Destiny: Divinity’s Finale, Book 2, Chapter 6

VI

 

Melchior was true to his word. The crew returned within a few hours. Together, they loaded all the supplies that they’d need to make repairs to the Specter during their voyage. When the sun finally began to set on the horizon, Baltazar turned to Melchior, “Order all hands on board, ready the ship for departure.”

Melchior nodded and turned to the crew, “Aye sir, all hands get onboard now. Everyone to your stations, let’s go!”

The crew scattered as Melchior barked out orders, “Hands to the braces, release mooring lines, set the sails!”

Gilles ran to the helm as the sails came down and brought the ship about 180 degrees. As the ship began to leave the harbor, Baltazar looked at the small fort at the harbor exit. He smiled as an idea popped into his head, moved to the forward railing on the aft castle, and called out to his men, “Mates, his majesty has offered us a chance to serve king and country. What say you men, do you want to be the king’s stooges?”

A resounding ‘no’ came from the men on deck. Baltazar nodded, “Well the king is waiting for an answer. What say we give him one? Run up port gun number one!”

Four men moved in and quickly loaded the cannon. It took them a few moments to get everything ready, but once they were done, the gun was rolled back it into place. One of the men turned back to Baltazar, “Gun at the ready sir.”

Baltazar nodded, “Open fire on the fort!”

The crewman hit the back of the cannon with a lit torch. It responded with a loud explosion. A whooshing sound could be heard as the shot cut through the air heading towards its target. In a matter of seconds, there was an explosion that cut a small hole in the fortress wall.

Baltazar nodded, “Hard over, get us out of here.”

The Specter quickly moved out of the range of the fortress cannons and out to sea. Once they were safely away, Baltazar turned and walked towards his cabin without looking at anyone, “Melchior, you’re on watch. Let me know if anything happens.”

Melchior nodded, “Aye sir.”

Without another word, Baltazar disappeared from view. He was weary from his meeting with his brother and didn’t know what would come next. He suspected though that it would not be pleasant.

From his residence, Philip III saw the attack on one of his fortresses. Smoke poured from the hole that the Specter’s cannon had created. He smiled, “So dear brother, it’s war between us then?”

*

Two days passed from the time they left Spain. Melisande finished up her duties and returned to the deck. The crew was fed and there were none that had been wounded during the day. She leaned on the railing as she watched the stars twinkle in the night sky. Each had its own distinct pattern and flickered various colors.

Everything that had happened to her since she left the abbey passed in front of her eyes. Her thoughts returned to Sister Mary, and how furious she must have been when Melisande left. She regretted just up and leaving, but she was relieved to have Papi with her, and she was much happier now. She’d found a place in the world for the first time ever. Granted, it wasn’t a perfect fit and it wasn’t exactly where she thought she’d be, but she was content with it.

Suddenly a voice appeared behind her, “Pardon the intrusion.”

She turned to see Melchior standing behind her. Her lips curled into a warm smile as she leaned back on the railing in order to give the first mate her intention, “No intrusion at all, just thinking about the unusual turn of events.”

“Aye,” he said with a smile, “a lot has happened in such a short time. Here we be, renegades on the high seas with a captain we just come to discover has royal blood in his veins. To boot, we now be serving with a woman. These certainly be strange tides.”

“So no one knew about Baltazar?” Melisande asked. “Don’t you find that a little odd?”

“Very odd,” Melchior replied, “but he been keeping everything as secret as he can. None of us be mind readers and never volunteers anything.”

Melisande nodded, “That is true…”

“May I ask a favor of ye, lass?” Melchior asked.

“Of course,” Melisande replied, “what can I do for you?”

Melchior paused for a few moments, but finally responded, “We be concerned about the captain. Since he returned, he’s not been himself. Something be eating at him.”

“I’ve noticed.” Melisande agreed. “What would you like me to do about it?”

“Get him talking.” Melchior replied. “A captain that’s mind be elsewhere does not bode well for his ship.”

Melisande looked over at his cabin. The lamps were lit and she could see him pacing about. She looked back at Melchior and nodded, “All right, I’ll see what I can do. Though I don’t know if he’ll talk to me about it.”

Melchior smiled, “Much obliged.”

Without another word, she turned and walked to the aft castle and knocked on the cabin door. Baltazar responded, “Enter.”

She opened the door and looked at Baltazar. He turned to her and smiled, “Mel, what can I do for you?”

She took in a deep breath, “The men are concerned about you. They think your mind is elsewhere.”

He nodded, “They may not be wrong…”

“Do you want to talk about it?” She asked. “We were all kind of surprised to hear that you are a Habsburg.”

“That would be because I am not one!” Baltazar shouted. “I am still the same person I always was. My name is Captain Baltazar De La Fuente. I’m no prince; I have no such riches of any kind.”

Melisande took a step back, “Calm down, I’m not here to judge you. I’m sorry if that’s a sore subject.”

Baltazar lowered his eyes, “It’s not your fault, you didn’t know.”

Melisande nodded, “So can you tell me?”

Baltazar looked away and sighed, “My mother was a maid to Philip II of Spain. It was one night when they were alone together in his country home. One night… that’s all it took.”

“So it’s true…” She replied softly. “Your father was the king.”

“My father,” he replied, “was an inbred degenerate, same as the rest of that family. I have no love for them, or the evils they commit that tear apart our great country, all to feed their lust for riches and power.”

“Is that why you attack Spanish ships?” Melisande asked.

“Yes,” he admitted, “I sink them and use their goods to pay my crew and refit my ship. I use a small amount to sustain myself and give the rest to charity. I could be a rich man now from all the plunder, but like it or not… I can’t escape what my family has done. So I don’t keep it for myself.”

“You can’t blame yourself for what your family does.” Melisande insisted. “You’re not them. You’re not your father. You are much better than that.”

Baltazar smiled, “Funny, I thought you said I was a ruffian and a scoundrel.”

“You are,” she replied, “but I’d count myself with an honest scoundrel over an evil monarch any day.”

“You’re very kind to say that.” Baltazar replied. “I am glad we didn’t throw you to the sharks.”

Melisande laughed, “Well I’m glad you feel that way, I’m too skinny to be a good meal anyway!”

They continued talking long into the night as the lamp light burned dim. Everything was quiet on the ship as the crew slept under the stars. Even the creaking of the hull was a peaceful sound.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Advertisements

Destiny: Divinity’s Finale, Book 2, Chapter 5

V

 

Baltazar was led to a large building that was surrounded by guards and draped in lavish tapestries. It was an old building constructed out of mortar and wood, nothing all that special, but it was also the largest building in the city and thus the only one that could house the King’s entourage. The hall was large enough that a single footstep could be heard echoing off of the walls.

Baltazar had an emotionless expression on his face as he passed through the bare hallways. He looked as though he was being led to the gallows to be hung. In his own mind, that very well might be the case if he was not careful.

The next set of doors were large and ornate. Two guards pushed them open and stood aside, allowing Baltazar to proceed into a large audience chamber that had quickly been adorned with riches. No doubt to make the Philip look more opposing to whomever he met with, or at the very least, it was to make him feel more at home.

Baltazar stood still with his sword at his side, looking around the room. This level of luxury was gawdy to an almost obscene level. He could not believe that anyone that he was related to would insist on being surrounded by such needless luxury. Philip was the king, and was thus entitled to his wealth, but showing it off like this was just blatantly unecessary.

Finally, the sound of a door opening at the back of the room drew his attention. A man dressed in beautifully crafted black and gold armor entered the room. The voice of one of his assistants echoed throughout the chamber, “Hail, Philip III, King of Castile, King of Aragon, King of Portugal, and the Algarves!”

Baltazar bowed as was expected of him, albiet unenthusiastically. Philip nodded, “Arise.”

Baltazar rose to his feet and crossed his arms as his eyes met Philip, “You summoned me, your majesty?”

Philip was a well groomed man with dark brown hair and a very light beard that didn’t cover his long chin. He spoke with a slight slur and wiped his mouth with a white hankerchief when he spoke, “Yes, it’s good to see you, my dear brother.”

Baltazar shook his head, “I don’t know what you are talking about. You are no brother of mine.”

“Indeed,” Philip smiled, “your humble origins on your mother’s side ban you from any title of nobility.”

“I would take her family over the Habsburgs any day,” Baltazar replied.

“I don’t blame you for that.” Philip agreed. “When our father found out about you, he had you and your mother banished to prevent embarrassment, but yet here you are causing us even worse trouble.”

“Glad to be a thorn in your side.” Baltazar replied with a smile.

“Well,” Philip replied with less of a smile, “let us dispense with the pleasantries and get down to business.”

