JOHN ‘DEATH’ ELLIOTT
From THE FALL of the FAMILIES
In which we are told the adventures of the alien ship called the ‘Fare Thee Well’
and of the anger of Captain Death
and the destruction he brought to the Proctor Fleet and the prison planet called
Also revealed is the true history of the survivors from Luxury and the manner in
which they entered into that strange part of space called
Now gather round while the fire burns bright
And a tale to you I’ll tell,
Of Captain Death and his sister Bett
And the ship called the Fare Thee Well.
Born together were Jack and Bett,
Like Pisces on a plate.
They shared a mind. They thought as one.
She could finish a sentence he’d just begun,
‘tis said she was there when the ship was won,
And certain she shared his fate.
Jack won the ship in a wager,
That’s the story I heard tell.
On the turn of a knife he staked his life
To own the Fare Thee Well.
Sure the Fare Thee Well was no normal ship,
From an alien forge it came.
Quick as light it could turn and fight,
Pick straws from your teeth while you’re setting to bite,
Then fade away like a shadow at night,
And the Proctors feared its name.
Red as the scales of a Hammer,
Shaped like a mission bell,
Her holds were dark, her holds were wide,
An army if needs could there abide,
Fully equipped with arms beside.
Such was the Fare Thee Well.
Some say that Jack was a trader,
Dealing in corn and rice,
Hawking oils from the Pleiades
And sometimes sperm and spice.
If there were wars he ferried whores,
In peace he carried grain.
So the holds were tight and the price was right
You’d not here Jack complain.
A happy time when laws were few, and life…
Was fresh as a new picked peach.
And Jack’s delight was to stretch his hand
Further than he could reach.
He visited worlds long since gone,
And swam in alien seas.
The whole of space was a wondrous safe
To which Jack held the keys.
Full many a time the Fare Thee Well
Clashed with the Proctor fleet.
Caught on a lam its guns would slam,
Then skirr and pitch and turn and ram,
And burn with their rockets like a joint of ham
The pride of the Proctor fleet.
Each day word of his exploits
Was carried to far Central,
Where Pippin the First of the Proctors
Summoned his grim marshal.
He stroked his fangs as men of old
Stroked their proud mustache.
“I speak of Death arid his sister Bett.
They mock our rule…. call me Pippette.
So bring me their heads in a fine basket,
And burn their ship to ash.
I say. Burn their ship to ash.”
So a declaration was issued wide,
Proclaimed both near and far,
That any man who by action bold
Brought Death and his sister into the fold
Would spend his life mid silver and gold
As prince of his very own star.
Many men were tempted.
Many men met death.
Tangling with John Elliott
And his sister Elizabeth.
But one there was on the Fare Thee Well,
– A friendlier man you’ll never find -,
And yet beneath his smiling face
There lurked a traitor’s mind.
Lester John had fists of iron,
His eyes were merry and green.
But bonny face and clever tongue
May mask a. mind that’s mean.
Lester John had shoulders broad,
And stories he could tell,
Of early days in the wide space sea
Aboard the Fare Thee Well.
Under alien suns he’d fought by the side
Of Captain John Elliott.
But when he heard the Proctor lies
His friend he soon forgot.
He’d spent long nights of mirth end wine,
He’d kissed Jack’s sister Bett.
But when he heard the Proctor lies
His love he did forget.
Feel no pity for traitors.
Consign them all to Hell.
They’ll lie to your face: to love they’ll pretend.
They’ll say they give, when they only lend,
Then turn their back when you need a friend.
‘tvas so on the Fare Thee Well.
And Lester John was the traitor’s name
Aboard the Fare Thee Well.
Lester John drank beer one night,
Slapped Jack Death on the arm,
“Oh I will love your sister true
And never do her harm.”
Then he watched and waited and bided his time.
Stole the keys to Landship Three.
Took Bett from her bed, a gun at her head,
Broke open the door to the Landship shed,
Oh the blast as he left should have wakened the dead,
And he took Bet to Luxury,
As a prisoner to Luxury.
Luxury. A planet of stone.
A place of grief and pain.
The hold where our ancestors
Were kept like beasts on chain.
Seized by bullies with pass keys,
Whether at home or at school…
Name their crime! They stepped out of line.
Raised their hands, and spoke their minds.
Danced to a tune that was not of the time,
And opposed the Proctor rule.
Slavery is a sickness,
By ignorance ‘tis spread.
