Melisande and the group returned to the Black Vengeance. Worn out, she took to the cabin and closed the door. More than anything at that moment, she just wanted to be alone.
Baltazar watched her and shook his head, “Poor girl, this just doesn’t seem right somehow. We came all this way just to discover that her family had been horribly murdered, it’s not fair.”
“Aye,” Morgan agreed, “but she knew the risks, sometimes when ye go searching for answers, ye find out things ye may not be wanting to know.”
“Too true, my friend.” Baltazar sighed.
Gilles turned from the wheel to face Baltazar, “Captain, we’re ready to move out. Would we be heading back to Spanish waters?”
“Nay,” Baltazar replied, “our mission here isn’t complete. We’ve uncovered some of the mystery, but there are still pieces missing.”
Baltazar took one last look at the old Patrisi home and turned back to his crew, “Take us out of this cove and then steer us a course directly south. We make for Night Island.”
Gilles shuddered at the name, “But Captain, you heard what the fisherman said about that place.”
“Yes I remember,” he replied, “but I think that there might be more to the story then simply a creature going insane and living there in solitude. Carry out your orders, Mr. Gilles.”
“Aye Captain,” Gilles replied hesitantly.
It took a few minutes, but the crew managed to get the sails down quickly. The ship slowly pulled out of the cove back into Laguna Veneta. They sailed south for about an hour until they reached Night Island.
A large black cloud hovered over the island that was little more than a jagged rock formation protruding from the ocean. Baltazar nodded when they got close enough to lower the boat, “This is as close as we go, I don’t know how deep the water is around that island, and I don’t intend on finding out the hard way. Drop anchor and lower the longboat.”
As the crew ran to carry out his orders, Baltazar made his way to the cabin. He slowly knocked on the door, before opening it. Melisande looked up from her tear soaked pillow, “Yes?”
“We’ve arrived at Night Island.” Baltazar replied, hesitantly. “Are you sure that you want to do this?”
Melisande nodded, “Whatever that creature is, it either knows about what happened to my family, or it is responsible for their deaths. I have to go.”
Baltazar nodded and stood aside so she could walk out on deck, “As you wish.”
Within minutes, Baltazar and his three friends were back in the longboat. This time, Melisande had one of her family’s swords with her. Baltazar still didn’t understand their significance or why she insisted on carrying worn out old weapons, but they made her feel safer, so he didn’t question it. The boat pulled away from the Black Vengeance as Morgan and Baltazar rowed for the shore.
Melisande sat at the front of the boat, staring transfixed at the island. Baltazar kept one eye on her as best he could while he tended to his oar, “You’re not going to fall overboard again on me are you?”
“No.” She replied softly. “I’m sorry about that… but this time, I’m full aware of my surroundings, that won’t happen again.”
Baltazar nodded as he kept rowing. Though he trusted her word, he couldn’t help but keep one eye on her, knowing that there were still circumstances beyond her control. He was still trying to figure out what he’d see in Melisande’s eye when she collapsed at her family’s home.
Finally, the boat struck solid rock. Baltazar and Morgan jumped out and pulled it onto the rocky beach. Melisande jumped out and began having the flashbacks again. This time, she heard agonizing screams coming from a single person.
Just as before, the voice was familiar to her. Then there was a flash of charred feathers and crystal tears. Melisande gasped as she opened her eyes. Baltazar grabbed her in case she was about to fall, “Again?”
Melisande nodded, “Yes… but it’s different…”
“How so?” He asked.
“I can’t explain it,” she replied, “but I don’t think we’re dealing with any ordinary creature here.”
Baltazar nodded, “Be on your guard all the same.”
She grinned as she rested her sword against her shoulder, “Worried about me?”
“Always.” Baltazar replied.
She smiled, “Just stay close to me.”
Papi and Morgan joined them and began climbing the rocky hill. The cloud overhead choked out all sunlight. Small stones rolled down the rocky cliff causing nearby formations to collapse as the group continued higher.
As they reached the dark cloud, Melisande discovered the entrance to a massive cave overlooking the island. The darkness had shrouded it from the view of any passing ship. No one would be able to tell what was there.
Baltazar grabbed a pistol from his belt while Morgan pulled a pair of short cutlasses off of his back. Once everyone was ready, Baltazar beckoned them forward, “All right men, be on your guard. After what we’ve seen, anything could be in here, and I mean anything.”
Melisande brought her sword close to her chest as she kept up with the group. The sound of deep, hollow breathing could be heard from the back of the cave. Skeletons of birds, rats, and other small animals littered the cave floor.
Melisande grimaced at the thought of eating something like that. Suddenly, a high pitched scream came from the back of the cave. It almost deafened the group as they continued walking and they were forced to cover their ears.
Baltazar shook his head, “I’d say it’s fair to assume that whatever lies ahead, already knows we’re here.”
Chills traveled down Melisande’s back as she took a few more cautious steps forward, “That scream… I heard it in one of my visions…”
The blade in Melisande’s hand began to pulse. What everyone thought was dark tarnish stains on the blade glowed green with every pulse. Melisande moved to the head of the group and pushed on deeper into the darkness, “Something tells me that we’re going to need this sword.
As it became too dark to see, Baltazar pulled a second, unloaded, pistol from his belt, grabbed a large stick off the ground, and wrapped it in cloth. Once he was done, he added a small amount of black powder, and used the flint on the pistol to ignite it.
There was a small spark and a flame followed that lit up the whole cave. Melisande turned to him as a horrified look came over her, “Baltazar watch out!”
Something with red eyes was standing right next to him. As he turned to his side, the creature screamed and took flight. Startled, Baltazar fell on his back. He gripped his pistol and fired it at the creature, missing by only a few inches, “To arms, everyone, defend yourselves!”
