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DV Ficathon - Jumeau Jaloux


A brother's point of view.



The Captain General, face drawn and sullen, eyes reddened and rheumy, looked up reluctantly from his desk at the young man who stood before him at the entrance to his tent. He’d taken too much wine this cold, interminable night, but he cared not; he was in no mood for visitors – least of all this one.

“What is it, boy?” he growled, hoping that his tone might send the lad scurrying off into the darkness. But the young man, slim and dark, stepped forward into the tent, seemingly unperturbed by the Captain’s mood, and stood for a moment looking down at Francis Drake before speaking.

“I’ve come to take his place,” he answered smoothly.

Drake sighed, “Take his place, boy? Of what prate thee?”

“Thomas,” the young man replied, “I’ve come to take his place beside you.”

Francis Drake stared blankly at his unwelcome visitor. Was this some fiendish nightmare from which he was unable to rouse himself? He could not comprehend what the young man was saying. On this bitter winter’s day he had sent to his death his closest friend, the man with whom he’d shared his dreams of adventure and wealth, because he had been cruelly betrayed by him. Now that man’s brother stood before him offering to take Thomas’ place.

Seeing the Captain’s confusion the lad continued, “’Tis my wish to serve you, just as once my brother did,” a beauteous and disturbingly familiar smile breaking across his handsome young face. “I would be your leman; share your table, your tent, …..your bed.”

Drake blanched; he felt his head about to explode; he had to concentrate just to take his next breath. Was this boy suggesting that he and Thomas had been lovers? “Art thou mad, boy?” he exclaimed, then, more softly, ‘Swounds, have I driven thee to insanity with grief for the loss of thy brother?”

The boy stood unflinchingly before Drake showing no signs of distress. “I suffer no malady of mind, good Captain; ‘tis but my most ardent wish to serve you,” he replied, taking a step closer to the desk.

Drake leaned forward and looked the boy directly in the eye. ‘Thy brother was the most pious gentleman that I have ‘ere known. Ne’re had I laid a carnal hand upon him,” he declared emphatically, but in that moment Drake understood that indeed, to have Thomas in just this way, was exactly what he had always desired. The thought shocked him but before he could find words to respond further the young man continued.

“Then my brother was a greater fool than even I did suspect. Be assured, good Captain, I be not of so pious a nature, and truly I am in no way mad; I would serve you well.”

“Wherefore wouldst thou wish such a thing? Didst thou not love thy brother?”

“My actions have naught to do with love or affection. ‘Tis all to do with profit and advantage; this you would understand all too well, I should think. I seek only advancement; to take my proper place at court as a gentleman. Why should my career be eclipsed by his just because he be the first born? Now, with the properties and money I will inherit and the influential friends I will have at court, my future is assured. And I will have good friends at court; milord Leicester will be most grateful to be rid of my troublesome brother.”

These words struck Drake another blow, “Leicester, you work for Leicester? Against your own brother, you plotted with his direst enemy?” Drake asked incredulously, still struggling to comprehend what he was hearing.

The lad, now emboldened by Drake’s obvious disquiet, continued, “Indeed Captain, I work for milord Leicester, as do you, I believe. It was our Lord Leicester who did to me propose that I aid you in this plot. And I was happy to accede, for it not only did procure my release from a most noisome prison, but gave me the opportunity to be of service to you.”

This nightmare swung from bad to worse; was the lad now suggesting that he conspired with Leicester to kill Thomas? “No! Never! ‘Tis ne’er possible!” cried Drake. He had tried to placate his troubled conscience and ease his aching heart by telling himself that he had given Thomas as fair a trial as could be conducted so far from the shores of England. “Brewer and Bright were adamant in their reports of his treachery; twenty nine men of the company of the Elizabeth testified to his betrayal.”

The lad spoke again, now with breathtaking arrogance, “Certes, ’twas no chore to have the likes of Brewer and Bright assist my cause, as being jealous of your affection for him, they did both fervently despise my brother, and the promise of reward sealed their compliance. As for the others, well, a little threat of witchcraft is most effective when dealing with these ignorant mariners, I have found.”