Baltazar nodded, “As you wish, your majesty.”

Philip opened his hand and reached over to one of his assistants who handed him a piece of paper. He then held it up in front of Baltazar, “Are you familiar with this parchment?”

Baltazar shrugged, “Regrettably, your majesty, its purpose escapes me.”

An annoyed look passed over Philip’s face as he spoke, “It’s a Letter of Marquis. What this means for you is that you will be pardoned from the crimes you have committed against my crown and free to attack shipping without fear of a hangman’s noose.”

Baltazar frowned, “What’s the catch.”

“The catch,” Philip repeated, “is that you will agree to stop sinking Spanish ships and start going after the true enemies of our great land.”

“I see.” Baltazar said thoughtfully. “In that case I must refuse.”

“Refuse?” Philip scoffed. “Are you mad?”

“Allow me to explain,” Baltazar replied, “I consider you and your family to be true enemies of our great land. Your group of inbred degenerates has been plaguing our country with war and poverty for years. I cannot ignore that.”

Philip sneered, “Mind your tongue, brother. I have made you this offer because the blood of our father, Philip II courses through your veins, but if you turn me down, I will see you pay for it in the most… offensive manner possible. Even my tolerance has its limits.”

“I appreciate the warning, dear brother.” Baltazar said with a smile. “Give me some time to think about it. We are talking about a rather huge change in strategy.”

Philip nodded, “Fair enough, you have until sun down the day after tomorrow. If I have not heard back, you will be arrested for piracy and, blood or no blood, I promise that you will be hanged!”

Baltazar bowed, “Then you shall receive my response in haste.”

Philip returned the bow, “Good day to you. I eagerly await your reply.”

As Baltazar turned and left the room, a second man appeared from behind the throne. A menacing smile appeared on the man’s face, “I told you he wouldn’t accept it, your majesty.”

Philip nodded, “If he doesn’t, you know what you have to do. He’s a loose end that must be tied. I can’t very well deal with our enemies while my own kin is pillaging our supply line.”

The tall man bowed, “Yes my lord, I will take care of it.”

Baltazar stormed out of building and headed back to his ship. He had a feeling that he may have even less time than his half-brother had given him. He’d never trusted anyone from his father’s family and he was not about to start now. Given his history with them, they’d most likely invalidate the letter at the first oppertunity.

The moment he was outside, Baltazar began to run for his ship. He ran through the streets and passed by of his men standing in front one of the taverns either drinking or conversing with the locals. When they saw Baltazar run by, many of them looked at each other strangely, but got up and gave chase.

It took about 20 minutes, but Baltazar got back to the Specter and climbed aboard. Only about half the crew was present, including Melchior, Papi, and Melisande. Baltazar leaned on the railing to keep his balance as he caught his breath. His tanned face was bright red with beads of sweat forming on his forehead.

Melisande turned to him and patted him on the back, “Are you okay?”

He nodded as his breathing slowed, “Melchior.”

His first officer stepped forward, “Here sir.”

“Get a search party together.” Baltazar ordered. “We need to get the men back here now! We’re shoving off tonight with or without them!”

Melchior looked at his men and then back at the captain, “Did something happen?”

Baltazar nodded, “Yes, but I’d rather be underway when I tell you about it…. It’s bad.”

Melchior promptly turned to the men, “You heard him, look alive there! Go and get our boys back!”

The crew scattered down the walkway and disappeared into the town. Melchior turned back to Baltazar, “Captain, what is it, where are we going?”

“The king has offered me a full pardon if I stop sinking Spanish ships,” he replied, “but he told me if I don’t take it, we’ll be executed. I have no intention of working for that scum even if I were the fool enough to take him at his word, and I don’t think he intends to give me the time I asked for.”

Melchior nodded, “I don’t disagree with ye sir. Them royals be not known for their honesty. I’ll have this ship ready to go by sun down. Ye have me word.”



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Destiny: Divinity’s Finale, Book 2, Chapter 4

IV

 

San Sebastián appeared on the horizon as the Sun reached its height. Baltazar watched as the port grew larger in the distance. He turned the wheel a few more degrees to port and headed straight in, “My lads, we’ve come home.”

The wind was at their backs as the Specter glided into the harbor. The ship was a recognizable sight in this port and was always celebrated when she docked. Melisande came up on deck and watched as a few small sailboats and fishing vessels lined up alongside the Specter to guide her into the harbor.

Papi was also on deck and smiled as she appeared, “Sleep well, Messy?”

She nodded, “Baltazar does pretty nicely for himself. His cabin is more comfortable than my cell in the abbey!”

“He does,” Papi agreed, “well he’s a rather… extraordinary man.”

Melisande noticed a huge commotion on the docks as the Specter made its way to the pier, “What’s going on?”

“There’s a big celebration every time the Specter comes home.” He replied. “This ship is rather well known here and Baltazar is considered a local hero.”

“Because of his charity?” She asked.

“Aye,” Papi nodded, “but also because of his… reputation with the womenfolk.”

Melisande rolled her eyes, “Wonderful…”

Baltazar looked at Melisande suspiciously. Her reaction wasn’t what he expected. Did she like him? Papi began to worry, but decided to address it later as he had other duties to perform.

As the ship closed on the dock, Baltazar turned to his men, “Tie up the sails, let the current bring us in nice and slow.”

Melchior nodded, “Aye sir, secure the rigging, bring up the sails.”

The Specter’s sails rolled up as the ship neared the dock. Baltazar turned his ship half a degree to port and brought her up to the dock as gently as he could. He then called out to the men on deck, “Mooring lines.”

There were men waiting on the dock to tie up the Specter as she neared. His crew threw a few ropes over the side and secured their ends. The men on the dock tied up the ship and then accepted the walk ways that the crew put over the side. Two of the men took the desk from the back of the ship and brought it down the ramp to the crowd. There was a large group of merchants awaiting the goods that the Specter brought in.

Baltazar smiled at them, “Welcome to each and every one of you, we’ve got a lot of things to offload today for the right price.”

The crew waited as Baltazar marched proudly down the ramp and sat on a post behind the desk. His men brought down everything that they had taken from the Cristobal. One by one, each item was auctioned off to the merchants. It was quite a sight as every merchant almost seemed to be fighting over the goods.

Once everything had been sold, the money was transferred to Baltazar. He smiled at the merchants as they collected their new found items, “Thank you all very much. Remember, there will be more to come!”

Melisande watched Baltazar work. She couldn’t explain it, but she found something appealing about this childish rogue. He was fit, charming, and a fair man, but then she snapped out of it, and there are probably an uncountable number of other women who thought the same thing… and many foolish ones that still do!

Baltazar walked back aboard followed by crewmen carrying large chests full of coins that had paid for the goods. Melchior sat down at his desk and began to count the money. He was meticulous as he went through every jewel and every coin that they had received. Gilles went wide eyed at the size of the treasure.

After it had been gone over entirely, Gilles could wait no longer, “Well?”

Melchior looked up, “50 pieces a share.”

The men cheered as they lined up to receive the money. Each share was placed in a small leather pouch and handed to every member of the crew. Once they had their money, Baltazar smiled, “All shares have been well-earned and I am very proud of each of you. For those of you who have either signed on for one voyage or joined from other ships, good luck to you and I hope to see you back aboard at some point. Those of you who choose to stay with me, you have five days to enjoy your earnings as you see fit, then I want you back here to help get the Specter seaworthy again.”

Shouts went up from the deck and hats flew into the air as the crew cheered. Melisande stood against the railing away from the crew. She had a saddened look on her face as she watched the rest of the men celebrate.

Papi walked up next to her, “I will speak to the captain and see if we can get some supplies so that we can start our journey.”

She shook her head, “I’m going to miss this ship… This was an incredible ride. I wish I could stay onboard… more than anything…”

“You don’t mean that,” he replied sternly, “and you stand a better chance of living if we leave now.”

“I do mean it, Papi.” Melisande replied. “It just feels right…”

“What do you mean?” Papi asked.

She shook her head, “I… I don’t know, but for the first time, I feel like this is where I belong.”

Papi shook his head, “Well, unfortunately, it’s not up to us…”

Once Baltazar received his captain’s share, he made his way off of the aft castle and walked down to the main deck. Papi stopped him before he could disembark, “We’re ready to depart, Captain. I’m taking Messy out of here. I was hoping that you could provide us with some supplies before we go?”

Baltazar shrugged, “Yes, I could do that… yes… but, I’m afraid there’s a problem, old friend.”

“Captain?” Papi asked in a nervous tone.

Baltazar smiled, “I can’t let her leave.”

