The group rushed out of the sanctuary and down to the small rocky beach where their boat was waiting. It bobbed up and down as they jumped in. Papi and Melisande climbed in while Morgan and Baltazar pushed the boat back out.
Once it was safely in the water, the two men hopped in and manned the ores. They put their backs into rowing and within minutes came up alongside the Black Vengeance. Smoke was still pouring from the cannon that had been fired.
Baltazar helped Melisande onto the deck. Morgan and Papi followed close behind them. The rest of the crew quickly tied up the boat and, using the attached pulley’s, brought it out of the water.
Baltazar turned away from Melisande and walked over to the bow where Gilles was standing, “What’s going on?”
“Sorry to cut the trip short sir,” Gilles replied, holding up a spyglass, “but we’ve spotted a sail on the horizon.”
“Spanish?” Baltazar asked.
Gilles shrugged, “I don’t know, Captain, she’s not close enough to tell.”
Baltazar took the spyglass from Gilles, “Where away?”
“Two points to port.” Gilles replied.
Melisande joined him on deck as he scanned the horizon. Through the looking glass, he saw the massive flag on the back. It was blue with a gold fleur-de-lis in the middle.
Baltazar shook his head, “Not Spanish, they look to be French.”
Papi nodded, “No doubt dispatched by King Henry to investigate what happened to Mont Saint Michel.”
“Probably.” Baltazar agreed as he examined the ship. “They got here pretty fast though…”
He strained his eye to pick out what he could, “I’m seeing two really large lateen sails… ores… and a massive ram up front.”
He lowered the spyglass from his now-wide eyes, “It’s a galleass… and it’s heavily armed.”
“Great,” Papi sighed, “and here we are, a pirate ship with her guns loaded.”
“And the French be known for shooting first and investigating later,” Morgan added.
Baltazar nodded, “No doubt they’ve seen us… and even less doubt they’re thinking exactly what Papi is.”
“But we didn’t do this!” Melisande insisted.
“Try explaining that to their guns,” Baltazar replied.
“I figure we’ve got an hour before they be in gun range.” Morgan said, watching the ship.
“Less than that I think.” Baltazar replied as he turned back to his crew. “Weigh anchor, hands to the braces, I want full sail in ten minutes!”
He then turned to Gilles, “Take the helm, steer us a course west.”
“Aye sir.” Gilles said as he turned and headed for the helm.
The crew scattered to bring down the sails and get the Black Vengeance moving. Papi disappeared below deck to one of the cannon positions. Within ten minutes, the ship was moving away from Mont Saint Michel.
Baltazar kept his spyglass trained on the French warship as she approached. Melisande and Morgan stood on either side of him. The ship drew closer and came into view of the rest of the crew. To their horror, it changed course, moving away from Mont Saint Michel, towards the Black Vengeance. Morgan shook his head, “Captain, they’re coming about! It looks like they want us.”
“I don’t believe it,” Melisande said in shock, “they’re not even stopping to render aid to the abbey? There could still be people in there who need help!”
“Like I said,” Baltazar replied, “shoot first, investigate later.”
Morgan watched as the ship turned, “That thing has us completely outclassed. She be faster and far more heavily armed.”
“And her crew numbers in the hundreds,” Baltazar added.
He could hear Melisande begin breathing rapidly, “What are we going to do, how can we outrun something like that?”
Baltazar smiled, “Fear not, that ship may have us in terms of speed, but we have two advantages.”
“And what be those, Captain?” Morgan asked.
“Galleasses are famous for their top speeds, but they can only hold those for as long as their men can row, after that, they are completely reliant on those small sails.” Baltazar replied.
“What does that mean?” Melisande asked.
Baltazar turned to her, “It means that while they may be faster, we can cruise at our top speed much longer than that ship can. Also, the design and sheer size of that ship makes it difficult to maneuver. We can turn a lot quicker then she can, we’ll lose them.”
Aboard the galleass, the captain watched through his own spyglass as the Black Vengeance got underway. He lowered the spyglass with an angry look on his face, and turned to his mate, “Bring our guest up on deck.”
The man nodded, “Oui mon capitaine.”
