San Sebastián appeared on the horizon as the Sun reached its height. Baltazar watched as the port grew larger in the distance. He turned the wheel a few more degrees to port and headed straight in, “My lads, we’ve come home.”
The wind was at their backs as the Specter glided into the harbor. The ship was a recognizable sight in this port and was always celebrated when she docked. Melisande came up on deck and watched as a few small sailboats and fishing vessels lined up alongside the Specter to guide her into the harbor.
Papi was also on deck and smiled as she appeared, “Sleep well, Messy?”
She nodded, “Baltazar does pretty nicely for himself. His cabin is more comfortable than my cell in the abbey!”
“He does,” Papi agreed, “well he’s a rather… extraordinary man.”
Melisande noticed a huge commotion on the docks as the Specter made its way to the pier, “What’s going on?”
“There’s a big celebration every time the Specter comes home.” He replied. “This ship is rather well known here and Baltazar is considered a local hero.”
“Because of his charity?” She asked.
“Aye,” Papi nodded, “but also because of his… reputation with the womenfolk.”
Melisande rolled her eyes, “Wonderful…”
Baltazar looked at Melisande suspiciously. Her reaction wasn’t what he expected. Did she like him? Papi began to worry, but decided to address it later as he had other duties to perform.
As the ship closed on the dock, Baltazar turned to his men, “Tie up the sails, let the current bring us in nice and slow.”
Melchior nodded, “Aye sir, secure the rigging, bring up the sails.”
The Specter’s sails rolled up as the ship neared the dock. Baltazar turned his ship half a degree to port and brought her up to the dock as gently as he could. He then called out to the men on deck, “Mooring lines.”
There were men waiting on the dock to tie up the Specter as she neared. His crew threw a few ropes over the side and secured their ends. The men on the dock tied up the ship and then accepted the walk ways that the crew put over the side. Two of the men took the desk from the back of the ship and brought it down the ramp to the crowd. There was a large group of merchants awaiting the goods that the Specter brought in.
Baltazar smiled at them, “Welcome to each and every one of you, we’ve got a lot of things to offload today for the right price.”
The crew waited as Baltazar marched proudly down the ramp and sat on a post behind the desk. His men brought down everything that they had taken from the Cristobal. One by one, each item was auctioned off to the merchants. It was quite a sight as every merchant almost seemed to be fighting over the goods.
Once everything had been sold, the money was transferred to Baltazar. He smiled at the merchants as they collected their new found items, “Thank you all very much. Remember, there will be more to come!”
Melisande watched Baltazar work. She couldn’t explain it, but she found something appealing about this childish rogue. He was fit, charming, and a fair man, but then she snapped out of it, and there are probably an uncountable number of other women who thought the same thing… and many foolish ones that still do!
Baltazar walked back aboard followed by crewmen carrying large chests full of coins that had paid for the goods. Melchior sat down at his desk and began to count the money. He was meticulous as he went through every jewel and every coin that they had received. Gilles went wide eyed at the size of the treasure.
After it had been gone over entirely, Gilles could wait no longer, “Well?”
Melchior looked up, “50 pieces a share.”
The men cheered as they lined up to receive the money. Each share was placed in a small leather pouch and handed to every member of the crew. Once they had their money, Baltazar smiled, “All shares have been well-earned and I am very proud of each of you. For those of you who have either signed on for one voyage or joined from other ships, good luck to you and I hope to see you back aboard at some point. Those of you who choose to stay with me, you have five days to enjoy your earnings as you see fit, then I want you back here to help get the Specter seaworthy again.”
Shouts went up from the deck and hats flew into the air as the crew cheered. Melisande stood against the railing away from the crew. She had a saddened look on her face as she watched the rest of the men celebrate.
Papi walked up next to her, “I will speak to the captain and see if we can get some supplies so that we can start our journey.”
She shook her head, “I’m going to miss this ship… This was an incredible ride. I wish I could stay onboard… more than anything…”
“You don’t mean that,” he replied sternly, “and you stand a better chance of living if we leave now.”
“I do mean it, Papi.” Melisande replied. “It just feels right…”
“What do you mean?” Papi asked.
She shook her head, “I… I don’t know, but for the first time, I feel like this is where I belong.”
Papi shook his head, “Well, unfortunately, it’s not up to us…”
Once Baltazar received his captain’s share, he made his way off of the aft castle and walked down to the main deck. Papi stopped him before he could disembark, “We’re ready to depart, Captain. I’m taking Messy out of here. I was hoping that you could provide us with some supplies before we go?”
Baltazar shrugged, “Yes, I could do that… yes… but, I’m afraid there’s a problem, old friend.”
“Captain?” Papi asked in a nervous tone.
Baltazar smiled, “I can’t let her leave.”
