28mm Pirates - 'Auto De Fe'
Castel Branca guardian of the northern approaches to San Serif, also HQ for the Inquisition in Nuevo Aranjuez
Thanks to yellow-jack,malaria and dysentry the fortress has more guns than gunners, but can still sink an entire fleet if it has to
Outside on the Plaza De Castro there's fresh fruit and vegetables for those who want them
Though most of the garrison prefer to spend their off duty time drowning their sorrows at 'The Ramrod'
Meanwhile, across town, at Miss Sadie's Home for Indigent Seamstresses, the 'ladies of negotiable affection' are enjoying their rest day - a chance to let their hair down and get some clothes on. It's Mariah and Joanna's turn in the bath - sheer luxury!
Back at Castel Branca, Grand Inquisitor Diego Palafox is still brooding on his humiliation by the heretics at Roche Marie (see Le Grenouille Frenetique, Bayko Pirates '6') and looking for a way to reassert his damaged authority.
With the result that Capitano Toledana, a frequent visitor in other circumstances, finds himself apologising as his men burst in on Sadie's Ladies and brother Pablito declares a heretic hunt. Where better to start than in an immoral house, since only heretics can be so shameless?
In the event only five of the hapless girls are unable to recite the mass and find themselves dragged away
Ms Sadie uses her connections to get an audience with Governor Don Lardo, himself a former customer. The Governor's Lady, Donna Quibab, is unexpectedly sympathetic, but 'His Excellency' will not defy the Inquisition. Meantime, Peter Paul Fat-Birds puts the finishing touches to his masterpiece.
Which leaves Ms Sadie only one other option
Shortly she is in conference with her sister, Ethel Puttle, better known as 'The Baracudda' and her 'Brethren' - Short-John Nickel-Plating, Gaspard Le Phew, Rob-Roy McChickenNuggets, Happy Dan Pugh and, of course, Calico Jack Chinless
Meanwhile, no dungeons for the Inquisition, the torture is public and merciless - first the soft cushions, then the selected readings from Barbara Cartland; but ultimately their fate is already decided, an Act of Faith, an 'Auto De Fe'.
The dread day arrives, the galleries and arcades are packed, the Regimento Irlanda are out in force to keep control, the bonfire awaits
Meanwhile Donna Quibab wants no part of the coming atrocity and has announced her determination to not even be in San Serif when it is commited. She heads up-country to the hacienda at Casa Lardo, her coach escorted by palace equeries since the troops are all needed at Castel Branca.
Inside the near-deserted fortress those on duty crowd the western casemates to watch the show
While not far away Donna Quibab discovers that servants are no substitute for soldiers when a pack of 'pirettes' come calling
Meanwhile the women are brought out to the pyre and offered the last rites by the local nuns while the Town Cryer reads the Inquisition's judgement.
Anxious to impress, newly appointed Coronel Manzola - his predecessor perished at RocheMarie - orders the drummers to start the death roll.
With all the excitement in the Plaza, and not so much as a sail on the horizon, no one is paying much attention to the fort's eastern wall, where Happy Dan Pugh is cursing his men to pull harder.
And Happy Dan is not alone!
Back in the plaza, the nuns have retreated. Humiliated with her arms shackled back, Abigail Spoon will burn first, then the others will be cast into the flames one by one to keep the drama going as long as possible - an object lesson to all!
A thunder of hooves and iron tyres breaks in on the moment as the Governor's coach clatters into the Plaza
For a moment Don Lardo wonders if his wife has changed her mind - then the awful truth dawns in the shape of Mary Reade, Anne Bonny, Lettice Fotheringay-Thomas and the pistols they are pointing
Eager to show initiative Toledana orders his reserve squad forward...
....only to disappear in a savage blast of double-shotted grape that stops Toledana, his men and the horse he rode in on, dead - while also abruptly alerting Governor Don Lardo to the true horror of the situation
Writhing in impotence under the guns of his own stronghold Don Lardo is forced to stand by as a pack of sea rogues emerge, round up captives and inquisitors alike and hustle both back into the fort.
While the crowd, silenced for a moment by the cannon blast, now break into a thunderous cheer as the captives disappear and the Barracuda sets a contemptuous light to the empty pyre.
For Lardo the ultimate humiliation is to have to negotiate with 'The Baracudda' herself for the return of his wife and fortress - though not necessarily in that order!
Back in the privacy of the palace Donna Quibab reminds her husband of why it was a fair exchange (see Bayko Pirates 6 - Casa Lardo ) - while Don Lardo ponders how to explain the loss of an entire Inquisition - without sounding careless!
Meantime, far out to sea aboard the Saucy Gladys Trusspott, Diego Palafox and his fellows have more than their prestige to fret on now!
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