The man immediately disappeared below deck. A moment later he returned with Jaspart, who looked like he was trying to dry off. The captain smiled, “Ah Monsieur Jaspart, how good of you to join us. It would appear you were correct about the pirate attack on our abbey.”
“Captain Jaspart…” He replied in an annoyed tone. “Those pirates stole my ship. I overheard them talking about ransacking the abbey. It looks like we got here too late.”
“Truly a shame,” the captain replied, “It seems your information was of little use. You best have something more valuable to keep you from being chained to one of my oars.”
Jaspart sighed, “I already told you, my letter of marquis is on that ship. We need to take it for me to show you, but it is authentic.”
“Not good enough Monsieur,” the captain sneered, “I am not fool enough to trust the word of a pirate.”
Jaspart nodded, “Then how about this, I know the ship and I know Captain La Fuente’s tactics. If you ever hope to keep on her trail, you’ll need my help.”
“For now.” the captain replied as he turned back to his mate. “Give me flank speed!”
“Oui mon capitaine.” The mate replied as he turned to the drummer keeping the rowing beat. “Flank speed!”
As the Black Vengeance pulled away from Mont Saint Michel, the French galleass became larger in the distance. Baltazar moved to the back of the ship with Melisande close on his heels. He leaned over the starboard side, extended the spyglass, and peered through it at the galleass again, “They’re gaining on us… from the looks of their ores, it looks like their Captain has ordered all ahead, flank speed. Fool… he won’t be able to maintain that for very long.”
Melisande watched as the ship got closer, “What is that spike on the bow?”
“That would be the ram.” He replied. “You want to steer clear of that, any ship that thing hits is doomed no matter what.”
“And right now it’s pointed at us.” Melisande said fearfully.
Baltazar sighed, “A few hours ago, you asked me to trust you. Well now I’m asking you for that same courtesy. Trust me, we can hold our speed a lot longer than they can hold theirs. We will lose them, I promise you.”
Melisande turned to face Baltazar with a confident look in her eyes, “I trust you Baltazar… more then you know.”
Baltazar smiled as he turned back to look at galleass again. He was about to look through the spyglass when he heard a loud boom, “Everyone hold on!”
Two cannonballs flew towards them and hit the water on either side of the Black Vengeance’s aft castle. Melisande gripped the railing hard, “We’re in gun range!”
“No we’re not,” Baltazar replied, “they’re just trying to scare us. Those shots would have just barely grazed the back of the ship. They’re pot shots.”
He turned to Gilles and nodded, “Keep us steady on, as long as we have the wind, we’ll be fine.”
Gilles nodded as Baltazar then turned to Morgan, “Let’s show these Frenchmen that they aren’t the only ones with cannons that fire straight, run up the aft cannons with a double charge of powder!”
Morgan nodded as he disappeared below deck, “Aye sir, we’ll give em what’s for!”
Within minutes, small ports opened up on either side of the rudder. Long but narrow cannons poked through the holes as the crew worked to get them ready. Baltazar waited for the signal to come as kept his eyes on the approaching galleass.
Finally, the signal came, “Guns reporting ready sir!”
Baltazar nodded, “High elevation, I want them knowing we have range on ours too!”
He waited a few moments as he calculated the distance in his head. He wanted thier shots to be a close call, at least. Melisande watched and waited. Then out of nowhere, Baltazar hollared down to the gun deck, “Fire!”
The deck shook as the two cannons unleashed their ammo. A pair of cannonballs shot through the air towards their target. The first one passed over the galleass’s deck and blew a hole in the forward lateen, while the second one hit the iron ram on the front with a loud clank.
Baltazar went wide eyed, “Wow, expert shooting men, that should rattle their cages a little.”
Melisande smiled for a moment before two more shots came from the galleass’s guns. The first missed completely while the second passed dangerously close to the Black Vengeance’s rudder. Gilles shook his head, “That… was too close. If they knock out our rudder, it’s all over for us.”
Baltazar didn’t respond. Instead he kept his eyes trained on the galleass and waited. Finally, the moment he was counting on had come. The oars began to slow down.
Baltazar cried out in an excited tone, “We got them, they’re slowing down!”
Cheers echoed all over the ship as the French galleass began to shrink into the distance. Melisande joined in the celebration, “You’re incredible!”
