Two men led the boarding party. One teetered about with a hat much larger than Sebastio’s, the other sauntered around with 3 pistols strapped to his chest, a sword on each hip, two knives around each ankle, and two rifles slung on his back. Each led a separate crew of men. The ships had come upon either side of Sebastian’s Spear and took control of the ship; Dominus happy to oblige to the commands of the fleet’s Captain General.
“Your assistance is appreciated, Faithful Brother Dominus, though I will take command of the ship now. Sebastian’s Spear will be added to my fleet. You can return to Whiteguard where Prince Rodrigo will reward the church for your efforts in supporting his claim,” Captain General Diago Catria said while his hat swayed with the wind threatening to fall from the man’s head.
“Anything to support the church, Captain General,” Dominus said, stepping aside to allow Diago the center place upon quarterdeck.
Diago looked over the fearful crew and sighed. “Why are you scared? You won’t be harmed. We are all countrymen. We all serve the glorious land of Harlov. Is it not our duty as citizens to ensure the continued and infinite success of our homeland? There is no war. Most of you will be free to work aboard this ship as we transition command. It’s only fair seeing as your original captain has disregarded our country. He is a Torithman and cannot understand our faith. Prince Rodrigo understands this. I’m sure Prince Sebastio would not mind his own brother borrowing the ship. As I understand it, she was to be decommissioned until you can procure a new captain and crew, putting all of you out of work for months. Know that each of you would be sent home with no haul and no profits to speak of. Can you go home having nothing to show for it?” Diago stepped down from the quarterdeck and the crew watched in silence as he climbed over the makeshift bridges back to his own ship, his men following. They pulled the brides back to Diago’s ship and in a brief time Diago’s ship, Rodrigo’s Might, inched off toward the port.
The crew rustled as Diago’s words settled on them. It was true, there was no haul and no profits. The Prince’s paid the crews in a percentage of the loot the ship either obtained on the journey or that he gave as a reward completing the charter. Most would starve through winter.
Captain Santigo Cortia stepped forward to take Diago’s place, the three pistols strapped to his chest clanging together. “Unfortunately, our Master of Men over staffed each of our vessels, by pure coincidence of course, and we have a need to offload about 50 men each to the Spear. That only leaves about 100 spaces left on our new ship. In our haste to correct the manner, we disposed of our Master of Men some nights ago. We now have need for a new one. Master Jeremiah, is it?” Santigo turned to Jeremiah, who stood on the edge of the ship away from Rodrigo’s men.
“Yes, that’s me,” Jeremiah said stepping only a hair closer to the foreign crew.
“You must decide which stay and which go. Decide within the hour, will you? Captain General Diago wishes to waste no more time here. We have new worlds to discover.” Stepping back, Santigo turned toward the Officer’s cabins doors. Dominus rushed to the captain’s side and showed him through to the captain’s cabin.
Jeremiah glanced toward the crew and then to Sebastio. “To hell with the Whiteguard scum. Give me a rifle and a sword and I’ll take care of the lot of them. I won’t do it. I can’t gut my own crew.”
“Keep your voice down, Jeremiah. We can get out of this still. No need to make a stand just yet. Are you armed?” Sebastio opened his coat to show Jeremiah his own pistol and knife.
“Aye, I don’t even sleep without it.” Jeremiah nodded and patted the left breast of his vest.
“Good, now we must be patient. Let them get comfortable.”
Rikar pulled Gustavo to a dark corner of the crew’s quarters, away from the few of Rodrigo’s men sent to inspect the ship. “We’re running out of time, Gustavo. We have to go now.”
“Not yet, we’ve still got a few more moments. Wait until this lot leaves the quarters and we’ll go straight to the room.” Gustavo pointed his head toward Rodrigo’s men. They continued to move about the crew’s quarters.
“It’s already been two hours. I promised Sebastio I’d have them out over an hour ago. We can’t wait any longer. I’m going now, you can come or not. I don’t care.” Rikar pushed Gustavo away and walked toward the door. The two inspecting men paid no attention to Rikar. Seeing Rikar’s success, Gustavo followed suit.
“I don’t even know why we had to wait. It’s not like they really care where the crew goes, as long as we stay aboard the ship.” Gustavo slipped ahead of Rikar and led the way to the cabin.
“Oi, what you doin’?” Rikar said.
“Let me go first, no one would really follow you around, Rikar. You think we’re going to break rank just because the Pilot gave you an order?”