Papi glared at him, “Captain, with all due respect, this is not one of your mindless tavern wenches! She is important to me! I’ll not let any harm come to her, even if it means going against someone I respect as a friend.”

“You wound me, Mr. Clement.” Baltazar replied as a hurt look appeared on his face. “That you think I would be so blind as to not see that this woman is very special, far too much so to treat as a port of call.”

“Then what is the problem?” Papi asked. “Why won’t you let us leave?”

Melisande looked quizzically at Baltazar as she waited for his response. He returned her gaze, “If I just let you go, my crew might mutiny.”

“What?” Papi asked in a confused tone.

Baltazar sighed, “They spoke to me in open council, which as you know Papi, is every man’s legal right aboard this ship. They requested that I offer Melisande a position aboard ship as a full-share member of the crew.”

Melisande’s eyes lit up as she looked at Baltazar. Papi stepped in front of her and shook his head, “No, it’s far too dangerous, I can’t allow that!”

Baltazar smiled, “I know that, my old friend, but would you have me face a mutiny if I didn’t at least make the offer?”

“The crew really asked?” Papi asked.

“As I said, the crew has spoken in open council about her.”  Baltazar replied as he turned to Melisande. “It seems your ability to treat injuries, and your work ethic, trumps your gender. They have voted unanimously to invite you to remain on if you want to.”

Tears formed in Melisande’s eyes as a bright smile formed on her lips. Her eyes lit up even more than usual and shined brightly. She could not believe what she was hearing.

Baltazar reached into his sack, “Which reminds me…”

He pulled out one last leather pouch and handed it to her, “I believe this belongs to you.”

Melisande opened the bag to see 50 coins inside, a full share. Papi shook his head, “Her, a member of the crew? You can’t be serious! Before she came onboard, she’s never lived a day outside of the abbey!”

“But I am,” Baltazar replied, “She’ll serve as cabin… boy and healer. She’s already proven to be competent at both.”

He looked into her eyes as he continued, “That is of course… if you wish to sign on properly this time?”

The entire crew overheard their conversation, stopped, and looked to see what Melisande’s answer would be. They all looked on anxiously as Baltazar asked. Overwhelmed with joy, she grabbed Baltazar, hugged him tightly, and kissed him on the cheek.

Then, realizing what just happened, she pushed away from him with a nervous grin, “Um… it would be my honor to serve aboard the Specter. It’s all I ever wanted!”

Cheers went up from the men onboard. Baltazar smiled, “Excellent, that’s settled then.”

Morgan came up next to them and bowed his bandaged head to Melisande, “Milady, I be wanting to apologize for the way I been treating ye when ye first came aboard. Ye saved me life.”

She smiled, “All is forgiven. I got what I wanted. Perhaps we can be friends now?”

“Aye,” Morgan replied, “I’d like nothing better.”

He gave her a small salute as he turned to some fouled rigging. Gilles was tending to the helm, with a huge smile on his face from her reaction. Everything appeared to be coming together for all parties involved.

The celebration quickly ended when three lavishly dressed men accompanied by a battalion of soldiers approached the Specter, “Captain, we’ve got company, looks like they’ve got the king’s crest on their banner!”

Papi narrowed his eyes, “The king of Spain, what is he doing in San Sebastián?”

Baltazar turned his attention to the three men as they approached. He walked down ramp and on to the dock to meet them. The first man bowed to Baltazar, “Captain Baltazar de la Fuente, I presume?”

Baltazar returned the gesture, “You are correct good sir.”

The man smiled as he looked Baltazar over, “Your brother requests an audience with you, as soon as possible.”

The crew glanced at each other and whispered back and forth. Baltazar frowned, “You must be mistaken sir. I have no brother. I was orphaned at birth.”

“I see.” the man said with a smug frown. “Well then I shall have to tell King Philip, that he is mistaken about who he believes his brother to be.”

Louder gasps came from the crew. Melisande joined him on the dock, “Baltazar, King Philip?”

The man nodded, “Yes milady, your captain is the half brother of King Philip III of Spain.”

Melisande went wide eyed and she slowly backed away from Baltazar. Gilles walked down to the rail, unable to believe what he was hearing, “I don’t believe it, our captain is royalty?”

“Silence!” Baltazar shouted before turning back to the messenger. “Sir, I do not hold anyone from the House of Habsburg as blood and you would do well to remember that.”

Baltazar paused as he looked over the guards,” If however, the King would like an audience with me… I’d be happy to oblige.”

The man nodded, “Excellent, please accompany us.”

Baltazar bowed again, “Lead the way, milord.”

He turned back to his men, “Secure the ship.”

His men tended to the ship as he was lead away. Melisande watched until he was out of sight, “What does this mean, our captain is a prince?”

“If it’s true,” Papi replied, “then he is a member of the House of Habsburg… which makes him royalty…”



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Destiny: Divinity’s Finale, Book 2, Chapter 3

III

 

Hours went by as Melisande contemplated her situation. She wanted to rejoin the crew, but she knew that Baltazar would never allow it. Still she was out at sea on her adventure and she still wanted to find out about her family. She at least still had that.

Her thoughts were cut off by a signal from the deck, “Sail ho!”

She immediately jumped to her feet and ran out on deck to see the other ship. Baltazar stood next to the helm with his hands at his side. He picked up his looking glass and peered through it to inspect the ship that they were coming up on.

After a few moments, he smiled and lowered the scope, “Mr. Melchior, we’ve found our spaniard. Full sail if you please.”

Melchior nodded, “Aye aye, full sail you swabs!”

Melisande walked up next to him on the aft castle, “What’s going on?”

“The reports we got were dead on.” Baltazar replied. “We’ve found our merchant and we’re going to take it.”

He turned to Gilles, who was back on the helm, “Come about ten degrees starboard.”

The ship picked up speed and began to close the distance with larger Spanish ship. Melisande shook her head, “Look at the size of that thing, you can’t be serious.”

“Size isn’t everything on the ocean, my dear.” Baltazar replied. “Speed is a far more deadly advantage, and we have the wind with us.”

He then looked over at Gilles, “I’ll take over here. Take our guest to my cabin and see to it she stays there.”

Gilles saluted, “Aye sir.”

He let go of the wheel and turned to Melisande, “This way please.”

Melisande shook her head, “I signed on as a member of the crew. I’m fighting here too!”

Her words impressed Baltazar, but not enough for him to rescind his order, “You signed on under a false identity. You are entitled to nothing. Go below or I might reconsider letting Morgan hurl you overboard.”

Melisande flashed Baltazar an angry look as she turned to follow Gilles. The helmsman held her on the arm as they walked, “I never did thank you for saving my life. For what it’s worth, I’d be fine with the idea a serving with a lass.”

She smiled, “It’s nice to know someone around here wouldn’t mind. May I ask you a question?”

“By all means.” He replied.

“Why are we attacking Spanish ships?” She asked. “Isn’t he Spanish?”

Gilles shrugged, “That’s something you’d have to ask him. As long as I get my share, I could care less who we attack.”

Melisande turned away as he closed the door behind her. She thought about it oddly for a moment, but then turned her attention to what was going on outside. She opened the window and watched as the small Spanish ship grew larger with each moment. This ship was a large carrack style vessel with a high fore and aft castle. It was also bristling with guns from the hull. Baltazar must be crazy, she thought to herself.

On deck, Baltazar saw the ship enter gun range. He smiled and looked to the men at the rigging, “Raise the colors! All hands run up the guns!”

A black and red flag with the image of a demonic spirit was raised behind the lateen sail. Baltazar counted down the seconds until he was right where he wanted to be and then pulled the helm hard to starboard. The men yelled and cheered as they approached their opponent.

Baltazar nodded, “Steady men, wait for it…”

Once they were in the right position alongside, Baltazar waved his arm, “Fire!”

Smoke poured from both sides of their cannons as large explosions emanated from the muzzles. Melisande could hear what sounded like deafening thunder from the deck as the cannons blasted the Spanish ship. The cannons ripped massive holes in the side of the Spaniard. In response, she began to turn to starboard in order to fire her own guns.

Baltazar saw this, and looked up at his men on the masts, “I need more sail men! Tighten them up, don’t give the Spaniards a target!”

The men worked as fast as they could and it paid off. The ship turned quicker than the Spanish carrack could compensate for. Baltazar held the helm at hard over to starboard. The old wheel shook as the ship moved out of range of the Spanish guns. Moments later, Baltazar’s ship had made a full 180 degree turn and was now turning to port to fire the cannons on that side.

Baltazar nodded and raised his left arm, “Port gun crew, ready on my mark!”

