DOVER Chapter 30
Callum hit the ground with such a force that the wind was knocked from him. He blinked his eyes several times hard to try and focus. He knew that he had to get up, to try and move to get away, but couldn't. He tried to gasp for breath but couldn't find it. The smoke and dust was heavy, surrounding him, and the smell of gunpowder was all around him. He labored hard to try and get air, his strength waning from its loss.
Slowly he rolled to his right side, looking around as he lifted his head. His vision was blurred and he clutched his side from the pain as he moved. The smoke and dust was so thick around him. He could hear rock and stone falling about him, knowing he was still inside the fortress, and he heard something else, the moans and groans off a ways from him, but still close. He forced himself to breathe, and then he coughed and spat away from himself. He was sure there was blood as he could taste it. He took in another breath, shallow this time, and was able to start focusing his eyes.
Shadow mostly was in his vision, and the groans came from a large pile of stone at what was the large corridor. He saw movement to his right out of the corner of his eye. He grit his teeth. The long form of a man was near him on the floor, he knew who it was, and glared, watching for movement. There was none. Good, Callum thought to himself, the son-of-a-bitch might be dead, justice served. My sword, where is my sword? He saw the movement and the glint of steel. His eyes went wide. The long form groaned and moved. No! Not now! Callum thought. Callum heard a curse, muttered softly and then a cough behind it. Damn!
Callum struggled to get to his feet, clutching his side. He coughed again and spat. Yes, there was blood, he could taste it along with the grit in his mouth from the air, that was now coating his lips as it swirled and settled. He staggered a couple of steps toward the form, seeing the steel, one was a loose sword, a fine thin rapier that lay on the ground next to the long slender form, the other was still run halfway through the side of the groaning moving form. Callum gritted his teeth harder and curled his lips, as he stepped up, he put out a foot and viscously pushed at it, rolling it over as he grabbed the pommel of his sword. He heard the groan from the kick and didn't care. He put his fingers around the handle in the pommel and pulled, making the groaning deeper. The blade was freed, Callum satisfied that he, the form, was done, and done for, Callum turned and staggered away toward the large open doorway to the outside. He stopped, kneeling down at the body that was there. Callum put a hand on his shoulder and rolled him, making a grunting sound himself, but heard a moan under him. He half smiled, knowing his friend on the ground was still alive. He looked down into the face of Anders.
"Carl, you're still alive." Callum said softly and gave a faint smile. Callum heard the rumble, and looked over his shoulder. His eyes went wide as more of the fortress was crumbling from above. Callum closed his eyes and lay over his friend, to try and shield him from what was coming down behind them. Rock and stone fell, crashing heavily, making a thunderous sound, bringing more groans and screams, as well as thick dust. Callum knew the screams were from French regulars trapped inside, now being crushed by the collapsing fortress. Callum waited for the dust to clear a little and raised himself off Anders. They smiled briefly at one another. Callum felt something at his waist, and Anders had a look of pain and urgency, Callum went to look down, as Anders pulled Callum's pistol from his belt, cocking the hammer back and pushing Callum away at the same time. The pistol went off and Callum looked back, seeing the dark tall figure spin from the hit of the musket ball, the glint of the steel of the sword was spinning away. Callum was wide eyed, and looked back at Anders, was taking a deep breath and seemed to be choking on it. His eyes rolled and Callum saw the motion of him stop and fade as his arm dropped that had the pistol. Callum knew as the eyes went blank.
"Carl..." Callum said, looking down, putting a hand on his chest, shaking him. "No,...Carl, stay with me...Carl. I'll get you out of here..." Callum said, knowing that Anders could not hear him or anything else in this world. Callum closed his eyes for a moment and hung his head.
"Mr. Tomlin!" Middleboro shouted from the Main Deck. "The fortress, sir!" Middleboro shouted again from the rail, dropping his own glass.
"I have eyes, Mr. Middleboro!" Tomlin said, as he had a glass to his eye.
"Yes, sir! But look...it's the Captain!"
"Where?!" Tomlin shouted, seeing the boats coming back to Dover as fast as they could. Tomlin was scanning the boats, but he wasn't among them.
"There, sir! To the left of the fortress! On the pathway, sir!"
Tomlin swung his glass, he could see French regulars above on what was left of some of the battlements, trying to work their way around over to above the doorway and Callum. They were having trouble getting there because of all the damage. The tower above and behind was still smoking and now flames could be seen. Tomlin followed along, trying to find where Middleboro was talking about and then he saw a flash of blue and steel glinting in the sunlight. Tomlin stopped and watched. He saw the figure look up over his head and then try and roll out of the way, as Tomlin moved his glass up, seeing more of the wall of the fortress fall right above where he was kneeling. The rock and stone fell, and a few of the French disappeared, Tomlin assumed they fell through with collapse. Tomlin gasped as he went back to where the figure in blue was, and then he saw it, a dark figure leaping out of the fortress, the glint of a sword swinging. Tomlin dropped the glass, seeing where the boats were. They were close, loaded with Marines and the boat crews. Tomlin spun to some of the hands on the Quarterdeck.
"Get that rail gun off and readied! As soon as the gig is alongside, get it down and placed at the bow!" Tomlin yelled, pointing. "That's the Captain! We have to row back and cover his escape! Hurry! Get extra grapeshot and powder!" Tomlin looked over the rail down at the boats. "Hurry! Pull for your lives! We have to go back for the Captain!" Tomlin screamed as he went down the starboard stairs. "Starboard battery, standby to fire! Run out!" Tomlin screamed, the men were jumping quickly as he came at them. Guns were run out. "Fire on the uproll! Aim for the tower! Bring it down!" Tomlin screamed as he reached the midpoint of the starboard rail. "FIRE!" Tomlin screamed as Dover rolled up in the swell. Thunderous volleys went off from the Main Deck and the Gun Deck nearly simultaneously. Smoke covered the deck and was washed overboard by the breeze, shadowing the fortress. They could hear the crumbling and grinding of rock as they waited for it to clear. Slowly, the smoke began to dissipate, and they could see the damage done. Large gaping holes were now in the tower. The men cheered. "Reload!" Tomlin screamed. "Mr. Middleboro, get below and take control of the Gun Deck!"
"Aye, sir." Middleboro, tipped and ran, handing off his glass. Dustin was at the wheel and saw the flurry of activity. He let go of the wheel and went to the rail, seeing the fortress off in the distance. He saw the figure in blue and white, down at the base of the wall. He took in a deep breath as he saw the shot hit the stone walls high up, the crumbling stone, the men above fall, and then he saw the movement below, the figure of blue and white, the glint of steel in his hand, knowing it was Callum. He held his breath, watching him jump back, avoiding the stones behind him, holding his sword up.
