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Daughters of Fate (Chapter 16)

The deadliest of weapons is a fear that cuts through the mind like a knife that cuts through the body.  

 Master Daru of The 2nd Circle  

Chapter 16 (18th of Taru-Des in the year 6198) 

An hour after sunrise, Reane stood on the aft deck of the Oracle.  It had been two days since pursuit ships were spotted, and she watched the faint forms. They were still on the horizon.  Her crew had done a superb job keeping The Oracle out of their reach.  Corsair’s cutters had gained ground, but far, far less than they should have.  

The sea was rough and the winter winds had begun to pick up.  The turbulent seas played into the favor of her ship, which was heavier.  Corsair’s smaller, lighter ships were not designed for the chop and froth the ships were currently encountering. 

Reane huddled in her fur cloak, feeling stronger than yesterday.  She waited – waited to see if Corsair would continue to follow.  

A call from the lookout told her that they had traveled further south than she would have liked.    “Telowan Islands dead ahead!”  

Reane smiled.  “Now,” she said to the wind, “we see who is the greater fool.”  

Without a word, Brentai moved to his captain’s side.  “It doesn’t appear that our pursuers believe you will continue on your present course,” he eventually commented.  

“The helmsman has his orders.  We maintain this course until they back off.  If they don’t, we run the straits between the islands and our chances with the Archeons.  If we back down, they will catch us.”  

Rubbing weary eyes, Sheala climbed onto the aft deck.  “So, is anyone going to clue me in here?”  She was given no response as both Brentai and Reane continued to watch the horizon.  

One of the ships started to turn, then another and finally the other two.  Reane let out a sigh of relief.      

“The Telowan Islands don’t appear on most maps,” Reane explained.  “And few people outside of smugglers and sages know they exist.  They are home to the remaining members of an ancient breed of dragons.”  

“The Archeons?”  

Reane nodded.    “They’re not very pleasant creatures.  Cruel, vicious and most primitive.  Absolutely pure rage.  Most people don’t even believe they exist.  If we’re lucky, they’re all still soundly hibernating for the winter.”    Reane decided that it was time for them to turn away as well.  

“Helmsman!”  

“Aye, Captain?”  

“Chart your new course!  Continue south for ten more minutes.  Take us wide of the islands and around the southern end!  Then Northwest to Fimmirra!”  

Cassandra grabbed Corsair by the collar of his shirt.  “What are your men doing?” she exploded, waving frantically as the ship they had been following continued onward.  

Corsair peeled her hand off of him.   He could see the peaks of the first of the Telowan Islands on the horizon.  “They are acting on my orders.  I told them, if the peaks are on the horizon, to turn the ships.”  

Cassandra locked her vision over the starboard rail and watched as The Oracle passed into the distance.   

“Stop them!”  

“No,”   Corsair responded without care for what the general wanted.  

“NO?!”  Cassandra lunged at him but was caught by a pair of rather large sailors who wrestled her back.   “You can’t let them go now!”  

Corsair turned away from her as a third sailor removed Cassandra’s weapons.  “I’ll do as I please aboard my ship.”  

Cassandra struggled to free herself but was more than overmatched.    “If she doesn’t calm down,” he ordered, “throw her in the hold with the cargo until we return to port.”  

“You can’t do this!”   

“I can.  And I will.  Be thankful that I don’t handle like I’d handle a mutineer.  I should just let the sharks deal with you.  But I don’t want to incur Lord Hedric’s wrath.”   He turned his back to her.    “Although I hear that he might not be so upset to learn of your death.”    

“I’ll get you for this!”   Cassandra snarled.  

“Take her to the hold,” Corsair ordered, having grown tired of this argument.  

“Aye, sir,” one of the sailors responded and the two began to drag off the Sub-general, kicking and screaming with boiling over anger all the way.  Even as they disappeared below deck, he could still hear her cursing his name.  

