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“She’s fully rigged and ready to sail, captain,” the ship boy cowered on the main deck looking up toward Captain Garlan. Clouds gathered overhead as the wind gently rolled over the fresh dried paint of Sebastian’s Spear. The sails were furled and ready to be loosed to taste the wind and carry the ship to sea. Overnight Captain Garlan had towed and then anchored the ship just outside of the port. Garlan watched from the shore as the ship swayed in the moonlight, ready to cast off in a majestic ceremony. She belonged on the sea and she deserved to be set out near as possible to the open water.
“Excellent, boy, excellent! Fetch me my first mate,” Captain Garlan yelled from the quarter deck. He glanced around as dozens of men scurried about the ship readying themselves for the first commands that would put the ship on her maiden voyage.
Ferethi climbed up to the quarter deck and stood next to Garlan, “If there were any ship worthy to sail, it’s this one.”
“It would be more so if our gracious prince didn’t force me away while she was completed. Who the hell named the ship anyway? Sebastian’s Spear? What a god-awful mess that is. Is the crew ready? Did you secure the charter for Viscount Yozen de Mar?”
“Yes, Captain, everything is ready, I’ve got the paperwork here. We await your command,” Ferethi held up his fist and the men upon the boat halted. They stared up to the captain, the sun rising over the horizon just above the Eve to their East. The sailors quivered in a cool wet breeze that drifted over the deck.
“Then what are we waiting for? Lay aloft and set the sails!” Captain Garlan bellowed over the crew.
“Aye!” the crew shouted in unison, cheering and then rushing off to ready the ship. Like a swarm of spiders, they scurried up the vast riggings to release the sails. One by one the tightly bound cloth sails loosened and slacked down the masts.
“Get on with it now!” Master Jeremiah, the ships new Master of Men—who was formerly the Boatswain—shouted at the sailors as they went about their work. The gruff, dogged man ran up and down the deck smacking sailors left and right with his coarse hands sanding into their skin a deep red imprint. “It’s only the first day and you dogs are whimpering around like you haven’t eaten in months! If this is how you treat this ship now, I’ll be damned to let us go any further. Hurry it up! And be careful of the railings and deck. She’s just a child, brand new, right out of the yard! If I see so much as a scuff on this deck you all be swabbing it down until there’s not a speck of dirt or a dry spot on this boat!”
Within a few short minutes the crew clambered upon the main deck heaving at large ropes, dropping the sails and filling the masts. Then the command came. “Brace up and weigh anchor!” Garlan shouted. A concourse of “Ayes!” filled the ship as the seamen yanked on various ropes to twist the sails in the proper direction. At the same time a group of seamen stood around a large wheel pushing hard upon the long handles that jutted from the center. Wood creaked, chains clanked, and the waves became anxious as the anchor was hoisted and the ship freed from the sea floor. Wind took hold of the pure white sails as they filled to the brim, joyously propelling the boat onward into the open sea.
Sebastio stood at the helm of the ship, standing next to a man who held fast to the great wooden wheel that controlled the rudder. He wore the ceremonious Pilot’s hat, a great wide brimmed hat filled plush with feathers and the symbol of an arrow set above the brim. His long hair waved down from the hat and fell just below his shoulders, flowing in the wind, yet stiff from the ocean’s mist.
“What the hell are you doing Sebastio? Keep the ship on course! Take that damn hat off and pay attention!” Captain Garlan yelled from the poop deck just behind Sebastio.
Sebastio grimaced and pulled the hat from his head, which widened his view of the ship and gave him a better command of the open sea. He barked an order at the helmsman and then continued to stare off into the horizon, bewildered by the majesty of it all. Their journey had finally begun and despite all his setbacks, Sebastio had made it out as the ship’s pilot. As soon as they were clear out to sea, he, Ferethi, and Garlan would share a bottle of wine in celebration of their departure and discuss the journey’s plan. Of course, that is the way the first night was to go, but the courses of another player had already been set.
Faithful Brother Dominus, the chaplain given authority over religious matters upon Sebastian’s Spear, approached Captain Garlan not five minutes after they had been cleared of Forsey governed waters—the exact line that gave undisputed protection over a captain’s command.