"Quintan." Dustin said in a whisper, as he put his hands on the rail. Dustin's eyes went wide as a figure, clad in black, came out of the opening in the wall, leaping out, steel swinging in his hand. The clash was tremendous between them, knocking the figure in blue and white back a bit, keeping his footing, holding his sword over his head to defend against the swing, it was blocked. Dustin spun around and was looking desperately about the deck, and then found it, a glass. He picked it up and extended it, raising it to his eye, he could see Callum and the man who was attacking him clearly, the looks on their faces, the determination of each as they spun about each other, circling, swords touching, then thrust, block, parry, then lunge. Dustin kept the glass to his eye, holding his breath, watching the struggle between the two men. Dustin had an idea who the other man was that was fighting Callum but wasn't sure.
Smythe swung his blade, Callum, threw his body out of the way as he could not block it fast enough. Smythe stepped closer, quickly, trying to make up for the short loss of ground, Callum up righted himself, preparing for the next lunge, and saw the opportunity as Smythe was off balance. Callum spun to his left, keeping his sword at shoulder level, as he spun, out of the way of Smythe's sword and caught Smythe across the arm with the blade, and then the pommel, into Smythe's temple, knocking him back a little. Callum felt the impact, and narrowed his eyes, seeing Smythe fall back a little. Callum stopped the swing and brought his fist full to Smythe's cheek with the impact, knocking Smythe back to the wall of the fortress. Smythe hit it with a thud and an exhale. Callum leaped at him, throwing his body to Smythe's, grasping his wrist that held the sword. Callum saw Smythe's eyes for a moment and could see the anger and hatred in them. Callum shoved his palm up with sudden force, hitting Smythe's chin, throwing his head back aginst the stone wall, making Smythe grunt, Callum did again and again, pushing into Smythe as much as he could. Smythe began to crumble under Callum and slide down the wall. Callum stopped, and watched as Smthe's eyes rolled and closed, sliding down the wall. Callum backed up a step watching the figure in black fall below him. Callum turned to his right seeing the path, and started down it at a trot, as Dover continued to fire, the shot hitting above him, sending the stone falling to the path, knocking Callum to the ground. He lifted his head, shaking it a little and then got to his feet. He stepped down the path carefully as the dust was heavy in the air, blocking his vision. Callum stopped as heard something in front of him. He lifted his sword and waited. The dust cleared and there was a French regular in front of him, sword drawn. Callum readied himself as the Frenchman leapt, swinging his sword, Callum blocked it, grabbing his other free hand, holding them both over his, the Frenchman had a look of surprise, and Callum pulled, bending the Frenchman in half, Callum bringing up a knee, hitting him in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him, doubling him. Callum rolled him with his hands toward the wall, and when the Frenchman hit, he bounced, Callum stuck him with his sword point, running him through. The Frenchman groaned and dropped to his knees. Callum pulled his sword and let him fall.
Callum swung and there were three more coming up the path, swords out on a run toward him. Callum braced for them as they came quickly. The first swung, Callum ducked, pointing his sword out as the second one ran right into its deadly sharp tip., he grunted with the impact and stayed motionless. Callum saw his eyes and what they meant, and pulled back his sword. He raised up, elbowing the third Frenchman, staggering him, and turned to the first. Callum saw fear in his eyes and lunged, running him through the chest. He heard the third come back around, and back swung an elbow in the thirds face, staggering him back, Callum swinging around again, and running his sword through the man's upper stomach as far as he could. They went face to face. Callum pushed against him, following him to the ground, pulling his sword as he fell.
"Mr. Tomlin!" Dustin called, dropping the glass from his eye. Tomlin came back up the stairs. Dustin turned and looked at him. "We have to help him, sir!" Dustin screamed, tears in his eyes.
"Calm yourself, Mr. Perkins. We're doing what we can." Tomlin said, grabbing Dustin by the shoulders. "The boat is headed back to the beach now." Tomlin said as he looked over the rail, seeing the image on the distant beach. Tomlin let go of Dustin and turned back to the stairs. Dustin raised the glass again, muttering under his breath. Dustin saw the figure in black coming down the path behind Callum. Dustin wanted to yell, but knew he wouldn't be heard. His eyes went wide as the figure in black leapt at Callum from behind. Callum swung around and went wide eyed seeing him coming for him.
Callum jumped back as the sword came swinging down at him, he put up his sword to block the attack. Smythe was growling and grunting with his efforts, and Callum was struggling for breath. Smythe was quick with his blade, being fueled by rage, he was focused, wounded, and very dangerous, Callum knew, and he was doing his best to defend against the larger man. With every lunge and thrust, Callum parried, and was trying to get down the path toward the rocks and beach below. He knew Dover was right there, but still so far away. He had to hold his own against Smythe, until help arrived or he was taken by the crumbling fortress or possibly by French regulars.
Callum paused briefly, as did Smythe, just as cannon went off from Dover again. They both looked quickly toward her as she fired. Shot whistled over their heads and into the walls of the fortress directly above them. They both fell to the ground as the hits came, rock raining down about them. Callum looked up as he rolled to his back, rocks coming down to where he had been laying. He grunted as he got to his feet quickly, Smythe was pelted by small stones. He shook them off and put his left hand to his chest, below his left shoulder. Blood oozed from between his fingers as he got to his feet. Smythe looked down at it, and then glared at Callum.
"It would appear that you have suffered a deep wound, my dear Smythe, perhaps if you lay down your sword, sir, my surgeon will tend to it." Callum said, trying to stall for time, as he was feeling exhausted and was bleeding himself.
"It would appear that your ship does not care whether you are here or not, Captain. They will more than likely kill you by mistake from poor marksmanship."
"They are some of the finest gunners in the fleet, sir. And I think I'd rather be killed by a stray ball than from a traitor's sword." Callum growled. Smythe gritted his teeth and curled back his lips. His handsome features covered with dirt and soot.
"Then perhaps, I shall do my best to deny you of that which you want most." Smythe said as he lunged with a roar, as more cannon shots came from Dover. Both men came together with a loud clang of steel, going pommel to pommel. Callum balled up his free fist, but Smythe was on to him first, pushing into Callum, turning him so his back was to the rocks and the beach below. The shots hit the walls and battlements just above them. The cascade of rock came down, showering all around them. Smythe was hit by a larger stone and fell to the ground, dropping his sword. Callum was pushed back and lost his balance, falling into the small rocks above the beach. Callum lost all his wind again, as well as his sword. He groaned heavily from the pain. He rolled slowly as he reached for his sword, just out of reach. Smythe got to his feet, shaking his head, bleeding now from his left temple. He saw Callum was bare of weapon and charged at him, the two colliding and flying out into the sand, hitting the surface with a heavy thud as more cannon fire went off from Dover. Callum struggled to get up, only making it to his knees, Smythe was trying to reach for Callum's sword as the shots hit the fortress again, Callum reaching out and pulling at Smythe, making him turn as Callum landed a punch to Smythe's eye. Smythe grunted from the impact and fell back to the sand.
