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Dead Men Tell No Tales; Diable Tonnere, Book 1

Author: Stan K.

Dead Men Tell No Tales


Dockworkers Tom Knolls and James Wharton had just finished drinking the last of the day’s wages from unloading ships.  As they staggered home down a dimly lit alley, they were stopped by a large ominous figure in what appeared to be a tattered old British naval officers' uniform.  The darkest fear had set into the two men when they realized they were in the presence of Admiral Diable Tonnere, the pirate who, as legend had it, manned his ship with the walking dead.  Diable Tonnere, once a British Navy captain named Jonathon Pearl, and his crew and ship were lost at sea in 1734.

Standing 6’4”, wild locks of thick black hair and broad shoulders with the full moon to his back, Diable Tonnere was the most frightening sight both Knolls and Wharton had ever seen.  Diable Tonnere introduced himself,” Aye, me name is Diable Tonnere and I be seeking a crew for me ship.” To this, Wharton replied “Sir, we are but dock workers we don’t know the ways of the sea”.  Diable Tonnere said “Aye, but for everyman ye recruit, I will give ye each two pieces of gold.”  Knolls then said to Wharton, “That is an awful lot of money for recruiting”.  Diable Tonnere interrupted, “Aye it is, you see, thars a catch.  Ye must deliver the swabs to me ship, the Yemanja, with their throats cut and these here doubloons covering thar eyes”.  The two dockworkers eyes widened at the sight of the bulging bag of gold coins.  The evil pirate then told them “If ye abscond with me gold, I’ll surely kill ye both.”  Reluctantly, Knolls and Wharton took on their new job.

           The next night, Knolls and Wharton began their latest endeavor.  Inside the Broken Rudder, they spied two sailors, passed out in a booth.  They approached the two and tried to wake them.  They managed to get them up and walked them out of the tavern with promises of adventure and Spanish gold.  When the four got to the pier, one of the drunken sailors slurred, “Whersh da shlip”.  Knolls pointed at the Yemanja anchored in the bay.  It seemed to absorb the moonlight and make the sky darker.  The other drunk stammered, ”That’s the dead ship we can’t crew her.  What do you “.    He never finished because the blood from Knoll’s knife slicing his throat filled his lungs ending his last words.  Placing the doubloons over their victims’ eyes presented more problems.  The coins kept falling out.  They had to push the gold pieces in and up into the victim’s skull.  After this was finished, Knolls and Wharton stuffed the bodies in burlap sacks and tossed them into a long boat.

 Diable Tonnere was tending to his ship when a small dingy with Knolls, Wharton and two burlap bags pulled up along side.  Knolls called out for Diable Tonnere who immediately appeared on deck.  Diable Tonnere called to them, “Remove them from the bags so’s I can see me doubloons”.  The men did as told and Diable Tonnere started reciting a mysterious incantation.  Bright gold rays emitted from Diable Tonnere’s eyes and he started to glow a bright gold.  The doubloons in the corpse’s eyes, then the corpses started glowing.  The corpses then arose and through doubloon eyes, climbed the rope ladder onto the deck of the Yemanja.  Diable Tonnere yelled to his two recruiters, “Bring me eighteen more such men and our venture will be done.”

Wharton and Knolls continued to deliver crewmen to the pirate.  When they brought the last body, they were desperate.  Knolls told Diable Tonnere that the townspeople were suspicious of them and they needed safe passage to Virginia where they could start a new life with their earnings.  Diable Tonnere allowed them to board along with the recently resurrected crewman.  Diable Tonnere granted them their request but warned them to stay away from the zombies saying, “They have a hunger for fresh meat, like the kind that still walk and talk”.