“Captain Garlan, I’m pleased to be serving aboard such a worthy vessel. Never before have I seen such a magnificent work of craftmanship to be set upon this sea of ours. May the Good Brother bless our voyage,” Faithful Brother Dominus tugged at the red sash that held his white robe tight against his frame, the customary attire of the Faithful Brotherhood.
“Thank you for your comments, Faithful Brother. That’s high praise from the faith,” Captain Garlan leaned over the edge of the ship, staring into the blue waters of the sea.
“I simply cannot refrain from acknowledging the beauty of the Good Brother’s world. I must confess, though, that I did not come to you for this matter. In truth I noticed that we did not start this journey with the Brother’s Oath and Covenant Prayer. If you recall all standard royal charters are dedicated to the Good Brother, our lord, that he may give to us guidance and provide us with success. Am I to believe that you do not think this is the case?” Dominus gripped a book between his veiny hands, his eyes were dark and carried within them a zealous intent.
“The oath was said last night when I towed the ship to sea. If you recall, Faithful Brother, the prayer is to be said when the ship first departs a dock and then again when the ship returns. The charter does not require that we need the full crew or even the Chaplain present for the occasion, only that it is led by the captain upon the open deck,” Garlan said.
“I don’t accuse you of not performing the rite, dear brother, but some of the crew have expressed concerns to me that the prayer was not said. They fear our voyage will be cursed. It would be good for them to hear it again. I can lead it for you this time, since you already did so last night,” Dominus gave Garlan a toothy grin as he proposed the idea.
The night before the ship departed Dominus sat cloaked and hidden in the back corner of a musty tavern just off the dock, speaking to another similarly cloaked figure. “We have given all that we currently have to expend here in the Eve. We will sacrifice much for the salvation of the empire, but we cannot sacrifice as much as your people wish else, we lose all the power we’ve gained over the last century. The Harlov Dynasty is the most blessed thing to happen to our faith. Because of them we’ve gained influence over every soul in this country, soon over others as well. Those heathen Torithmen won’t be able to prattle along with their freedom much longer. If the right prince ascends then the Good Brother will be able to cover the earth in his glory.”
“Faithful Brother Dominus, my brother,” the other man said, “You have grown so much as my disciple. I feel shame for your position aboard this vessel. We lose a great warrior of the faith.”
“It is well, Wise Brother Maximillian, we need strong brethren when we find the new world. If there are any souls across the sea, the Good Brother will want to save them. I will return having established a house of worship. Then we can stretch the Good Brother’s will over that land as well as our own.”
“Unfortunately, the land is claimed for whichever Prince finds it, not the church. We cannot build any temples unless royally commissioned,” Maximillian took a sip of water from his mug.
“The prince will be given the land that is due, but there will be plenty for the church to claim as its own. Imagine a temple across the sea. We would certainly prove to the heretics of our divine providence with such an act. Who else would be given such power to cross the great divide as no one else has done?”
“Are we even so sure the land is truly there?”
“Maximillian, you forget your scripture. There is a land across the sea as described by the great prophets of old. One that will be inherited by the faithful. We are to be proved that faithful people,” Dominus said.
“There are some who take that scripture as an allegory for death. Yet, of course, you are not one. You are blessed with insight into the world and scripture that most of us lack. Dominus, do you support your prince?”
“What sort of question is that? Of course, I do. It’s my duty,” Dominus reeled back, insulted by the question.
“Very good. Now, do you support the church?” Maximillian leaned forward now, whispering.
“You demean me, Wise One, how can you have such doubt in my faith?”
“I do not doubt you, Faithful Brother. I have a proposition. One that will require you to choose between prince and faith. Don’t argue just yet. We knew this day would come. As soon as the empire fractured into pieces, we knew that the faith would be pitted against itself. We brought this on ourselves by tying our duties so closely with the nobility. The church’s power has made her vulnerable, but there is a prince who wishes to help. You must choose, Faithful Brother, will it be duty over faith?”
