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Title:     Starcrossed
Rating: Gen
Theme: Crosses - For the  dv_squee ficathon on the anniversay of the martyrdom of Thomas Doughtie.


He had been humiliated and abused, half starved, struck to the ground, lashed to the mast and left to endure the assaults of the wild ocean weather; falsely accused, convicted, condemned and all by a man he had long considered a friend. 

He had spent the day of July 1 attending to his worldly affairs.  His family, his friends, his servants, they would all be well provided for. Now there only remained the night.  His last night. A night so long and desperate that it would test his faith and his resolve.  The winter sun had set by 4 o'clock and would not rise until 8 on July 2.  Sixteen hours of darkness and doubt.  Hours when the icy fingers of despair could emerge from the dark corners of his mind and torment him with morbid imaginings.  Hours in which he must prepare for the end of his life.

He knew he was not afraid to die.  He had spent time soldering in the service of his Queen. He was experienced and skilled in battle.  He had faced death and dealt death at close quarters more than once in Ireland.  He had faced these dangers with a sure conviction that if death befell him his faith in God would be rewarded. What he feared most, if truth be known, was to find himself lacking in that faith when it was most needed, of losing his good name and reputation. For him this was indeed a fate worse than death.

He pondered his now hopeless predicament; it seemed as some bizarre dream to him.  He was unsure just what had possessed him to give up a comfortable and entertaining life in London and a promising career as secretary to one of the favoured knights of the Queen's court, with the prospect of further advancement, to go venturing with a common sea captain considered by many as nothing more than a marauding pirate.  Certainly there was the promise he had made in Ireland, but this could have been easily honoured by providing a sum of money and then waving goodbye to this dangerous man from the docks of Plymouth.  Perhaps it was the blame he had been coerced to accept to smooth the ruffled feathers of two great lords; or the need to remove his intemperate younger brother from the dangerous intrigues of the court; or the sudden tragic death of his young wife. Yes, all of these had played their part. Undeniably, however, there was also the strange fascination the rough but charismatic commoner, with an outrageous temper and an even more outrageous ambition, held for him. Whatever the reason he had never imagined that the end of his life would be at the hands of one whom he had promoted and supported so eloquently, so passionately and so enthusiastically to all who would listen, despite the raised eyebrows and questioning looks of his friends from the Inner Temple.

Ironically, now that his persecutor was about to achieve his aim of disposing of this recalcitrant gentleman, the condemned man found that he was to be afforded all the deference and privilege that his station demanded.  Wasn't this all that he had ever demanded of his friend?  His antagonist's wrath, driven by suspicion, jealousy, superstition, madness - he knew not what, had all but abated and he was permitted free access to all with whom he would converse, albeit singularly.

He spoke quietly with his friends, tried to console them. He wrote his last letters to those he'd left behind and entrusted his words to his dearest, true friend.  He prayed with the preacher, but not earnestly; more for the preacher's sake than his own. 

Now well into the night he had spoken his words of comfort and consolation to all save one.  His brother.  What words could he conjure that would provide comfort to this young man - duty, honour, faith, love? Still a boy in many ways yet on the morrow set to become the head of his family, he had brought his young brother upon this voyage of adventure to help teach him prudence and self discipline.  Now, perhaps due to his own imprudence and misjudgment, he would be abandoning him to the mercy of one who displayed little of that virtue.  He could not yet find the words.

With the dawn still hours away he emerged from his tent and walked alone towards the water's edge.  His guards made no attempt to impede him.  The night air was bitterly cold but he did not feel this half so much as the coldness he felt within his soul.  Behind him the camp was eerily quiet.  A company of so many men would normally be no haven of peace, but on this night what few conversations existed were hushed and circumspect.  Be they friend or foe, none in the camp was inclined to speak out loud and break the sombre mood.  But neither did they sleep; rather they huddled around the flickering camp fires in silent vigil. From across the water the melancholy sound of a lone viol drifted from the deck of the Elizabeth laying at anchor in the bay of Port San Julian.

As he stood looking southward to the seas he knew he would now never cross, the clouds that had obscured the sky for the past two days parted slightly to reveal a cache of stars scattered like jewels across a dark velvet cloak.  Seductive but unreachable.  He wondered if his God mocked him for his folly in chasing the dream of fortune and adventure, of comradeship and shared danger to these far southern seas.  Fear gripped his heart.  Then, just when his spirit was at its lowest ebb, the clouds retreated further and he saw the five bright stars that guide the mariners of this remote region.  The stars that form the symbol of his Saviour's martyrdom. Crux.

Thomas Doughtie looked upon the Southern Cross and smiled.  His God had not forsaken him and would provide him with the strength he needed to face the dawning day with the courage and the dignity of a gentleman, safe in the knowledge that his soul would surely be delivered into his Saviour's grace before the approaching sun would set again.

He crossed himself and prayed.

Crux Photo Uri Beletsky



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 3rd, 2008 01:49 pm (UTC)
This is an absolutely brilliant work. You've caught the despair and hope and faith perfectly. Much applause.

It's been years since I last watched Drake's Venture, but reading your story brought it all back (especially how much I disliked Drake). I think I'm going to have to find my tape and revisit the movie this weekend.

Thank you!
Oct. 4th, 2008 08:49 am (UTC)
Thank you very much. It is a very beautifully made movie; well worth another viewing.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )



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