During there first dinner aboard ship the three men spoke of their endeavor and the conversation changed to Diable Tonnere’s history.  Wharton asked, “Mister uh, Admiral Diable Tonnere, how do you raise these men from the dead?” Diable Tonnere told his story; “It was 1734 and I was a Captain for the British Navy.  We were sailing the Virgin Islands when a storm blew our ship aground on an unknown island.  The inhabitants, survivors from an Arab slave trader ship that ran aground I think, killed everyone but me and I was forced into servitude for an old black witch, she was a Yoruban who practiced a strange craft.  In order to keep her line pure, she used me to sire three daughters. This went on for three years and I watched and learned all her spells and curses that I could.  I watched her every move.  I watched as a group of buccaneers brought them supplies and dined with them.  I even recognized the captain as a fellow English Naval captain.  He saw me in the wood cage she kept me in and laughed at me.  Aye, but I was learning her ways”.  He stopped for a gulp of rum and unconsciously rubbed a hideous shrunken head attached to a piece of twine that he wore around his neck.  “I saw what she did with her talisman, a shrunken head of some tribal mystic that she had killed after learning all she could from him.  I saw the chickens the buccaneers brought her.  Drained of blood, left to rot around me so that my seed would be more powerful, and her daughters, she knew they would be female, stronger than her.  I watched and learned everything I could from that devil woman.  Soon I was making things vanish and conjuring up things that no stage magician could dream of.  I also knew that I needed a strong talisman and that one day, I would wear her shrunken head around me neck.  I learned how to wrap myself in color and light so I couldn’t be seen by me captors.  Then, knowing my usefulness was about to run out, I killed the old witch, and her vile spawns and made my escape.”  He stopped for another gulp of rum.  “I took her head and ran.  They couldn’t find me thanks to my magic.  I then shrunk her head and felt power like no man has ever felt.  I was able to enter their minds.  I took one of those Negroes and stole his mind.  I made him kill two of his fellows and I brought them back, used them to kill the rest.  There was the remnants of a beached ship in a cove on the island where the buccaneers hid out.  I took a long boat from it, loaded with supplies and set myself adrift until a Spanish merchant picked me up.  I made the crew kill each other and then made them my first undead slaves.”  He drank the rest of the rum from the golden chalice he was drinking from and, with lightning fast motion, crushed it in his had, and threw it hard enough for it to embed itself in the wall across the room.  “I then took the name ‘Diable Tonnere’ because Captain Jonathon Pearl ceased to exist when the power of that old black witch took me over.  I now command thunder and my name alone scares the bravest of men.”  Knolls then asked, ”You warned us earlier to avoid the zombies, how dangerous are they?”  “Aye, I set them lose on a ship in battle and they’ll feed on every living soul, the only way to stop them is to cut their ugly heads off.” Knolls then asked, “Diable Tonnere, why don’t they attack you?”  Diable Tonnere held up the shrunken head and said “This be the shrunken head of that old witch, one look at this and it brings them to their knees.  As long as I be holding this, I’m safe”.   Wharton asked,” Why do you need a new crew every three months?”  The dark pirate replied” Aye’ after a while they get to stinkin, rottin and falling apart.  When this happens, I throw them to the sharks and find recruiters to put together a new crew.”  “Diable Tonnere” asked Knolls “Why can’t you recruit your crew yourself?” Diable Tonnere, “If they die by my hand I cannot resurrect them.”

Early one morning, off the coast of Wilmington, Diable Tonnere awoke his two passengers.  “Mates, come up to the deck, I want ye both to witness something”.  Knolls asked “What about the crew”. Diable Tonnere replied “Don’t ye worry yeself, they be occupied”.

Off in the distance they saw a ship that would eventually cross their path.  “Were gonna have us a raid” said Diable Tonnere.  The dead crew was gathered on the port side of the ship looking in the direction of their on coming victim.  Diable Tonnere walked up to the Yemanja’s bow, raised his arms skyward and started reciting incantations in some unknown language similar to when he raised the crewmen from the dead.  A clear blue veil seamed to envelope the ship causing it to blend with the sea and sky making all but invisible to the approaching frigate.  Diable Tonnere came back to Knolls and Wharton and said “She be sitting low on the water, thar be plenty of plunder in her belly” As the Yemanja neared the clipper ship, a group of crewmen could be seen pointing toward the strange blue mass about to pull up along side them.  The dead crewmen of the Yemanja then threw grappling hooks over onto the clippers railings, drawing the ships closer and connecting them.  Diable Tonnere then yelled, “feed” to the crew.  In the most violent acts Knolls will ever see and Wharton will one day witness first hand, the once dead crewmen leapt onto the clipper and started ripping and tearing its doomed crewmen apart.  The ships’ crew attempted to defend themselves but the cadaverous crewmen were unstoppable.  Musket shots to the body would only knock them down, but they would be back up and attacking before the unfortunate victim could reload his flintlock.  At the end of it all, Diable Tonnere had to remove a saber from one of a crewman’s body.