The ruler smiles like a crocodile
Over a lowered head.
The slave begets the warrior,
The warrior serves the king,
The king serves no one but himself.
Isn’t that a funny thing?
Let history be your teacher,
And you who listen be brave.
Let no man be your master,
Let no man be your slave.
But back now to my story
Of the sufferings of Bett ,
And the vengeance wrought on Luxury
By Captain John Elliott.
The men who ruled over Luxury
Gathered at the landing port,
Gave a shout of surprise when they say the prize
That Lester John had brought.
They thought of gold and girls and wine
As they gazed at Elizabeth.
“Sure, now that we have his sister,
We’ll soon catch Captain Death.”
The prison was deep in a crater.
And down on the crater floor,
Leading to darkness arid misery
Was a single iron door.
They took Bett under the surface,
Down to a small cold room,
And there they left her in darkness,
In the darkness of the tomb.
An iron bed on a white tiled floor
And round the sides a drain,
To carry away the filth and blood
Leaked by a body in pain.
“Hear me, John Death Elliott,
Hear me and feel accursed.
Your sister we hold in an iron net.
I keep her alive. I call her my pet.
If you beg on your knees you may see her yet.”
So said Pippin, the Proctor First.
Jack Death vowed that very day,
He vowed that self same morn,
He vowed by the face of his sister,
And he vowed by the yet unborn.
He vowed by the stars about him,
Adrift on that wide space-sea,
That not one man would be left alive
On the planet called Luxury:
That by fire and knife
He would take the life
Of the rulers of Luxury.
Then Pippin the First of the Proctors
Offered amnesty, so I heard tell
If Captain Death would come in peace
And surrender the Fare Thee Well.
But not a word said Captain Death
As secret plans made he,
To humble the fame of the Proctor name
And the rulers of Luxury.
The days slipped slowly past, poor Bett,
Her body began to waste.
Each day she withered like a flower
That in a book is pressed.
The days grew longer with the sun,
Grew shorter with the cold,
But no Captain Death came stalking
Like wolf into the fold.
Jack Death sped from star to star,
Came to the planet called Fell,
And there shared food with the alien brood,
That had built the Fare Thee Well.
“Give me guns that can burn to dust
And parch an inland sea.
Give me guns that can crack like a nut
The planet called Luxury.
Give me of your strategy,
Weave any secret spell,
For I must win my sister back
Or die on the Fare Thee Well.
Yes, I will win my sister back
Or die on the Fare Thee Well.”
Alien builders tinkered and span
And the Fare Thee Well was remade.
Till she looked like an ancient freighter,
An innocent ship of trade.
But think of her like a scaly fist
Clothed in a silken glove.
See not a hawk with talons spread
But a gentle cooing dove.
And when the work was finished.
The Fare Thee Well rose free,
And set a hunter’s course
For the planet called Luxury.
The ‘sleepy guard shakes himself awake,
When he hears the radio din.
“May-day. May-day. Answer we pray,
We’re a Pleiades freighter gone astray,
Adrift in space for many a day,
For pity’s sake let us come in.”
Sure the Fare Thee Well looks innocent
As any Sunday school prize,
As a dew-decked apple picked at dawn,
As the smile in your grandmother’s eyes.
And the laser cannon which probed her shape
Found nothing to cause a frown.
So the satellite eyes turn their gaze away,
Resumed their search in the Milky way,
O the landing lights were bright and gay
In that fierce prison town.
See the ancient Pleiades freighter,
Glint in the rising sun.
Above the doomed city
The last day has begun.
The ghostly freighter slides through the sky,
Its jets like the claws of a beast.
Like a beast it growls as it comes around,
Like a beast it howls, and at the sound
Towers and villas come tumbling down.
Too late the cry goes out, “Stand back.”
To late the cry, “Retire.”
Too late the cannon take their aim.
John Elliott opens fire.
He burns the glittering satellites,
The defense of Luxury’s skies.
Like Odysseus with Polypheme,
He puts out Luxury’s eyes.
Liquid fire pours from the ports,
Spreads over the city in sheets.
Dab rays breach the city walls,
Smash the windows, burn the halls.
Hear 0 hear the masonry fall,
Down to the glowing streets.
The prison was deep in a crater,
With a high serrated rim,
And Captain Death was careful
That no fire fell therein.
Black as a scarab beetle,
Death to the prison came.
The Fare Thee Well dropped downwards,
Riding its bed of flame.
