Copyright (c) 2016 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
SISTERS OF THE SEA
By R. Peterson
Loretta DuPont and the other crew members of the Sea Witch opened their eyes to a ferocious battle going on all around them. Osyok and the Πορθείς fought viciously with three pronged spears to drive the Kreons back into the water. A cloud of inky darkness, that had rendered the crew members unconscious, rose into the air above the bloody and mangled beach. A lone female appeared behind Polly, in one of the wheeled barrels filled with water that the Πορθείς used to travel on land, as Loretta and the others slowly got to their feet. “The Kreons use a chemical to knock out their enemies on land much like a squid uses ink to escape,” the woman explained. She held two infant Πορθείς in her arms each no larger than newborn humans and wrapped in dripping blanket-like sponges that covered their squirming tails. “Take these children to safety,” she pleaded as she handed one to Loretta and one to Maggie. “Wave and Ripple are almost all that remains of our people now … they will grow rapidly … and they must survive.”
“I’ve never deserted a friend in a fight yet and I won’t now!” Polly vowed as she lunged towards the water with a gully in her hand. The Πορθείς fought with amazing strength and resolve but slowly, one by one they were being overwhelmed by the legions of dark crab-like attackers. The female Πορθείς pulled the dagger wielding Polly back even as she lifted her own trident from the barrel. “Our people cannot defeat the Kreons,” she said. “All creatures in this world have a purpose in life … and in death. Ours is to die so that our children can live. I, Klenna, am depending on you to help us; if you don’t, the known part of our species will be lost forever.”
Another cannon ball, fired by the shipwrecked survivor who proclaimed himself King Henry who was now aboard the anchored ship, exploded in the sand between the crew and Klenna as she rolled toward the fighting. “Mama!” the infant in Maggie’s arms cried as her mother dove into the gory water.
A bloody Klenna surfaced a moment later as the Kreons attacked her from two sides. “Run … and I love you!” she screamed.
The forty-four women, now branded as criminals and pirates by almost all the male dominated governments of Europe, turned and fled into the steaming jungle. Behind them the cannon fire and sounds of death slowly dispelled as the mermaid-like babies in their arms cried out in hopeless anguish and despair.
“Which way do we go?” Polly panted at the edge of a waterfall overlooking a mist covered valley. The path the group followed now split in two directions one zigzagged higher into the mountains and one descended into the jungle. “There!” the infant in Loretta’s arms pointed to the water plunging over the rocks and dropping at least a hundred feet into a river far below.
“That’s crazy!” Alison Drescher moaned peering over the edge and frantically clutching the branch of an overhanging mango tree as if she were already falling. “If we don’t die of fright on the way down, boulder-sized rocks, probably just under the surface at the bottom, will grind us up like berries between a mortar and pestle.”
“My sister, Ripple, is right,” the infant Maggie carried, squirmed his head and arms out from under his wet sponge blanket. “The only way to escape the Kreons is to go over the edge.”
“You speak our language awfully well for being almost newborns,” Loretta said studying both fish-tailed infants. The babies now children seemed to grow a year in size for each passing hour.
“We begin our learning while inside the womb as all babies do,” Ripple explained. “The only difference is that our mothers know this and talk to us continually as if we were already creatures capable of communicating. By the time Wave and I were born, after a 936 week gestation period, or eighteen years inside the womb, we already know much about our undersea society and also the world of land dwellers. All that remains is for us to enlarge which can happen in as little as a day.”
“Do you know what happens to people when they jump off from a cliff as high as a ten story building and land on rocks?” Polly stood next to Alison and gasped as she looked down. She grasped the same branch for reassurance.
“We will be pulled into a kind of hidden cave by a φάλαινα before we ever reach the river rocks,” Ripple assured them. She glanced up at the sun. “I’m almost sure this is feeding time.”
“What is an φάλαινα and what exactly does it eat?” When Loretta tried to pronounce the name it sounded like she was blowing bubbles.
The furious cries and snapping sounds of legions of Kreons charging up the trail behind them caused all the women to glance back in fear.
“There is no time to explain,” Wave said. “Over the edge we must go!”
Polly left the edge of the cliff and walked between the crowd of women grinning and holding her nose. “We are all beginning to smell a little ripe,” she said. “I think it’s time for a bath.” With a running start she leaped over the edge. Polly’s screams were still receding as Alison shook her head. “Leave it to Polly to decide for everyone.” An instant later she jumped and the rest of the women followed.