He waited a few seconds for his ship to be positioned exactly where he wanted it and then dropped his arm, “Fire all!”

A huge series of explosions rocked the side of the Specter as her cannons unleashed a terrible volley on the Spanish carrack. Baltazar’s crew cheered as they watched smoke pour out of the side of the Spaniard. It appeared as though the ship was crippled. Baltazar kept his eyes on their flag, waiting for it to be lowered, but it never fell. Instead the ship slowly began to turn. The joy in the crews’ eyes turned to fear as the Spanish carrack brought its guns to bear.

Baltazar turned his ship hard to starboard in an attempt to avoid getting hit, but it was too late. The carrack opened up with a full broadside. Baltazar screamed as the ship’s massive cannons erupted in flame, “Hold on everyone! Brace yourselves; this is going to be bad!”

Cannon fire ripped through the deck and hull as the barrage continued. Baltazar called down to his men, “Reload, ready the guns and prepare to return fire!”

Baltazar’s men quickly responded as the hull splintered around them. Melchior jumped into action, “Move it your bilge rats! Brace the cannons, ready the fuse!”

After a few moments, Melchior looked at his rows of cannon and called out, “Guns at the ready?”

Each gun crew signaled back one at a time, “Gun ready sir!”

Melchior turned to Baltazar, “All guns reporting ready sir, except port side numbers 2, 6, and 8, they’re out of action.”

Baltazar nodded, “It’ll have to do, all guns return fire!”

Once more, Baltazar’s guns let loose a barrage of smoke and fire. The shots ripped into the Spaniard. One shot blew through the main mast, sending it toppling to the side. There was a moaning sound that came from the ship’s hull and it slowly listed to port.

Melchior ran to the helm, “Captain, the Spaniard looks to be taking on water! We must have hit her below the waterline.”

Baltazar nodded, “Aye, and look!”

He pointed to the flag aft of the mizzen mast as it slowly lowered and a white one took its place. Cheers of victory arose from the remaining crew aboard the Specter. Baltazar nodded, “Grappling hooks men, make ready to board!”

They brought their ship alongside the Spaniard and threw across several planks to create walk ways. Melisande watched as Baltazar crossed over to the Spanish ship with two men. He was met on the larger ship by the enemy captain, who was a large man with a thick mustache and a gruff expression. The two men greeted each other.

The Spanish captain bowed and held out his sword to Baltazar, “Sir, I am Captain Del Rosa of the Spanish merchant vessel Cristobal. Please accept this sword as my personal surrender, Captain.”

“Thank you Captain,” Baltazar replied, “It was a battle well-fought, there is no shame in your defeat. You may keep your sword.”

“And what do you intend to do with us now,” Captain Del Rosa demanded, “leave us to sink with our ship, or perhaps hold us for ransom?”

Baltazar’s men came across from the Specter, “Permission to transfer the cargo, captain?”

“Aye,” Baltazar nodded, “but remember, no crewman or passenger is to be harmed, and any crewman who lays so much as a hand on a woman passenger will lose said hand. Do we understand?”

A resounding ‘aye’ came from the crew in response. Baltazar nodded and raised his arms, signaling them to start working, “Get to it men.”

The crew raced over like a flood of men and ransacked the ship’s interior. Captain Del Rosa shook his head as they moved, “I asked you a question, Captain. I can’t overlook the fact that I have yet to receive an answer.”

Baltazar nodded, “Indeed, my dear Captain, forgive me. I am not in the business of murdering such honorable opponents. Even surprised, damaged, and outmatched, your ship put up a good fight. The Spanish Armada would be lucky to have such iron.”

He turned to one of the Spanish crewmen, “Lower your ships longboats will you?”

The man nodded and promptly took three men to ready the boats. Captain Del Rosa was taken aback, “You’re letting us go?”

Baltazar nodded as the Spanish captain continued, “But how will we survive out here on the open ocean?”

“Take whatever food, canvas, and provisions you need.” Baltazar replied. “You’re only a few hours sailing from shore. If you set your boats on a course directly south, you should hit land by day’s end.”

Captain Del Rosa looked south and nodded, “I’ll not forget your gallantry, Captain. I expected to meet my end the moment you came onboard.”

Baltazar’s men carried large crates and barrels out of the hold and transferred them all to the Specter. The crew of the Spanish ship quickly made their way over the side and into the boats that had been lowered. Once everyone was over the side, Baltazar turned to Captain Del Rosa, “I’ll take my leave of you now, Captain, as I assume you wish to maintain your honor?”

Captain Del Rosa nodded and extended his hand, “I’m sure you understand. This is still my ship.”

“Only too well,” Baltazar smiled as he shook the merchant captain’s hand, “Good bye Captain, and good luck.”

“Thank you,” Del Rosa responded, “farewell.”

Baltazar turned, walked across the planks, and turned to his men, “Shove off, move us away from the Cristobal, we don’t want to be dragged down with them.”

The Specter slowly began to pull away as the crew cut the grappling lines. Baltazar watched as the last of the Cristobal’s men quickly entered the boat. Once every last person on the ship was safely away, Captain Del Rosa climbed down the side and entered the last boat before it pulled away.

The crew of the Specter watched as the Cristobal slowly disappeared beneath the waves. He turned back and looked through the window to his cabin. That was when he noticed that Melisande wasn’t there. He turned back and looked at his first officer, “Melchior, where is our passenger?”

“She’s below decks.” Melchior replied. “She refused to stay in the cabin. I wasn’t going to put up a fight.”

Baltazar rolled his eyes and climbed down the ladder while his men continued to load their new cargo into the hold. What he saw on the main gun deck shocked him. There right next to the guns, was a triage set up by the ship’s carpenter.

Melisande was standing over a wounded crewman, cleaning an injury caused by the splintering wood from the Specter’s hull. Her sleeves were rolled up and her arms were covered in blood. She looked up at Baltazar with a faint smile as he approached, “That was a nice thing you did for the captain, allowing him to maintain his honor.”

“You saw that?” Baltazar asked.

“I watched the entire battle.” She responded. “I was on deck getting your casualties down here for care while you were on Spanish ship.”

He looked down at the injured crewman, “How are you Morgan, is she taking good care of you?”

Morgan was the same man who had wanted to throw Melisande over the side earlier in the voyage. He coughed lightly before speaking, “She be a living angel of mercy. The pain be manageable now.”

Melisande smiled as she worked. Baltazar nodded as he turned to her, “I don’t think anyone will want you thrown over the side now.”

Morgan’s eyes widened as he remembered his words. An apologetic look appeared on his face, “Forgive me, lass.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Melisande replied, “just rest easy.”

Baltazar turned away and headed over to the carpenter, “How many did we lose?”

The carpenter looked over his triage, “Ten dead, about sixteen wounded. Eight of them should be able to return to duty in a day or two.”

He then looked over at Melisande, “Make that ten with the way Melisande be working.”

“Ye know sir,” he continued, “none of this would be happening right now if it wasn’t fer the lass. I don’t know where she learned how to care for people like this, but she’s saved three lives so far.”

Baltazar sighed, “I know…”

He walked back over to where she was working and sat down, “The work you’ve done here is very impressive. I know Morgan appreciates it, don’t you sailor?”

The large man nodded as he passed out. Baltazar smiled, “Where did you learn how to tend wounds like that?”

Melisande shrugged, “I didn’t learn how to. I can’t explain it. I just know how to treat an injury when I see one. I don’t understand how.”

Baltazar nodded, “Well… keep up the good work.”

Melisande saluted Baltazar only half seriously, “Aye sir.”

He got up and walked back up on deck. Once there, he turned to the helmsman, “How’s our haul?”

Melchior watched as the last of the plunder was brought below deck, “We should be able to turn a good profit.”

Melchior ruffled his brow and turned to Baltazar, “Are ye still planning on giving most of your shares to the local poor house and the church?”

“Aye,” Baltazar replied, “tis the right thing to do.”

“I never understood this,” Melchior replied, shaking his head, “in all the years I’ve served with ye, the riches ye’ve plundered would have made ye a very wealthy man.”

“You don’t have to understand,” Baltazar replied, “I have my reasons, believe me.”

Melchior nodded, “Fair enough, Captain. What be our course?”

“San Sebastián.” Baltazar responded. “We should be able to part with our goods without a lot of questions asked.”

“As long as we aren’t coming under fire ourselves!” Melchior mused.

Baltazar shook his head, “Most of the corsairs that operate out of there are former fishermen trying to turn a profit. They’re not well armed and wouldn’t be so bold as to come near the Specter.

Melchior did not look as confident, “Desperate men be willing to do desperate, and often stupid, things. They tend to take greater risks.”

