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Sebastian’s Spear certainly wasn’t the fastest ship on the sea, that honor belonged to the pride of Rodrigo’s navy, the Hope of Harlov, but what the Spear lacked in speed more than made up for in firepower. The ship had a total of 88 canons aboard, 44 to each side, making the Spear the most formidable ship upon the sea, the only one deemed capable of traversing the open waters just beyond the Isle of Roses.
“We continue on course,” Faithful Brother Dominus stood, he again tried to mimic the stance Garlan habitually took, though Dominus lacked the confidence in the ship that Garlan commanded.
“Faithful Brother, that is not customary protocol,” Marcus Delacia, the ship’s Surgeon, waved a bloody rag in Dominus’s pinched face. “It will take four days to get to the Isle, we’re currently only a day off from Avoriente in Imperium. This man is sick, he won’t make it to the isle. Protocol dictates that we must dock as quickly as possible in order to treat the man or remove him from the ship to protect the rest of the crew. We have to make for Avoriente.”
“We are not operating under typical protocol. We are in a dire emergency regarding the lawlessness of your captain. If it weren’t for his heresy, we would follow the protocol, but the law overrules medical practice. We are to continue course until we reach friendly or neutral waters. Imperium is deemed an enemy in regard to this mission. We are in a dire race to find the new world as per the Princely agreement. Any land, ship, or person who has allegiance to another prince is an enemy. Imperium is an enemy. Now, please, humbly return to your work,” Dominus said with a growl and the surgeon backed away, out of his sight. He looked over the crew as they sluggishly worked about the ship, a shadow hung over them as clouds gathered overhead. Master Jeremiah watched the crew from the front of the deck, ensuring each of them followed orders, but his enthusiasm waned under the ever-watchful eyes of the Faithful Brother.
“What is the matter Master Jeremiah?” Dominus yelled across the ship, his voice carrying well beyond the sounds of the sea.
“Nothing, Faithful Brother, the work is being done,” Jeremiah yelled back.
“Very well,” Dominus stepped down from the quarterdeck and carefully watched the crewman as they worked. Their heads pointed down, their eyes avoided Dominus’s gaze, and their mouths silent. A ship under the command of the faith helped remind the crew of their obligations to the Good Brother.
“We have to get to the isle before next morning. We don’t want to be caught within the storm tomorrow,” Sebastio interrupted Dominus’s morning inspection and walked along the deck with the chaplain. Of course, that’s a lie, Sebastio thought. The clouds are mere rain clouds, nothing more. The air’s too cold for a storm and we’ll be seeing the sun the moment we come upon the land. He won’t know that though, damned brothers can’t be bothered with ships and the seas. It’ll be too easy.
“You told me we would make it at the end of four days. Today is the third day, how can we cover an entire day of travel in one afternoon?” Dominus said.
“We have to turn course North into a current that can carry us almost twice as fast as our pace now. Most ships wouldn’t even attempt to do such a thing, as falling into a storm while within the current would utterly devastate them. Though, we aren’t most ships,” Sebastio said, pushing the hat he wore out of his eyes.
“If we can outlast the storm on more dangerous water, then why wouldn’t we be able to do so here?”
“It’s not about our ability to do so, it’s about avoiding it altogether.”
“I don’t think the risk is necessary. We must be patient, Sebastio. The Good Brother will guide us and carry us to the isle.”
“I’m sorry, Faithful Brother, but I have to disagree. The risk is necessary. Though we can weather the storm, doing so could delay our course or cause far too much damage. We’d have to be in port at the isle for at least a month or two while we wait for the repair supplies to come in from the Eve. Being delayed that long will put us far behind Prince Rodrigo. We got lucky being able to leave early, we can’t let that lead be taken away. These kinds of risks are necessary for our success.”
“If you’re so certain then take the ship out, get us to the Isle of Roses by morning and keep the ship intact. The Good Brother has use for her yet,” Dominus said.