“You test me. I cannot pass this test for I don’t know the answer. If I choose duty I may be executed. If I choose faith, well the same can happen. Very well, if I must, then I choose faith. Take my life if you will, the Good Brother is more powerful than any prince on this earth. He will forgive me, and he will provide me with salvation,” Dominus stood from the table and bowed to Wise Brother Maximillian’s feet.
“Rise, my brother, you have not been condemned. You have chosen well. Listen close, I will only say this once,” Wise Brother Maximillian pulled Dominus to his feet and whispered intently into his ear. Dominus’s eyes lit up as his excitement burned. At that moment his only duty was to take power over Sebastian’s Spear through whatever means given by the Good Brother.
“Amen,” Faithful Brother Dominus lifted his hands to the sky as he finished the prayer; the crew followed suit.
“That was a fine ceremony, Faithful Brother. Whatever would we do without such peaceful words and harmonious teachings?” Garlan approached Dominus on the quarter deck.
“We would all be torn asunder as outcasts from the Good Brother’s embrace. Can you imagine it? An eternity being torn apart, stitched back together, and then torn apart again? Aware of each and every bit of your being?” Dominus clutched at his leather-bound book of scripture.
“Then it’s a good thing all of us are such faithful followers of the Good Brother.”
“Even you, Captain?”
“Yes, even me.”
“You do not miss your Torithman religion then? As I recall in order to captain a chartered ship you must denounce all creeds and faiths not of the Forsey Empire.”
“How can I miss a faith that is not true?”
“That is very curious. Then the rumor among some of the crew is false?” Faithful Brother Dominus let some excitement leak through his otherwise solid concerned façade.
“I’m not aware of any such rumor and neither should you. This is my ship, Faithful Brother, and my officers are not going to be fraternizing and entertaining the mad talk of these sailors. Most of them are drunk and the rest are delirious. The only thing they can be trusted to do is their job. Anything else is filled with lies, misunderstandings, and lunatic ravings. Do not concern yourself with such fools, it’s unbecoming of one so grand as yourself,” Captain Garlan turned from Dominus as he spoke to look out to sea. His feet held firm as the boat swayed along with the rolling water. Dominus watched Garlan sway with the boat, staying balanced and poised in power despite the rocking of the ship. Garlan was a part of the ship as much as any mast or rigging. Dominus spread his feet a bit farther apart and attempted to mimic Garlan’s stance as subtly as he could manage; though he failed to grasp the commanding grace at which Garlan so presently owned when upon the waves of the sea.
“Your crewman are lost souls, same as you and I. It is my duty to comfort them and bring them peace from the Good Brother. Would you have me ignore their spirits and let them wallow in sin for their journey? That cannot happen. Neither can I ignore the confessions they’ve made. Some of them are very damning, Captain. It seems that a few of your crew are Torithman themselves and they seem to be aware of certain heretical rites having been performed by themselves and by others aboard the vessel. Others who have been given a greater responsibility,” Dominus inched closer to Captain Garlan and his words grew quiet.
“What do you accuse me of Faithful Brother?”
“You’ve been practicing the rites of the Torithmen faith. You’re a heretic and an apostate! I’ve sufficient evidence against you to have you stripped of all rights and passages. You’ll never sail another ship a day in your life, Captain. I’ve already informed your officers. The trial will be tomorrow morning.”
“Dominus! What’s the meaning of this?” Ferethi climbed to the quarter deck carrying a slip of paper. “We’ve only just departed, and you think you can usurp power from our captain? This is treason!”
“You’ll address me by my rightful title, First Mate. Your captain stands accused of heresy and forsaking the Faith! He will stand trial for his crimes. Do you disagree with the law of our Faith and Empire?”
“It’s mutiny, nothing less. Does our Lord support such vile subterfuge?” Ferethi rushed over to Dominus gripping the small knife in his belt.
“Step back, Ferethi,” Captain Garlan said, grabbing Ferethi’s shoulder.
“Yes, boy, step back. You have no business in this trial. You are duty bound to stand by and keep your words to yourself,” Dominus held his ground, his stature taut as his legs gripped the deck.
“Ferethi, there’s nothing you can do here. Let it be for now. This is my misstep. You must keep the ship in order. That is your duty,” Garlan said.
