"North" by Joseph Fick

Chapter 52 The Loss of the SHY LADY p556~563

It all started simply enough and had not the
consequences been so devastating it might have almost
been amusing. But if honesty was to be taken into
consideration, the loss of a dream, no matter what its
size was never amusing. It was just sad.
The Eskimos aboard the SHY LADY celebrated their
good fortune for a good two days of feasting and drunken
debauchery. They just couldn’t believe their good luck,
which most certainly proved the effectiveness of Lak’s
leadership and the fact that the strong indeed rule and
control those about them. These men were invincible, of
that they were sure. Where Lak went they would follow.
Lak and Ogwah stood on the fantail of the whaling
ship and watched as the work progressed aboard. As
MacDonald had said, Lak and his people couldn’t sail the
ship, not that he intended to ever do such a thing. One of
the reasons for the renegade’s success was he knew his
limits and those of others. No, he never intended on
sailing the ship, he just planed on stripping it of
everything that could be of use and leave it to its fate in
the ice. So far, they had removed brass and iron fittings,
tarred rope, food, nails, tools and wood. They were
putting everything on the ice before the ship
broke up.
“I didn’t think of so many things this craft would yield,”
said Ogwah.
Lak nodded, “It is surprising, the amount of things the
outsiders take with them.”
“What will we do with it all?”
Lak smiled and turned to his trusted man. “Some we
give as gifts to ensure friendship, others we throw away
to show our power.”
Ogwah nodded his head though he failed to understand
how throwing away things would help them, considering
the importance of all the items they were bringing off.
“What of MacDonald and the others? Do you want them
dead?”
Lak smiled, Ogwah always said what he was thinking.
“I don’t think that’s a problem for us. The Inuit with
them will leave them to fend for themselves when they
see what a burden the outsiders are, the snow, wind and
ice will finish the job for us. The ones that do survive will
spread the word.”
Ogwah shrugged his shoulders. If Lak said so, still he’d
rather be sure instead of leaving the matter to chance. “I
could send some men to watch them.”
Lak shook his head, “No, want to get everything
offloaded and transferred to dry ground. Afterwards we
can look at their frozen bodies, I promise.”
“As you wish, Lak.”
“How many sleds are departing today?”
“Two,” said Ogwah. “Three should return today or
tomorrow.”
“Good. So everything is being moved with no problem?”
Ogwah shrugged, “Yes, nothing that is hindering us in
a big way. One of the storage areas has a stuck cover.
Jenson has some men working on it now. Don’t know
what’s in there though.”
“Well, keep them working on it. I want everything we
can take from this ship and I mean everything.”
The two men walked off the ship to inspect the sleds
being loaded. Lak nodded with approval, a fine haul to be
sure. “The world is to be ours my friend,” he said patting
one of the bulky canvass covers on a sled, “You will see.”
Jenson spat and kicked the hatch cover for the tenth
time. “God damn it! Fuckin’ hatch cover!” He and three
Eskimos had been working on it for two hours and so far
it hadn’t budged. That MacDonald! He did this on
purpose, the son of a bitch! If he ever saw him again… He
pointed to one of the men working for him. “You, you get
me a crowbar, savvy?”
The Inuit cocked his head to the side and scratched his
butt.
“A crowbar,” said Jenson more slowly. “A crowbar.”
The Eskimo smiled and shook his head, he didn’t
understand.
Fuckin’ heathen! Christ! It was hard enough being the
only God fearing white man amongst these savages but
to have to explain every God damned detail, hell it was
just easier to get it himself. “There’s one on a crate on the
ice, I’ll get it,” he muttered, “you guys keep working on
it.” leaving the Inuit at the hatch, he walked off the ship.
The three Eskimos looked at the hatch cover, it was on
there tight, that was for sure. They didn’t know what
Jenson was talking about but maybe if they found
something strong they could use to pry it up. One of
them found part of an old iron barrel hoop that had been
sawed in half. It looked strong enough so they began to
flatten the curve.
Jenson had to do some looking for the crowbar. It
wasn’t where he had last seen it not that surprised him.
Jenson had seen some thieves in his time but nothing
that even came close to Lak’s band of “Merry Men”.
These people would take anything that wasn’t nailed
down and sometimes even that didn’t stop them. Well,
the crowbar had to be around here somewhere. True, it