“It will be done, Faithful Brother,” Sebastio said and then went about his duties leaving Dominus alone. Sebastio made his way below deck, avoiding the crewmen as they wandered about begrudgingly sober. Sebastio glared at the door to his left as he marched down the hall. Behind the door Captain Garlan and Ferethi were confined and set in quarantine from the crew, any who were caught trying to talk with them would lose rank and be imprisoned.
“Are we making landfall?” Marcus Delacia asked as Sebastio came into the infirmary.
“Yes, tonight. Before the moon sets, at least,” Sebastio looked down to the man shaking underneath a hoard of blankets. Blood clotted around his ears and mucus poured from his eyes.
“You’ll be alright, so far the curse has only passed to those who have homes near the borders of Forsey. I’m not sure what ails them though. The whole thing didn’t even start until the Captain was thrown under. Could be a curse from the Faithful Brother. I’ve seen them do worse,” Marcus looked over several other men convulsing in their beds. “We’ll run out of room in the infirmary soon.”
“We’ll have them off the ship soon. We can afford to lose a few men, but we can’t afford a plague to break out while we attempt to traverse the sea. Do whatever you can to prevent this from spreading further,” Sebastio said and then left the infirmary, closing the door behind him. He stepped on deck into the chilled air as small drops of rain came upon the ship. The light grey clouds gathered and tumbled over each other as they sped across the sky. Night soon fell. As the Spear approached the island the moon tore through an opening in the shield of clouds illuminating the Isle of Roses. Bathed in the silver light the cliffs of the island glimmered in a brilliant rainbow of colors. Rose bushes sprouted from the tops and sides of the cliffs. The gray cliffsides and green hills of the island were barely visible past the thorny bushes that consumed the landscape. Not a single tree grew on the isle, only the prickly flowers.
“There she is!” Master Jeremiah exclaimed. “Time to get off this water stained beast and get some mead in the crew. You see that men? We’re almost there, we’ve got a well-deserved break coming for you! Just get us in nice and easy now.”
“Bring her in gently!” Sebastio yelled from the helm. “Avoid the rocky shores and come upon the East side to the port. Don’t get too close, the ship isn’t graceful enough to avoid being beached by the shallows. Stay a few miles out until the port is just in view. Then we go for it!”
“You heard him, boys! We’re not in yet, get this done quick and we’ll be at the inn by the morning!” Jeremiah bellowed over the crew. The rain began to pick up and the clouds came forward covering the moon, leaving the Isle of Roses in darkness.
Dim lights from the port began to be lit as the sun peaked over the horizon. The morning crew for the island port prepared to take over for the night shift. Sebastio locked his gaze on the port, watching carefully as the ship came ever closer to the island. Sebastio’s eyes widened and he ran to the edge of the deck, leaning over to try and get a better look. When that failed, he rushed to the bow of the deck and tore a spyglass from one of the sailors and shoved it to his eye. Anchored just outside of the port were two grand ships, one smaller than the other, but still together they rivaled Sebastian’s Spear in firepower. Sebastio grimaced and shoved the spyglass back into the sailor’s hands before rushing to the captain’s quarters.
“We have to go on without stopping,” Sebastio said to Dominus. He stood on the opposite side of the captain’s table.
“No, we cannot continue. The crew will need their rest and sustenance before the unknown journey begins across the sea. Besides, we cannot leave while the former captain and his first mate remain aboard. We either stop at the island or return to the Eve and end our excursion. What is it you would prefer, Pilot?” Dominus sat with his hands crossed and his hood pulled over his head. He had been in prayer before Sebastio interrupted him.
“Then we will return to the Eve. There are two formidable ships from Rodrigo’s navy blockading the port. We can’t even attempt to bring the Spear in without having the masts blown down, the crew taken hostage, and the entire mission in shambles. We’ll lose the rudders and the ship. It’s better we return to the Eve. I thought we could beat Rodrigo to the island, but it seems he’s been informed of our early departure,” Sebastio peered out the windows of the cabin.
“Yes, it seems they have. We will make port anyway. I’m sure Rodrigo’s ships will leave us alone. What would they have against us anyway?”