Callum scrambled in the sand and jumped onto Smythe, wrapping one arm about Smythe's neck, the other grasped Smythe's wrist. Legs intertwined as they came together, rolling back and forth in the sand. They glared at each other as they rolled going eye to eye. Callum's only thought was to keep him pinned to try and overpower him as he knew Smythe was severely wounded. It was a futile attempt. Smythe was still powerful and was determined to kill Callum now. Smythe punched Callum a couple of times in his side, and then spun away. Callum fell near his sword and Smythe leaped up onto the pathway at the base of the fortress wall, seeing his own steel blade there. He snapped it up and spun.
Callum had gotten his own sword and got to his feet. He pointed the blade toward Smythe, and they stared at each other for a long moment. Callum knew it was time to prove who was actually the better swordsman. Callum slipped his tunic off as he glared at Smythe, dropping it to the ground.
"I see that you have been wounded yourself, Captain." Smythe said. Callum looked down briefly seeing his white shirt was red to his right side. "Tis a pity. You have been weakened by it. You cannot win, my dear Callum, lay down your sword and join me."
"Never." Callum said and then spat onto the sand.
"I promise you, if you join me, it will be much more pleasant than me hacking you to pieces."
"Do your worst, sir." Callum said. "I would rather die in the service of my King and my country."
"I thought as you, once." Smythe said, he was stepping down through the rocks to the sand, his sword tip pointed toward Callum. "Then I realized that my service to the King had no merit. I was merely a pawn. The Emperor showed me that I could be so much more, as I had always known."
"You are merely a pawn in his game now." Callum said, as he moved in the sand, inching down the beach toward the water. "He is using you, sir."
"That may be, but there is greater reward behind it, I assure you." Smythe said, in his deep voice, cocking his head slightly.
"You betray your country for money? Is that what this all about?"
"No, there is more to it than that." Smythe said, shaking his head slightly. Callum didn't know that Smythe's vision was becoming blurred from the hit to the head from the stone.
"Then tell me, sir, what is it?" Callum said, inching toward the water a little more. "You were a highly respected officer, many of us looked up to you and your accomplishments."
"That may be, but I was tired of the struggle to get ahead. Napoleon is making me an Admiral for his fleet. He is giving me my due. He can do the same for you. Together we can end this struggle. You have a talent and are a true sailing master, Callum. I have followed you for quite some time, watched you. You were held back by Powers, he saw it too, he basked in your abilities, used them to make himself look good."
"Captain Powers was a great man, and was a great officer." Callum cocked his head slightly and snarled.
"He used you, boy." Smythe said, as their sword tips touched. "He was a good officer in using you, and you, were too blind to see it, to filled with hero worship."
"He was a hero, sir, and I will not have his memory slandered." Callum angered, stepping closer toward Smythe. Their blades were sliding along each other. Callum was so focused that he was not paying attention to what was happening around them. French regulars were coming up the path below the fortress from the other direction. "You're the one being used, Smythe. Napoleon doesn't care about ships, he only cares about his army and taking the world. He sacrifices his ships. It would be no different with you."
"You are wrong, Callum. Dead wrong." Smythe snarled and moved his sword making it clang against Callum's blade. "And now, I'm going to prove how wrong you are." Smythe lunged, Callum parried, Callum swung back to counter, Smythe had to lean backwards. They went at each other, lunge, counter lunge, back and forth, Callum realized that he had to move quickly to keep up with Smythe but his tactics were engrained, he was fighting like a gentleman. Callum knew it, could see it. Smythe was larger, taller, more skilled, yes, but Callum could work in under him, and Smythe had to give ground to stay back from his attack. Callum pushed further toward him, enraged from Smythe's words, his slander of Captain Powers, and Callum drew strength as he carried Captain Powers' sword.
Dover fired again, another fierce volley at the fortress, shot was whistling over their heads as Callum pressed his attack, fueled by Smythe backing away from him toward the rocks and the path, and that's when Callum saw the regulars, lining up and getting ready, dropping to their knees, getting their muskets ready. The shots from Dover were hitting high on the tower, screams and rumbling could be heard as Callum moved his sword quickly pounding against Smythe's. The French regulars were not of concern to Callum as if they fired at him, they would take Smythe as well as close as they were to one another. Callum slashed downward at Smythe and Smythe ducked. Smythe went to lunge and Callum stepped quickly to one side. Smythe spun and got down, his feet now on the sand, Callum's back was to the wall of the fortress. Callum heard the order in French to ready. He pressed toward Smythe again, but his foot hit something, he looked quickly down, seeing the Marine bayonet, and then looked back at Smythe. Dover fired a full broadside again, and Callum flashed his eyes toward the bay, seeing his ship in the distance. He looked back at Smythe and had to end this. Callum pressed viciously swinging, catching Smythe off guard, not ready as Smythe was trying to catch a breath. Callum knocked the sword out of Smythe's hand and the two collided again, Smythe gripped Callum's wrists, and they went face to face. Callum heard screams behind as a shot went off.
The gig hit the beach and the rail gun had been fired, the French regulars had been so focused on the pair that they had not seen the gig approach. Callum saw the French fall, and then Callum head butted Smythe, hard to his bleeding temple, knocking Smythe loose, Callum pushed him back, as Smthye staggered. Callum lowered his sword and balled up his fist, swinging, and Smythe's head spun from the impact. Voices were yelling, Callum could not hear what they were saying as Smythe fell backward to the sand. Callum lost his temper fully now, knowing he was about to die himself, so enraged by Smythe, what he done, caused, said, Callum took his sword and tossed it away from himself. He bent down and picked up the bayonet, the wind was coming in on him now, billowing his shirt and his hair.
"This sword is too good for you!" Callum growled. He leaped forward and came down on Smythe, bayonet in hand, arced. "You die a traitors death,...by the knife!" Callum plunged the blade into Smythe's chest, deep, making Smythe gasp and grip Callum's wrists. Smythe's eyes went wide, and slowly started to glass over. Callum went lower, face to face with Smythe, pushing the blade deeper through Smythe. There was a sound from Smythe, it was a slight exhale, and then a gurgle. Callum pulled back away from him, letting go of the blade. Callum stood over Smythe, looking down, watching him fade. Callum glared at him.
"Sir!" A voice from in front of Callum. "Sir!" Callum felt a touch to his shoulder, he saw the glass look in Smythe's eyes and felt him stop struggling under him. Callum looked up, seeing a young face wide eyed, staring at him. "He's dead, sir." Dorland said. "We have to go, sir!"
Callum stood over Smythe, looking down on him. Callum fought to breathe, he coughed and spat blood onto the sand. Callum lifted his face and looked about him, seeing the boat crew and a few Marines on the sand, about him, holding position in a defensive circle. Callum could hear French voices behind him, and there was musket fire. Marines were firing into the regulars that were trying to form up again.
