The next morning, Melisande woke up on the forecastle, once again sleeping on Baltazar’s shoulder. The last time this happened, her heart jumped and she panicked. This time, she didn’t move. She was comfortable and more relaxed. Baltazar was roused by her movements and smiled, “Good morning.”
“Good morning, though I wish it wasn’t so overcast.” she replied without moving.
Baltazar moved his legs as though he were preparing to stand up, “Forgive me, my lady… I should have put you back in the cabin last night. I’ll leave you be.”
“If you want,” Melisande replied softly, “but you don’t have to…”
Baltazar looked down at her, “You sure?”
She nodded, “I’m more relaxed right now than I have been in days. I know this has to end, but I would like it to last a little while longer… if you don’t mind of course.”
“I’m happy to oblige.” Baltazar replied. “Rest as long as you need to.”
As she nestled her head on Baltazar’s chest, she could hear the heart in his chest race when she closed her eyes. She was warm and completely at peace. It only lasted a few minutes, but it was all the time she needed.
The two were jolted awake by the grunting sounds of hung-over sailors returning from their night of debauchery. Baltazar stood up and smiled, “On deck you drunken pigs! We shove off at eight bells.”
Gilles put a hand to his head, “Please keep your voice down, Captain! My head be hurtin bad.”
Baltazar gave him a devious look, “Your ass is going to hurt a lot worse if you don’t man your station, Mr. Gilles!”
Gilles gave a sloppy salute as he headed for the helm, “Aye aye Captain…”
The rest of the men slowly boarded and headed to their posts. Baltazar shook his head, “No rest for the weary, men! All available hands to the braces, set top sails until we clear the harbor!”
The crew sluggishly came to life and got the ship moving. Within a few minutes, the cool sea breeze sobered them up and they worked like real seamen. The ship pulled out of the harbor and back into the Adriatic Sea. Baltazar nodded, “Full sail!”
He then turned to Gilles, “Thirty degrees to port, steer us north, northwest.”
Gilles nodded, “Aye sir!”
Gilles turned the wheel and the ship slowly responded by coming about. The wind hit the crimson sails hard as the ship pushed northwest. A few more hours passed as Baltazar watched Melisande up at the bow. If he didn’t have to worry about his ship, he would have been up there with her. There was an eerie silence covering the ship as they sailed closer to their destination.
Every eye on the ship was open, searching for some sign of the place they were looking for. Suddenly, the lookout called down to Baltazar from his post, “Land ho, directly ahead!”
Baltazar opened up his spyglass inspected the land that had appeared on the horizon. Papi had heard the signal and came up on deck. He saw Baltazar heading forward and followed behind, “Sir, I’ve sailed these waters before, a long time ago.”
Baltazar nodded, “Can you tell me anything about the land ahead?”
“Yes sir,” he replied, “It’s a narrow inlet, which runs all the way to the capital city. You might say it’s a barrier between the Adriatic Sea and the Laguna Veneta.”
“What do you suggest?” Baltazar asked inquisitively.
Papi took the spyglass from Baltazar and looked at the specific piece of land, “I would hold your course and pass through the barrier at the opening just south of that inlet. From there, navigate north, three degrees to starboard.”
Baltazar nodded and called to the back of the ship, “Gilles, hold your course. Get us through the pass into the Laguna Veneta.”
Gilles nodded, “Understood sir.”
Gilles held the ship steady on as she passed by the narrow inlet. Once they had cleared it and were safely into the Laguna Veneta, Baltazar looked back to Gilles, “Get us on a course, three degrees east.”
The wheel moved slowly as Gilles pushed it into position. The Black Vengeance turned and proceeded northeast. They held their course for another half an hour until the large island where the capital city was located appeared. Several small ships, mostly fishermen, could be seen on either side as they sailed into Venetian waters.
Baltazar stood next to Melisande on the forecastle and put his arm around her, “Welcome to the Kingdom of Venice.”
She smiled and was about to say something when they heard a cry from someone off the starboard bow. It appeared that one of the fishing boats was in distress. The man was calling out in Veneto, which no one onboard spoke, “You there, please, we need assistance! Please save us, our boat is taking on water.”