“You’re joking right? Faithful Brother, we can’t risk the Prince’s claim to the throne and just walk into capture. You might as well hand the throne to Rodrigo,” Sebastio said, the gears of his mind began to turn. That’s what he’s wanted. He framed the captain, and Garlan knew. Ferethi had it figured out as well, how could I be so stupid, he thought.
“You speak out of turn to your commanding officer. I will decide what is best for this ship. We will not play into the silly games of royal heresy. We are on a mission from the Good Brother to bring the faith to the hapless people that are across the sea. I will do what’s necessary for the Good Brother and the Faith. I’ve devoted everything to the building of His order. I won’t be held back by silly notions of nobility or claims to any throne. There is no difference between Prince Sebastian and the lowest peasant from Whiteguard in the eyes of the Good Brother. We are all the same. There is no kingdom, no empire, but His. Do you understand, Pilot? Of course, you don’t. I will forgive your insults to the Faith and to the charter of this ship, but you must do as I command. Otherwise I’ll be forced to excommunicate you,” Dominus stood from his chair and removed his hood. His eyes burned with fury and anger, though he kept his voice calm.
“Ferethi was right, this is madness,” Sebastio said. He held his head in shame. “I won’t take the ship in.”
“Then you will be excommunicated. Come, Sebastio. Let us announce to the crew the change in leadership,” Dominus grabbed Sebastio’s arm and dragged him to the door. Sebastio gave into the force of Dominus’s grip still staring out the window into the sea; his eyes glazed over, and his hands went limp.
“Take the Pilot to the quarterdeck, hold him up, don’t let him fall,” Dominus tossed Sebastio into the arms of two servants that stood outside the captain’s quarters and then led them to the quarterdeck.
Dominus threw the door open, standing taught and commanding, and strutted onto the deck. He glanced around, all the sailors stood still, staring either at Dominus or at the two ships that had come into view. “Master Jeremiah, is there a problem?” Dominus said. Sebastio came onto the quarterdeck unassisted by the two servants, yet still dazed.
“No, there is no problem. The men are awaiting the next command. The ship is on course to make port, but we aren’t sure if that is still the plan,” Master Jeremiah said.
“Continue on,” Dominus waved his hand at Master Jeremiah. Almost simultaneously the entire crew turned toward Sebastio.
Sebastio, his face awash with confusion, looked out at Rodrigo’s ships. The Spear could take them. Couldn’t she? Sebastio thought to himself. After all she’s the greatest ship upon the Forsey sea. Nothing else even compares. Captain Garlan certainly wouldn’t shy away from the fight, at least I don’t think he would. Dammit all, what do I do? Sebastio tore away from the ships and noticed the eyes of the crew upon him. Dominus turned to look at him as well. “As Dominus said, we continue on. Such a paltry excuse for a naval fleet couldn’t possibly stand up to the might of the Spear. Or do you all think we’re so weak? It would be good to have such a display of power. It will send shockwaves of doubt and fear throughout the empire.”
“Very well said,” Dominus turned back toward the crew, winking at Sebastio as he did. “But there will be no need to display such power. They will not dare to attack. I’m certain they know of how formidable such a ship as the Spear could be. Isn’t that right, pilot?”
“Yes, that’s right,” Sebastio said. He kept Dominus in his sight while studying the two galleons that came ever closer into view. The dark red flags of Whiteguard fluttering in the wind.
The crew immediately went back to work, a skip in their step, and strength in their arms. Sebastio’s words revitalized them. They worked to bring the ship in as quick as they could manage in a place where they could leave as quickly as they came.
Dominus planted himself on the quarterdeck and not once moved from his position as the ship dropped anchor just on the outskirts of the harbor, two cliffs walled the harbor in and funneled the water into the only beach capable of docking naval ships. Rodrigo’s galleons swayed in the middle of the bay. The crew readied the small row boats that would carry the landing party to the dock. There they would resupply and send out any messages or final requests to the mainland.
“What I’d give for a goddamn drink!” Rikar whispered to Gustavo as they finished bundling together empty barrels.