Morgan smiled, “Of course he is! He be Captain La Fuente! There be not another captain like him!”
Melisande nodded, “I’m actually beginning to believe that. As unbelievable as that is.”
Baltazar shook his head, “It’s not over yet. We’ll gain some distance, but we won’t lose them, not quickly anyway.”
“So what do we do?” Melisande asked.
“We wait.” Baltazar replied. “For now we’ll hold our course, and hopefully we’ll lose them long enough to change direction.”
He lowered the spyglass and turned to Melisande, “The question is, to where? Where are we going?”
Melisande reached into her blouse and pulled out the piece of parchment that was given to her by Sister Mary. She opened it and looked at what was written. Her eyes narrowed and a look of confusion came over her.
Baltazar placed the spyglass down on the table and stood next to her, “What does it say?”
Melisande shook her head, “It’s just a list of names… Venice, the Night Island, and…”
She paused for a moment, staring at the piece of paper. Baltazar’s eyes widened slight out of curiosity, “What is it?”
She looked up at him, “I… I can’t explain how… but this last name sounds familiar to me…”
“What name,” he asked.
Her eyes darted back and forth between the parchment and Baltazar, “Patrisi…”
“Patrisi,” Gilles asked, “who is that?”
“It sounds more like a family name than a person.” Baltazar replied. “Melisande, could that be your family?”
Melisande thought about it for a moment, “It’s possible I guess. The name is familiar to me, but I don’t understand why.”
“So it be Venetia then?” Morgan called out. “It seems like that’s where parchment says to go.”
Baltazar shook his head, “We can’t go anywhere until we lose that galleass nipping at our heels. Mr. Gilles, hold your course for now.”
Gilles nodded, “Aye sir.”
Melisande moved to the port side and watched the galleass as it did the best it could to keep pace with the Black Vengeance. She closed her eyes, crossed herself and clasped her hands together, “Lord God Almighty, watch over us, please. You have guided me this far, don’t let our story end here.”
She stood on the deck in complete silence for a few moments, waiting for something to happen, but nothing did. Tears formed as she closed her eyes. She felt the wind blow through her hair and caress her skin which only provided her limited comfort.
Suddenly, Melisande felt an odd surge of power flow through her body. Her eyes snapped open, revealing her pupils were once again glowing bright blue. She kept her back turned to the crew, trying to hide whatever was happening to her. Her eyes always seemed to have an unusual glow about them, but they were never this bright. As she hid herself, she heard a startled voice appear behind her.
Gilles pointed towards the bow, “Captain, look!”
Baltazar turned to face the bow. Right in front of them was a thick wall of fog. Baltazar scratched his head, “I don’t get it, the sun is shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, where did this come from?”
Gilles held the wheel steady, “Orders sir?”
“Steady as she goes, Gilles.” Baltazar replied. “Get us into that fog.”
Gilles nodded, “Aye sir.”
Visibility in front of the Black Vengeance faded down to nothing as they passed into the thick cloud. Baltazar nodded, “This is exactly the good fortune I was waiting for.”
With a smile, Baltazar put a hand on the wheel, “Gilles, hold us steady for another hour. Then, if the fog holds out, steer us thirty degrees to port and bring us to a course south, southwest.”
“You got it Captain,” Gilles replied.
Baltazar gave Gilles a confident nod as he turned to see Papi reappear on deck, “Ah, Mr. Clement, it seems we have a need to sail for the Republic of Venice. I need to know if we have enough supplies for a weeklong voyage.”
“Aye, Captain.” Papi replied as he once again disappeared into the hold.
Morgan looked nervously at Baltazar, “I suggest caution sailing through those waters, Captain. Political unrest be the norm in that region these past years according to the latest news. We don’t want to end up in the middle of a warzone.”
“No we don’t,” Baltazar agreed, “but the Venetians have a firm grasp on the region for the time being. I’d be more worried about us coming under fire from that barge behind us.”
“Ye really think we have a chance at outrunning it?” Morgan asked.
“Aye, definitely.” Baltazar replied with confidence. “With this thick fog, give it an hour, and we’ll never be standing in their shadow again.”
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