Polly was just a speck below them when what looked like the head of an enormous fish darted from the falling water and swallowed her just before she reached the bottom.
“What the hell was that?” Fiorella’s voice boomed over the falling women’s screams.
“An φάλαινα!” Ripple smiled. “I was afraid it wasn’t going to be there.”
Seconds later the huge bluish grey monster lurched forward again and opened a mouth as big as a barn. All forty three screaming women were caught by a massive rolling tongue and sucked beneath hundreds of downward dropping baleen plates. And then there was only the flopping sounds of fish, cursing, weeping in the darkness and women thrashing in a rich soup of plankton who believed that life on the seas … truly had come to an end.
Endless minutes later the huge mouth opened partway and the women were forced against the straining fibers as the whale ejected the salt water. Then the mouth opened wide showing dim light reflecting on the surface of a pool inside a large cavern. “The φάλαινα will give us one chance to escape before he swallows,” Wave said. “I suggest we take it.” The women wasted no time scrambling from the mouth of the huge creature. Wave and Ripple both demanded to be released into the water.
“The φάλαινα was once a land animal the same as the dolphins,” Ripple explained as they swam toward a rocky shoreline along one side of the cave. “This particular creature is old and prefers to have the fish and krill come to it, rather than exhausting itself swimming in search of food.”
“How did an ocean-going creature that large get so far inland?” Loretta asked.
“We are now at sea level and these passages reach into the sea at high tide,” Wave said pointing toward a series of connected chambers disappearing in the darkness. “I’m almost certain that neither the Kreons nor King Henry the Eighth know anything about these caves. We should be safe for now!”
“The only thing that fat bilge-rat is king of is feeding his face and filling-up chamber pots,” Polly gasped as she flopped exhausted on the rocky shore.
“What do we do now?” All eyes looked to Loretta wading out of the water.
“Right now we need to find materials to build a fire,” she said. “I feel night coming on and we’ll need the light,” She shivered, “and the warmth.”
As their eyes adjusted to the dark, ample piles of dry seaweed and driftwood appeared on the rocks from higher tides.
Polly was already peeling off her clothes. “I was serious about bathing,” she said. “We all smell like a leaking barrel of Spanish brine sardines left open in the summer sun for a fortnight.”
She dove naked into the water where Ripple and Wave were already swimming near the cave entrance and bringing back sudsy handfuls of what appeared to be bulbs from Amole soap plants. The other women gave experimental sniffs of their armpits, … laughed and quickly followed.
Alison recounted with laughter how the crew members had rescued Penny, Polly and Loretta from the gallows on Barbados. After she explained how they were captured inside the Blue Parrot Tavern in Saint Michael the group was suddenly quiet as they dried themselves next to a crackling fire. Polly glanced toward the mermaid Ripple, barely in the water next to the shore, listening with rapt attention. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Sometimes we forget that you and your brother have had a terrible loss this day.”
“Our people believe that death is just a new beginning,” Ripple said. “Besides I do all my crying underwater. Did you know that the ocean is nothing more than a stone reservoir to hold a sea of tears? A catch pool for a world filled with endless grief and sorrow.”
“When you look at it that way,” Penny turned a gutted fish on a stick as she held it over the flames. “What hope is there for any of us?”
“The world is in balance,” Ripple said. “Good and bad always appear at the same time as does light and dark. When you feel bad you must always look for the good. It is often hiding … but as sure to be there as any sunrise.”
Wave had just swam in from the other side of the waterfall. His hands were full of fruit and berries. “The Kreons have returned to the lagoon, probably to the sea by now. They can stay out of the water only for a short time.” He sensed the sadness from the women, smiled and began to sing. After the first verse, Ripple, then all of the women pirates joined in.
A SEA OF TEARS
A sea of tears says more than words, speaks louder than a yell.
Tiding after lifetime’s loss, to wash those we loved …who fell.
Conceived in brine is nature’s way, of returning to the sea.
Without our wombs to guide us home, how heartless we would be.
The oceans are our sorrows, water grave-fields dark and deep.
While in the sky a sunlight glows, a promise made to keep.
For every sailor drowned below, for fishes pulled above.
A sea of tears flows endless on, to balance hope and love.
The march of years, the creak of bones like dry and empty well.
Indifferent are the rains we buy, to wash off those who fell.
