The Churning Tides
The sound of activity on deck roused Baltazar from his slumber. He got up carefully so not to wake Aralyn. He opened the door and went out on deck. To his surprise, the crew was back onboard early and preparing the ship for the voyage ahead.
Gilles turned to see a near shirtless Captain La Fuente walk out on deck, “Captain, good morning.”
Baltazar rubbed his eyes, “Good morning Mr. Gilles… what is going on around here.”
Gilles smiled, “The crew doesn’t want to wait anymore. We’re all anxious for adventure, and no Romagna wenches are going to quench our thirst.”
Baltazar smiled, “Is that a fact?”
“Aye.” Morgan said, coming up behind him. “Whenever you’re ready Captain, we’re ready to save the world.”
“All right then.” Baltazar replied confidently. “Is everyone onboard?”
“Aye sir.” Gilles said, looking around. “All crewmen are accounted for.”
Baltazar nodded, “Very well, cast off the mooring lines, set the topsails, and let’s get this ship moving.”
He turned to Gilles, “Mr. Gilles, take us out.”
“Aye sir,” Gilles replied as he manned the helm.
The topsails came down and the Black Vengeance started to pull away from the dock. It took about ten minutes to leave the pier, but she pulled out into open water and cleared the harbor quickly. Baltazar breathed in deeply as he felt the wind catch the ship, “Full sail, Mr. Morgan,”
Morgan nodded and moved forward, “Aye sir, full sail!”
He then turned to Gilles, “South, southeast, if you will, Mr. Gilles.”
Gilles nodded and turned the ship to the south, “Aye sir.”
In the cabin, Aralyn could feel the ship moving under her body. Her eyes opened and she sat up. She quickly changed into her normal clothing and ran out on deck.
Baltazar was standing near the helm. She joined him as he stood watching the horizon, “My love, what is going on?”
Baltazar wrapped his arm around her back and smiled, “The crew was restless for adventure. So we decided to set sail early.”
“Was the ship ready?” She asked.
Baltazar nodded, “Aye, we had all the provisions ready to go and we’re still fully loaded in terms of the ammunition.”
Lailah appeared on deck a few moments later as well. She joined the group on the aft castle, “Where are we?”
“We’re on our way to Taenarum.” Baltazar replied. “It shouldn’t be any more than a day before we arrive.”
Lailah shook her head, “I don’t know how you humans do it. You spend half your life travelling from one place to the next. Especially you sailor types, do you know that when you actually reach the destination you spend so much time getting to, you spend very little time there in comparison?”
“Such is the life.” Baltazar shrugged. “We don’t all have wings to take us everywhere.”
Lailah frowned, “Do these look like they’ll carry me very far?”
Gilles looked over at her, “Yeah about that… how is it you’re hurt, I thought angels were incapable of such things?”
“To be honest,” Lailah replied, “I’m not entirely sure. You are right in that we’re not supposed to capable of being hurt.”
“What happened?” Aralyn asked.
“It was so terrible…” Lailah said softly fighting back tears, “I watched your family die… and was powerless to stop it. Then Legion tore me apart in ways that ripped through my body and into my mind. He burned me alive. I don’t know how, but his fire was the physical manifestation of all his rage… even my immortality couldn’t protect me.”
She flapped her wings weakly, “He took my flight away from me and severed my connection to the Celestial world. Once he was finished, he left me here, crippled and broken hoping that I would be found and killed.”
“But you weren’t.” Gilles added.
“No, I wasn’t,” she nodded, “I used what little strength I had left and managed to escape. I spent five years wandering around until I found that small rocky island… that’s where I stayed… for a very long time.”
Aralyn lowered her eyes, “I am very sorry for you…”
“Don’t be,” Lailah replied, “you’re here now, and you know the truth. If we succeed, then it will all be worth it.”
The ship sailed on for hours without the crew saying much to one another. They each tended to the ship in their own way. Papi continued preparing food for the men about to come on or go off duty. Aralyn had to delegate her time between the galley and tending to whatever injuries arose. Baltazar stayed on deck, watching the horizon as the ship continued on course, and Lailah continuously prayed for the safety of all hands onboard.
As afternoon fell over the ship, the lookout called to Baltazar, “Land ho, Captain!”
Baltazar looked out in front of them and saw a steep rocky pass. Lailah nodded, “This is the place.”
Baltazar shook his head, “It’s no good, we can’t land here, there is no place to bring up the longboat!”
“Sail further south.” Lailah replied. “The cave we’re looking for is in the water, you’ll be using the longboat to get in.”
Baltazar nodded to Gilles, “You heard the lady.”
Gilles held the ship on a southern course, but kept his eyes open for the cave that they were looking for. Sure enough, ten minutes later, the Black Vengeance sighted a cave cut into the side of the rock wall.
Morgan looked at the cave oddly, “I figure that didn’t form naturally, did it?”