"Captain,...we must go!" Dorland said, gripping Callum's arm. Dorland was trying to pull him with him. Dover fired again another full broadside and Callum looked down at the handsome face of Smythe under him. Callum glared at him. Dorland let Callum go and walked quickly over and grabbed up Callum's tunic and sword from the sand. He returned and pulled Callum along with him toward the gig.
Dover continued to fire and Callum did not look back as he stepped up to the gig. The boat crew helped him in as they clamored in as well. The Marines were last as they kept reloading and firing at the French regulars, not giving them time to fire in return. Callum was silent as he went to the bench at the tiller, Dorland joining him. The Marines climbed in and the boat crew started to pull. The French regulars were trying to get to the beach as well, but the Marines kept cutting them down. The gig swung and was pulling away. Dover continued to fire, pounding into the fortress. Callum looked up, trying to focus on her, seeing her in the bay, the smoke from her guns covering her mostly from his view. Callum could see the captured French sixty gunner coming up behind Dover and her ports were opening as well. She began to fire as well now. Callum closed his eyes, hearing Dorland giving orders, as Callum slipped away, slumping over.
"Quickly now." Callum heard the voice, but could not see who it was speaking. He felt himself being pulled and then the weight of his body was being lifted. He licked at his lips, feeling the grit from the dirt and sand of the fortress and the beach. He kept his eyes closed. "Place him over here." Callum heard the voice again. Then Callum heard a more familiar voice, it was Tomlin.
"Reload! Run out!" Callum could hear gulls in the air and feel the sway and shift of the deck. He tried to open his eyes, but now felt that he couldn't. He tried to breathe, it was incredibly painful. Callum heard footsteps near his head, the heel of shoes or possibly boots, he lay still. "FIRE!" Callum jumped as felt the vibration of the cannon going off, the sound of the thunderous volley, the smell of the smoke and gunpowder. "Reload! Run out!" Tomlin was yelling. Callum tried to smile, hearing him, knowing they were doing more and more damage with each shot. In the distance, more cannon could be heard. Callum wanted to see what was going on, but couldn't muster enough strength. He smiled to himself and slipped away further into darkness, it was comfortable to him, a warm feeling that took him, knowing he was home at last.
"Do you think we will make it to the squadron?"
"I am in great hopes that we will. We have a good wind, and all is secured."
"I must compliment you on your skills. He would indeed be very proud of you."
"Thank you. I only hope that he understands why. I shall explain it to him when he wakes."
"I'm certain he will, fear not."
"Do you think he will wake before we reach Portsmouth?"
"I am not certain. It's truly a miracle he has survived this long. He must rest, and I will make sure this time that he does. I would ask that we stay away from the squadron as long as we can, to ensure that he does rest. His body is starting to mend, and it does not need interruption, as I know that His Lordship can and will do that."
"I agree." Footsteps on the deck could be heard, the sound of hard heels. "Do you require anything else?"
"No, I think not. I shall have someone with him at all times until he wakes."
"I see. Please let me know if there is anything I may do."
"Just a smooth trip home, if you would. No more engagements or rough seas."
"I shall do my best." The sound of a door closing could be heard.
The smell of the sea was all about him, and he could feel a movement in the air. He tried to open his eyes, but they did not cooperate. He frowned to himself. He could hear other sounds about him, things being moved and the sound of metal softly clanging. He heard a humming, a sound like someone trying to sing but not knowing the words to the tune. He was unsure who it was. Now and then a gull could be heard in the distance. He knew they must be close to land, but he could feel the dip and sway of the ship, knowing they were at sea, but where? He tried to move. His arms felt so heavy to him, he had to move. He felt a touch on him, gentle at first, then becoming more firm.
"Do not move." The voice came to him. It was like it was in a fog, the darkness, it was near, and all too short, as if the air itself was heavy, not letting sound travel through it. He licked his lips and tried to speak, but there was no sound. Again, he was trying to move, but there was no strength. "Quintan, you must lie still. I know that you can hear me." The voice was familiar, but was still far off. "Are you in pain? Nod your head if you can." He shook it, or so he thought. "You must be still, give your body time to recover. Do you understand?" He tried to nod, but still could not. "You are safe, aboard the Dover. We are underway for Portsmouth. We were successful in our mission. I know you must have several questions. Rest, and they will be answered. I will stay with you." He took a breath, and slowly let it out.
"Yes, Quintan. I am here."
"I know. You have been given something. Your muscles are in a state to where they will not respond. This will keep you from moving and let you rest. It will pass in a day or so."
"She is well. Do not worry, she is in good hands. The crew is well. You need not concern yourself. We should reach home in another day or so."
"Yes. You will see it very soon, I assure you." Crawford put a hand on Callum's shoulder. Callum could feel it touching him. He tried to smile, but couldn't. He began to slip away again into the darkness. He smiled to himself seeing images in his mind now. All else fell away from him as he relaxed into the softness below him, the warm and comfort of where he was. His mind was drifting, and the sounds about him were no longer there.
Callum stood on a road, dirt, with ruts deep in it. He looked down at them, following them with his eyes, looking one direction, then looked back, in the other. He could not see anything else but the road. Which way? He paused, and then turned, deciding. He started to walk in the center of the road, watching the ruts as he went along. He was trying to see if there was any differences in those ruts as he walked, to gain a sense of direction. There was none. He stopped and looked ahead, it was still the same. He turned and looked back, it was no different to him. He turned back and continued on his way.
He heard something and looked up. He saw a building, stone, large, that was dark in appearance, but yet light at the same time. There was no path or drive that went to it as it sat off the road. He could hear voices from it, but could not understand what they were saying. He walked down the road further and then stopped. He turned and the building was to his left. He turned and looked at it again. It seemed further away from him somehow. He stepped toward it and walked a few more steps. The building seemed to loom in front of him now, the height was overwhelming to him. He tilted his head back to see if he could see up it all the way. There was another sound, it sounded like a flag fluttering in the breeze.
"What is that you want?" Came a loud voice from in front of him. He looked forward and saw a figure on the front step, in the shadow.
"I am wondering where I am?" Callum asked.
"You do not know?" The voice was strange and deep to him, putting him on edge.
"No, I do not." Callum said.
"Then let me acquaint you with where you are." The voice said, and then stepped out of the shadow. Callum's eyes went wide. He recognized the figure as it stepped into the light. It was Smythe.
"You." Callum said.
"Yes, it is I. Come, my dear Captain, join me." Smythe held out his hand toward Callum.
"I think not." Callum said, trying to back up a step. Smythe stepped forward.
"You have no choice." Smythe said, giving him a sinister looking smile, parting his lips, showing his white teeth. Callum was frozen as Smythe stepped to him, looking down at him. "Once you are here, there is no turning back. You must come with me." Smythe said, in a softer voice. Callum shook with fear.
"You...are dead." Callum said, reaching for his sword, but could not find it. His hand moved about on his belt.