But mourning, grief and sorrow, must lead you to the sea.
Without our tombs to guide us home, how heartless we would be.
The oceans are tomorrows, our wet-fields dark and deep.
While in the sky a promise grows, a flower there to reap.
For every ship pulled down below, for whales speared up above.
A sea of tears flows endless on, to balance hope and love.
Alana Brennan, who had ran away from an abusive husband in Ireland before she was captured by Mick Moon and sold into slavery, couldn’t pry her eyes off from the mer-child who was quickly becoming a man. She softly repeated every word Wave spoke and laughed when he did. Most of the rest of the crew were sleepy and huddled together by the fire for warmth.
“We will stay here tonight and tomorrow and regain our strength,” Loretta said as she finished eating a fish and threw her stick in the fire, “and in the morning of the next day we will pay a visit to King Henry’s court.”
A giggling Alana sat next to the water talking to Wave long after everyone else had fallen asleep.
Wave and Ripple led the crew members through the water filled caverns and by mid-morning they were hidden by the shore watching King Henry transport jewels and precious metals to the Sea Witch from an overfilled Jolly Boat. A half dozen Kreons helped hoist the heavy loot aboard the ship.
“He must have half the Spanish treasure stolen from the New World stowed in our hull!” Alison gasped at the water line almost reaching the gun ports.
“Probably more,” Ripple said. “For centuries the Πορθείς have recovered finely crafted items from ship wrecks on the ocean floor and brought them here as a way to study your land civilizations. There is a large hidden cave on the far side of the lagoon filled almost to the ceiling with that soft yellow metal.”
“We have to stop him!” Polly cried. “If this unwashed barnacle returns to England with our ship and all this gold he might actually become a real King Henry!”
“It won’t be easy,’ Wave said. ‘I believe most of our enemies allies have returned to the sea, and we should be able to swim under water and surprise Henry and his handful of Kreons but one obstacle still remains.” Loretta and her crew stared as a single crocodile-like monster, half the length of the Sea Witch swam in slow circles around the anchored ship.
“What will we do?” Alison shivered as she stared at the plow share sized teeth gaping from the long crooked mouth.
“Slip aboard your ship after I lead the monster away!” Wave was already holding a trident with one hand and testing the spear points with the other.
“You can’t do that! You’ll be killed!” Alana almost dove in the water.
“The beast is fast … but I’m much quicker,” Wave assured her. “As soon as you see me leading the creature out to sea, have your crew members use οξυγόνο to breathe under water and steal aboard the ship!”
“What is οξυγόνο?” Loretta was amazed that Wave and Ripple who were but infants the day before seemed to have grown into adults so quickly. She would have to talk to Ripple about wearing a tight-fitting green shirt to cover her now large, round and very ample breasts. They wanted to kill their enemies … not torture them.
“It’s a flower that when placed in your mouth produces an abundance of oxygen, even after it’s been picked,” Ripple said. “She pointed to fist-sized pink blossoms scattered along the shoreline.
“There must be another way!” Alana risked being seen by wading into the water and clutching Wave by the arm.
Maggie waved a card from the shoreline and guaranteed Alana. “Do not fear. I consulted the cards after you two seemed to be inseparable last night. You are destined to be together forever!”
With the fortune teller’s assurance, Alana put one of the flowers in her mouth and watched as Wave swam fearlessly toward the monster.
It was working. By the time Wave disappeared into the ocean with the giant crocodile racing behind him, Loretta and her crew were already climbing the anchor chain onto the ship.
King Henry had decided to stop for lunch. The ship looked to be so full of treasure it could not hold a pound more and stay afloat. He sat on the deck with his back against the main mast and washed down fruit and dried fish with several bottles of rum. The Kreons clustered about him in a circle clicking their curious claws as he devoured bottle after bottle of the strange liquid. They were taken completely by surprise as the crew members swarmed aboard the ship.
Even six human sized crabs were no match for the mighty forty-four. As each hard shelled Kreon was knocked unconscious and thrown overboard, Ripple tied a large stone to its back leg to insure that it sunk to the bottom.
“If the British didn’t burn the Handel after they rescued that skunk-loving Dutch captain, he might rescue you if you send up a smoke signal from a raft about a hundred miles west of here, but by thee Gods! There is no way I’ll allow your stench aboard this ship!” Polly held her nose as she clobbered King Henry with a deck pin and then helped Penny roll him off the side of the ship.