Baltazar sighed, “Are you questioning my orders Mr. Melchior? Perhaps you would like to take over as Captain for a while? If so, you can vote to have me deposed.”

Melchior shook his head, “No sir, I harbor no ambitions as such. I just be looking out for the good of our men.”

“As you should.” Baltazar admitted. “You’re a good man, and a close friend. Please trust that I know what I’m doing.”

“Aye Captain,” Melchior replied, “My humble apologies.”

*

The Specter sailed through the night and on into the morning. Melisande returned to Baltazar’s quarters while he slept on deck near the door. At five bells, three men approached the captain. He was slowly roused by their presence. His vision was blurred as he slowly rubbed his eyes and stood up, “What is it men, the sun has barely kissed the horizon yet.”

His eyes focused enough to make out Morgan, the carpenter, and Gilles standing in front of him. They stood silently for a moment before Morgan spoke up, “Captain, we’ve been speaking in open council with the rest of the men about the lass.”

Baltazar rolled his eyes, “I know, and I’ve taken note of how you feel. I give you my word that she will be off the Specter as soon as we dock in San Sebastián.”

The men looked at each other for a moment before Gilles finally spoke up, “That’s what we be wanting to discuss sir.”

“Oh?” Baltazar replied with interest. “Well you’re speaking to me in open council, as is your right, so speak your minds. I won’t hold anything against you.”

Morgan spoke up again, “Captain, sir, ye can’t put her off the ship.”

“Have you been speaking to the ship’s cook again?” Baltazar asked with a sigh.

“Nay sir,” The carpenter replied, “but we’ve seen her work. As a cabin boy, she worked as hard, if not harder than any man aboard, despite getting only a half-wage. The drinks haven’t been flowing nearly as quickly since she’s been confined to your cabin. Then she voluntarily took to nursing the wounded back to health after the battle.”

Morgan nodded, “I’m figuring too many of us would be dead now if not for her.”

Baltazar could not believe what he was hearing, “So now, after everything you’ve said, you want her to remain on board, as a member of the crew?”

“Aye.” Gilles replied. “The men no longer look at her as a tavern wench, and she’ll be treated as one of us. We give you our word.”

Baltazar looked Morgan in the eye, “What about the black mark and all that?”

“As we been telling ye captain,” he replied, “we don’t see her as a tavern wench anymore. She be one of us now. Some of us wouldn’t be here if not for her.”

“Okay…” Baltazar said looking at the honest eyes of his men. “Well I appreciate your input. I’ll talk to her and to Mr. Clement… I make no promises, but we’ll see where it goes.”

All three of them smiled and saluted, “Thank ye, Captain.”

Baltazar nodded, “All right… to your stations.”

The three men turned and started the morning work. Baltazar stood there in disbelief as the Sun came up over the horizon. I’ve never seen anyone earn the respect of these men so quickly, he thought to himself. There is something almost mystical about her.

Baltazar decided to sort it out later. The ships bell hadn’t rung yet, and he was still tired. His bunk creaked gently as he lay back down and fell asleep.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Destiny: Divinity’s Finale, Book 2, Chapter 2

II

 

As Baltazar predicted, within two hours, the storm hit. Waves crashed over the deck and rain poured down on the crew. Though the ship was secured to prevent it from taking on water, they were still struggling to tie down the cannons on deck. The men had gotten the sails up and the cabins were secure, but a loose cannon could do serious damage.

Papi and Melisande were on deck trying to help out as much as they could. Mel stood with Gilles as they tried to push the number two deck cannon back into position. The cannon by itself was heavy and water crashing over it, made pushing it into place even more difficult.

Once the cannon was back on its blocks, Gilles reached out to Melisande, “Quick hand me the line and secure it!”

She struggled to reach him, but didn’t make it in time. The cannon broke loose and rolled forward, sending Gilles flying over the side. Melisande screamed, “Gilles! Man overboard!”

Every crewman who had already finished securing their lines ran to the side of the boat. Melisande watched as they tried to throw him a line, but the force of the waves crashing over his head made it impossible. His head disappeared beneath the surface every time a wave hit.

Melisande knew that he would drown if they didn’t do something quick. She called out to him, “Come on Gilles, swim, swim man!”

Another wave crashed over his head and she could hear him struggling to breath. Without thinking, she stripped off the vest that she’d been wearing, leaving only her shirt and undershirt on, and jumped overboard. Papi saw her and cried out, “Messy, no!”

He was too late to grab her as she jumped over the railing and plunged into the ocean. She swam towards Gilles as quickly as she could. It took all of her strength to reach him as the waves crashed over her.

Within moments, Melisande grabbed him by the arm and held him above the water. The dirt washed off her face and the hat that had protected her hair fell off. She pulled on Gilles as she swam, “Its ok, Gilles, I have you.”

Gilles opened his eyes and looked at her strangely, like he had never seen her before. They swam back to the ship where the crew pulled Gilles back on board and tended to him. Half drowned, he was taken down below to rest. He didn’t say anything and just lay there with a confused look on his face. As the men returned to their duties.

Meanwhile, Melisande was struggling to climb back on board. Baltazar had been called out to the deck and was watching as the group pulled his new cabin boy up. When she was finally up to the railing, two men grabbed her and pulled her over the side. She lay on her hands and knees coughing for a few moments before standing up. She was surrounded by crewmen and Papi was unable to get to her. Her clothing stuck to her skin, revealing her figure.

Gasps could be heard from the crew as they realized what she was. Baltazar’s eyes went wide and he pointed at her, “You there, stand fast!”

He then turned to the two sailors nearest to her, “Bring her astern!”

Papi began breathing quickly and struggled to get passed the crowd. Two sailors grabbed Melisande and brought her to Baltazar. He looked her over for a few moments and smiled, “Well, well, Melisande is it? I should have recognized you sooner.”

Melchior appeared next to them, “You know this woman captain?”

“Aye,” he replied with a wide grin, “she kept me from falling into a puddle of mud and I saved her from some local ruffians.”

Melisande stood in front of him with a defiant look on her face as Papi came up behind them, “Captain… sir, I can explain!”

Baltazar turned to his cook, “You can explain this Mr. Clement, I belive that I would enjoy such a story. Why is there a woman on my ship?”

Papi nodded, “Sir she lives at Mont St. Michel, she was an orphan placed in the charge of the church. She must have snuck out and travelled to Gransville.”

“I see…” Baltazar replied. “So you know this girl.”

“Yes sir,” he replied, “a long time now.”

Shouts errupted from the crew as one large man with a thick black beard and matching locks of hair called out, “Having a woman onboard is a black mark on a ship! I say we throw her overboard.”

Melisande reached behind her back with both hands and pulled out a pistol and a knife. She turned the knife on the large sailor and pointed the gun at Baltazar’s forehead, “No one is throwing me over the side!”

Scattered laughs came from the crew as she stood with her hands shaking. Baltazar narrowed his eyes, “Easy there Mel, where did you get that pistol?”

She breathed deeply, “I stole it from the hold, just in case something like this happened.”

The quartermaster came up next to Baltazar, “Sir, be careful, those pistols were loaded, I saw to that.”

“Well, looks you thought of everything Mel,” Baltazar said with a smile, “but I wonder, how do you intend to shoot me with wet powder?”

She looked at the gun and was about to respond when Baltazar grabbed it from her hand. Two crewmen grabbed her from behind and ripped the knife away from her. Baltazar shook his head, “It never work have worked anyway.”

He then turned to the quartermaster, “Put this back in the hold, and this time, see to it the weapons are secured.”

The quartermaster nodded and took the pistol, “Aye, aye sir.”

Baltazar turned back and looked at Melisande. There was a lot of worry in her eyes as she waited to hear her fate. He smiled as he spoke, “Our former cabin boy will have my cabin. We’ll set her ashore once we’ve completed our mission.”

A look of relief and gratitude came over Melisande’s face as the crew protested, “You would risk a black mark on us?”

Another crewman spoke up, “Aye, looks like the captain may have actually taken a shine to this tavern whore! I say we throw her overboard.”

Baltazar grabbed her, pulled her away from his men, pushing her towards the cabin, “And I say she stays aboard.”

Baltazar faced the angry stares of his men and drew his rapier, “Or would any man jack here dare challenge my orders?”

The looks on the crews’ faces turned from anger to fear. One by one, they slowly began to back away. Baltazar nodded as he put his sword away and stabbed the knife they had taken from Melisande into the mast, “No one, no one is going to challenge me? Disappointing… at least the tavern whore was willing to put up a fight, back to work, all of you then!”