After gorging themselves on the clipper’s crew and transferring what cargo Diable Tonnere wanted for the Yemanja, which included twenty barrels of rum, he gathered the undead crew onto the deck of the Yemanja and said “Rest ye wild dogs, ye did well today”.  The crew then fell into a deep sleep.  Diable Tonnere then said to Knolls and Wharton, “Ye can roam the ship as ye please, they will sleep for three days.” Looking at Wharton, he closed the gap between them so Wharton can smell the rum and rot in his breath and said “Ye may try to take advantage of this sleep one day, for yer sake, I hope ye take this as a warning and be happy with yer recruiting fees.” Then, changing to a more pleasant tone, Diable Tonnere said,  “Lubbers, we got some rum that needs put away” Diable Tonnere hoisted a heavy keg onto his shoulder as if it were but a down pillow, arms bulging and licking his lips in anticipation of the fiery liquid he was about to partake with his business partners.

Two nights later, a day before they were to unload in Virginia, Knolls and Wharton were having their last dinner at sea with Diable Tonnere; the pirate said, “Lubbers, I’ll be back this way in about a month and a half needing a new crew.  This lot will be about finished.”  Knolls asked, “You’ll be needin’ a couple of recruiters?” Diable Tonnere replied with a nod.  Wharton then asked “Diable Tonnere, why do you use dead men to crew your ship?”  Diable Tonnere said “Why landlubber, dead men tell no tales.” After the dinner, the three men enjoyed a large amount of rum and Diable Tonnere was on the verge of passing out when his two passengers decided to leave him to sleep while they went back to the quarters they shared.

In the cramped room, Wharton said to Knolls, “I'm goin back for that little head after he's been out for a while.”  Knolls said, “You are surely a mad man.  If he doesn't get you those things will and I don't know which would be worst.”  Wharton replied, “He's drank so much rum, he won't wake up, and the crew is put to sleep.  When I get that head, I get the ship and all that booty in the hold.  And I'll feed Diable Tonnere to the stinkers.” His name for the rotting crew.  Wharton then told Knolls, “I'm locking the cabin after you leave and I won't open it for you when you get back.  He's going to catch you and I don't want him to think I've had any part of this.” He then added, “He's paying us good money for the recruiting, we just got to be a little more careful how we get the dead men to the ship.  Don't do this, you'll only get yerself killed.”  Wharton said, “Tonight, that head is mine.”  He pulled a pistol from under a pile of clothes in the corner.  “I stashed this here when the stinkers took that ship.  When Diable Tonnere is gone, I’ll have it all.”  He then lay on his bunk and waited for Diable Tonnere to fall asleep

After what seemed a lifetime, Wharton silently left his bunk and walked toward the door.  “You go out there, I’m locking it and not opening it again until we get to port.” Knolls whispered.  “You can have this crawl space, I’ll have a ship” Wharton replied as he crept out the door.

He quietly walked to Diable Tonnere’s cabin, stood outside with his ear to the door listening for any sound; just raspy snoring.  With flintlock in hand, James Wharton slowly pushed the door open far enough to peer inside the room.  In the darkness, he was barely able to make out the figure of Admiral Diable Tonnere lying on his bed.  Drawing the pistol to the right height, he approached the bed.  He was two feet away when suddenly the room glowed a retina burning yellow.  The bed was empty.  Diable Tonnere laughed from behind him.  Wharton turned to see the pirate standing there, the witch’s head held out and flanked by maybe ten of the undead.  He drew to fire at Diable Tonnere only to see that the pistol had magically become the rotting forearm from one of the hideous creatures.  Diable Tonnere muttered, “Wasn’t my generosity enough?  Die you foolish little man.”  He ordered the crew to feed.  Wharton ran through them and into the narrow ship’s hall only to find more rotting crewmen.  Knolls pulled a pillow over his head to muffle the tormented screams of his dying friend. 

Knolls, realizing that Diable Tonnere may think he was part of the murder attempt and send the crew after him bolted from his bed and out of his room.  He looked down the long passage toward the Admiral’s quarters and saw the hideous mob dismembering Wharton.  He ran for the deck.  No dead men up here he thought.  He then released the long boat from where it was secured off the deck.  It hit the water with a loud splash.  Knolls took a last look around the deck and saw the crew was rushing at him and he heard a pistol fire and saw the shot riquochet off the spire just inches from his head.  He leapt overboard hoping to land in the water beside the rowboat.  He splashed next to it, climbed aboard and rowed as hard as he could to get away from Diable Tonnere and his crew.  A couple of the crewmen jumped in after him but never resurfaced.  As he got further from the ship, he turned to see Admiral Diable Tonnere backlit by the full moon yelling “You will be one of my crew one day!”

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