“Right, I get it. Go ahead.” Rikar dropped in place behind Gustavo. The quick walk to the prisoner cabin, as it had now become, proved to be just that: short, simple, and all too easy. Aside from the two guards that stood at the cabin’s doorway. Dominus had handpicked these two particular men: one, a member of the Brotherhood in the past, and the other beginning a sabbatical from his time at the Walrun University of the Faith. Gustavo, Rikar still in tow close behind, walked past the two men and to the ladder that led to the deck.
“Gustavo, what the hell?” Rikar pulled on Gustavo’s shirt.
“Stop it you idiot, don’t draw attention to us, I’ve got a plan. Just come to the ladder.” Gustavo climbed to the top and latched the bolt that locked the lower deck entrance. As Gustavo slid down the ladder he whipped around, the pistol from his belt raised, and fired a single shot at the guards. One of them fell to the ground, half his head splattered on the other guard.
“Fuck, Gustavo!” Rikar yelled. Gustavo dashed at the dazed guard and tackled him to the ground while slipping a knife under the man’s chin.
“Hurry, get the door open, they’ll be coming.” Gustavo’s breath heaved as he stood. Rikar jumped to the door and pulled. It was locked. He felt around the pockets of the dead guards until he found an iron key. Looking at Gustavo and smiling, Rikar opened the door. The room was empty.
“Damn Whiteguard ships think they can take the Spear?” Captain Garlan looked out the cabin window as Rodrigo’s ships stopped to board Sebastian’s Spear.
“Fools, Dominus and the lot of them.” Ferethi etched a notch into a bedframe with his fingernail.
“What do you think, First Mate? Doesn’t that ship seem awfully close?” Captain Garlan swung his head around to give Ferethi a bold glance.
Ferethi walked to the window and examined the gap between the ship. “Close enough, I think.”
“I suppose we have faithfully served our time. If there was ever a moment to make a triumphant return, it is now. Did I not tell you, First Mate? Our opportunity would come. We only need be patient.” Captain Garlan grabbed the outside of the window and heaved himself through. Wind sputtered with sprays of water as Garlan held tight to the outside of the ship. Ferethi followed him. Now that they were outside, they had a much clearer view of the ship and the actual distance they would need to jump to get there. The distance looked insurmountable, one that Garlan couldn’t have even done in his youth.
“Can you make that jump, Ferethi?” Garlan said.
“No, I can’t. I think we’ve made something of a mistake.”
“Nonsense, it’s never a mistake to attempt to take back your own freedom, regardless of the result.” Garlan chuckled and reached back to grab the window when he heard a pistol shot fire from within the ship.
“Did you hear that?” Ferethi said.
“I did, wait a moment and listen.” They held firm to the outside of the ship as the wind continued to carry into them a light mist from the waves below.
Voices sounded from within the room. “Where’d they go?”
“How am I supposed to know?”
“Well we need to find out or we’re both dead. There’s nowhere to hide on this ship. They’ll find us.”
“That’s Rikar and Gustavo!” Ferethi said to Captain Garlan.
“Well, our crew is loyal yet!” Captain Garlan pulled himself through the window, much to Rikar and Gustavo’s surprise. Ferethi followed soon after.
“Captain! We thought they’d taken you over to the other ships. I don’t what we’d do if that were the case. I promised Sebastio I’d have you on deck within the hour, two hours ago.” Rikar dipped his head away from Captain Garlan.
“Don’t worry about that, what did you do to the guards?” Ferethi said.
“Killed ‘em. We didn’t see no other way.” Gustavo pointed to the bodies laying outside of the door.
“Well done, I’ll put any of that damned whoreson’s men to the barrel. Mark my words. Do you have an extra pistol or sword?” Captain Garlan held his hand out to Gustavo. “Quick, Boatswain, we need to go, now.”
“I’ve only got the one, hid in my drawers when they came by. They’ve taken all the crew’s weapons. There’s more in the hold. The devils haven’t gotten there yet. They’ve only just finished inspecting the crew’s quarters,” Rikar said.
“Very well, then we go to the hold.” Captain Garlan led the way out of the room, not taking any care when stepping over the bodies of the guards. The hall passed through both the kitchen and the crew’s quarters, ending in a hatch just big enough for a standard shipping box to slip through. Two of Rodrigo’s men, the inspectors of the crew’s quarters, rushed down the otherwise empty hall with swords in hand. Banging and shouting echoed from the upper deck hatch.
“Did you reload that pistol there, Gustavo?” Captain Garlan said.
“No, sir.” Gustavo held the pistol out to Garlan.
