever. On the hull, shutters drew back from a portrait of James G. Watt, so repulsing the earth that it flew away just in time for the ship to clear the Yalta breakwater. After a few close encounters of the bird kind in the city’s fog-bound streets, the crew dropped anchor in an ornamental garden near the meeting place.

While the Brotherhood’s priests descended a rope ladder to make their way to the meeting, the First Mate and Ian Vilcorus the blacksmith quietly slid down the anchor cable. They crept behind a hedge from which they had a clear view of the ladder. Half an hour after the priests had gone, a lone hooded figure slunk down the ladder and started off after them. The two sailors lost no time in tackling him (so to speak), using the opportunity to employ their most elaborate and decorative knots.

“How did you know?’ the bound man gasped. The First Mate grinned a nasty grin and replied:

“The criminal always returns to the synod of Crimea!”

Howell Gwin asked, “Wasn’t that one of Julie London’s big hits? Crimea River?”

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