7th Sea Fiction
By Dana DeVries and Vicki Kirchhoff-Martin
The tall Avalon Explorer Jacob Faust pushed his way through the thick underbrush and stared into the dark cave before him. Darkness had brought no relief from the tropical heat and sweat covered his bald scalp and its deep scars. His thick clothing had protected his arms and legs from scratches but only increased the effect of the temperature. He glanced around at the group which had preceded him. Young Maggie Malone stood to one side with a curiously blank expression beneath her tousled red hair, obviously seeing nothing of interest here. The other redhead, Captain Cossette, stood proudly but with concern in her eyes when she saw him hesitating. The third person was watching the captain with a smug expression of triumph that instantly dropped when Cossette’s gaze turned back to him. He turned to greet the newcomer and his mouth dropped open in familiar horror for a moment.
Jacob felt his own face freeze into cold disdain and heard his voice say, “That’s right, Warren. You haven’t really seen me since you ordered me to investigate the Isle of Thalusia.” He knew that in tense moments like this, his bald scalp grew red and the pale scars showed up even more clearly. He did not care.
Warren Abbotsford swallowed hard and then nodded. Brushing his long blonde hair back from his face, he stepped forward and extended a hand to Jacob. “No. I should have, but I didn’t think you’d care to see me. I’m…I’m sorry.”
Jacob ignored Warren’s hand and said to Cossette. “Warren Abbotsford was the first mate on the Intrepid when we first discovered the Thalusians. When we didn’t return within a few hours, he ordered another landing party. They didn’t even make it off the beach before the insects drove them off. Warren declared us lost and set sail for the next island, hoping to find less resistance.”
Cossette nodded and quietly asked, “Where was the ship’s captain?”
Abbotsford turned towards her and found his voice again. “The captain was laid low with a fever. Mr. Faust is correct. The orders were mine. I regretfully took the course that I thought was best for the mission. After the second landing party was driven off, I didn’t think there were any survivors from the first party.”
Jacob stepped up beside Abbotsford and hissed into his ear. “I survived. I walked out of that damned jungle with blood pouring from bites and gouges over almost every inch of my body. The scars on my scalp are just the most obvious.”
Warren did not step away, so he could not turn without touching the enraged Explorer. “I had to think of the rest of the expedition. I was relieved to hear that McCormick picked you up.” Shaking his head slightly, he continued. “I didn’t know you were with Cossette. I’ll leave.”
“No.” Cossette’s voice was clear and sharp. “Your messenger said that Berek attacked you. Where? How did you escape?”
Abbotsford cleared his throat. “He struck us two days back east by northeast of here. He may have captured our porte mage back in Carleon because he has not returned for several days and when the Sea Dogs attacked, they carefully tacked around to hit us on our starboard side. The side where a storm had damaged the gun deck. The gunner did not think we would even be able to fire a single volley without the ship cracking in half. Luckily, he was wrong and they retreated after the volley, perhaps thinking that they had crippled us. I came here to join up with you, thinking that there was safety in numbers and to restock supplies. We’re very low on fresh water.”
Cossette frowned. “We knew there was danger out here. That’s why we agreed to sail separately. So one disaster wouldn’t destroy more than one ship. However, if Berek is behind the troubles we have both been having, perhaps you are right. Perhaps it is best if we stay together.”
Abbotsford shook his head. “No. I see that…I was wrong. We will leave as soon as we have resupplied. My men found a fresh spring near the shore.”
Maggie and Jacob remained silent as the Cossette attempted to dissuade her fellow Captain, but he had made up his mind and quickly left. Cossette frowned prettily and turned to her head scout. “I know you don’t like him, but both of our ships might have been better off together.”
Jacob loudly declared, “No. Abbotsford is a snake. Teaming up with him is like putting your hand into a python’s mouth and hoping it won’t decide to take a bite.”
Maggie shrugged. “Don’t know. Seemed like a nice enough guy, but I can see why you’d be bitter about being left for dead.”
The captain stood thoughtfully for a moment and then put the thought out of her mind. “Anyway, the men did find something interesting on this island. Let me show you.”
The two crewmen followed her into the dark cave. A guttering lamp sat on the floor of the cave and cast a dim light over a strange block of stone, measuring two feet wide, four feet tall and eight feet long. Cossette grabbed a small twig from the ground and used to light a second lantern. Turning back, she found the other two Explorers staring about them. Jacob was the first to speak. “I recognize the block of course. It is the same shape as the ones on the island of Syrne. And that looks familiar too.” His hand pointed towards a small black and white checkerboard hovering in the air above the block. The checkerboard resembled a Squares board, but had only four squares on each side and all 4 pieces on it were black. Turning to Maggie, he began to ask, “Any of this help…”
The short redhead was floating several inches off the ground and staring blankly at the wall behind the large stone block. She opened her mouth and a gravely voice echoed out softly. “All gone. They are all gone. I am the only one left.”
Cossette stepped up to the girl and reached out to touch her, but something unseen blocked her hand a few inches away. “Who is gone? What do you see?”
“See?” A humourless chuckle rattled out of the topman’s throat. “You don’t see, do you? Look.” Maggie’s eyes glanced around the room for a moment and focused upon the cutlass at Jacob’s side. Without a sound, it slid from his belt and drifted towards the block. A shudder passed through Maggie and the sword simply shattered. Each piece breaking apart until only a thick cloud of dust hung in the air above the block. As the Explorers watched, the dust gently drifted towards the blank wall and coalesced into patterns. Within seconds, glyphs and pictographs were visible across the entire wall. Then the symbols faded from sight and the dust settled to the ground.
The young top man turned back towards them and the incongruously gravely voice emerged again, “Now do you see? Now do you understand? I am alone.”
As Jacob fumbled a piece of parchment out of his pouch and quickly scrawled as much of the glyphs as he could remember, Cossette asked, “Maggie, are you still in there?”
“She is…sleeping. Two minds cannot coexist within the body. For me to speak, she must be…quieted. She will be fine.”
“So you are a second…mind? Another person? Where did you come from? Why Maggie?”
“I was one of a proud race, a guardian of my people. When death came for us, I held back to face it while the others fled. However, I could not let go easily. As I lay dying, I channeled my mind into the…you would call it machinery. I bound myself into the place where I had died. And so, I waited as days turned into years and years into decades. I dreamed away centuries. Until the one you called Maggie arrived. She had landed on my island by accident and when her wandering took her to the place where I lay, I seized her. I had thought to strip her mind away and put my own within her body, but her will was too strong. I found myself trapped. Unable to leave, but unable to take control of the body. For long…moments we struggled. Then others of her kind freed her, but I could not free myself. I could only ride within her, silent and unseen, only able to exert my powers occasionally. It takes all the strength I have marshalled for years to control her body this long. And for only one purpose. I must be freed. There is a way for the two of us to be separated.”
Cossette nodded. “That’s all she wants too. To be simply human again.”
Maggie’s body snorted. “Simply human. The means lies to the north. Perhaps five days sail. There is an island there. I can feel it. Two of your miles wide. In the centre of the island, on top of the tallest hill, lies a slab of rock. Beneath it lays a pool. The waters of the pool will free us of our torment. One sip and it will be as before. Maggie will know what direction to take. I…am slipping. Our fates are up to you.” Maggie suddenly stopped moving and then collapsed, crumpling to the ground.
Cossette dropped to her knees beside her still form and stroked her hair gently back from her face. “You can trust me, Maggie. I will find a way to free you.”
Hidden from sight, outside the cave entrance, Warren Abbotsford silently nodded and grinned in satisfaction. Then he turned away and slipped into the jungle towards his ship.
After he had left, a young woman rolled from beneath the thick bush she had lain beneath for several long moments. She frowned down at several stains on her shirt and then cast a dirty glare at the brightly coloured bird that had happily nested above her hiding spot and then she disappeared into the jungle. The other ships had not yet spotted the Black Dawn and the Sea Dogs would need to be far out to sea before the first rays of daylight to avoid discovery.
*** Brought to you by Swash Buckling Adventures ***