Baltazar shrugged, “Does anyone here speak Veneto?”
The crew all looked at each other sheepishly. Suddenly, Baltazar heard Melisande’s voice speaking it fluently, “We hear you, please be patient, we’ll come alongside!”
Both Papi and Baltazar looked at her strangely. She turned to him, “They need help. Their boat is sinking.”
Baltazar nodded, “Strike the sails, and bring us alongside.”
The Black Vengeance circled around them a few times to slow down before coming alongside the distressed fishing boat. Quickly, the crew pulled two waterlogged fishermen, including an elderly man, from the water. The first man nodded, “Thank God, you stopped. We could have drowned out here.”
Baltazar looked at Melisande, “What did they say?”
She nodded, “He said thank you.”
She turned back to the fisherman, “What happened to your boat?”
“I regret,” the man replied, “Our boat has seen much neglect. The fishing around here has been somewhat poor for a while now.”
Baltazar noticed the old man staring at her oddly, “Melisande…”
When she turned her attention to him, Baltazar gestured toward the old man. Melisande noticed it and nodded. She turned back to the first fisherman, “Who is this elderly man out here with you?”
“Oh, he is my grandfather,” the fisherman replied, “His name is Venerio and he’s been out this way for years and no matter how old he gets, refuses to stop fishing.”
Melisande turned to Venerio and knelt down next to him, “Is there something wrong, good sir? Do you know me?”
Venerio looked at her with his aged brown eyes and fought out one word, “Adaline…”
Baltazar’s eyes narrowed, “Melisande, what is going on, who is Adaline?”
“These two fishermen didn’t have the money to fix their boat, which is why it was taking on water,” she replied, “and I have no idea who Adaline is…”
She turned her attention back to the old man, “Who is Adaline, good sir?”
“Forgive me,” he replied, “you look exactly like someone I knew when I was a boy.”
“Who,” she asked, “Who was it?”
The man hesitated for a moment before responding, “Just south of the capital city, there is a small fishing village, where I grew up. It was a fairly poor area, but we all got by. I remember there was this one family… beautiful people they were. Always willing to give whatever they could and then some to help those around them. The woman of the house, Adaline, she looked exactly like you. I probably wouldn’t have even remembered until I saw your eyes. She had the exact same ones.”
Baltazar had a confused look on his face, “What is he saying?”
“Shh,” Melisande responded sternly, “I think I may be on to something here.”
“Please Venerio,” she replied pleadingly, “Whoever these people are, they may hold the key to answering questions about my past. Who was this family?”
The man thought for a moment, “The family name was Patrice… no, it was Patrisi, I’m certain of it.”
Baltazar recognized the one word ‘Patrisi’ and turned to Melisande as she sat back, “Do they know them? Do they know the Patrisis?”
“Yes…” she replied, “he knows them…”
“Well that’s great,” Baltazar said, “will they help us find it?”
Melisande turned to him, “Offer a spare longboat.”
“What?” Baltazar scoffed, “That’s a high price for a seaman.”
“These people are in distress!” She insisted. “If we just bring them ashore, they won’t be able to fend for themselves.”
She looked Baltazar in the eye, “You keep saying you want to repay the damage your family has done. Please don’t disappoint me by stopping at words.”
Baltazar sighed, “Fine, make them the offer.”
Melisande’s eyes lit up and kissed him on the cheek, “Thank you!”
She then turned back to the two fishermen, “We’re prepared to offer you safe passage to land, as well as a boat in exchange for guiding us to their home.”
The two fishermen looked at each other and then back at her, “We would be fools to reject such an offer. We would have taken you there for a lot less, but we are grateful for your aid.”
The two men stood on the aft castle with Melisande and Baltazar as they guided them to the small community on the southern tip of the island. The Black Vengeance rounded a rocky cliff. On the other side, a small harbor came into view. There were multiple small personal docks, as well as a large one for the town.
The elderly man pointed to a rundown looking one far to west, “There… that is where you will find the Patrisi home…”
Melisande nodded, “Thank you… I am grateful for your help.”