was a blunt instrument but he didn’t think the Eskimos
would have little technical use for it besides beating in
the heads of animals or each other. Damn thing had to be
around there somewhere!
Ogwah looked at the cordage and assorted bits they
had taken from the ship. It was a lot, he didn’t really
wish to travel with so much, he never did. It was always
easier with the bare essentials.
“We’ll take some of this to Kayma,” said Lak
mentioning another band chief’s name. “He will be a
strong ally.”
“I did not know you trusted him.”
Lak snorted. “Trust? No my old friend, I don’t trust him
it’s just that he is a man who wishes to please rather
than displease. He can control his people and our farther
areas of influence.”
“You do not think he will challenge you?” asked Ogwah.
Lak shook his head, “No. He does not think far ahead
and will be happy to accept our gifts to show his people
his strength, it is enough for them to see such. They will
want no more.”
“What of the powder and weapons?”
“Well,” said Lak. “I see no reason to give our friends
everything. It is better for us to keep most of these things
after all, we wouldn’t want our friends old and new to get
ideas.”
Here it was, thought Jenson as he picked the crowbar
out of the snow and wiped it off. He felt like getting a
drink but knew that he’d better get that cover off first or
Lak was gonna be pissed. Just as well. Get the hatch
cover open and then the Eskimos could do all the heavy
work, he’d have a snort then.
The Inuit aboard the ship had found another bit of iron
and slipping under two points of the hatch, began to pry
it open. It began to loosen. They smiled at one another,
they didn’t need Jenson or his stupid crowbar after all.
With more force, they pushed down on the makeshift
tools they were using, opening the hatch cover a little
more, allowing fresh air to be sucked into the
compartment below. They were still grinning when the
deck below their feet disappeared and the SHY LADY
exploded with a savage pent up fury as if the ship was
venting her anger from the violation she had suffered. It
was the end of the world.
All on the ice were knocked down by the force of the
explosion, those who could move in anyway, attempted to
shield themselves from falling debris, those who couldn’t
were injured from an onslaught of metal and wood
slivers falling and flying about them. No one could really
say how long it all lasted. To some it felt like a short time,
for others, longer. Much longer. After what seemed like
an eternity, some of those still alive attempted to stand
on legs that that seemed far too weak and with bodies
that shook uncontrollably.
The shock of what had just happened to all the
survivors of the blast was overwhelming. One moment
they were working, enjoying the fruits of a well deserved
victory with plenty of food and drink and in an instant…
it was all gone.
Lak stood up. He had a ringing in his ears and his
sight was blurry, it took some time for him to focus. He
looked about in a dazed manner. He could see chaos
around him but he couldn’t really grasp the situation at
the moment. Still pictures to his eye that alternated
between fast and agonizingly slow movement,
mismatched sound and confusion. A man came toward
him, his face a mask of wonderment, flapping the torn
empty sleeves of his parka where his arms used to be.
“Lak!” called a familiar voice, “Lak!” He turned to see
his old friend Ogwah struggling to stand and walked
over on unsteady legs to help him.
“What happened?” asked Ogwah as Lak helped him up.
Lak breathing hard found his bearings and looked to
the place where the bulk of the SHY LADY had occupied.
His prize, his future was gone. In its place, was the
burned broken remains of a once proud vessel. Its
timbers and iron scattered over the ice. “MacDonald,
worked his magic and destroyed the ship.” Lak fell back
into the snow and looked toward his broken dreams, he
began to laugh, it was a chilling laugh in the chaos that
surrounded them. “Oh, this MacDonald. I should have
known. He would not go down so easy, he is a fighter, this
one.”
“What are we to do?” asked Ogwah.
“Find out how many men we have left. They shouldn’t
be too hard to follow, their trail should still be fresh.”
Ogwah nodded, what else could they do.
From a distance, two men heard the explosion and saw
its flash. It looked as if the trap rigged by MacDonald
and the others had worked. The big question was how
many men did it kill and how long before the survivors
came after the escaping outsiders and Inuit. “Come,” said
one of the Inuit, “we must hurry, there is little time.” The
men turned their sled and hurried to catch up with
MacDonald and the others.

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