“I don’t get why he had to take it all. Garlan was fine with us drinking on board. He didn’t care one bit. Show me where in the Good Brother’s book that it says we can’t enjoy the fine pleasures of life? I can give myself to the faith and still have a little fun, right?” Gustavo kept his voice low and looked around the deck for prying eyes. It was rumored the Faithful Brother had ears in every crack of the ship. Three men had already been imprisoned after speaking in support of Captain Garlan. Those three men thought they were alone when they spoke.
“How have we made it so long without it? Three fucking days. We’ll spend the next week gorging ourselves on it once we dock!” Rikar crawled forward and gripped Gustavo’s lapel.
“Get off me. Don’t be so sure about that. I doubt we stay longer than the afternoon. Don’t get yourself in trouble we have to protect ourselves,” Gustavo pushed Rikar away.
“The Captain couldn’t even protect himself, what makes you think we could?” Rikar grabbed a wet rag from a bucket and slapped it onto the barrels; bubbles and water sprayed into Gustavo’s eyes.
“For god’s sake, Rikar! What the hell are you doing with that shit? Leave it in the bucket, don’t go slapping it around like we’ve got business to do. Just leave it. We’re done with these ones, let’s move onto the next,” Gustavo stood up and helped Rikar to his feet and they moved on to the next bundle.
“I don’t much care for getting into trouble or not, I just want something to drink,” Rikar said as he looked up to see a line of fishing boats cross narrow channel between the cliffs. The boats settled, equidistant from each other and stopped. Rikar tapped Gustavo, “They supposed to be doing that?”
“Doing what?” Gustavo responded.
“Lining up like they’re trying to keep us in.”
“Doesn’t matter, what’re fishing boats gonna do to us anyway?” Gustavo turned back to another bundle of barrels, making sure the crewmen had tied them correctly. Rikar gathered his wits and left Gustavo to his work and stumbled through the boat until he found.
“Pilot, you see that?” Rikar said pointing to the fishing boats. Sebastio looked up and his mouth fell agape for just a moment.
“What the hell have I led us into?” Sebastio whispered to himself.
“What was that Pilot?” Rikar said, wiping sweat from his face.
“It was nothing. Do you feel like the boats are a problem?”
“I couldn’t say. They don’t look threatening, but you never know. There could be 15 or so men per boat, each armed with muskets. They could just be fishing in the best spots for the morning. I’ve never been here I don’t know how they do their work.”
“Thank you, Rikar, for bringing this to my attention. Tell me, do you think Dominus is loyal to your prince? Answer truthfully, I’ll know if you’re lying.”
“Well, he’s made some strange decisions, considering all that’s happened. And not preparing the cannons while we head straight into the enemy’s line of fire doesn’t help either. I don’t know really, but I don’t think I trust him,” Rikar glanced around nervously.
“You’ve been thinking about this already. Not enough grog for your taste then? I get that. I truly do. I have a task for you Rikar, but it requires that you maintain utmost discretion. I think you can manage as much. This is for your Prince and I give this task to you directly as his nephew and you must treat it as if it comes from him himself. I am more so the voice of our prince on this ship than the Bailiff and I will not see his authority usurped or his honor destroyed by a lowly member of the brotherhood,” Sebastio hunched down leaned into Rikar, placing a hand upon the crewman’s shoulder.
“I can manage, Pilot. I can manage. Prince Sebastian’s the only true heir to the empire. I know that much. I believe it more so than the Good Brother, I think. What do you need me to do?” Rikar perked up, his eyes sparked with excitement. He’d never been given a direct order from nobility, much less an order that could hold the very fate of the empire in his own hands. The world was Rikar’s.
“Go and tell Captain Garlan what has happened. Get him and Ferethi on deck. That is all you need to do. Free them from that room and we’ll get out of this mess for certain.”
“Yes, Pilot. I can do that. He’ll be on deck within the hour. I promise it!” Rikar almost shouted but managed to keep his voice down. He then scurried off below deck. Sebastio turned toward the line of fishing boats and then back to Rodrigo’s galleons. Long oars protruded from the gun ports on both ships and they both moved in unison directly toward Sebastian’s Spear.