Wave was just returning from the sea when Loretta and three others attempted to raise the anchor. It wouldn’t budge. Wave and Ripple dove below the vessel to investigate. They surfaced several minutes later. “King Henry and the Kreons must have been sorting through the treasure and throwing the less valuable pieces overboard,” Wave said. “The anchor is buried under a pile of discarded gold and it will take some time to free it.”
Polly, who had climbed into a crow’s nest high above the topsail, sounded the alarm. “The monster is returning,” she cried. Where the ocean met the lagoon entrance the huge tooth filled snout could be seen rushing through the water.
The crew quickly lifted Ripple out of the water and placed her in an empty rum barrel filled with sea water. Wave dove beneath the ship again. “The anchor is almost free!” he said.
The massive crocodile lunged out of the water behind the ship just as Penny, Renny and Alison were readying a deck gun, and then it plunged below the surface.
“No,” Alana screamed and dove over the side before the crew could stop her.
The crew of the Sea Witch held their breath as the churning water below the ship gradually became calm. Precious seconds drifted into eternity.
With a tremendous roar the sea monster leaped out of the water. Wave and Alana both struggled inside its gaping mouth. “Fire!” Loretta yelled. The powerful deck gun blasted a hole the size of a barrel in the creature’s head and it’s powerful jaws relaxed but it was too late. The bloody bodies of Wave and Alana floated to the surface minutes later. Their arms were entwined together in the last moments of life and now into eternity.
It was with tremendous sorrow that the Sea Witch sailed from the magical islands called Dolphenia. After the first day, a lonely Ripple demanded to be placed back into the water. A day later a group of dolphins had joined her as she guided the ship toward the Caribbean and Dowry Island the place where the Sea Witch pirates always buried their treasure. “We’ll be digging holes and burying chests for a month,” Renny moaned.
A day later the crew was taken by surprise. Four British ships-of-the-line appeared on the horizon and quickly overtook the overladen Sea Witch. Lord Admiral John Horatio Wineapple could be seen pacing on the flagship with Jean Molyneux. The massive seventy-six gun war-ships confidently maneuvered so that the much smaller vessel would have to run a gauntlet between them. “There is no way we can survive that much cannon fire,” Alison moaned, “and it doesn’t look like surrender is an option.”
Ripple rose out of the water her high pitched mermaid voice sounded like a whistle; hundreds of called dolphins were suddenly swimming in the water around her. She spoke to the creatures in a voice that no humans could understand.
When the British ships were close enough to see the smiling and determined faces of Admiral Wineapple and Molyneux the dolphins raced ahead leaping from the waves and spitting streams of sea water directly into the cannon barrels inside each open British gun port. As the Sea Witch passed between the four ships only three dripping enemy cannons managed even a sputter with the saturated powder. The three discharged cannon balls barely made it to the end of the barrels before dropping into the sea. Loretta and the crew members worked fast and furious, to shoot and reload between singing, dancing with Polly, and yelling insults.
The Sea Witch’s guns roared as they made several more passes. Finally most all the enemy ship’s main masts were shattered, and the furious royal navy had gone into hiding below their smoking decks as the women pirates sailed away.
“She certainly knows how to make friends!” Polly exclaimed the next evening as they watched the young mermaid playfully leap from the water along with her new aquatic companions.
“What will become of us now that we are only forty-three,” several crew members asked Maggie who sat on a small chest filled with diamonds and studied a recipe box stuffed with ancient tarot cards. “The magic always comes in special numbers!”
Maggie looked at Loretta at the ship’s wheel and they both nodded agreement.
Loretta smiled as she gestured toward Ripple now outracing the dolphins ahead of the overloaded ship. “We Sisters of the Sea have always been … and will forever be … the mighty forty-four!”
And as the Sea Witch sailed west toward the sun sinking into a beautiful crimson and gold horizon the crew began to sing.
"Hoist the sails and trim the winds, with rudder steady go.
From morning light beneath the sky, till sunset’s wounded glow.
With musket ball, and chain and whip, and cannon’s lusty roar.
No Royal fleet can yet defeat, we mighty forty four.”
THE END? Not hardly!
I hope you enjoyed this story. You are the only reason I write. If you would like to read more of the Sea Witch adventures please purchase "Sisters of the Sea" one of 14 short stories included in the volume CRAYON MONSTERS available from Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B017KHLD2O/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1#nav-subnav Thank you !!!!