A mighty voice rang from its sides,
“Hear the words of Captain Death.
Open the gate of your prison keep.
Let Death within your prison peep,
For as ye have sown, so shall ye reap.
Now bring forth Elizabeth.”
They carried Bett to the surface
Wrapped in a prison sheet.
They lifted her up through the prison grate
And set her on her feet.
She stood and shook on swollen feet,
She stood like a girl with no soul.
She stared like the blind for they’d scrubbed her mind
As clean as a surgeon’s bowl.
“Speak to me my sister.
Your eyes are the colour of lead.
Tell me how did they harm you?”
But never a word she said.
Death carried her to the Fare Thee Well,
Set every prisoner free,
And when they were safe in the ship’s wide hold,
Death lifted from Luxury.
Many thousand captured souls
Were freed, so I heard tell.
With shaven heads and parchment skin
Sticks for bones, and chapped and thin,
They were silent as death as they climbed within
The hold of the Fare Thee Well.
Names bring honour. Let me name a few.
A man caned Pettet, a woman called Blue,
A Smith, a Lee, a child called Lyn,
A Minsk, a Raj and Haberjin.
Those I have missed be not offended.
Soonest begun is soonest ended.
The roots of every family tee
Trace back to the people of Luxury.
And those I mention at this time
Are only here to serve the rhyme.
Nov since your gifts I hope to earn
To my story I’ll return. *
(* This ballad is sung at the annual festival celebrating the deliverance of the people of Elliott’s Pocket from Luxury. Traditionally the singer selects names from among those who are listening and, as in this case, improvises a verse incorporating those names.)
Above the hills of Luxury
An alien web Jack spun,
To tap the light of the night-time stars
And the heat of the noon-day sun.
The web glowed pale blue in the night,
Blazed silver in the day,
And focused all its energy
Into a single ray.
And on a word from Captain Death
The great web slowly turned.
The ray stabbed down and where it touched
The planet charred and burned.
It lingered over the crater
That cupped the prison home,
And the earth it frothed like water dropped
Onto a burning stone.
It lingered over the city
Though all life there yes dead,
And soon the planet’s founding rock
Glowed a muddy red.
At last upon a misty morn
The sun let all men see
The ruin wrought by Captain Death
Upon proud Luxury.
An angry man, when anger cools,
May often feel regret.
And so it was on the Fare Thee Well
For Captain John Elliott.
He looked down where the planet turned,
Dark as the stone of a peach.
“Come all people with a will to survive.
Give thanks to the stars that we’re still alive.
We’ll find a place where we cart thrive,
Far from the Proctor’s reach.
“Luxury will soon be cold,
Bereft of life, forlorn.
A monument to those who died,
A hope for those new born.
“And life shall triumph over grief,
Wisdom over folly yet.
Hope will be like an opening leaf,
Though we never will forget.”
Throw a log on the fire,
Warm your hands at the flame.
Hear now how the people of Luxury
To the Elliott’s Pocket came.
Throw another log on the fire,
Hear the fate that befell
Captain Death and his sister Bett
And the brave ship Fare Thee Well.
Too long that ship had tarried,
For the vengeance of Captain Jack.
The Proctor fleet had gathered,
Came storming to attack.
The Fare Thee Well kicked through ninety degrees
Set a spiral and barreled ahead.
Laid a par round a neutron star,
And to the Pocket sped.
The Pocket. a vast net in space,
A twist in the galaxy,
Which hid its dangers fathoms deep
Like reef in a calm, calm sea.
A place where hairy comets wheeled
And Black Holes stripped the rind
From White Dwarfs and Giants Red
Caught in their gravity bind.
A fierce place, whose lines of force,
Could man-made ships destroy
As easy as a child can crush
A home-made paper toy.
Many ships had tried to cross,
Many ships now hung,
Turning in the solar ‘wind,
Abandoned every one.
Some called the Pocket Eden,
Some called the Pocket Hell,
(Sure it proved sweet sanctuary
To those on the Fare thee Well.)
Some said there was a pestilence,
A thing of mind not skin,
Infected hardy spacemen
Who tied to break there-in.
And many were the warnings,
If into the Pocket you sped.
“First you’ll feel your blood congeal,
Then joints ’ll ache like stretched on wheel,
Your skin ’ll burn and start to peel.”
That’s what old spacemen said.
“If you dog the Pocket,
You’ll hear within your head,
Like chant of souls in Purgatory,
The singing of the dead”
Or so old spacemen said.
