Melchior was true to his word. The crew returned within a few hours. Together, they loaded all the supplies that they’d need to make repairs to the Specter during their voyage. When the sun finally began to set on the horizon, Baltazar turned to Melchior, “Order all hands on board, ready the ship for departure.”
Melchior nodded and turned to the crew, “Aye sir, all hands get onboard now. Everyone to your stations, let’s go!”
The crew scattered as Melchior barked out orders, “Hands to the braces, release mooring lines, set the sails!”
Gilles ran to the helm as the sails came down and brought the ship about 180 degrees. As the ship began to leave the harbor, Baltazar looked at the small fort at the harbor exit. He smiled as an idea popped into his head, moved to the forward railing on the aft castle, and called out to his men, “Mates, his majesty has offered us a chance to serve king and country. What say you men, do you want to be the king’s stooges?”
A resounding ‘no’ came from the men on deck. Baltazar nodded, “Well the king is waiting for an answer. What say we give him one? Run up port gun number one!”
Four men moved in and quickly loaded the cannon. It took them a few moments to get everything ready, but once they were done, the gun was rolled back it into place. One of the men turned back to Baltazar, “Gun at the ready sir.”
Baltazar nodded, “Open fire on the fort!”
The crewman hit the back of the cannon with a lit torch. It responded with a loud explosion. A whooshing sound could be heard as the shot cut through the air heading towards its target. In a matter of seconds, there was an explosion that cut a small hole in the fortress wall.
Baltazar nodded, “Hard over, get us out of here.”
The Specter quickly moved out of the range of the fortress cannons and out to sea. Once they were safely away, Baltazar turned and walked towards his cabin without looking at anyone, “Melchior, you’re on watch. Let me know if anything happens.”
Melchior nodded, “Aye sir.”
Without another word, Baltazar disappeared from view. He was weary from his meeting with his brother and didn’t know what would come next. He suspected though that it would not be pleasant.
From his residence, Philip III saw the attack on one of his fortresses. Smoke poured from the hole that the Specter’s cannon had created. He smiled, “So dear brother, it’s war between us then?”
Two days passed from the time they left Spain. Melisande finished up her duties and returned to the deck. The crew was fed and there were none that had been wounded during the day. She leaned on the railing as she watched the stars twinkle in the night sky. Each had its own distinct pattern and flickered various colors.
Everything that had happened to her since she left the abbey passed in front of her eyes. Her thoughts returned to Sister Mary, and how furious she must have been when Melisande left. She regretted just up and leaving, but she was relieved to have Papi with her, and she was much happier now. She’d found a place in the world for the first time ever. Granted, it wasn’t a perfect fit and it wasn’t exactly where she thought she’d be, but she was content with it.
Suddenly a voice appeared behind her, “Pardon the intrusion.”
She turned to see Melchior standing behind her. Her lips curled into a warm smile as she leaned back on the railing in order to give the first mate her intention, “No intrusion at all, just thinking about the unusual turn of events.”
“Aye,” he said with a smile, “a lot has happened in such a short time. Here we be, renegades on the high seas with a captain we just come to discover has royal blood in his veins. To boot, we now be serving with a woman. These certainly be strange tides.”
“So no one knew about Baltazar?” Melisande asked. “Don’t you find that a little odd?”
“Very odd,” Melchior replied, “but he been keeping everything as secret as he can. None of us be mind readers and never volunteers anything.”
Melisande nodded, “That is true…”
“May I ask a favor of ye, lass?” Melchior asked.
“Of course,” Melisande replied, “what can I do for you?”
Melchior paused for a few moments, but finally responded, “We be concerned about the captain. Since he returned, he’s not been himself. Something be eating at him.”
“I’ve noticed.” Melisande agreed. “What would you like me to do about it?”
“Get him talking.” Melchior replied. “A captain that’s mind be elsewhere does not bode well for his ship.”
Melisande looked over at his cabin. The lamps were lit and she could see him pacing about. She looked back at Melchior and nodded, “All right, I’ll see what I can do. Though I don’t know if he’ll talk to me about it.”
Melchior smiled, “Much obliged.”
Without another word, she turned and walked to the aft castle and knocked on the cabin door. Baltazar responded, “Enter.”
She opened the door and looked at Baltazar. He turned to her and smiled, “Mel, what can I do for you?”
She took in a deep breath, “The men are concerned about you. They think your mind is elsewhere.”
He nodded, “They may not be wrong…”
“Do you want to talk about it?” She asked. “We were all kind of surprised to hear that you are a Habsburg.”
“That would be because I am not one!” Baltazar shouted. “I am still the same person I always was. My name is Captain Baltazar De La Fuente. I’m no prince; I have no such riches of any kind.”
Melisande took a step back, “Calm down, I’m not here to judge you. I’m sorry if that’s a sore subject.”
Baltazar lowered his eyes, “It’s not your fault, you didn’t know.”
Melisande nodded, “So can you tell me?”
Baltazar looked away and sighed, “My mother was a maid to Philip II of Spain. It was one night when they were alone together in his country home. One night… that’s all it took.”
“So it’s true…” She replied softly. “Your father was the king.”
“My father,” he replied, “was an inbred degenerate, same as the rest of that family. I have no love for them, or the evils they commit that tear apart our great country, all to feed their lust for riches and power.”
“Is that why you attack Spanish ships?” Melisande asked.
“Yes,” he admitted, “I sink them and use their goods to pay my crew and refit my ship. I use a small amount to sustain myself and give the rest to charity. I could be a rich man now from all the plunder, but like it or not… I can’t escape what my family has done. So I don’t keep it for myself.”
“You can’t blame yourself for what your family does.” Melisande insisted. “You’re not them. You’re not your father. You are much better than that.”
Baltazar smiled, “Funny, I thought you said I was a ruffian and a scoundrel.”
“You are,” she replied, “but I’d count myself with an honest scoundrel over an evil monarch any day.”
“You’re very kind to say that.” Baltazar replied. “I am glad we didn’t throw you to the sharks.”
Melisande laughed, “Well I’m glad you feel that way, I’m too skinny to be a good meal anyway!”
They continued talking long into the night as the lamp light burned dim. Everything was quiet on the ship as the crew slept under the stars. Even the creaking of the hull was a peaceful sound.
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