“Very well,” Ferethi said releasing his knife and stepping away from Dominus. The chaplain huffed and then left the quarter deck. Garlan glanced at Ferethi for a brief moment and then retreated to his quarters. The crew continued to shift the sails at the command of Sebastio as he guided them on course toward the Isle of Roses.
“Ah, there you are Jeremiah, have you heard?” Ferethi found Jeremiah in the crew’s cabin just below the quarter deck and officers’ cabins.
“I have. Our Faithful Brother was kind enough to leave me a note as well. I found the damn thing as I came to inspect the cabin here. I know you want me to help, but there’s nothing we can do,” Jeremiah said. The crew’s cabin smelt of sweat, grime, wet wood, and poorly crafted beer.
“Yes, there is nothing we can do. At least nothing we can do ourselves. There’s plenty we can do with the aid of our lovely sailors. Where’s Gustavo and his brother?”
“The lazy shits are in the kitchen trying to convince the cook to give them more rations. I’ve too much to do myself to worry about their antics at the moment,” Jeremiah said, continuing his inspection of the crew’s cabin. He found a mound of slimy clothes stuck underneath a bucket and shivered. “Disgusting these pigs are, absolutely disgusting.”
“Thank you, Master Jeremiah, and please report to me your inspection when finished. I’d like to have an accounting of which sailors are following the boat’s law with exactness and which are falling behind when they think no one is looking,” Ferethi’s eyes darted around the vast cabin, large enough for each of the over 200 crew members to have their own beds, one last time before turning away in disgust.
Ferethi dropped into the kitchen, directly below the crew’s cabin from the stairway just outside of the crew’s quarters, finding Gustavo and Rikar passed out against two barrels of whiskey.
“Rikar! Gustavo! Wake up!” Ferethi yelled, kicking the two men.
“Oi! What the hell you want?” Gustavo flicked his head around, drool falling from his mouth, as he tried to ground himself.
“Boatswain Gustavo, you should be helping your cousin with the inspection, not pissing about in the kitchen with this lazy fuck Rikar,” Ferethi said, kicking them again.
“Oh, First Mate, I didn’t know that was you, forgive my impertinence. I was… I was just—uh,” Gustavo’s speech slurred away as his eyes shut.
“Dammit! Lazy bastards,” Ferethi went into the kitchen for a moment and came back with a bucket of water that he tossed over both Rikar and Gustavo.
“Oi, what the hell!” Gustavo yelled. “Oh, First Mate, I—uh—sorry. My brother didn’t know where the kitchen was, so I had to show him. We must’ve been lulled to sleep by the rocking of the ship. You know how we get once to sea. That slow roll has us feeling like babies, you know?”
“No, I don’t. Come with me, both of you, to my quarters. We’ll talk there,” Ferethi pulled Gustavo to his feet and kicked Rikar again, who then groaned in pain. They followed Ferethi up the steep stairs and through the hull of the ship until they arrived on deck. The crew had slowed their work by now and the sails billowed above them as the wind gave the ship power to cut through the water. The door to the officers’ cabins was guarded by two men each armed with a sword on his belt and a pistol strapped across his chest. “Let them through,” Ferethi said to the men, who then stepped aside.
The three men walked down the hallway past the many doors that led to the other officers’ cabins. Rikar’s eyes were drawn to the double doors at the end of the hall, upon the door a great lion held its mouth agape ready to swallow any who would come through. They entered into a door just before the great cabin. Ferethi pulled off his gloves and tossed them onto his plush bed, then rifled through his large trunk to find a few pieces of papers and dropped them onto his desk. “Close the door, Rikar, we can’t have any ears or eyes watching us. Then stand outside and make sure no one interferes. That’s good there. I swear, though, if you fall asleep, I’ll throw you overboard myself after cutting off each of your fingers.”
“What’s this about, Ferethi?” Gustavo said leaning against the wall opposite of Ferethi’s desk.
Ferethi peered to the door to make sure it was closed, “Dominus is accusing Captain Garlan of religious crimes. The trial is tomorrow morning and the crew will vote whether or not he keeps his command. Of course, the final decision is up to the bailiff, but Yozen de Mar won’t go against the crew’s decision. You have to convince them to vote in favor of the captain.”