The creature danced around on the ceiling for a few minutes. It almost sounded like a woman laughing as it darted back and forth, dodging the shots fired at it. Finally, when the group had fired every pistol and was trying to reload, the creature jumped down from the ceiling and landed in front of Melisande.
Frightened, Melisande brandished her sword and pointed it directly at the creature. As she thrust it forward, the blade glowed bright green in color, “Back you demon, you’re not hurting anyone!”
The creature fell back, startled, “H… how… how…”
It seemed as though she was struggling to remember how to speak, “How d… do you…”
Melisande narrowed her eyes, “What?”
Finally, it came to her, “How do you come to own that sword?”
Melisande clenched her jaw, “This sword belonged to my parents, demon! Mama and Papa Patrisi, you know that. You killed them long ago!”
“Demon?” The creature scoffed in an enraged tone. “I am no demon, and I did not kill anyone!”
Melisande clenched her jaw, “How can I believe you? Your screams were there the night my parents died. I heard them in my visions! I saw you!”
The creature frowned, “Think girl, and look at me. Do I look like any demon that you’ve heard of?”
“I don’t know what a demon is supposed to look like.” Melisande shot back. “All I know is that they behave the way you have!”
The creature took a deep breath and calmed down enough to speak in a more relaxed voice, “Just look at me… please.”
The green light from the blade illuminated the creature’s features. She was beautiful, but filthy. Her hair was a tangled mess and looked as though it hadn’t been tended to in years, her clothes were in no better shape, and her face was covered in dirt. Her arms, legs, and one of her cheeks were badly scarred. It looked like they had been burned at some point. The most alarming thing was her wings. They looked badly scarred and were missing feathers.
Melisande realized, she didn’t land because she wanted to, her wings couldn’t possibly keep her in the air for long. Her eyes glowed even brighter as the red flame was slowly replaced by the same blue that Melisande’s eyes had. A hurt look formed in the creatures eyes. At this point, Melisande remember some of the pictures in the bible she used to read from.
She looked at the creature for a second and realized what was addressing her, “You’re… an angel?”
“Yes.” The creature replied.
“Who are you,” Melisande asked, “and what were you doing at my family’s home?”
“The Most High named me Lailah.” The angel replied. “Tell me, what house do you claim as your family? You mentioned the Patrisis.”
“I claim no house as my own as I have never known my family.” Melisande replied. “However… my mother and father were Patrisis.”
Melisande looked down at the sword she was holding, “This sword and its sister protected generations of my family! They were given to me when I was old enough to understand and wield them.”
The creature took a step back with a look of shock in her eyes. The air in the room suddenly became a lot less heavy. Torches mounted on the walls spontaneously ignited and the entire room was illuminated in bright flame.
With the room properly illuminated, Lailah stepped forward with a look of sadness on her face as she touched Melisande’s cheek, “I don’t believe it… I always had a feeling you’d come, but I admit that I had lost faith.”
“Lailah…” Melisande repeated, “I… I know you, don’t I?”
“Yes you do.” She replied with a smile. “Child, I was there for your birth. I watched over your mother as you lay dormant in her womb and I helped bring you into the world.”
“Aralyn…” She said looking Melisande over. “I see Sister Mary did a good job looking after you. You look exactly like your great great grandmother.”
Melisande stepped back, “Aralyn… you must be mistaken. My name is Melisande.”
Lailah nodded, “That would most likely be the name that the Sister gave you to protect you from the truth, but it is no more yours than whatever history the church may have fabricated about your family.”
She placed her hand on Melisande’s shoulder, “Your name… your true name is Aralyn Patrisi. You were named as such to honor your ancestor, Adaline. Your mother and father were Cecca and Federico Patrisi. I knew them well.”
Melisande’s mouth dropped open. The missing pieces of her past were finally coming together. She needed to understand more, “Lailah, I have waited years for this. I need to know more!”
Lailah nodded, “I am sure you must have more questions than there are stars in the sky, but I can’t answer them in this wretched place. Please, take me with you. Get me off of this wretched island, and I will tell you everything you want to know.”
“Hold it.” Baltazar cut in, still not convinced. “We’re taught that the devil can appear in many forms. This creature attacked us and appeared in your mind at a very dark time. How do we know that it’s telling us the truth? How can we possibly believe this?”
Lailah sighed, “That was a survival instinct. I didn’t know who you were. Look at me, look at how I’ve had to live for the better part of two decades. How would you have responded?”
“And had you not found out who we were?” Baltazar asked in an accusing tone.
Lailah stepped forward and looked at him, “If I’d wanted to kill you, you would have been dead before you had a chance to light that torch. Unlike you, the darkness does not impede me.”
Melisande turned to Baltazar with a pleading look, “Baltazar, please. I believe her. Let’s get her out of here.”
“You’re sure?” Baltazar asked.
Melisande nodded, “Yes, it’ll be fine. You have to trust me.”
“I do trust you.” Baltazar replied, not taking his gaze away from Lailah.
Melisande nodded, “I’ll take responsibility for her. It’ll be okay.”
Baltazar sighed, “Very well… let’s go back to the ship. I want to see this whole mystery solved too.”
The group made their way back to the entrance of the cave and carefully helped each other down the hillside. They minded their footing as they made their way to the boat as a fall could be fatal on the hill.
Melisande was anxious to get Lailah back aboard the Black Vengeance. She helped the angel into the boat and climbed in behind her. The three men pushed the boat into the water and climbed in as well.
It was a silent and very uncomfortable trip back to the ship. No one said a word to anyone else. Melisande was guarding her tongue until she got back to the ship, Baltazar wanted to know the answers to Melisande’s past as much as she did. He was also suspicious of just how much Papi knew before they set sail on this entire voyage.
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