Before they left, Melisande remembered one last thing, “Forgive me, but might I trouble you for a little more information?”
“Of course, milady.” The younger fisherman replied. “What do you need to know?”
“Have you ever heard of Night Island?” She asked.
Baltazar thought he recognized the words ‘Night Island’ but he wasn’t sure. The fisherman nodded, “I don’t know why you would want to go there, but it’s directly south from this cove… be wary of that place.”
“Why?” she insisted.
The fisherman hesitated for a moment, but responded, “The sun never shines on that island, hence its name. There are also rumors that an insane monster lives there.”
Melisande nodded, “Thank you for your help.”
“Farewell,” the fisherman replied, “I hope you find what you’re looking for.”
The men jumped into the boat that had been readied for them as it was lowered over the side. Once, the fishermen were clear, Baltazar turned to his men, “Bring up all sails except the top sails. This is a rocky area, I don’t want us running aground.”
Melisande joined him, “They told us how to get to Night Island too. It really is good fortune that we found such helpful people.”
“Good fortune…” Baltazar sighed. “I’ve always been told to be careful of such things. Often, they turn sour very quickly.”
Melisande frowned, “Don’t be such a cynic.”
Once the Black Vengeance disappeared from view, the younger fisherman turned to his grandfather, “You have done well old man, and I thank you!”
Venerio buried his face in his hands and wept. The younger fisherman smiled, “Thanks to you, my friend is getting closer to her destiny. Soon there will be no turning back.”
Slowly, the man knelt down behind Venerio, “Unfortunately, you’ve outlived your usefulness…”
Quickly, the young fisherman pulled a dagger out of his jacket, grabbed Venerio by the chin and stretched out his neck. In a quick flash, the man stabbed the knife into Venerio’s neck and cut along his throat. Blood spewed out in every direction as the old man fell limp.
The younger fisherman looked up, revealing bright red eyes that glowed as he looked towards the Patrisi home, “Soon my young friend… soon.”
Without another word, he vanished in a thick cloud of smoke.
The Black Vengeance rounded another formation of rocks. At the center of the small port the fishermen had sent them to, was a large rock formation poking up out of the sea. To their horror, when they got closer, Baltazar pointed out what appeared to be the wreckage of a large fishing boat. The hull had been smashed against the rocks and all that remained was a portion of the aft cabin.
At seeing the wreckage, Baltazar made up his mind, “No further, I won’t risk the ship, we row in from here. Drop anchor and lower the longboat.”
The crew went to work quickly to lower both the anchor and the boat. The sails were quickly tied up and the ship slowed to a halt. The crew got the longboat in position and lowered it into the water.
Baltazar climbed down the side taking Papi, Melisande, and Morgan with him. As they shoved off, Baltazar called back to the ship, “Take over, Mr. Gilles, you’re in charge until I get back.”
Gilles nodded, “Aye Captain.”
The men rowed slowly towards the shore. Melisande watched the boat on the rocks until the shore came into view. There was an old rickety pier that looked like it would collapse any day, at the end of which stood what looked like a lot of rubble. The overcast weather added a drery tone to the scene in front of her. She felt like she knew this place. It was something familiar to her, but it was also a source of sorrow. Waves of anguish rolled over her and she couldn’t figure out why.
As the boat neared the beach, she blacked out. Images flew through her head and shot in front of her eyes the moment the world disappeared from view. There was an angel with bandages wrapped over her eyes being questioned by a group of well-dressed men who were heavily armed. The tense scene was then replaced by an elderly priest, and a second angel with black wings.
More and more images flooded her mind. Images of people, who looked familiar to her, until suddenly she saw a large house that was in exactly the same place that they were approaching, explode into flame. She could hear the screams of at least two people echo in her mind and it finally brought her out of her trance, “No!”
Melisande fell over the side of the boat into the water. Her feet barely touched the ground as she pushed herself towards the shore. Baltazar jumped in the water after her, “Melisande!”
She continued to push with her arms and legs until she emerged from the water with a big splash. Not thinking, feeling, or hearing anyone, she ran towards the rubble. The look on her face was of complete panic.