“Oh…” Gustavo hesitated and looked away from Ferethi.
“Are you refusing me?”
“No, it’s not that.”
“Then what? You’re trying to avoid me. What is it?”
“It’s just that I know why he’s being accused. The captain… He’s not exactly innocent. I’ve heard the rumors myself. He’s Torithman and he’s been practicing the Torith faith. Some of the Torithmen sailors saw him on the beach last night performing the ceremonies.”
“And you believed this rumor?”
“How can I not? They’re my men. They’ve served with me for years. Not once have they lied to me, well not that I know of.”
“So, you are refusing me?” Ferethi started to fiddle with one of the papers.
“They won’t do it. I know that. I can’t do it either. You know what the Brothers would do to us…”
“I thought you were better than to buy into the superstitions of these idiot sailors. They’re drunkards and fools, Gustavo, I appointed you boatswain because I trusted you and now, you’re telling me you can’t do the first and only thing I’ve asked you?”
“It’s not that. It’s just… It’s our faith, Ferethi. It’s yours too. We can’t just abandon the faith. The captain, he—he took an oath and if he broke it, that’s what the faith says. We can’t go against the chaplain. The crew won’t do it. You don’t know what the Faithful Brother is capable of.”
“Then tell me,” Ferethi said, ripping the paper as he clenched his fingers.
“The Brothers, they have gifts. They can manifest power from the Good Brother. They can curse us, cause the ship to sink, or kill us all with a flash of lightning,” Gustavo said, his eyes wandering and avoiding Ferethi’s steely gaze.
“You don’t actually believe that? Those are old wife’s tales told to misbehaving children.”
“It’s true! I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Two men defied the commands of a Wise Brother and were immediately wrought with disease. They died within a week. I once saw a man burst into flames after insulting a Faithful Brother. They’re untouchable and protected. It doesn’t matter what you believe Ferethi, the crew believes it and they’ll vote based on it. I will too,” Gustavo stuttered on his words, he cowered from Ferethi’s presence and stepped back toward the door.
“Get out of here, Gustavo! Get out of my cabin and go back to your shit covered pig sty! You have no spine, none of you! You might as well all throw yourselves overboard. We have a job to uphold the captain’s integrity and you’re pissing all over this voyage. To hell with you!” Ferethi sprang from his chair and slapped Gustavo with the back of his hand, sending the poor fool to the ground, whimpering.
“That’s all you can do isn’t it? You know the law binds you from stripping me of my post. You can’t punish us for doing what’s right by our faith. The Good Brother will curse you and your captain. He will! I swear by it!” Gustavo crawled toward the door as Ferethi towered over him. Ferethi’s eyes burned red and his fists curled as his fingers dug into his own palms.
“Get out,” Ferethi hissed. Gustavo clambered to his feet and dashed out of the room, dragging Rikar with him.
Patience, Ferethi. Patience,Ferethi told himself as he dropped to his bed, holding his head between his hands. It had been a long time since he lost his temper in such a way. Throughout his life he had always been known to be calm, collected, and patient. Yet, now his plans were sliding through the grate Faithful Brother Dominus had so casually opened.
“Each of has sworn an oath to the empire and to the Good Brother,” Faithful Brother Dominus stood over the crew as the sun broke over the open sea, his voice carried with the wind sweeping across the deck. The coast had long faded into the horizon leaving the ship alone, leaving Garlan helpless. “That oath will not be mocked. We have promised to worship no one before him and nothing before him. Our lives are dedicated to the callings that the Good Brother has given us. To each a divine duty has been placed and to each an obligation to accept that responsibility. Your Captain has been accused of rejecting that duty in favor of another god! We cannot stand while such blasphemy is committed in our very presence, before the Good Brother himself.”
“Aye!” the crew shouted.
“This is madness,” Ferethi whispered to Jeremiah.
“It’s the risk he took by taking charge of such a lucrative mission,” Master Jeremiah leaned into Ferethi’s ear as he whispered back. The two men stood on the quarter deck behind Captain Garlan, who’s taught figure and presence had no diminished confidence despite the situation. The officers all stood behind Garlan and Dominus in a straight line, ready to cast their votes to Bailiff Yozen de Mar.
