Set: After the events of 'The Even Chance' and the unfortunate, 'loss' of Mr Kennedy. Written after way too many hours of Hornblower with a good friend, which was accompanied by 'Is it Archie?' every time somebody new walked into view. Then he was hidden under a blanket…no wonder we couldn't see him. You might have guessed from this we watched, 'The Even Chance,' 'The Lieutenant's Exam,' and, 'The Duchess and The Devil,' pretty much one after the other. After 'Retribution,' we had a mad urge to see Archie Kennedy.
Summary: The rude awakening that Archie no doubt received after Horatio hit him with a plank! (I've still not forgiven him for that.) and Horatio's thoughts on the whole sorry affair.
WARNING: I've only been on boats a couple of times. And they were channel ferries. So my nautical knowledge….is none existent. Therefore if I've made any mistakes I apologise in advance. Also it pretty much gives away, all of 'The Even Chance', 'The Duel,' and some of 'The Devil and The Duchess'.
Disclaimer: Not mine. But you can send me Archie for Christmas if you want. Or hornblower…I'm not picky :-)
Feedback: yes please!! No flames I've got no fire extinguisher, however constructive criticism is ALWAYS appreciated because it helps me improve. :-) Hopefully.
If you want you can always email me at email@example.com I love getting emails :-)
Acknowledgements: This is for Fiona Godber. For lessons on how to pronounce the name of that ship. And for not gagging me every time I yelled, 'IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?!'
A question I am asking now since I have rambled enough.
The grey sea was calm as the first light of dawn peeked over the horizon. A lone longboat drifted lazily over the waves. The sail was resting in the bottom of the boat despite the stiff breeze that ruffled the hair of the boat's lone occupant. At first glance the sailor appeared to be asleep but a closer inspection would reveal a raised purple welt darkening the young man's brow. A wave buffeted the little boat and at the movement the sailor opened his eyes a crack. Blearily he blinked, his eyes coming to rest on the horizon. The sky burned with a fiery crimson red.
'Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning,' the old adage popped into his head before he truly knew where he was. His memories of the previous night were sketchy at best.
'Horatio?' he croaked, his throat dry and parched. He vaguely remembered being with his new friend. There was no reply. He lifted his hand to his aching head, trying to recall what had occurred that might explain why he was floating alone in the ocean.
Miles away, on a vessel of a different nature altogether, Midshipman Horatio Hornblower too nursed an aching head. He lay awake his mind preoccupied with the events of last night. The crew of the Indefatigable had taken a French frigate but in the ensuing battle had lost Midshipman Archie Kennedy to the cruel sea.
Horatio berated himself mercilessly over the loss of his friend. He had left the man alone, unconscious and undefended in the midst of a battle. From the rigging he had seen the longboat drifting into the dark ocean expanse but had been unable to assist him. He had failed a man to whom he owed a great debt. A man who had made life on the open sea that little bit more bearable.
He had found it difficult to fit in with the existing crew of the ship. A task made more difficult due to the continuing bullying of Midshipman Jack Simpson. However Kennedy's ready grin and optimistic nature made it easier to cope with the new life of the Navy which he had embarked on. At his first taste of battle, the horror had been dispelled by a blood splattered Archie eagerly asking, 'Did you see me?' with all the exuberance of a child, rather than the maturity of a seasoned sailor. Briefly Hornblower smiled at the memory, he had not been on deck to see Archie defeat his one, or was it two, Frenchmen. However he could imagine that even battle could not wipe the perpetual grin off the young man's face.
'I am cursed,' concluded the young man angrily, 'first Clayton, now Archie. Two good men, dead because of my acts.'
Archie Kennedy was not dead. In fact he was very much alive. And at recalling the events of the previous night had been filled, first with humiliation, then with the resentment of a man who had been knocked senseless by a man he had considered his friend. The final injustice was that Kennedy was now alone and adrift in the middle of the sea, with no provisions and no sign of any nearby vessel.