“No matter,” Garlan said and snatched the pistol from Gustavo. He raised the pistol at Rodrigo’s men. They continued forward. Sighing, Garlan ducked under the slash of a sword and swung the pistol into his attacker’s head. The man dropped his sword and fell to the floor. Ferethi dived forward and caught the sword before it hit the ground, rolled, and slid the sword through the second man’s heart.
“Mutinous… Heathens…” the words slipped from the man’s lips as his last breath. Ferethi straightened his back and tossed the extra sword to Garlan, who slipped it over the first man’s throat.
“Wait? What about their guns? They had to have some, don’t they? What if there're more men in the hold? We should all arm ourselves,” Rikar knelt over the body and fumbled around the thin cloth shirts.
“If they had guns, they would have shot us,” Ferethi said. Rikar pulled his hands from the bloody shirt and slunk down the hall behind Gustavo. A ladder sunk into the hull at the end of the hallway, leading the way into the ship’s hold. Garlan slid down the ladder, sword at the ready. A crash echoed down the hall and Ferethi whipped his head around. With swords brandished and blood in their eyes, a murder of ruffians barreled toward Ferethi. The wooden walls near Ferethi exploded in a haze of splinters. Sliding into the hole, Ferethi saw Captain Santigo Cortia kneeling behind his men, dropping a rifle, and pulling another from his back.
Barrels of food supplies, extra linens, gun powder, and cannon balls lined the walls. Swords, pistols, and knives piled just beyond the base of the ladder; no one guarded the supplies.
“The arrogant fools believe they’ve won. We will prove otherwise.” Captain Garlan handed swords to both Rikar and Gustavo, and a pistol each. “Keep this handy, men. You’ll need them. Now, bag up the rest and strap them to yourselves. Hurry now, they’re upon us.”
Ferethi dropped into the hold, eyes wide and breathing heavy. He pulled the ladder down and dropped the hatch, locking out their pursuers. “There’s a hidden secondary hatch that leads to the gunner’s deck on the opposite side.” Ferethi said stashing away two of the pistols into his coat. “When the Captain designed the ship he assumed that if he were taken captive by mutineers, he would be held here in the hold. There're no windows and the only means of escape is the ladder which can he can pull out with ease. The hidden hatch was a means of escape that none would expect. Every cabin, hall, and cranny of this ship has a means of escape. Whether by window or hatch. The only question then is, when do the captured choose to go?”
“I and the carpenter master only knew of that hatch. We’ll discuss how you knew of it later,” Captain Garlan said, heaving a bag over his shoulder. “Mind that gun, Rikar, I don’t want anyone blowing holes in my ship. We still have to sail away from here.”
Rikar, who pointed his pistol at the hatch, lowered it. “Sorry, Captain.” He dropped his head and pulled a bag over his shoulder.
“Can we get on with it? We stay here any longer and they’ll have our heads thrown to the sharks!” Gustavo carried two bags and ran to the other end of the hold.
“The hatch is just behind those whiskey barrels. You’ll have to knock them over. Like that, yes, roll them over here.” Captain Garlan helped Gustavo roll the barrels over to the main hatch and piled them to the latch, blocking entrance into his hold. The hatch rattled and muffled shouts poured through the wood.
“Get down!” Ferethi shouted as the hatch burst into splinters and whiskey sprayed over the hull.
“Damn heathens blocked the hatch. Load my other rifle and take aim. We’ll blow them out of there!” Captain Santigo Cortia screamed from above the hold. Garlan and Gustavo, drenched in whiskey, dashed to the exit Ferethi had opened and climbed onto the gunner’s deck.
“Ferethi? Cap’n?!” Augus, the constable of Sebastian’s Spear, turned, with mouth agape, to see the Captain emerge from the floor with the others following. The fifty or so other crewmen on the gunner’s deck set aside the cannons they cleaned, the oars they carried, or the barrels they rolled and gathered around the constable.
“Constable, ready and willing, are we?” Garlan said.
“Aye, sir, but you don’t know what we face. Dominus is handing us over to Rodrigo. He’s just sold us out, like pigs in a market. I s’pose half of us are put up for the block and the other to slave away on the ship ‘till Rodrigo’s dogs pick us off one at a time. I didn’t vote against you, Cap’n. If it’s any consolation.”
“No, Augus, you didn’t vote forme. None of you did.” Garlan held out a sword to the constable. Augus grabbed the hilt, but Garlan held the sword tight.
“I… Sorry, Captain.” Augus released the blade and backed away. The other crewmen bowed their heads.
Garlan tossed the blade to Augus’s feet and turned from him. “I hope you’re all ready to purge a parasite!” Garlan opened the bag he carried and scattered the weapons toward the crew. “It’s in the past now, boys. All that matters is I have your vote now.” The crew stood silent. “Well, do I?!” Garlan shouted.