The men grumbled as they returned to their posts. Baltazar snorted and turned his cabin. Melisande had already gone inside and shut the door. Baltazar opened it and walked in.

Melisande was sitting at his desk with her face in her hands. She was clearly upset. Baltazar pulled up another chair and sat down next to her. He grabbed a towel and began wiping her face to help her dry off, “Why the tears?”

“All I wanted,” She replied, “was a life of adventure. I was so tired of living behind the abbey walls. I wanted something more for myself. I wanted to find out about my family, where I come from, and who I am.”

Baltazar smiled, “So you escaped the abbey and came all the way out here.”

She nodded, “I was desperate to get away.”

“Was anything you told me about your family true?” Baltazar asked.

“My father wasn’t a blacksmith.” She said quietly. “I’ve spent most of my life studying and reading, that’s how I know so much. I was taught how by the church, but what I told you about them dying when I was young was true. I don’t even know my family name.”

Baltazar frowned, “I am sorry for you. I can sympathize, believe me. My family and I have a… troubled history. I haven’t spoken to any of them in years. My father denied that I was even his son. So I can understand what that’s like.”

She looked up at him, “More than anything, I was hoping to find some answers. There has to be evidence out there. I need to know where I come from.”

“Take it from someone who knows,” Baltazar replied, “sometimes ignorance can be bliss. If you keep this up, you may find out that you were happier before knowing.”

“It doesn’t matter… That’s all over with now isn’t it?” She asked sadly. “What do you intend to do, kill me?”

“Are you joking,” Baltazar replied, “you saved my best helmsman. In return I’ll give you safe passage to our next port. Once there, you can do what you want. If you want to try your luck on another ship, all power to you.”

Melisande nodded, “I thank you for that…. Captain.”

“You’re quite welcome,” Baltazar said as he got up and left the cabin.

Papi was waiting outside, “Captain, please don’t hurt her. She’s an innocent soul. I swear she never intended to hurt a fly.”

“Relax man,” Baltazar replied, “pull yourself together. I have no intention of harming her in any way. I swear it on my family name.”

Papi nodded, “Then please turn us around and return her to the abbey.”

“Put about?” Baltazar scoffed. “Have you gone mad? We’re out at sea. Going home now would not be good for business. I will set her ashore after our voyage.”

Papi looked at him concerned, “But where sir?”

Baltazar placed his hand on Papi’s shoulder, “Relax my friend, I promise you that she will be cared for. For the time being, just know that she is well protected in my cabin.”

Papi sighed, “Very well sir.”

“Thank you.” Baltazar replied. “Now return to your duties.”

“Aye, aye sir,” Papi said, not at all convinced that his captain wouldn’t defile her at the first chance he got.

Baltazar felt the rain begin to slow and looked up. The clouds were beginning to break and the storm was passing them by. He smiled and turned to the helmsman that had replaced Gilles, “Steady as she goes, helm! We’ll beat this storm yet!”



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Destiny: Divinity’s Finale, Chapter 4

IV

 

The cart had been travelling for over an hour and despite the bumpy ride, Melisande had managed to fall asleep in the back. She was roused when she realized that the cart was slowing down. The sounds of activity all around her were a good indication that she’d arrived in Granville. She raised her head and smiled when she realized that her trip was over. Now she needed to figure out how to get aboard a ship.

The cart passed through the market and was heading for the docks. She looked in front of her as the buildings parted to reveal tall masts and open ocean. This was where Melisande wanted to be. Quietly, she hopped off the back of the cart and went to take a closer look at the ship.

Upon examining her surroundings, Melisande saw several ships with men lining up to sign on. She walked over to one of the ships. A man was sitting at a small desk signing crew on.

He looked at her sternly, “This ain’t no place for womenfolk, move along.”

Hurt, Melisande turned her back to the ship without replying, and walked away. Looking at her clothing, she realized that there was no way she would be able to sign on as long as she looked like a castle maid. It was obvious that she would need to diguise herself as a boy.

Without another thought, Melisande turned and headed for the marketplace. Finding what she needed was easy enough with so many places to shop. She went from stand to stand looking for the right tunic and some trousers, but none seemed to suit her. Finally, as she was about to give up, she found what she was looking for at the last stand at the end of the road.

The shopkeeper was an older man who eyed her suspiciously, “You want to buy these clothes?”

Melisande looked at him nervously, “Yes sir, if that is ok. They are for my… husband.”

“Indeed…” The man said quietly, “and where is your husband?”

She began to sweat as she tried to come up with a credible story, “He’s… he’s at sea… he should be home at any day now.”

“This is how it always is.” She said, trying to be casual. “Every time he comes home, his clothes are always torn to shreds. I can’t have him looking like a beggar, you know?”

The shopkeeper narrowed his eyes, “Odd… I haven’t seen any reports of a ship coming in… lots going out, but not one coming in.”

The whole thing sounded suspicious, but he was a shopkeeper, not the local constable, “Oh well. Do you have enough money?”

Melisande pulled a small sack of coins from her dress and handed it to him. He opened it and looked in, “You’re a little short… but it’s ok, I’ll accept this for questioning you.”

She smiled and curtseyed, “Thank you sir.”

She took the clothes and backed away, looking for a place to change. Privacy was in short supply in this town, but she would not give up.

At the other end of the market stood an old tavern which was a favorite hangout for sailors that had just returned to port. Anytime a ship arrived, there was always a party and the doors would remain open all hours of the night. It seemed like a fairly rough spot and not suitable for her to change.

As Melisande walked by, the door to the tavern flew open and a man fell through them. He landed hard on his side on the dirt path. He was followed by a crowd that was led by a much larger man wearing an apron. The large man stood in front of him with a sneer, “Don’t be showing your face around here again!”

“Aw come on innkeep!” The man replied slyly, “I was just enjoying a drink! She came on to me. What’s the harm in me coming around and enjoying the local spirits?”

As though answering his question, eight swords suddenly appeared, pointed at his throat. The young man looked the mob that was now poised to strike and his lips twisted, “All right, you’ve made your point. Not a good idea.”

The men put their swords away and headed back into the tavern. As the innkeeper followed and closed the door, he called back to the young man, “Oh, and if I see you anywhere near my daughter again, I’ll fix you in a way to make you fit for the choir!”

Hearty laughs came from inside the tavern as the large man slammed the door. The smaller man stood up, brushed himself off, and straightened up his short black hair. He smiled and called back, “I’d still be more of a man than you!”

The young man laughed as he began to stumble down the street. He tried his best to steady himself as he continued, but he stumbled over a stone and fell forward. The man closed his eyes, certain he was about to hit the ground again, but instead felt pressure on his shoulders, holding him up. When his eyes opened, he saw Melisande holding on to him, “Are you okay?”

The man rubbed his eyes and looked at her again, “I beg your pardon?”

She looked at him oddly, “Are you okay? You’re stumbling all over the place and you reek of booze!”

Snap out of it man! He thought to himself as he straightened up, “My apologies miss. I seem to have had a bad string of luck lately.”

He smiled as he looked her over, “Until now, that is.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” she replied.

The man brushed off his white tunic, straightened up the large golden medallion the rested on his partially bare chest, and stood up straight, “Allow me to introduce myself properly. I am Captain Baltazar de la Fuente, at your service ma’am. May I have the honor of your name?”

Melisande immediately noticed that his eyes were not on her face, “You may have the honor of my fist in your mouth if you don’t redirect your gaze.”

Baltazar shook his head and bowed, “My sincerest apologies, my fair lady. It is hard to keep one’s eyes focused on but a single aspect of such a work of art.”

At hearing his words, her eyes went fluttery, “You… you see me as a work of art?”

“Aye,” He replied drunkenly, “indeed the great painters of the church, including the mind of Leonardo Da Vinci could not have envisioned such perfection.”

“Leonardo Da Vinci…” She repeated in a whisper. “I have heard of him and read of his works.”

She forced a half smile as she moved closer to him, “Answer me something honestly my noble Baltazar…”

“Anything m’lady,” he replied in a sensual tone.

The blushing look on her face quickly turned to a cross between malice and deviousness, “How many women were fools enough to believe a single word of that flattery?”

Baltazar was caught off guard and his expression turned to one of shock. He struggled to regain his composure as he organized a retort, “It… matters not how many women I have said such things to, what matters is the sincerity with which I say it now.”

“And you’re badly lacking in any.” She replied with a snort. “Out of my way, I have no time for ruffians.”