Corsair took one last look at the peaks of the islands he was desperate to avoid.  The seas were growing rougher and he saw a flash of lightning to the east.  Then he heard the distant crack of thunder.  Captain Corsair wanted to put distance not only between his ships and those cursed islands, but also the storm his bones told him was quickly approaching.  

“We’ve got a problem!” Brentai held onto the railing as he yelled.  A stiff wind whipped across the deck as sailors rushed to lower the sails, lest they be torn to shreds.  

“Reane!”  Sheala held onto him for dear life as she felt the wind trying to push her across the deck.  “Where’d this wind come from?”  

The Oracle had adjusted course not long ago. The plan had been to pull back to the east and sail around the southern end of the islands. Ostensively staying out of harm’s way in the process. As they began to sail for the eastern coast of the easternmost island the weather began turning. That’s when the sky grew dark and anyone who knew anything about the sea began to get nervous.

“I don’t know,” Brentai called out over the wind, “but we’re dead in the water!”  Even shouting, he could barely be heard.  Waves began to crash against the hull with such force that the ship pitched with a violent thrust.  “Sheala, get below!”  

“I’m not going anywhere without you!”  

“Damn it!  We’ve got to secure the rigging.  Otherwise, we’ll be stranded!  Now get below!”  

Reane inched her way along the railing, struggling to fight off the wind.    “Sheala, listen to him!  You’re not any use to us on deck!  You’re just in the way!”    

Reane braced herself as the top of a wave crashed over the deck and torrents of rain began to fall.      

“Reane,” Brentai warned, “the currents will take us right towards the islands!  If we lose those sails we’re as good as dead!”  

Reane looked about at her crew as they tried in desperation to secure the ship to ride out this storm.  They were having a rough time but were making some progress.    

“Get below!” Reana ordered.  “And take her with you!”  

Brentai grabbed a hold of Sheala by her wet clothes and dragged her along behind him towards the stairs leading below.  He literally threw her down the stairs before turning to walk back out on the deck as the rains began to pound the ship even harder.  

“Where are you going?”  Sheala hollered.  

“Back to get Reane!  She didn’t follow us!  I’ve got to get her!”  

“Brentai!  She can take care of herself!  Now get down here!  Brentai!”  

He ignored her as she watched him stumble away into the violent mist.  About a minute later he reappeared with Reane draped over one arm and another sailor hanging on the other.  Reane coughed the water out of her lungs as Brentai carried the two below deck.  He was followed by many other drenched and shivering sailors.  

Reane drew her soaked hair from in front of her face as she finished evacuating the rest of the water she had swallowed.   “Brentai,” a coughing fit interrupted her, “I told you to get below.”  

He opened the first door he came to; an unused, small cabin with a pair of bunks in it.  He helped Reane inside as he let the other sailor he had helped leave under his own power.  He then helped Reane lay down on the lower bed. 

“Sorry, Captain, not as luxurious as your private cabin,” Brentai mock-apologized. 

“It’s fine.  I told you to get below.”  

“As First Mate, it is my duty to see to the safety of the Captain.    Her lips were blue from the chill and he turned to Sheala who was following them in.  “Sheala, fetch a blanket.”  

Sheala did as she was told, opening a locker at the foot of the bed and retrieving a blanket that looked like it hadn’t seen the light of day in years.  

Reane was wracked with chills. Wrapping the dusty blanket around his captain, who was too cold to protest his actions any further, Brentai tried to make her comfortable.  She pulled it tight.    “Are the sails down and the anchor set?”  

“Aye.  As best we can do.” 

“Then you two had better get dried off.  These winter storms can last for days,” she spoke through quivering lips.  

Sheala eyed her friend.   “You sure you’re okay?”   

“I’ll be fine.  I’ll get back to my own cabin as soon as this weather lets up a bit.”  

“C’mon, Sheala,”  Brentai placed a firm grip on Sheala’s shoulder.    “I’ll walk you to your cabin.”  

Sheala was unimpressed with Reane’s sincerity.  “You sure you’re-”   

*Just go,* Reane answered her mentally.  