Think then of the Fare Thee Well
And the people from Luxury,
They were the first that ever burst
Into this strange space sea.
The Fare Thee Well set a burrowing course
For the hole in the Hurricane.
Behind her packed like baying hounds
The Proctor warships came.
Fortune smiled on the Fare Thee Well
Though the Hurricane span like a blade,
A moon from Mabel dragged her through
And the gallant ship was saved.
Fortune smiled on the Fare Thee Well
As she dived through Mabel’s rings,
Then rode the wake of the Cherry Brake
In shadow avoided the Eye of the Snake
And burst into light over Emerald Lake,
The place where the Siren sings…
Where moons of Jet and Amethyst
Shine in amber skies.
O rare the beauty of that place,
Like fabled caves of Paradise. *
(* The Hurricane, Mabel, Cherry Brake, Emerald Sea and the Eye of the Snake are all distinct astronomical formations within Elliott’s Pocket.)
And the people out from Luxury
At the ship’s wide portals stand,
And gaze with eyes of wonder
Upon their promised land.
Pity the ships of the Proctor fleet
When to the Pocket they came.
Many dived, but few survived
The cut of the Hurricane.
Three ships foundered on Mabel
Whose mood had changed once more.
She caught them in her gravity trap
Like whales upon the shore.
One ship cleared the Cherry Brake
But the Snake it could not pass.
Straight ahead the Eye blinked red
And turned the ship to glass.
The people aboard the Fare Thee Well
Saw that ship as it froze,
Saw it brighten like a nev trimmed lamp,
Saw it whiten like a Winter rose.
It is still out there. You can see it still.
Like something a craftsman made,
Fashioned from strands of silver thread
And plates of pale green jade.
Through an open dome you can climb aboard.
There’s one will welcome you.
With egg-white eyes and bleachen hair,
She crouches like a girl at prayer,
She was crouching thus when the Snake’s bright glare
Stopped both ship and crew.
The stars shine dimly through the walls
Like lights ‘neath a wide dark lake.
And the long dead captain sits with his hand
Tight on the gravity break.
About him his crew axe like silver toys,
Like figures carved from ice,
Caught as they laughed, as they moved, as they spoke,
Caught by the turn of the dice.
And what were they thinking, that fatal crew,
That girl on her knees by the dome?
Was she kneeling to gather something she’d dropped
Or praying for safe journey home?
Then one by one the land ships rose,
From the Fare Thee Well cut free,
And ferried to their new-found homes
The people of Luxury.
It was then that Lumb became a home,
And Ra and Dis and Set,
And we became a people, one
Of Elliott’s Pocket. *
* Lumb, Pa, Dis and Set are the names of some of the inhabited worlds with in this twist in space called Elliott’s Pocket.
We lived by shadow of mountain stone,
We lived by water’s grace,
And one by one and silently
Love joined us with this place.
But what of Captain Jack, that man,
He kept himself apart.
Like one who is a visitor
And who must soon depart.
A leash-held dog that smells the dawn
Will soon begin to fret,
And bite its chain and pace and pull.
So with John Elliott.
One day he closed the great ship’s doors,
Spoke with his sister B ett.
He’d heard a voice that called his name
from the deep Pocket.
He’d heard a siren voice that sang
Like the call of the turning tide,
And to that siren voice he ran,
Like lover to his bride.
Poor Bett, that girl like the walking dead,
Poor Bett robbed of her mind,
Who never cried or laughed or spoke,
Poor Bett he left behind.
She never cried or laughed or spoke
As Jack Death kissed her head.
“Till I return, my sister dear.”
But never a word she said.
She never laughed or cried or spoke
Save once she raised her head,
And rubbed the place that Jack had kissed.
“Ah, now l know he’s dead.”
And that same hour say Bett decline.
Her arms lay stiff at her side.
Her pale lips moved though no sound came
And gently so she died.
And what became of Captain Jack
And the proud ship Fare Thee Well?
That’s a secret the Pocket keeps,
The truth no one can tell.
There are tales of a ghostly freighter,
Will come like a. shooting star,
Blazing bright with Elmo’s light,
Deadly as arrow that flies in the night,
Ready to serve and ready to fight
If danger comes from afar.
We of the Pocket remember
And once every year must tell,
This tale of Death and his sister Bett
And the proud ship Fare Thee Well. *
* Traditionally everyone who is listening joins in this last verse.