"I can never die, Captain." Smythe said, looking down at Callum. "I will always be here, waiting for you. You made it this way, you are the one that brought this. You are the one that needs this, I am here to show you the way."
"Where am I?" Callum asked, not being able to move. Smythe looked down at him again.
"This is the Admiralty." Smythe said. "They all are waiting for you inside. Come with me, I will take you to them."
"No. I must return home." Callum said, trying to step back. Smythe turned and walked up the step toward the building. He stopped and turned back.
"You are home. This is your home."
"No, I have a home, in Birmingham."
"Birmingham?" Smythe asked as he turned and looked at Callum. "With that woman, and that...boy?" Smythe grinned an evil grin. "He will never give you what you want, he will never be what you need. He will be no more very soon. Let me show you what you really want." Callum narrowed his eyes at him.
"No. I know what I want, I know what I need. He will be everything. I will not go with you, I will not follow. I must go home."
"I think not, Captain." Smythe said, coming down the step and getting in front of Callum as he turned away from the building.
"Captain Callum!" Callum stopped, then turned back toward the building. "At last, you have arrived! We are waiting for you, sir!" Callum could see the figures on the step, but could not make out who they were. He turned and stepped forward once.
"My Lord!" Callum said.
"Yes, Callum." Fitzwarren said, "Bring yourself inside and report to us, we are waiting."
"With regret, My Lord! I must return home first."
"Nonsense! You will give your report first and then we shall see about your return home. Do not make us wait any longer, sir."
"My Lord!" Callum said, holding out his hands, "I beg of you, please, allow me to..."
"You will do as you are commanded, boy!" Smythe said from behind him. Callum could hear steel being slid, he could feel it, without seeing it. Callum did not look, but felt it, the sharp stick into him, and then looked down, seeing the end of the blade coming out through his chest, the red all over the fine blade. Callum looked into Fitzwarren's face as if begging for help, but saw only a frown. "Time to die, Captain." Smythe said in Callum's ear. "Your duty and honor are lost."
Callum woke up and looked about him, his eyes wide. He saw the ceiling and the beams, whitewashed above him. He could feel the roll and sway of the ship as he lay there. He blinked several times to focus. He tried to move but was not able to. He was breathing heavy as his eyes flashed around. Someone was there with him. He could hear them, but not see them. He was afraid for a moment.
"Sir, you're awake." The soft voice said. "May I get you something?" Callum could still not see him. Callum gasped for breath, trying to move, but still could not. "Sir?" And then the face came into range of Callum's eyes. He saw it was Jarter, the topman. Callum gulped at seeing him.
"Jarter...?" Callum asked.
"Yes, sir." Jarter said as he drew near to Callum's face. "Would you like me to fetch the Doctor, sir?" Callum tried to nod, but couldn't. He gulped again. Jarter was looking at Callum and his eyes went narrow with concern.
"Yes." Callum whispered.
"I'll be back in a moment, sir." Jarter said and was gone from view. Callum could hear the door open, voices, and then Jarter returned. "He'll be here shortly, sir." Callum gulped again and waited. The sound of the door opened and then there was a flurry of activity out in the cabin, and then footsteps into the berth.
"Captain, are you awake?" Crawford asked, and then came into view. Callum smiled softly at him. "Well, that's a good start at least." Crawford said, as he put hands on Callum, feeling him over various areas and parts. Crawford pulled back the covers and looked at Callum, then covered him back up. "Well, there is no bleeding any longer, that's another good sign. Jarter, would you fetch some water, please, from the galley?" Crawford asked, and then looked back at Callum. "I think we shall start bringing you back from the dead, Captain."
"How long?" Callum struggled to ask.
"More than a full day." Crawford said. "Can you feel your feet?" Callum thought for a moment.
"Can you move them?" Crawford looked down, seeing them move a little under the sheet. "Good. Can you move your hands?" Crawford asked, then watched as Callum flexed his fingers slowly. "Hmmm, you have to think about that a lot, don't you?" Callum tried to nod, but couldn't. "I would say that you should be regaining yourself tomorrow at some point. Your feet are a good sign at least." Callum rolled his eyes to see Crawford.
"Arthur...may I..." Callum said and then lost his breath.
"Hmmm? I would imagine you would like to sit up, wouldn't you? For a short period, I can see that you need to change position." Crawford said, standing over Callum. "We will help you, do not try and move on your own." Crawford had that stern look of his. Pillows were propped and then Callum was raised, and propped. He could see about the berth and settled into his new position. Crawford smiled at him. "Do you feel like eating something?" Callum tried to nod, and Crawford watched the movement. "Well, another good sign. I will go and fetch Carson. Jarter, stay here, I shall return shortly. Let him not move, do it for him, if you please. Quintan, you must remain still." Crawford gave him a nod and then walked out of the berth.
The bow of Dover dipped and lifted as they proceeded up the coast through the swell. Tomlin was watching aloft, seeing it was a good wind, and then looked astern. He could see the captured sixty gunner behind them, proceeding to keep pace a good distance back. Tomlin was pleased it was Captain Barrish. He knew the Captains reputation, and the way they had come in to assist Dover was a good amount of sailing, cutting across her stern the way they had done, setting the ship at a near perfect angle and then firing their constant broadsides. The fortress was leveled in no time, allowing Dover to get underway with her wounded and battle tired crew. Tomlin had fired so much into the fortress, plus with their previous engagements, that Dover's supply of shot and powder had been exhausted. There was only a handful of shot left per cannon. They would have to be cautious as they proceeded home as not to engage any enemy ships. Tomlin's plan was to sail up the French coast, and then cut across the base of the Channel, enroute to Portsmouth. He knew that Captain Barrish would follow as per his orders from Lord Fitzwarren and turn the ship over for prize to the Harbor Master and the Royal Navy. Tomlin had a sounding ordered and knew by position of the stars that they were more than half way home now as the night settled in about Dover.
Daylight and the call of the first watch, men went about their duties as the call came from aloft, 'Land Ho'. Tomlin knew where they were as the men lined the sides watching, and then off in the distance they could see the break in the horizon, the bump of land against the color of the sea, that blue green gave way to brown and then to a white. The men cheered as the cliffs of Dover came into view, their namesake, the sentinels of England, the 'protection' against invaders from the continent to the south. Tomlin smiled himself seeing them and altered course, heading on a course for Portsmouth, west. It would be only about two more hours and they would be home. Tomlin had Morris take the deck as he went below. He went through the galley, nodding to Carson, who was preparing breakfast for the third dog watch coming off as he had already prepared breakfast for the first watch. Tomlin nodded to him, and Carson knew he was heading for the Great Cabin.
Tomlin stopped and knocked on the cabin door, and removed his hat. He opened the door and entered. He saw that no one was there and the room seemed to have a lost look to him. He set his hat on the table and walked around the corner to the berth, seeing a glow coming from it. He stepped into the doorway and saw Callum on the bunk, sitting up against a grouping of pillows with a smile on his face.