The weary Captain was in a state of shock; and there were still more shocks to come. Drake sat open mouthed, listening in disbelief, “That I should have sacrificed my brother to take his place is of little consequence. And Leicester, well, he is of course quite the favourite of the Queen at present, but I would rather be of service to you. Your star is destined to shine bright in the firmament of court, good Captain, when we return unto England, the ships laden with Spanish spoils, and I wish only to bask in the reflected glory of that light. Leicester’s fortunes, I fear, may not have such good auspices when certain intelligences be made known to Her Majesty.”

Drake was barely able to control his rage. He knew Leicester hated Thomas; that treacherous Lord had indeed made some veiled suggestions to him that if Thomas did not return from the venture he would be the better pleased, but that Thomas’ own brother would so fiendishly betray him was beyond all comprehension.

“Dost mean to tell me,” Drake asked slowly and deliberately through gritted teeth, “that Thomas was innocent of the charges for which he was executed?”

“Innocent of mutiny, treason and plotting against you? Verily, good Captain. Guilty of arrogance, pride and foolhardiness, most assuredly. But suffer not on his behalf I pray you; ‘twas e’re his greatest desire to be a martyr. Were not his final moments a thing of sublime beauty? You and I have only afforded him that which he most wished for.”

Drake stood suddenly, knocking over his chair as he rose; he leaned upon the desk with his clenched fists to steady himself; his whole body trembled with rage, “Thy brother loved thee more than life itself. His final words to me this very day were of his concern for thy safety. I hath promised him no harm would befall thee whilst in my charge. And now thou boasts that thou didst devise his death, such that thou might prosper in his place?”

The young man was not at all intimidated by the Captain’s response; he remained standing tall, looking directly into Drake’s piercing blue eyes. Drake was struck, as always, at how much the brothers resembled each other, despite the difference in their ages. Yes, this could easily be the brave, proud Thomas he had met in Ireland almost 5 years ago. His heart ached with the realisation of what he had sacrificed on what he now knew to be the false words of such cogging, lying knaves as Bright and Brewer.

Drake’s mind was in total turmoil. In those long, bitter weeks of suspicion and accusation as they crossed the Atlantic he had been convinced of Thomas’ guilt; Brewer, Bright and Drake’s own brother; all men he trusted implicitly, had each reported Thomas’ compounding indiscretions. Thomas had denied the charges, but Drake had by then entered a dark realm of madness and saw conspiracies and mutiny everywhere. He had trusted the gentleman and Thomas’ apparent betrayal was as a knife to his heart. He had been insane with grief, but now that the grizzly end had been enacted, the blinding rage that had swept him along this tragic course had ebbed from him he could see the truth to which John alluded. He had loved Thomas, and he had he had destroyed him because he could not possess him body and soul. And now this impudent imposter; this jealous twin, who had conspired with the worst elements of Elizabeth’s court to bring down a fine gentleman, sought to replace his Thomas. To his utter horror, Drake realised that the young knave was even now wearing Thomas’ clothes, his grey doublet and finest cloak; Thomas’ rings graced the slender fingers of the boy. Drake felt ill, defeated. The cold, solid wall of indignation, anger and suspicion which he had built around his heart over the past months was utterly destroyed.

“God forgive me, Thomas!” Drake exclaimed, his eyes clenched shut, then, fixing John with a withering glare he roared, “Cursed betrayer! Faithless cur! Lewd fellow! Get thee from my sight, John Doughtie; I will have naught to do with thee!”

John Doughtie gave the Captain a polite but condescending bow and exited the tent. As he emerged into the cold night air he blinked back the tears pooling in his dark eyes and bit his lower lip to stop its trembling, then nodded to a cadre of gentlemen standing solemnly and silently around a nearby camp fire; Cooke, Vicarye and Wynter. They, all three, nodded their approval in return. They may not have the authority or the power to physically punish Drake for the execution of their friend, but they had now at least ensured that he would be forever tormented for the indignities and injustices suffered by Thomas Doughtie at his hands.






 

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