Melisande pushed past Baltazar and made her way back to the docks. Baltazar watched her from behind. Well now, she certainly has spirit. He then took a moment as he examined her appearance before she turned away. She’s an unusual one… those eyes are unlike any other I’ve seen…

Once she was away from Baltazar, Melisande decided to try a shortcut through a large alley. She could see the masts of ships on the other side and quickly made her way through. She was a few feet away from the docks when two men appeared in front of her, “Well well, what have we here?”

Melisande didn’t give them a second thought, “Excuse me, please. I need to get to the docks.”

The taller man pushed her back, “What would a woman like you want on the docks? I better check your bags.”

Melisande backed off and tried to leave the alley the other way, only to see it blocked by two more men, “Let me be, I have nothing of any value to you!”

The leader looked her over, “Is that so? I think you have a few things of value, what do you think boys?”

The other three snickered as they closed in on Melisande. She began to breathe heavily as she dropped her bag and pulled the two swords out of her blanket. With one in each hand, she pointed them in both directions at the gang, “I know how to use these, back off!”

The swords looked tarnished and her quivering hands were not helping her case. The group scoffed and continued to move in. The leader kept his eyes on her, “Come on boys, let’s see what she has to offer.”

Suddenly, another voice appeared behind them, “What’s the matter Jaspart, roughing up local merchants becoming too tough for you?”

The leader looked up, “This doesn’t concern you La Fuente, isn’t there some merchant’s daughter you should be defiling?”

Baltazar laughed, “Yeah, but I only gamble my money, not certain parts of me. The price proved to be a little high. Anyway, you heard the lady, she said back off.”

“Really,” Jaspart replied, “I don’t think I have to back off… in fact, I appear to have three swords that agree with me on that, don’t ya boys?”

“4 swords against one?” Baltazar said with a frown. “Almost seems a little unfair!”

As the first gang member, a fat man named Grard, drew his sword, Baltazar grabbed his own and sliced the air. His sword clashed with Grard’s, while a second man, Allart came up behind him. As Baltazar dueled, he watched Allart out of the corner of his eye.

Once his attacker got close enough, Baltazar used his impressive speed and brought his leg back hard. His foot impacted against the Allart’s stomach, causing him to wheeze and fall to the ground. Then he forced Grard’s sword away with his own, balled a fist, and struck right on the bridge of Grard’s nose.

The man dropped his sword and cupped his hands over his face as he fell to the ground. The third man who had been standing next to Jaspart flinched and then ran as fast as he could in the other direction. Jaspart called after him, “Coward!”

Baltazar shrugged, “Almost unfair.”

Jaspart sneered, “This isn’t over La Fuente!”

“So you keep saying, old friend,” Baltazar called as he ran away, “but you just never learn, you should hire better men!”

Once they were gone, Baltazar grabbed Melisande’s bag and brushed it off. He then turned and handed it to her, “My apologies miss. Some of the locals around here are a bit rough around the edges.”

Melisande lowered her swords, “Thank you for your help good sir, though I am sure that I could have handled things.”

Baltazar smiled, “Of that, I have no doubt, even with such poorly kept swords. In truth I was going to let you handle it yourself, but then I thought, ‘What kind of a man would I be if I let you do all the work?’ So I figured I’d do at least one good deed today.”

“I see.” Melisande chuckled softly as she turned to keep moving. “Well thank you again.”

Baltazar nodded, “You’re welcome miss… um…”

“Melisande.” She replied. “My name is Melisande.”

“A beautiful name for one so fair!” Baltazar said with a bow. “Do you live around here? May I have the honor of escorting you home?”

“I would like that very much.” Melisande said politely.

“Very well then,” Baltazar replied, “which w…”

“Unfortunately,” Melisande interrupted as the devious grin once again appeared on her face, “I don’t live anywhere around here. So it looks like you’re going to have to escort yourself home.”

Melisande brushed passed Baltazar with a giggle, leaving him standing in the alley with a sheepish grin on his face, “It would appear that this rose has thorns…”

Baltazar watched Melisande until she disappeared from view. She turned a corner and hid behind a stack of barrels. After making sure that she was completely out of sight, she stripped off her dress and threw on the clothes that she had just purchased.

Realizing that her face was still a giveaway to her gender, she rubbed some dirt on her cheeks and slightly narrowed her eyes. Among the clothes she had purchased was a vest that helped hide her chest once she buttoned it. Finally, she stood up and looked herself over. She could now easily pass for a boy, or so she thought. A gust of wind blew her golden blonde hair into her face.

Melisande knew that other sailors had longer hair, but not like hers. She took care of her hair and made sure it shined brightly. She could never get it past anyone.

Knowing what had to be done, Melisande grabbed one of her swords and pulled her hair back. At that moment, she hesitated. What was she doing? Did she really want to alter her appearance this much?

I’ve come this far. She thought to herself with a deep sigh. If I really want this, I’ll need to go all the way…

With one quick pull, Melisande felt a ripping sensation as her hair came loose. She looked at the long locks in her hand as the remaining hair on her head barely touched her shoulders. She dropped the severed hair and allowed the wind to carry it away. She was now ready to go.

Unfortunately it looked as though Melisande had taken too long. All of the ships that were hiring had closed up shop and weren’t taking on anyone else. She let out another deep sigh and started walking down the dock towards the town, hoping to find some place to rest for the night. She passed by several ships, none of whom still had a desk out in front of them.

As she continued walking, she noticed a peculiar looking ship at the end of the dock. It was in the process of being repainted dark blue and flew no flag. The name on the back was painted in gold and shined in the setting sun.

On the deck, Melisande could hear two men yelling at each other. She couldn’t quite make out what they were saying, but she picked out the words ‘deserters’ and ‘short-handed.’ As she made her way by the dock, a sailor on board looked over the side and yelled to her, “You there, boy!”

She turned back and looked up at the person who had called to her, “Me, sir?”

“Aye.” He replied. “Ye look like a lad looking for work.”

Melisande nodded as she tried to adjust her speech to sound more like an experienced sailor, “Aye, but it looks like everyone’s already signed up enough hands.”

The sailor smiled, “Well, ye think ye got what it takes to sail on the famous Specter?”

Melisande looked over the small ship. The Specter had a single square rigged mast which was followed by a smaller mast that carried a large lanteen sail. It was smaller than most caravels that Melisande had read about and the ship’s actual design was unknown to her, “Famous huh, what’s the pay like?”

“Ye’d start out a cabin boy.” He replied. “So ye would get a half a share of whatever we bring in.”

There’s almost no difference between a cabin boy and what I do at the abbey… She thought to herself. Still, you have to start somewhere.

Having made her decision, Melisande looked up at the sailor, “Where do I sign up?”

The sailor smiled as he beckoned her aboard, “Haha, that’s the spirit! Come meet the first mate.”

Without another thought, Melisande ran to the walkway and jumped aboard the Specter. She was surprised to see just how heavily armed the ship was. Large cannons lined the deck, making the walkway somewhat cramped. These were in addition to the standard armament on the lower gun deck. Other than that, there was nothing special about this ship. It was small, cramped, and looked like it was over-manned for its size. The aft cabin had three large, lead-plated windows, but that was the only decor on the aft castle.

“She be a simple ship, but she serves her purpose.”

Melisande jumped at the voice that appeared behind her. She turned to see the first officer standing right over her. He was a very tall man with a gray beard and dark eyes. His hair was almost gone and he wore a large hat to cover it. He smiled with every green tooth he still had, “Apologies, lad, my name is Melchior, I be the first officer on the Specter. I understand ye be looking to sign on with us?”

Melisande mustered up what courage she could, “Aye, sir.”

Melchior smiled, “Argh, what be your name?”

“Mel…” She stopped in the middle of her name. She couldn’t very well give her real name or they would know right away what she was. Could she get away with that, or would she need to think of something quick.

Melchior looked at her oddly, “Mel… that be an odd name. Be that short for something?”

She shook her head, “No sir, it’s just Mel sir.”

Melchior smiled guided her over to a table seated in front of the helm. On it was a book and quill. Melchior pointed to it, “All right then Mel, make your mark.”

Melisande picked up the quill and signed her name. Melchior’s eyes narrowed, “You know how to write too. This be quite interesting.”

“My mother insisted I learn.” She replied. “I can’t figure out why.”

“Perhaps she thought it best ye be educated.” Melchior replied. “It be a better way to live then not knowing if something ye be signing be false.”

Once Melisande was done with the book, Melchior closed it and put it away, “Welcome aboard the Specter, lad.

She nodded, “Thanks, so tell me, who is captain here?”

“Aye.” Melchior replied. “He be the bravest man I ever did sail with. I expect he be back any time. He be a real whirlwind of passion and ferocity. Ye best not cross his path.”

Melisande smiled, “Got it, this should be fun.”