Brentai started to pull her out of the cabin.  “Come on.”  

As they walked down the corridor and away from Reane’s temporary chambers, the howling wind seemed to grow in intensity.  Although the rough pitching of the ship smoothed out.    

The two stopped in front of the door to Sheala’s berth five doors down.   “You know,”  Sheala spoke as she threw her arms about Brentai’s neck, “I think that was rather brave of you.  The way you rushed out into the storm to rescue Reane like that.”  

She had a twinkle in her eye that Brentai recognized.  And would normally have enjoyed.  However, his mind was on more important things.  He peeled her arms from around him.   “I have to make sure the ship is secured.”  

Sheala frowned at the way he shunned her advances.  

“Don’t look at me like that,” he complained.  “I have responsibilities.” 

“And I have needs!”  

“Sheala-”  

“Fine.”   She turned and threw open the door to her cabin.  Then she slammed the door in his face and leaned her back against it.  After a few moments, she heard him walk away.   “Responsibilities indeed,” she huffed, planting the heel of her boot into the door as she pushed away.  

Pulling her rain-soaked shirt over her head, Sheila discarded it into the corner.  Opening her dresser, she retrieved an over-sized and heavy shirt, throwing it on over her soaked hair.  

Plopping down on the corner of her bed, she yanked off her boots.  It took a while to remove them, but she eventually got them off.  She tossed them over with her shirt and laid back on the mattress.  

Turning her head, she noticed the small silver pendant resting on her dresser as rain beat on the small window that looked out across the sea.  It reminded her of too many things; none of which were pleasant. 

It had been a long time since she had even worn it.  Snatching it up, she undid the clasp.  Placing it about her neck, the cold metal against her skin and the sound of rain brought back memories of the night Cassandra had left her in that festering wagon. 

A sound in the hall outside her door drew her attention.  She thought, and hoped, that it would be Brentai returning.  It had been a long time since the two of them had spent any time together.  

Sheala shook her head.    “You’re starting to become just like Reane, Brentai,” she muttered to herself.    “Detached from the world and taking your duty as First Mate way too seriously.  And most disgustingly, predictable.  You’re just not the same.”  

Then came the knock at her door.  It was muffled by the sounds of the storm.    “Go away, Brentai!  You had your chance!”  

Again, the knocking came.  

She stomped her foot and raced over to the door, throwing it open.  “What?”   

Anthony, standing in the hall, was so startled by her anger that he took two steps back.  “I – I’m sorry.  Perhaps I should come back later.”   

Sheala sighed.   “No,” she sighed with a hushed voice.    “I’m just not feeling very social right now.  What do you want?”  

“Well – I – I was wondering about Captain Matir.  What’s up with her?  I mean, when we were down in the hold -”  

Sheala reached out and cut off his words as she pulled him into her cabin.  She shut and latched the door.    “Listen, there’s a lot of things you don’t know about Reane.”  

“I realize that.  I noticed that the two of you seem to be rather good friends and I didn’t want to just ask her.”  

Sheala paced into the room, but not before making sure that she couldn’t hear anyone in the hallway.  “It’s a rather long story.  You should just be happy that she decided to take you where you want to go and leave it at that.”  

“I don’t like mysteries.”  

“Neither does Reane.”  

“I will pay for information.”  

The prospect of picking up a little coin on the side was intriguing to Sheala.  But she knew better in this instance.  “Don’t go poking your nose where it doesn’t belong.  You want to know about Reane?  You talk to her.  I’m not going to incur her wrath for telling you things she doesn’t want you to know.” That was then she noticed the way Anthony had started to stare at her.  “What?”  

Anthony was shocked out of his dazed state.  “I – I’m sorry.  But – have you and I met before?  I mean before that day when I hired Reane.”  There was something in Sheala that seemed familiar to him.  Something in her face that seemed like he’d known this woman from some other time and place.  

“Nope,” Sheala was short with him. “Never seen you before in my life, bud.  Not before that day.  And believe me when I say that I rue that day.” 

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