“No,” Lailah said in a low voice, “there were outside forces at work in creating this cave.”
Baltazar turned to the men on deck, “Drop anchor, bring in the sails, lower the longboat, and order Mr. Clement to the deck.”
Morgan nodded, “Will I be coming with ye this time Captain?”
“No,” Baltazar replied, “I won’t risk anyone unnecessarily. Only the people who need to be there will be. Papi has known Aralyn since she was little, so I doubt I could stop him. I want you to stay and help Gilles manage the ship.”
Morgan saluted, “Aye Captain.”
The longboat was lowered as Papi climbed on deck. He looked out and saw the cave, “By the grace of God… This is something I hoped never to see.”
“You and every other man alive.” Lailah replied. “Don’t worry, as long as we keep our wits about us, we should be safe. I know what to look out for.”
Once the longboat touched the water, Lailah and Papi climbed over the side into the boat. Aralyn followed close behind. On deck, Baltazar nodded to his men, “Gilles, Morgan, you two are in charge until I get back. Keep a close watch on things.”
Gilles nodded, “Not a problem, Captain.”
Baltazar nodded and turned toward the longboat. As he went over the side, he looked at the deck one last time. Gilles saluted as Baltazar disappeared, “Luck, Captain.”
Morgan looked over the side as Baltazar sat next to Papi and manned the oars. They began to row towards the cave as Lailah guided them from the front. Morgan waited for them to get clear before turning back to Gilles, “Longboat be away!”
After about ten minutes of silence, there was a horrified call from the lookout, “Sail ho!”
Gilles looked around quickly, but saw nothing, “Where away?”
“Directly to starboard,” the lookout replied.
Gilles picked up the spyglass and looked to starboard. It took a few moments for him to pick out the ship, but once he had a good shot of it, his eyes went wide. Morgan watched him go pale as he lowered the spyglass, “What is it, lad?”
“No…” Gilles said in a defeated tone. “Not now…”
Morgan turned to face him with a worried, “What is it?”
“The Le Terrible…” he replied, “she’s found us.”
Morgan’s jaw dropped, “How be that possible, we lost them in Viana do Castelo.”
“I don’t know…” Gilles replied, “but it doesn’t matter, weigh anchor, set top sails and get us moving!”
Morgan looked out at the longboat as it drew closer to the cave, “Gilles, what about the longboat?”
Gilles shook his head, “They’re on their own for now. It would take us too long to get them back onboard. We’ll draw the warship off and hope they’ll follow us.”
On the longboat, Baltazar saw the terrifying scene unfold in front of him. Panic broke out across the deck of his ship as he watched, “What is going on?”
Then he saw it, a lateen sail appeared on the horizon, “No, it can’t be!”
Aralyn followed his gaze, “The Le Terrible…”
Papi tugged on his oar, “We have to get back to the ship! You should be there!”
Baltazar shook his head, “There is no time. They’re weighing anchor now and the sails are coming down. By the time we get back onboard, the Vengeance will have no time to get away.”
An angered look came over Baltazar’s face, “Bastard sail maker, I knew he couldn’t be trusted. I have it in my mind to go collect a refund.”
He took another look and lowered his eyes, “Row for the cave, we need to get out of sight.”
A worried look appeared on Aralyn’s face, “What about the Black Vengeance?”
Baltazar sat down and manned his oar, “Gilles is a smart man, he and Morgan have dealt with worse. With a little luck, they’ll get away.”
Once the ship began to move, Morgan turned to his deckhands, “Men, we could run, and probably get away, but we need to make sure our captain completes his mission. Therefore, we’re going to draw the Le Terrible and hopefully lose them in the heat of battle. Run up the guns, full charge of powder all around!”
As the men worked, Morgan backed up and stood next to Gilles on the helm, “Gilles, if ye be a praying man, now be the time.”
“Aye.” Gilles agreed.
Baltazar watched from a distance as the Black Vengeance pulled away from the cave and met the Le Terrible in open water. He watched a deadly exchange of cannon fire between both ships. The Black Vengeance only got off one broadside and instead relied on their fore and aft guns in a game of cat and mouse.
At first, Baltazar’s ship managed to outmaneuver the Le Terrible and avoid getting hit by her cannon fire. Gilles brought the ship around a couple of times to alternate between the aft cannons and the starboard broadside. The Le Terrible were unable to keep up.
This seemed to work well for him at first, but this was short-lived as the French warship brought her massive forward cannons to bear. The first shot missed the ship completely, but the second one struck a devastating blow. The shot ripped through the rigging and struck the fore-mast.
There was a loud crackling sound as the mast began to lean to port and collapsed over the side of the ship. Baltazar eyes widened as the battle unfolded, “No…”
The group watched helplessly as the now-crippled Black Vengeance struggled to defend herself. They quickly reloaded their cannons and tried to fire off another broadside. Baltazar could see that they were firing at the waterline, hoping to deal a quick, crippling blow. This proved futile and the Le Terrible began to pick up speed. The loud grunts of the oarsmen could be heard even at their distance.