Melchior shrugged, “Aye lad, if ye say so. I reckon ye be wanting to get started. Stow yer gear and make for the galley, the ship’s cook will be waiting for ye. Lively now!”

Melisande stood at attention and saluted, “Aye aye sir.”

She quickly disappeared below deck, found her bunk, and then made her way to galley. She passed through the small walkway illuminated by lanterns. The wood creaked under her feet as she stepped. Finally, she made it to the galley. This area was well lit and even had hot stove with a vent running through to the deck.

The cook had his back turned to her as she entered the small room. He was working hard on the crew’s supper. Upon hearing movement, he turned around to see who had entered his galley.

Melisande shrieked at seeing his face, “Papi?”

The startled cook looked strangely at Melisande, “Boy, why are you shouting like that? You could have gotten yourself shot!”

He then stopped in his tracks, “Wait… what did you call me, Papi?”

A terrified look came over his face as he realized who he was dealing with. He walked closer to her, grabbed a wet rag from the counter and put his hand to her face. Before she could back away or protest, he wiped away the dirt, “Only one person knows me by that name…”

As Papi wiped her face, his eyes went wide, “Melisande? So this is where you ran off to! I thought maybe you had gone exploring and that Sister Mary was overreacting per the norm but… What are you doing on this ship?”

“I might ask you the same question.” She replied. “I remember you disappearing for months at a time throughout my life, is this where you went?”

“I’m asking the questions here Messy!” He fired back, “This is no place for you! These people are pirates!”

Melisande stepped backwards, “A… a pirate vessel?”

“Yes,” Papi replied with a sheepish look, “I sign on as the ships cook every now and then when I need more money to keep my Inn open.”

She couldn’t believe what she was hearing, “So all these years, you’ve been a pirate.”

“I’ve been a cook on merchant ships too,” he admitted, “but this is the only one I’ve truly enjoyed serving on.”

“I see…” She replied. “So what now?”

Papi shook his head, “Now we’re getting you off of this ship and back to the abbey!”

“No!” Melisande protested adamantly, “I’m staying right here. I can’t go back to the abbey. I am tired of that life. I snuck out early this morning and went for a walk. When I looked back, I couldn’t stand the thought of returning to that cage. I need to get my life started before I rot away behind those walls!”

“This is not the place for you to get started.” Papi insisted. “If the crew finds out who you really are, I don’t know what they’ll do!”

“They won’t find out.” She replied smiling. “Look at me, you barely even knew who I was.”

Papi looked her over and sighed, “This isn’t a game, Messy! You are in real danger here. I’m taking you back. There is no other choice.”

She took a step backwards, “No, no you’re not. If you even try it, I’ll inform the local authorities of what you really are. I’ll then do the same with the abbey.”

Papi’s mouth dropped open, “Messy… after all these years… I was good to you and did my best to make you happy when I was at the abbey. After all that, you’re blackmailing me? You’d really turn me over to be hanged?”

“I won’t,” she replied, “and I don’t want to, but now you can see just how despirate I am. I can’t go back. I’ll die if I have to remain trapped behind those walls. No matter what, you’ll have to kill me to send me back.”

“Messy…” Papi said in a disappointed voice. “You’ve changed. I never thought you’d go this far.”

Melisande frowned as tears entered her eyes, “I’m sorry Papi. I don’t mean to hurt you and I hope you can forgive me, but I was suffocating there. I need to know who I am and where I come from. I need to travel and to find out who my family is. There is more to me than a simple abbey servant… I know there is.”

Papi saw the look in her watering eyes as they pleaded with him. She stepped closer as a tear fell down her cheek, “Please help me… please?”

Papi struggled greatly with her plea. He didn’t know what to do. He didn’t like the way that Sister Mary had treated her, but how could he let her stay on that ship? She was in a lot more danger than he thought she could understand. Even so, what choice did he have? He couldn’t force her back and she did have information on him that could lead to a hangman’s noose.

Defeated, and knowing that Melisande would not give up, he sighed, “If you are absolutely certain that you’ve thought this through… fine. I’ll keep your secret for one voyage and only one! After that, I’m taking you ashore and we’ll find the answers to your past together.”

Melisande looked away as she contemplated his words. Papi watched her think, and knew that he had duties to attend to, “This is the only deal that I’m prepared to make. I’d rather face the gallows than see you at the mercy of these cutthroats. Is it a deal or am I taking you ashore now?”

Melisande looked up and smiled, “I love you Papi, you’re the best. I accept your offer!”

She threw her arms around him and gave him a kiss. Papi pulled away quickly with a nervous look, “Don’t thank me. I’m already regretting this. Keep yourself in check and don’t rouse suspicion!”

“Don’t worry Papi,” she replied, “the guards taught me how to handle a sword. I’ll be fine.”

“I hope so,” Papi replied, “I hope so…”



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Destiny: Divinity’s Finale, Chapter 2

II

 

Melisande spent the next few hours reading from the Bible at her bedside. She also had a small collection of parchment that she enjoyed going through. Her favorite was a small piece about ships at sea and the voyages that man had taken in the last 200 years. She knew all about the discovery of the New World and the colonies that had been established in the area.

More than anything, Melisande wanted to see all of these wondrous places both near and far. She despaired, knowing that such adventure would never happen so long as she was trapped behind the walls of Mont Saint Michel. It was a harsh reality to know that the place she’d called home was little more than a prison to her.

After reading through a few chapters, Melisande got bored and decided to go exploring. She left her room and headed for the main courtyard. She walked out to the main gate where a pair of guards was standing. The sun was just reaching its height overhead and illuminated the beautiful gardens that Melisande had helped plant.

One guard saw her coming and waved to her, “Good morning Melisande!”

She turned her attention to him and smiled. The young guard was only a few years older than her. He had long brown hair that was tied up under his helmet and dark brown eyes. Melisande always thought that he was a decent looking man, just not her type, “Good morning, how are things out here today?”

“Quiet as usual.” The guard replied in almost a whisper.

“You sound almost resentful.” Melisande commented in an inquiring tone. “Not a fan of the peace and quiet?”

The guard’s voice went from quiet to annoyed, “If I was, I would never have joined the military. I had enough peace and quiet on my family’s farm back home.”

Melisande nodded, “I know the feeling, believe me.”

The guard lowered his eyes as a realized that her situation was even worse. While he had some freedom on his farm, she had none in the abbey, “My apologies. I probably have no right complaining.”

The two stood silently for a moment when the guard finally tried to lift her spirit, “So I saw a ship today, a fairly large one too.”

Melisande’s eyes widened, “Really, what kind?”

“Just a carrack,” he replied boastfully, “nothing particularly special, but it had about six cannons on the side that I could see.”

“Six,” Melisande said in disbelief, “was she a warship?”

The guard chuckled, “I highly doubt it. Carracks don’t handle cannon fire very well. Most likely it was just an overprotective merchant who thought that adding a few extra guns would make his ship safer.”

Melisande nodded, “It’s still quite a mystery. What would be a good warship?”

The guard shrugged, “The Spanish rely pretty heavily on caravels and galleons, but I have heard of other navies using a ship called a galleass.”

“What is a galleass,” she asked.

“I’m afraid I don’t know,” he replied, “I’ve only heard of them. They’re ships with massive oars and a ram on the front. It’s sort of a silly design in this day and age if you ask me, but then again, I never was a sailor.”

Melisande nodded, “I wish I could be.”

The guard shrugged with a smile, “Maybe someday you will be.”

She laughed and shook her head, “What, me, a simple kitchen girl? Let’s not be silly.”

“Stranger things have happened.” The guard replied. “Don’t count yourself out so quickly.”

Melisande thought about it for a few moments and smiled, “Well thank you for at least temporarily raising my spirits.”

The guard returned to standing at attention, “Any time.”

Melisande spent the rest of the day wandering the courtyard, imagining that she was a sailor out on a ship far away from the abbey. A slight breeze blew through her hair, making the illusion all the more real for her. She could almost feel the crash of the waves against the wooden hull of the ship so yearned to serve on.

After a few hours, the sound of the waves in the distance and the gulls in the air made it too much for Melisande. She decided that it was best to just return to her room and spend the rest of the evening reading. Without another word to anyone, she disappeared back inside.

The sun set and was quickly replaced with stars. Melisande watched the night sky and attempted to count as many stars she could, even though she knew it would be impossible. One oddity that she had noticed in the sky since she was a child was that there were two stars that always seemed to be in the same place no matter what. They weren’t on any chart and were even visible when the others couldn’t be seen. She could never figure it out, but she had given up trying to a long time ago. Slowly, she began to drift off to sleep under the night sky.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim