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Daughters of Fate(Chapter 14)

The future is blind beyond our lives. Darkness tells us that our end is near. And I see nothing beyond the next week. 

-Journal of Denera Matir 

Chapter 14 (14th of Taru-Des in the year 6198) 

Brentai assisted Reane over the railing and onto the deck of The Oracle.  

“Prepare to set sail,” her blunt command blared to her crew.  Turning to her First Mate she added, “We’ve got trouble.  Big trouble.”  

With a quizzical look, Brentai informed his Captain, “But we’re still short on crew.”  

“Can’t worry about that.” She looked about the main deck and the fewer than normal men moving about. “We’ll just have to make do with the men we have and leave the rest behind.”  

“Well, do you mind cluing me in on the sudden rush?”   

“It appears Lord Hedric has a preexisting interest in our passenger after all.”  

“Sounds like there were already a few Imperial entanglements.  We should just leave him to the authorities.”    

“I’ve never backed out on a deal before.  Damned if I’m going to start now.  I have a reputation to keep.”   

“What good’s a reputation if you’re dead?”  

The lookout called from the crow’s nest, “Captain!  Lubber approaching!”  

Reane turned to look over the railing at Anthony as he traveled the remaining yards to the ship’s ladder.  He looked up and back at her.    

“Captain?”  

“Get on board!” she ordered.  We don’t have much time!” She turned back to Brentai.  “We’ll wait as long as we can for Sheala, but I won’t put this ship in any more danger than I have to.”  

A grunt of strain accompanied Anthony as he climbed on to the deck with an over-packed satchel he carried on his shoulder.  He took a second to look around before joining the First Mate and Reane.  

“The man you sent for me said you were in a hurry?”    

Reane ignored him and kept talking.  “Bentai, how long to get the sails primed and get underway?”   

“With the crew we have?  Twice as long as usual.”  

“Sheala’s got that long to get her fashionably late ass on board this ship.”  

“Is Sheala in trouble?”  

“We all are if we don’t get out of here before any those troops poking around town arrive.  Now, do as I say.  Sheala can take care of herself.  Our duty is to this ship, its crew, and our paying passenger.”   

“Aye, Captain.”  

It was obvious that Brentai didn’t like those words.  Reane didn’t care.  

“Tiger on the Prowl!” the call came from the lookout as he spotted danger.  

Reane raced over to the railing again and watched as three soldiers on horseback trotted out onto the far end of the pier. “Well, damn,” She cursed and turned, grabbing Anthony by the arm. “Come on.  We’re getting below deck. You,” she pointed a stern finger at Brentai, “get those sails ready.”  

He started to protest, “There’s no time-”  

“Get them ready.  And keep those soldiers off my ship! I’ll take care of getting us out to sea.”  

“Reane, the docking propellers aren’t wound.”  

“Not what I had in mind anyway,” she shrugged off his complaint.  

“What?  No.  The Oracle’s too big for you.”   

“I know what I’m doing.”  

A woman’s voice interrupted their argument from the docks below.  To Brentai’s ears, it sounded vaguely like Sheala, but there was an angry tinge to it that made it distinct.  “Captain Matir!  This is Sub-general Nightwing of The Imperial Army!”  

“Stall her,” Reane issued her final command before she headed for the stairs leading below deck, dragging Anthony behind her.  

“Captain Matir!” The person identifying herself as a Sub-general in Lord Hedric’s army called again.  “Captain Reane Matir!”   

Brentai hurried to the side of the ship.  He looked down to the dock and the red-haired woman barking out the name of his captain.  

He hesitated for a moment.  Denoting the remarkable similarities to Sheala that extended beyond the voice alone.  “Greetings, Sub-general!”  he called back in as friendly a voice as he could muster.  

“Where is your captain?”   

“Why, right here!  I’m captain of this ship!” 

Reane herded Anthony down a small hatch in the bowls of The Oracle.  “Hurry up,” she warned.  “You’re too slow for my liking.”  

She started to gather some thoughts from the mind of a woman she had never met before.  A woman standing on the deck her ship despite her expressed order to keep those soldiers off it.  But she decided to lock them away and sort them out later.  And also to discuss with Brentai his lack of ability to follow through on her wishes.  

Reane followed Anthony below.  She pulled shut the trap door, descending the ladder into darkness.  

Anthony stood in the pitch blackness.  “So?  We just supposed to sit here in the dark or what?”    

“That’s the plan.”  Reane reached out and found the oil lantern hanging on the wall. She moved the small striker with her thumb and quickly brought light to the long compartment barely six feet high.  “I use this hold for smuggling.  So we’ll just sit tight here until we’re out to sea.”  

Anthony sat on a large bolt of silk resting on the floor.  There were several other bolts of varying colors and patterns about the hold too.  “How are we going to get out to sea? The soldiers are already here.  And I heard your First Mate say the dockers aren’t even primed?”  

“Only three soldiers,” Reane reminded him as she set the lantern down on the floor. “I told you that I’d get us out to sea.”   

Reane closed her eyes and held out her arms.  

Anthony watched, wondering.  “How are you going to do that from down here?”  

Reane opened her eyes and rolled them at him. “Just be quiet so I can concentrate.”  

Closing her eyes again, Reane focused her mind on The Oracle, envisioning the immense wooden hull.  Getting her mind wrapped around it was the tough enough.  But the strain she felt as she fought to gain control of the ship itself was nearly unbearable.  

“What are you doing?!” Anthony cried out as the ship lurched.  

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“By the Fates!” Sub-general Nightwing exclaimed as the deck of the Oracle jumped under her feet.  “What’s happening?”  

The motion threw her into the railing.  

“We must have broken free!” Brentai exclaimed as he too braced himself against the sudden movement.  

The Sub-general stood uneasily and brought her sword into her right hand.  The green of her eyes flashed with rage.  Brentai focused on the Imperial crest etched on the bracer she wore to protect her sword arm.  

“What do you take me for?” the Sub-general’s anger pulsated as she spoke, “A fool?  I’ll have you and your crew arrested!”      

The medallion about her neck flared with sudden warmth.  It was warmth that she had not sensed in nearly sixteen years.  “What the -”   

A fist to her jaw cut off her words and sent her stumbling.  She tried to catch the railing, but her grip slipped and she tumbled over the side and crashed into the icy salt water…  

Sheala shook her hand, trying in vain to ease the pain now coursing through her knuckles. “Ow,” she moaned.  “I hope you and that woman didn’t have anything important to discuss.”  

Brentai again took a second to realize how similar Sheala looked to the woman that had just been standing before him.  Aside from the anger in her voice and a slightly different way of carrying herself? Brentai swore for a second that Sheala and that Sub-general Nightwing might have been the same person.  

“Glad you could make it,” Brentai beamed, regaining his thoughts.  

“Glad to see you were going to wait for me.  Not like getting by those two soldiers on the dock wasn’t hard enough.  But chasing down a moving ship and trying to catch the ladder at the same time?”  The sails on The Oracle’s main mast were being drawn up.  Under partial sail, they caught the wind and the speed of the ship increased.  “Where’s Reane?”  

“She’s below, with the passenger.  Probably hiding in the Smuggler’s Hold.”  He watched as Sheala continued to shake her hand, trying to will away the pain.  “Still a better lover than a fighter, eh?”  Drawing her close to him, he kissed her.  

“Don’t you know it.  I guess we should get below and get those two out of the hold.  Reane hasn’t been alone with a man for a while. I wouldn’t want her to do anything she’d regret.  Come on, let’s go.”  

“Maybe we should just leave the two of them alone,”  Brentai chuckled.  The two of them headed for the stairs leading below deck.  “They came come up on their own.”  

“No way.  I want to talk to Reane about dropping me off in Nevra on the way to Fimmirra.”  Sheala grabbed hold of the rope running along the stairs for balance.  “I really don’t want to go those damn islands.”   

“Don’t you think you are being just a little ridiculous about this whole thing?”  

Sheala flashed an angry stare at him.  The gaze eerily reminded him of the look in Sub-general Nightwing’s eyes. “No. I don’t.”      

Her blunt words were all that he needed to hear to know to drop the discussion.  

Sheala followed the passage until it came to another set of stairs. She went down them, followed by Brentai.  Kneeling, she felt for a small gap between two of the planks and pulled up the trap door.  

“Thank the Greater Goddess!” Anthony called. “She just collapsed!”   

Sheala saw Reane sprawled on the floor and Anthony kneeling over her.  

“Damn,” Sheala swung herself onto the ladder and started to hurry down into the compartment.  She looked back up to Brentai who was preparing to follow her. “NO!” she ordered, “Go get Quin!”   

Brentai was starting down the ladder himself but stopped as Sheala spoke.  “Right.” He moved back up the ladder and disappeared.  

Pushing Anthony aside, Sheala knelt over Reane as she started to groan and move.  “Easy,” the thief warned as Reane tried to sit herself up.  

“Are we safe?”   Reane asked as she heard Brentai’s footsteps hurry away above her.  Her voice was weak.  

“Yeah, we probably should be under full sail by now.”   

Reane smiled. “Good.”  

There were a hundred stray thoughts running through Reane’s mind.  She found it impossible to maintain the barriers that normally protected her from the outside world.  Gripping her head, she fought against several thoughts from the mind of Sub-general Nightwing that jumped to the front of her consciousness.  The stress of them being there felt like a rope tightening around Reane’s forehead.  

Visions of a carriage in the woods and two bodies lying on the ground.  She saw a young child, Sheala hovering over the body of one man – her father.  

“It can’t be,”  Reane groaned.  

“What?”  Sheala asked.  

Anthony intruded, “Excuse me.  But what’s going on?”   

Sheala forced Reane to lay back down, her head propped up by a bolt of fabric.  “Why don’t you go up on deck and see what’s keeping Brentai?” she snapped at him.  

Anthony started to reply but decided not to.  He left without another word.  

The two women waited until they heard his steps faded away just as Brentai’s had.  Sheala shook her head.  “What did you see, Reane?  I know that look.”   

“Nothing.”  Reane grimaced, lying.  “Just too many thoughts.  I’m fine now.”  

“Really Reane, you shouldn’t exert yourself so much.”  

“Now you’re starting to sound like Brentai.  Get me back to my cabin.  I need to rest.”    

<< Back to Chapter 13 | To be continued ….

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