"Mr. Tomlin, I was hoping that it was you. Come, join me, sir." Callum said in a cheery voice. Tomlin tipped his hand and nodded in return, stepping in.
"You're looking better, sir." Tomlin said returning the smile.
"I am, thanks to the ministrations by the good Doctor." Callum folded his hands and put them out on his lap. "I heard the 'land ho', I suppose we are in sight of home?"
"We are, sir." Tomlin smiled as he sat in the small chair at the foot of the bunk. "We have changed course, west, to head for Portsmouth."
"Ah, then we have just passed Dover." Callum smiled. "I should have liked to have been on deck." Callum sighed.
"You were, sir, in spirit."
"Thank you, Mr. Tomlin. How are the men?"
"They are well, sir. They are happy to be home."
"I suppose you are as well, Thomas?"
"Well, sir...I have..."
"You have concerns once we reach port." Callum said, reading this young man's face, knowing him since he was only a boy.
"Have no place to go? What of your mother?"
"I suppose she will be well, sir." Tomlin looked up at Callum holding back his wet eyes.
"Come now, Thomas. We both know where your heart lies. Be honest with yourself. You know what it is that you wish." Callum said, and the look Tomlin gave him was one of shock. "I have seen the way you look at him." Callum gave Tomlin a soft eyed look. "Does he not know?"
"How you feel of him?"
"Thomas...life is too short to hold things back. I have learned that the hard way. I have strong feelings toward someone myself, and have found that if the war was not here, that I myself might be pursuing a different path. There is nothing so important in life than love and happiness. You must do what is right for you, of course, but think also what he might be thinking? Is it fair to you not to say anything as we near to home? You might not get this opportunity ever again, do not let your chances for happiness go, my lad. I have found it for myself, and having survived what we have been through, I am not going to let it slip away ever again." Callum was leaning forward on the bunk, reaching out a hand toward Tomlin. Tomlin saw it, took it, never having really touched his Captain before. He felt the strength and power in Callum's touch and it gave him a resolve, a swelling in his chest. Tomlin let a tear go and fall down his cheek. "Go to him, tell him. If you don't, he may never know, and you will have lost an opportunity for happiness. You know that's what you want. I have seen it in your eyes."
"You're right, sir." Tomlin said, taking a breath, then slowly let out a sigh, looking into Callum's deep eyes. "What are you going to do, sir, if I may ask?"
Callum looked about the berth and then looked out the door to see if someone was there, but there was of course no one. He put a finger to his lips, as he held Tomlin's hand with the other and then smiled.
"I am going to stay at the Heritage Arms for a week or so. I will oversee the berthing of Dover and the refit before returning home to Birmingham. I shall be in good hands, with a certain someone," Callum rolled his eyes and then winked, making Tomlin smile, "and then once the reports have been filed to the Admiralty in London, and we return to Birmingham, I shall ask you join us there, in a fortnight." Callum gave him a side glance, "Can you do that?" Tomlin nodded. "You would be most welcomed in our home, I assure you."
"Thank you, sir." Tomlin nodded.
"Mr. Perkins and I have made one another quite comfortable there." Callum wiggled his eyebrows.
"I have no doubt, sir." Tomlin grinned and then blushed. He squeezed Callum's fingers in his.
"Now," Callum said, as he drew back, looking all serious, like the Captain of the ship, clearing his throat. "Your position aboard this ship is guaranteed, sir. I ask you to do me the honor of continuing to be my first. Your efforts and compunction for duty have shown me that you are more than capable, sir." Callum smiled, "Unless, His Lordship, says something to the contrary and offers you your own command." Callum smiled.
"I would be honored to sail with you, sir." Tomlin bowed his head.
"Good, excellent. I will see to it that Mr. Arvin will be secured a position within the Admiralty and that his family will be taken care of, if he so chooses. I hope that he does. Have you seen him?"
"Once, sir." Tomlin said, hanging his head a little, "He is...bitter, and quite lessened from the loss of his leg, sir."
"Understandable." Callum replied. "I am in hopes that I might cheer him." Callum smiled briefly. "He has been a good friend, and I shall not abandon him."
"It is his due." Callum answered. Giving Tomlin a stern look and then eased. "I shall see him shortly. Now, Thomas, it is time, you must decide. Go to him and love, or ignore it and loose the chance. Either way, you and I will continue as I have said."
"I'll do it, sir." Tomlin resolved himself, giving a half smile.
"I knew you were a good man." Callum said. "I would say to give him my best, but, I think it is best to wait." Callum winked. Tomlin smiled fully and rose to his feet. They shook hands. Callum threw back the covers.
"May I help you, sir?"
"No, I shall manage. And I have no doubt that Carson shall be here any moment. He seems to know when I move anyway." Callum smiled as he slowly swung his legs off the bunk, he put his feet on the floor. "You have your 'duties' to perform, don't you?"
"Good. When we reach Portsmouth, sail into the harbor. Anchor us directly off the dock by about two hundred yards."
"I think the Dock Master will place us, sir."
"I beg to differ, Mr. Tomlin." Callum said, as he stood. "This is a ship of His Majesty's Navy, and a victorious man of war. We shall anchor where we so choose." Callum gave him a side glance.
"It shall be done, sir. Shall I order passing honors, sir?"
"To the other ships in the harbor, yes. To the Dock Master? Maybe he will row underneath the bow, eh?" Callum raised an eyebrow. Tomlin chuckled to himself. He tipped his hand and walked out of the berth, then to the door of the cabin and then out, passing Carson along the way, who tipped his hand, Tomlin nodded. Tomlin stopped at the Ward Room door, taking in a breath, then letting it out. He knocked and then opened it.
Callum reached for his long pants and got his hands on them, he pulled them, hearing a knock at the cabin door. He tried to yell out but didn't have enough strength to do it yet. He waited, knowing that whoever it was would just come in anyway. He sat back on the bunk and slowly tried to work the pants on, but was having trouble bending from the pull of the stitches in his chest.
"May I be of assistance, sir?" Came the soft voice. Callum stopped and looked up. His eyes went soft seeing Dustin standing at the berth door.
"High time you showed up." Callum let out a held breath and gave a smile. Dustin chuckled his boyish chuckle, stepping toward his love, seeing him in a weakened position. He got the pants, and took them from Callum, kneeling to the floor, then he gave Callum a look, that look of mischief.
"I am thinking back to two days ago. We were in a similar type of position, and I recall that you did something to me, sir."
"Oh? And what is it that you recall?" Callum said, putting a hand on Dustin's shoulder, making him look up.
"You touched me in such a way, that I was able to continue my duties. I was wondering if I were to do that to you, sir, that you might be able to resume your duties."
"Hmmm, as master of this vessel? Or as master of something else?" Callum smiled down at him, with an equal look of mischief. Dustin smiled and raised up to his feet, going face to face with Callum.
"You, sir, have always been my master, and I expect that you always will be." Dustin looked him in the eye.
"I think you are confused, my lad, you have mastered me quite a few times as I recall." Callum smiled, reaching up, touching Dustin soft cheek, cradling it. "I will not lie, I love it when you master me, when you give orders and take control. You would make a fine officer." Callum smiled softly. Their eyes scanned back and forth each other's. Callum smiled wider. "I love you, Mr. Perkins."
"I love you, Captain Callum." Dustin replied softly.
"I have duties that I need to attend to, and I have to press you to make our arraignments on shore."
"What would like me to do?" Dustin asked.
"First, help me dress." Callum grinned. "You may take your pleasure later when we reach shore." Callum said, Dustin looked disappointed. "It will be a long night, I assure you." Callum winked, Dustin went wide eyed. "Next, once we are anchored, go ashore and secure a room at the Heritage. Tell Farrow that we shall require it for more than a week. We will gather supplies for our return home, and once Dover is set in berth for repairs, we will make arraignments for transportation to return to Birmingham. I may need to go to London, to give my full reports to the Admiralty, but will have you accompany me. Have you ever been to London?" Dustin shook his head. "Then you are in for a treat, my love." Callum smiled, Dustin grinned. "Now help me dress before we reach Portsmouth." Callum's eyes widened. Dustin continued to grin and then kissed Callum. Callum moaned softly at the touch, reaching out and put his hands on Dustin's tiny waist.
Tomlin stepped into the Ward Room, seeing McGuffin standing there, and then snapped to attention. Tomlin was surprised by the large man.
"Sir!" McGuffin said.
"As you were, Sergeant." Tomlin said. He looked over and saw Holt trying to stand on his own, still struggling with his right arm, as well as his right leg. Tomlin went to move to help him, but Holt held up a hand to stop him. Tomlin stopped and brought his attention back to McGuffin.
"The officer has decided to do this on his own, sir." McGuffin said to Tomlin.
"I see." Tomlin said, looking back and forth between the two. "Are all Marines like this, Sergeant?"
"I'm not sure what you mean, sir?" McGuffin's graveled voice was in its best low tone.
"Stubborn to the last?" Tomlin glared at Holt, their eyes met.
"Most, yes sir." McGuffin answered, still standing at attention but not as rigid.
"Hmmm, makes me wonder."
"Wonder what, sir?"
"How officers survive." Tomlin said in a flat tone.
"That will be all, Sergeant." Holt said in a strained voice. He leaned forward and was able to put his left hand on the table top to steady himself, as he looked at McGuffin.
"As you wish, sir." McGuffin said, then saluted.
"Have the men prepare to disembark once we reach port."
"Very good, sir." McGuffin said, nodded and went to the door, he opened it and ducked going through, closing the door behind him, leaving Tomlin and Holt alone.
"Christian, please, may I help you?" Tomlin asked as he stepped closer.
"I don't want any help, Thomas."
"There is no shame in it. I just came from the Captain, and was rendering him assistance."
"That is the Captain, he requires it." Holt said, his voice was deep with anger, his green eyes flashing in the lamp light. Tomlin's throat was swelling to be near him, to help him. "I am a Marine officer, sir, in case you have forgotten, we require no help."
"I think that we all require help, Marine or sailor, from time to time. It would be just between us, no one need know. I made you that offer once, that night after Anders put you in command."
"I remember," Holt said, getting closer to the table. "and now I find that I can no longer function and carry out my duties with my...condition."
"It will pass...as you heal more. Doctor Crawford has given me assurance of this."
"And what do you know of it? Crawford was telling you of my condition? He has no right to discuss..."
"He has the right and as do I, having been in command of this ship," Tomlin said as he walked closer to Holt, step by step, drawing nearer to him, coming around the table, "may I remind you, sir, that as being an officer aboard this vessel and under attack from enemy forces, that I am to be made aware of any and all that are aboard this vessel and their conditions to make certain that the enemy is repelled? You, being the ranking officer of Marines, and wounded, compelled me to find out and to know your fate as it were, to make me able to make better decisions to repel those enemy forces. Now, sir, I will ask again, as a friend, may I help you?" Tomlin lowered his voice as he finished. Holt was wide eyed at him, seeing the concern in his face, his caring, his compassion.
"Yes." Holt said a soft voice, almost a whisper. He tried to drag his body to the end of the table, but faltered, and crumbled. Tomlin scooped him as he fell and they came together near the floor, Holt resting on Tomlin's bent leg, as Tomlin wrapped his arms about him. They went face to face. Holt blinked a few times and Tomlin was close, close enough to feel the warmth of Holt's breath. Tomlin blinked a couple of times and Holt reached up with his left hand, touching Tomlin's cheek.
"Are you hurt further?"
"I'm sorry." Holt said quietly, touching Tomlin's cheek. "You're right. I'm upset about my lack of..."
"Do not concern yourself with your condition. You will heal, and I will be there to make certain that you do." Tomlin whispered.
"What are you saying, Thomas?" Holt whispered.
"Only this..." Tomlin said, bending down and softly kissing Holt on his soft thin lips, they both closed their eyes. Tomlin pressed gently against him, and Holt melted to it, and then softly, slowly, Tomlin felt something else, fingers and a pressure to the back of his head. Holt was running his fingers over the top of Tomlin hair, pulling him toward Holt deepening what they both felt. Tomlin took it slow, not wanting to scare Holt or have him pull away from what he desired the most, which was just to be near him. Holt was feeling it as well and wanted more. He pulled with aching muscles, resting against this young man's leg, feeling more and more comfortable with what was happening to him, them. Tomlin moaned softly against Holt's mouth, and Holt instinctively opened his mouth, letting Tomlin in. Fingers went into the soft hair, still pulling gently toward each other, and then Tomlin slowly backed away as Holt touched his tongue to Tomlin's lips. They both took a deep breath and opened their eyes, looking with a longing at each other in the low lamp light.
"Thomas," Holt whispered as he slowly let his breath out. Tomlin widened his eyes a little. "Have you ever...?"
"What? Kissed another man before?" Tomlin asked, Holt nodded in answer, "No. Have you?" Holt shook his head in answer. "Was it alright?"
"It wasn't what I expected." Holt said in a whisper.
"What did you expect?"
"I...guess it was supposed to be rough." Holt said. "Not gentle and caring."
"That's because I care about you, Christian." Tomlin said, his eyes searching Holt's.
"I care about you as well, Thomas." Holt said, still running his fingers through Tomlin's blonde hair.
"What are we going to do?" Tomlin asked.
"We are going to go on, I suppose. You have your ship, and I have..."
"Me." Tomlin said, softly. "You will always have me. Is that enough?"
"I hope so." Holt said, smiling. "I must get ready however."
"Ready for what?"
"Ready for disembarking, with my Marines." Holt said. Tomlin helped him up to the table. Tomlin sat next to him, and they looked at one another, searching. "I have a few things to pack."