“Aye!” The crew returned, shaking the surrounding ship.
“Then take back your ship!”
“Aye, Captain!” The crew swarmed the pile of weapons and armed themselves with as many swords as they could carry. Only a few men proved lucky enough to grab a pistol in the confusion.
“What are you waiting for? Rodrigo’s dogs must be wondering what we’re shouting about. Let them know.” Garlan pointed his sword to the stairs on the far side of the gunner’s deck that led to the second level of the gunner's deck and then out to the forward end of the main deck. The crew yelled, whooped, and howled their way to the stairs. Garlan, Ferethi, and the Gustavo followed close behind, unwilling to miss the inevitable bloodshed. Rikar lingered on the gunner’s deck.
When Rikar made his way out of the gunner’s deck the main deck welcomed him with a rain of pistol fire and splattering of blood while a crewman of the Spear fell into him. The hole in the man’s chest spurted blood over Rikar as he held the dying man.
“The Good Brother be with you,” Rikar whispered as he dropped the man to the floor and stifled a gag. He wiped his hands on his soaked shirt, to no avail. Two other men lay against the ship’s railing, begging for mercy. As Rikar approached, he could see the moist, soupy bowels of one man strewn across the deck. The other had an eye hanging at his chin by a thick sinewy cord and chunky meat burst from the back of his head. Though the men still clung to life. No words spilt from their mouth, only the gurgling sounds of one man drowning in his own blood, while the other formed an incoherent babbling and wailing. Rikar dropped to his knees, vomiting.
“Get up! The fight’s almost won! Where’s your sword, you measly little worm?” Jeremiah kicked Rikar and pulled him to his feet.
“What sword? I didn’t have no sword.” Rikar’s eyes glazed over and he leaned into Jeremiah, his feet unsteady.
“Get off me and take this. Don’t fail your Captain!” Jeremiah shoved a sword into Rikar’s hands and ran off. Rikar fell to the deck again and took in a deep breath. His captain’s shouting roused him to stand.
“Drive them off the Spear. Don’t pull back when they’re gone! Push in and teach them what it means to be a crewman of Sebastian’s Spear!” Captain Garlan yelled over the cacophony of gun shots, clanging of swords, and screams of dying men.
Rikar shook his head and readied his sword. He glanced around the deck to find a worthy opponent, but none dared show their faces in his wrath. The fighting had moved to the starboard railings where the Hope of Harlov, Santigo’s ship, had bridged to Sebastian’s Spear. Not a soul gave notice to Rikar. He turned to the gunner’s deck entry and then back to the fight. “For the captain. For the Prince. For the country!” Rikar screamed as he dashed toward the fray, but stopped short and lingered at the edge of Ferethi and Jeremiah’s distracted eyes..
“Where’s that damned Torithman?” Captain Santigo Cortia pulled a knife from a sputtering throat and wiped it on a cloth. “I’ll blow his head off with one clean shot. I knew Dominus should’ve killed him. If I find him, I’ll do it myself, orders from the Faith or not. Though, for now, we’ve lost this one. Pull the men back. There’s no need to fight aboard when we can out gun them.”
“Yes, Captain,” the man next to Santigo said.
“Oh, and find Dominus. Make sure they don’t kill him. The rest of you, keep the heathens off my ship until Dominus returns!” Santigo turned his back on the Spear and sauntered over the thin wooden bridge connecting the two ships.
“He’s there, Captain!” Sebastio stood on the top deck waving a hand toward a crowd of men that surrounded Dominus emerging from the Officer’s cabins below him. Dominus clutched a filled sack close to his chest.
“Stop those men! Don’t let that damned Brother leave this ship alive!” Garlan shouted from the main deck. A part of the Spear’s crew, led by Garlan, rushed toward the quarter deck, but a hoard of Santigo’s crew members flanked them from the starboard side of the ship. Garlan found himself surrounded above and below by Santigo’s crew, all of which brandished a sword, bayonetted rifle, or pistol. Santigo’s crew closed in and unleashed a volley of rifle fire into Garlan’s crew. A row of men dropped to the ground clutching their stomach’s, heads, chests, arms, and any other body part torn to shreds by the gunfire.