However the last problem was no fault of his own and certainly no fault of Hornblower's, acting as he was, in the ship's best interests. It had been Jack Simpson, a man undeserving of the position of midshipman, let alone Lieutenant, who had cut the rope that had secured the longboat to the French vessel. Of that Archie was sure, for he was certain Hornblower would not have left him for dead. For long hours he fretted over the condition of his friend. If Simpson had be angry to cast Archie adrift, what would he do to the young man he hated so much?
Archie cursed himself again, had he not fitted and had to be rendered unconscious by Hornblower he may have been able to help his friend. When he returned to the Indy, if indeed he did return Captain Pellew would no doubt see him as a danger to himself and to the crew. Surely he would be dismissed and he would have lost the only opportunity he had to serve on a frigate such as the Indefatigable.
Desperately he scanned the horizon, praying for the ship to return. He knew that if the did not find him soon he would die of thirst and there would be naught to retrieve but his corpse.
In answer to his prayers a white sail caught Archie's eye. Sure enough a frigate headed towards him.
'red sky in the morning, sailors take warning,' the rhyme popped unbidden into his head once more. He scoffed at his own suspiciousness and settled down to wait for his rescue.
On board the Indefatigable the burial of the dead had taken place. The bodies of those killed during the attack on the French ship had been returned to sea. Amongst the dead, although there was no body, was the name of Archie Kennedy. Horatio had been hard pressed not to tear Simpson limb from limb, he felt sure that, although such an act would be frowned upon, it would rid Simpson's face of the sickly smirk that appeared as Kennedy's name was read.
The Captain had been informed of Hornblower's accusation against Simpson. Hornblower had no qualms about reporting the midshipman, he felt sure it was he, and not a member of the French crew that had tried to kill him. His head still ached from the shot, a shot that had been far too close for comfort. And now, the next morning at dawn he was to duel with Simpson for real. He had no second, for there was no one left to ask. Archie was dead, as was the second he had had for his previous duel with Simpson; Clayton.
Clayton. The man who had rendered him unconscious to protect his life and had died in the duel he had fought for him. The duel that had killed him. A duel that Hornblower should have fought himself. The memories of that day stood as clear as crystal in his mind. Clayton dying in an upstairs room of a house. Simpson injured but triumphant on the lower floor. The crowd outside, Archie leaving to find out why. He remembered how he had tried to break the news of Clayton's death, to Archie,
'He's dead,' Archie stated as he saw Hornblower emerge.
The look of stunned surprise that made Kennedy look so young. The look that had confused Hornblower for a moment. If he had guessed then why was he so shocked?
'Not Clayton. Louis, the king of France!'
At that moment Hornblower had suffered a moment of doubt about Midshipman Kennedy. He seemed not to care that his crewmate and friend had just died. Later Horatio had realised, that Archie had already known Clayton would die, as Clayton himself must have known. Instead of moping and letting grief rule him Archie had accepted the fact and found something to occupy his mind for a moment. His way of coping with crises. Looking for humour in the depths of despair. It was a tactic Hornblower would come to appreciate in the future.
Hornblower's mind returned to the present again. He would duel Simpson alone, and this time he would win, for the sake of his two friends.
Archie Kennedy was in trouble. As the ship had got closer he had realised that they were not displaying the English colours but those of the French. It appeared that the old rhyme was true, red dawns held no luck for sailors. It had also come to his attention that one man could not row a longboat in anything but circles. It seemed like an eternity before the ship had come close enough to see him. And another age before they had sent out a long boat with a French officer aboard.
'You are English?' the officer had asked him slowly, Archie was thankful for the fact the officer spoke English. He spoke only Spanish.
'Yes,' the reply was proud and defiant, belying the veiled fear in his pale blue eyes.
'Do you surrender?'
Archie Kennedy didn't see that he had many other options.
Well that's it for now…I think I might expand this into a longer story which covers all the way to 'The Duchess and the Devil' if anyone reads this. Please let me know whether you think I should continue in a review…it'll only take you a second. Go on…