Baltazar struggled to reach the shore and get to her. He could see her running frantically around the rubble, unable to make any sense of it. Tears were falling from her eyes as though she had just seen someone she loved get cut down right in front of her eyes.
Baltazar ran out of the surf and grabbed her, “Melisande!”
She fought back, kicking and trying to beat her way out of his grasp. The look on her face was of sheer panic, “No, mama, papa… please! God… please… not this.”
She collapsed in the sand crying. Her screams of agony were unlike anything he’d experienced before. He quickly dropped to his knees and held on to her as tightly as he could.
When Melisande finally regained control of her senses, she grasped a hold of Baltazar and would not let go. Baltazar could feel her fingernails digging into his flesh, but he did not care, “What is it Melisande?”
She sobbed for a few more moments before looking up at Baltazar. Papi and Morgan pulled the boat up on the shore and then Papi ran to her side, “Messy, are you okay?”
Both Papi and Baltazar were shocked to see her eyes turning bright red, “I… I can feel myself slipping away… the darkness is taking over. Stop it… please help me!”
Baltazar turned to Papi, “What is this, what is happening to her?”
Papi shook his head, “I don’t know… I’ve never seen her like this before.”
Melisande began to foam at the mouth as her eyes glowed brighter red. Baltazar shook his head, “She’s burning up!”
Desperate, he took off his wet shirt and dabbed her forehead to cool her down. She began shaking and the foam continued to drip from her mouth. Without thinking, Baltazar wiped her mouth and glared at her, “Melisande, stop this!”
He quickly crossed himself and kissed her. Her eyes closed and she stopped shaking. Her body temperature began to drop and her breathing returned to normal. She reached up and grasped the back of his neck, holding him in place.
Papi watched the whole thing and waiting with his heart in his throat. God…
Finally, the two released each other, allowing Melisande to take in a deep breath. When she opened her eyes, they were their original bright blue, but there were still tears falling. Baltazar took another breath and looked at her, “Are you okay?”
She grabbed a hold of Baltazar again, “I… I was born here. I saw the whole thing play out in my mind.”
“What happened?” He asked.
“Something…” She said with a shudder. “Something that can only be described as the physical embodiment of evil appeared and did this…”
Morgan looked over the rubble, “Whatever did this was thorough, ye wouldn’t be knowing this was a house just by looking at it. It be so badly demolished that no one bothered to rebuild it.”
“There was no one left to rebuild it.” Melisande replied. “It killed Mama and Papa… they were all that was left… it killed my family.”
Baltazar looked over at Papi, “Did you know anything about this?”
“No.” Papi insisted.
“Mr. Clement,” Baltazar replied sternly, “I’ll ask you one more time…”
Papi glared at him, “On my life, I had no idea that the church knew about this. I never would have kept it from her if I had. I was a simple cook at the abbey! Sister Mary never told me anything.”
“Enough,” Melisande yelled, “no one knew about this with the exception of Sister Mary and other people from the church. Most of whom are probably dead now, so there is no point in fighting about it!”
Baltazar helped Melisande to her feet, “Now there can be no doubt about it… I am the last of the Patrisis… that is my family name.”
Baltazar nodded, “Nice to meet you, Lady Patrisi.”
Melisande forced a half smile and looked up to Baltazar with a pleading look in her eyes, “I want to leave… there is nothing left for me here. I want to go and never come back…”
“Not a problem.” Baltazar replied. “Where do you want to go?”
“I… I don’t know.” She replied. “The fishermen warned me of an insane monster living on Night Island. It could be the one that killed my family. Would I be foolish to want to avenge them? Would it be wrong to risk subjecting myself to further tormet?”
“It is totally up to you.” Baltazar said in a calm tone. “If you want to go back to raiding ships, we can. If you want to go to Night Island, I will take you there, and no matter what you find, no matter what you have to confront, I will remain by your side.”
Melisande was touched by his words, “You really mean that, don’t you?”
Baltazar looked her straight in the eye and nodded, “Yes.”
Melisande threw her arms around Baltazar and kissed him. When she finally let him out of her grip, she smiled widely, “That, Baltazar, is what works for me.”
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