"You can't just leave, Christian." Tomlin said.
"I have a duty to perform, Thomas, as do you."
"Where will you go?"
"Division Headquarters, give my report of the engagement, and then...home, to my family."
"Family?" Tomlin asked. "Where?"
"Suffolk. Thomas...I have someone there." Holt said, Tomlin hung his head.
"I didn't think..." Tomlin said, starting to stand. Holt took his hand in his, stopping him. "I apologize for being forward, Lieutenant. It shall not happen again, I assure you."
"Thomas, it's not what you think." Holt said. "My family is in Suffolk, they worry about me and my wellbeing. I am promised to another. It is something our parents arraigned, when we were small."
"You have feelings for this person?"
"Yes, but not like I have for you. I am confused. Please, won't you help me? I need to sort this out."
"I'm afraid there isn't time. We are coming into the harbor as we speak. I am required on the Quarterdeck." Tomlin stood and pulled away. "Christian, I will be here for a few days." Tomlin said and then walked to the door. "If there is doubt, you know where I shall be."
"Thomas...there is doubt. You have shown me that there is. I don't know what to do?"
"Find me, and I will show you." Tomlin opened the door. "I must go. Remember me and this moment, we will always have it." Tomlin walked out, and Holt stared at the bulkhead wall, and dropped a tear.
"Sir." Arvin said from the darkness of his bunk. Callum walked across the tiny cabin and came over near the porthole window.
"William, how do you fare?" Callum asked as he leaned against the bulkhead wall.
"I think the good Doctor knows better than I, sir."
"He has told me a few things, William, but I wanted to know from you. Is there something you require?"
"My leg, I suppose, sir." Arvin said in a low tone.
"And I wish I could give it to you, my friend." Callum said.
"Please, sir, won't you have a seat? I apologize for the cramped quarters. This was your cabin some years back wasn't it?"
"Yes, actually it was." Callum smiled. "I had to share it with another in my day, however. We were on opposite shifts so were never really here at the same time. You know how that can be?"
"Indeed, sir." Arvin smiled.
"Have you had anything to eat?"
"Yes, Carson has been a constant flutter of motion in and out. He doesn't let me rest much with his constant interruptions." Arvin smiled.
"Yeas, I can only imagine, not having experienced that myself." Callum smiled, making Arvin chuckle. "William, I wish to talk to you about your career, if you're up to it?"
"Hmmm, I think we are a little premature, sir, don't you?"
"Well, let me put it to this way. I have to prepare a report to the Admiralty, and I think I would like to have you deliver it for me."
"You can't be serious, sir."
"William, you have a wife and family. They depend on you to provide for them, do they not?" Callum asked, Arvin nodded. "I make an offer to you to continue to give that support, and not through charitable means. I know your pride, sir, and I share it."
"Thank you, sir." Arvin said.
"I shall require a posting officer for this ship, and am giving you that assignment, if you would agree to take it. Your rank will remain and your standing, pardon the pun," Callum smiled, clearing his throat, "Doctor Crawford will continue to offer his ministrations to you, and you can visit me and Dover at any time you so desire. I do not make this lightly, and you should probably discuss it first with your wife and family as they will no doubt wish to have you at home for some time first."
"A post officer." Arvin said, crossing his arms. "Yes, rather like Lieutenant Eddington, with Lord Fitzwarren."
"Exactly." Callum said, slapping his knees. "Now we understand each other."
"Are we saying that I shall have warrant officer duties?" Arvin asked.
"If you so wish, yes." Callum smiled. "We can make some simple modifications to have you be able to have access throughout the ship. That is, once we sail again."
"Are we dry docking, sir?"
"Yes, for at least two months I would think. Is that sufficient time to be at home?" Callum asked.
"I was thinking of my wife, sir." Arvin said. "She may not want half a man about the house. It may be too much for her."
"You are not half a man, sir, let's understand that right now. You are more man than half the crew. I'm certain that your wife knows that, sir, and if she doesn't then perhaps she needs a reminder." Callum said, folding his arms. "I have come to rely on your wisdom, knowledge, compassion of this ship. She will see you for who you are, I'm certain."
"I'm glad you are, sir." Arvin said, "I have my doubts. But I will not know until I reach home."
"Well, if you accept, I shall be in Portsmouth for a fortnight, then returning home to Birmingham. I shall leave word to where I can be reached with the Dock Master, and he will forward anything on from there. Please consider it, William, you are still a viable officer and a true asset to me. I would be lost without you, and you know that." Callum said, as he stood, reaching out his hand. Arvin took it in his, holding it well and tight.
"I will, sir, and I thank you for your generosity."
"Oh, I'm not being generous, it is your due and your right under Maritime Law, as I see it. The success of this mission was on you, and we are alive because of your efforts alone. I shall never forget that, William, and neither will the crew."
"Thank you, sir." Arvin said. Callum pulled his hand back and Callum patted his shoulder. Callum leaned down.
"I will not abandon you, William, mark me."
"Aye, sir." Arvin said, and watched Callum walk out.
"Shorten sail!" Tomlin said as he reached the Quarterdeck, looking aloft. "Lt. Morris, standby to drop anchor."
"Aye, sir." Morris tipped his hand, and walked away to the stairs.
"Secure all stations!" Tomlin said loudly, looking out over the fore rail. "Mr. Greene, man the sides, we shall render passing honors." Tomlin said, looking down. "Pipe the side."
"Mr. Perkins, bring us to windward if you please, alter your course."
"Aye, aye, sir." Dustin said as he rolled over the wheel. The bow swung as the sails were rolled by the hands aloft. Tomlin stood there, next to Dustin, watching waiting as Dover began to slowly come about, the harbor swinging as they went, and Dover was coming to a near dead stop.
"Keep an eye out for Captain Barrish if you please."
"Deck there!" The voice from aloft, "Sail directly astern, sir." Tomlin spun and saw the French sixty coming right down on them.
"A little more, Mr. Perkins if you please. Starboard your helm. Drop anchor."
"Aye, sir! Drop anchor! All hands standby on the starboard beam!" Morris yelled, on the Main Deck.
"We are set, Mr. Tomlin."
"Very well, Mr. Morris. Have the hands set and ready to disembark. I want the second watch to stay aboard until the Dock Master arrives."
"Aye, sir. Hands to disembark, man the sides! Lower the long boat, starboard side! Secure sails! Have the second watch report on deck! Mr. Greene, hands to disembark!"
"Aye, sir." Greene snapped as the men set about to the orders given by the officers. All were excited about leaving the ship. Morris stood at the gunwale, waiting for the hands and the long boat to be readied and brought along side. Tomlin came down and gave them orders as to when and where Dover would ready for sea again, letting them know to be aware. Their payment would be dispersed when the paymaster reached Portsmouth from London and they tally was set. All hands tipped their hands toward Tomlin and Morris.