Within moments, the massive ram impacted on the starboard side of the Black Vengeance. The entire ship jerked violently to port from the sheer force of the blow. Loud snapping noises shot through the air as the hull cracked. It was as though the ship had been forced out of the water as she was driven back.
Even from their extreme distance, the group could see that the Le Terrible had dealt a deathblow to the Black Vengeance. Her hull was split in half and the ship was sinking. Gunshots could still be heard from the deck, but they were slowly becoming few and far in between.
Baltazar fell backwards into the boat. He would have fallen over the side, but Papi was there to catch him. Aralyn covered her face with her hands and began to cry, “No… Morgan, Gilles… the crew… please, no! We have to thelp them!”
“We can’t…” Lailah replied as she clasped her hands together while watching the Black Vengeance sink. “Most High, save them…”
Papi shook his head, “This can’t be happening…”
Baltazar straightened out and realized that they were still in danger, “We need to get going. I don’t know if those French bastards saw us or not, but I’d rather not stick around to find out.”
Lailah nodded, “I agree, let’s make sure their sacrifice was not in vain.”
“They shouldn’t have been sacrificed at all.” Aralyn replied through clenched teeth. “They were my family… the only one I know.”
Baltazar took the oar and started rowing again. He refused to utter a single word. Lailah turned back to face the angered Aralyn, “You are absolutely right, they shouldn’t have been… but that is not for us to decide. The Most High has a plan for everyone… it’s not for us to understand why and it never was.”
Aralyn felt the rage build up inside of her. She folded her legs and jumped over Papi’s head, landing in front of Lailah, “Who the hell are you to say that? They were my friends, my family. How dare you… they had to be sacrificed so that we could make it to the cave? What madness is this?”
Lailah sat back defensively, “Stay your anger, you’re going to sink the boat!”
Papi grabbed Aralyn by the shoulders and held on. She fought to get back at Lailah, “How many more sacrifices do I have to make? Mama, Papa, Sister Mary, Morgan, Gilles, and the crew! How many more? If the Most High can just sit by and let it happen, then maybe I’m fighting for the wrong side!”
Lailah was about to respond when she saw Aralyn’s eyes begin to glow red, “No… Aralyn, stay your anger, now!”
Baltazar noticed the look on Lailah’s face and turned to look at Aralyn. When he realized what was going on, he touched her cheek, “Aralyn… please calm down. I know how you feel, but this won’t solve anything.”
Tears fell from her eyes as she turned to Baltazar, “Who is next, you? Am I expected to give you up as well?”
“I’m not going anywhere.” Baltazar replied. “The devil himself will never be able to rip you from my arms. I promise!”
The redness faded from her eyes and she lost consciousness. Baltazar placed her on the back of the boat and allowed her to rest. The boat entered the cave and, to everyone’s surprise, began moving without the use of oars. Baltazar and Papi placed the oars in the boat and secured them. Once the work was done, Baltazar looked back at Aralyn, “Mr. Clement, see what you can do for her.”
Papi nodded and slowly pushed himself to the back of the boat. Baltazar turned and looked at Lailah, “I think it’s time you and I had a talk.”
Lailah nodded, “It does seem unavoidable.”
“What’s happening to Aralyn?” He demanded. “Why does that keep happening to her eyes? It’s like when she get’s angry or upset, she becomes possessed.”
Lailah’s expression didn’t change and not even her eyes moved, “That’s pretty much exactly what’s happeneing. The one you love walks on a narrow precipice between good and evil. If she sways even a little, it allows Legion to move in and attack. When that happens, her mind may abandon any sense of reason. If Legion gets to her at her most vulnerable point, he could easily twist her mind to his will. “
Baltazar’s jaw dropped open, “So that is why you were questioning my intentions…”
“Exactly.” Lailah replied. “I know that I come off as harsh, but I bear no ill will towards you. I had to be absolutely certain that you weren’t going to hurt her. Anger, sadness, fear, pain, and sorrow… they are all negative emotions. In their most extreme form, they can lead a person to madness. In her case, it would wear down the mental barriers that were put in place to protect her long ago.”
“What can I do?” Baltazar asked. “I won’t let her fall.”
Lailah smiled, “What you’ve been doing and continue to do so well… Love her, protect her, and do everything you can to prevent her from feeling pain.”
“That’s a tall order.” Baltazar replied. “With the loss of the Black Vengeance, and everything else she’s been through, keeping her happy is going to be near impossible.”
“It will be…” Lailah admitted. “I can sense that you care for her… but there may come a time when you have to choose between her well-being and her happiness.”
Baltazar looked confused, “Aren’t they one in the same?”
“Not always,” Lailah replied.
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