Two of the men by Garlan’s side dropped with agonized screams. Garlan pulled his attention away from the quarter deck and to the oncoming attacker’s. The attackers, rifles unloaded, inched forward in a phalanx-like formation encircling Garlan. Their bayonets thrusted forward, killing the men too slow to parry the blows. Garlan pushed his way from the back of his men, away from the coming sword swipes of Santigo’s crew on the quarterdeck and into the front line facing the blood soaked rifled-spears. All the while Dominus crept to the railing of the Spear and tossed his bag across the gap and onto Santigo’s ship, the Hope of Harlov, then Dominus dived into the water below.
As Dominus made his escape Ferethi organized the scattered remnants of the crew and pushed them into the backsides of the enemy that flanked Garlan. Ferethi held his sword high as his men crashed into Santigo’s men while Garlan on the opposite side pushed back and over the bodies that lay dead between him and his enemy.
“Finish them!” Garlan shouted as two of Santigo’s men fixed their bayonets upon the oncoming threat of Garlan’s sword. Parrying a blow from the right, Garlan pulled the trigger of the pistol wielded in his left hand. The man’s hand to Garlan’s right burst into a haze of red mist and chunks of bone. Blood sprayed into the eyes of the man to Garlan’s left, blinding him to Garlan’s sword thrusting into his heart. When Garlan looked up, Ferethi stood over him.
“That’s the last of them. What now, Captain?” Ferethi said.
“We leave this hell.” Garlan said. “Set the sails and lay aloft! Maneuver us out of this damned cove from our starboard side. Constable!”
“Yes, Captain?” Augus rushed from the main deck, bloodied and bruised.
“Do we have the men to man the guns?”
“Aye, but only 40 gunners. The rest are, well, indisposed.”
“Good enough. Load up the cannons on the port side and wait for my command.”
“Aye, Captain!” Augus scurried off to the gunner’s deck shouting commands at the surviving men who clambered about the main deck. The remaining crew scattered about the deck, pulling at ropes, clearing debris, and shouting at one another. Sebastian’s Spear caught the wind and leaped forward, breaking her free from Santigo’s grasp.
“Keep pace with their retreat! Don’t let them pull around!” Santigo yelled from the main deck of his ship.
“Santigo Cortia, I had thought better of you. You let them take back the ship and now she sails away.” Dominus climbed over the railing of the Hope of Harlov, his robes drenched. He stepped over to his sack, picked it up, and held it close to his chest.
“And I of you. You let Garlan live.”
“That was not the agreement. He is still a lost soul. A brother to us all.”
“Don’t lecture me on the Faith, Faithful Brother. I know the edicts. That doesn’t matter. What matters is he killed half my crew, marooned his own chaplain to my own ship, and broke his royal charter?”
“Sir,” a seaman tugged on Santigo’s shirt.
“What is it?” Santigo said, turning to scowl at the man.
“We’ve loaded the cannons. We’re ready.”
“Very well.” Santigo turned back to Dominus. “It is a shame that we must destroy such a beautiful craft. As well as lose Garlan’s rudders. Without those, we’ll be years off from sailing across the sea. That is a loss we must accept for our Prince.”
“Ah, Captain, it is not a loss yet.” Dominus pulled back lip of the sack to reveal a pile of leather bound journals and rolled cloth maps. “You need not destroy the craft. They won’t make it far without these. You’ve already shed too much blood today. Let them go. It is the will of the Good Brother.”
“His will or not, the will of the Prince is louder. Fire!” Santigo shouted. Cannon fire pierced the sea breeze. Sebastian’s Spear starboard side exploded in a hail of splinters and smoke, but the Spear’s retreat remained unhindered.
As Sebastian’s Spear sailed back and away from the Hope of Harlov, it turned on its starboard side. The two ship’s bows barricaded into one another, but the Spear proved stronger. Sebastian’s spear tore into the Hope of Harlov and tipped it off course toward the isle’s jagged cliffs.
“We’ve lost all starboard gun!!” Augus shouted from the gunner’s deck to Garlan, who stood just at the top of the stairs.
“We can replace the cannons. The ship, however, we cannot. I built the Spear to handle some holes. Let them fire away, they’ll do no damage. Are the guns ready?” Garlan said, gripping tight to the ship’s frame.
“Show them the power of the Spear. Fire!” Garlan said.
“Fire!” Augus echoed.
A volley of forty cannons exploded and peppered into Rodrigo’s Might, the ship of Captain General Diago Catria, as it headed into the dock. Then a second volley exploded. Then a third. Then a fourth. A cloud of gun smoke obscured Garlan’s view as he climbed out to the main deck. He held tight to the railing as the ship finished its turning maneuver and caught the wind that would carry them out to sea. Now at the stern, Garlan watched as the cloud of smoke dissipated and he saw the tattered remains of Rodrigo’s might flaming as it sunk into the cove.