Papi glared at him, “Captain, with all due respect, this is not one of your mindless tavern wenches! She is important to me! I’ll not let any harm come to her, even if it means going against someone I respect as a friend.”
“You wound me, Mr. Clement.” Baltazar replied as a hurt look appeared on his face. “That you think I would be so blind as to not see that this woman is very special, far too much so to treat as a port of call.”
“Then what is the problem?” Papi asked. “Why won’t you let us leave?”
Melisande looked quizzically at Baltazar as she waited for his response. He returned her gaze, “If I just let you go, my crew might mutiny.”
“What?” Papi asked in a confused tone.
Baltazar sighed, “They spoke to me in open council, which as you know Papi, is every man’s legal right aboard this ship. They requested that I offer Melisande a position aboard ship as a full-share member of the crew.”
Melisande’s eyes lit up as she looked at Baltazar. Papi stepped in front of her and shook his head, “No, it’s far too dangerous, I can’t allow that!”
Baltazar smiled, “I know that, my old friend, but would you have me face a mutiny if I didn’t at least make the offer?”
“The crew really asked?” Papi asked.
“As I said, the crew has spoken in open council about her.” Baltazar replied as he turned to Melisande. “It seems your ability to treat injuries, and your work ethic, trumps your gender. They have voted unanimously to invite you to remain on if you want to.”
Tears formed in Melisande’s eyes as a bright smile formed on her lips. Her eyes lit up even more than usual and shined brightly. She could not believe what she was hearing.
Baltazar reached into his sack, “Which reminds me…”
He pulled out one last leather pouch and handed it to her, “I believe this belongs to you.”
Melisande opened the bag to see 50 coins inside, a full share. Papi shook his head, “Her, a member of the crew? You can’t be serious! Before she came onboard, she’s never lived a day outside of the abbey!”
“But I am,” Baltazar replied, “She’ll serve as cabin… boy and healer. She’s already proven to be competent at both.”
He looked into her eyes as he continued, “That is of course… if you wish to sign on properly this time?”
The entire crew overheard their conversation, stopped, and looked to see what Melisande’s answer would be. They all looked on anxiously as Baltazar asked. Overwhelmed with joy, she grabbed Baltazar, hugged him tightly, and kissed him on the cheek.
Then, realizing what just happened, she pushed away from him with a nervous grin, “Um… it would be my honor to serve aboard the Specter. It’s all I ever wanted!”
Cheers went up from the men onboard. Baltazar smiled, “Excellent, that’s settled then.”
Morgan came up next to them and bowed his bandaged head to Melisande, “Milady, I be wanting to apologize for the way I been treating ye when ye first came aboard. Ye saved me life.”
She smiled, “All is forgiven. I got what I wanted. Perhaps we can be friends now?”
“Aye,” Morgan replied, “I’d like nothing better.”
He gave her a small salute as he turned to some fouled rigging. Gilles was tending to the helm, with a huge smile on his face from her reaction. Everything appeared to be coming together for all parties involved.
The celebration quickly ended when three lavishly dressed men accompanied by a battalion of soldiers approached the Specter, “Captain, we’ve got company, looks like they’ve got the king’s crest on their banner!”
Papi narrowed his eyes, “The king of Spain, what is he doing in San Sebastián?”
Baltazar turned his attention to the three men as they approached. He walked down ramp and on to the dock to meet them. The first man bowed to Baltazar, “Captain Baltazar de la Fuente, I presume?”
Baltazar returned the gesture, “You are correct good sir.”
The man smiled as he looked Baltazar over, “Your brother requests an audience with you, as soon as possible.”
The crew glanced at each other and whispered back and forth. Baltazar frowned, “You must be mistaken sir. I have no brother. I was orphaned at birth.”
“I see.” the man said with a smug frown. “Well then I shall have to tell King Philip, that he is mistaken about who he believes his brother to be.”
Louder gasps came from the crew. Melisande joined him on the dock, “Baltazar, King Philip?”
The man nodded, “Yes milady, your captain is the half brother of King Philip III of Spain.”
Melisande went wide eyed and she slowly backed away from Baltazar. Gilles walked down to the rail, unable to believe what he was hearing, “I don’t believe it, our captain is royalty?”
“Silence!” Baltazar shouted before turning back to the messenger. “Sir, I do not hold anyone from the House of Habsburg as blood and you would do well to remember that.”
Baltazar paused as he looked over the guards,” If however, the King would like an audience with me… I’d be happy to oblige.”
The man nodded, “Excellent, please accompany us.”
Baltazar bowed again, “Lead the way, milord.”
He turned back to his men, “Secure the ship.”
His men tended to the ship as he was lead away. Melisande watched until he was out of sight, “What does this mean, our captain is a prince?”
“If it’s true,” Papi replied, “then he is a member of the House of Habsburg… which makes him royalty…”
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