“Dominus can’t truly believe he’ll be able to pilot this ship over the sea without Captain Garlan? There’s a reason he appointed Sebastio as Pilot and allowed no other pilots aboard. He’s the only person capable of getting us there. If Dominus’s mutiny is successful, we’ll all die,” Ferethi said.
“Captain Garlan, you have been witnessed performing the religious rites of the Torith faith. A faith that is outlawed to those who have taken the oath to be a subject of Forsey. You’re accused of heresy, blasphemy, and treason. How do you plead to the Good Brother?” Dominus’s voice carried over the motionless crew.
“How do we know he done it?” a crewman shouted.
“Yeah!” a few voices agreed, though most of the crew said nothing.
“Silence! You are not permitted to speak on behalf of the Captain nor provide him a defense. He must present his case before the Good Brother on his own terms. Do not interfere or you will be held accountable. Captain?” Dominus cast a dreadful gaze over the crew.
Garlan took in a few deep breathes and rolled his shoulders before looking back at Ferethi and winking. “I have no proof to the contrary. I will only say this: I am a faithful subject of Prince Sebastian. He is the rightful heir to the late emperor’s throne. Only he can lead our great empire to victory over the barbarians. Only he can lead us to conquer whatever lay about us across the sea. I’ve done nothing contrary to the edicts I have sworn by. Can you say the same, Faithful Brother Dominus?”
“You are on trial, not me. You will not be given leave to interrogate your accusers. It will be put to a vote. Brethren of the faith, what say you against your captain? Is he guilty?” Dominus cast his hand toward Garlan, pointing at him with disgust.
“Aye!” the crew rang out harmoniously.
“Is he innocent?”
“Aye!” Ferethi shouted with more fervor than the crew had mustered.
“The crew has decided, what say you Bailiff?” Dominus said.
Bailiff Yozen de Mar sat in a throne made from whiskey barrels and bags of fruit. It was customary that the lawman overseeing any trial be set upon a throne, but since Forsey naval vessels did not typically have thrones on hand they had to be make do with what materials were on board. Yozen de Mar slouched with his back pressed against the fruit bags and his arm resting on a whiskey barrel. He looked over the crew’s frightened faces and sighed, “Captain Garlan is found guilty before the faith. He is to be stripped of all charters, titles, and ranks until a formal court can be adjourned to decide his fate. In the meantime, he and his first mate, Ferethi, will be confined to quarters. Chaplain Faithful Brother Dominus will be given command of the ship for the remainder of this excursion. Are we done?” Yozen de Mar looked toward Dominus.
“Yes, we are done. You four, take the captain and his first mate to the cabin in the hold. They will be given up on the Isle of Roses. Hurry now, before they disturb the Good Brother’s peace,” Dominus commanded the four guards that gathered around the officers on the quarter deck.
“You can’t condemn me with him!” Ferethi yelled. “Dominus!”
“Address me by my rightful title or you will be stripped of your rights as well! We are well within ours to punish you for allowing this to happen. You are responsible for the captain’s fate as first mate you should’ve kept him to the faith. Be grateful you are only being confined to quarters and not losing your privileges,” Dominus turned away from Ferethi and disappeared behind the door to the officers’ cabins. When Dominus left the deck, the crew scattered and went about their work. Two guards grabbed each of Ferethi’s arms and dragged him down into the hull of the deck with Garlan following close behind.
“Captain!” Sebastio called to Garlan as he jumped from the deck.
“Sebastio, do not get involved in this. You need to pilot the ship. Dominus will need you to get to the isle. Without you the crew will die. Let this happen Sebastio, just leave it alone,” Garlan said catching Sebastio’s gaze in fury.
Sebastio hesitated for a moment his head dipped in shame and he began to reach up, but stopped, “Very well, Captain. I understand.” Sebastio turned to leave, but before he clambered up the ladder, he glimpsed Ferethi being tossed into the empty cabin. Sebastio chuckled before he came on deck and took in a large breath of fresh air.