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
To say the all-women pirate crew of the Sea Witch were astonished to see a merman in the sheltered lagoon and to hear him speak was an understatement. Alison Drescher collapsed on the ship’s deck, opening and closing her eyes while slapping her face as though trying to wake-up from a dream. Pollyanna Nottingham, who had been convinced all along the large group of dolphins that had surrounded the ship were trying to communicate, lost her grip on a Moonraker high about the main mast and caught her leg on a sheet attached to the main sail. She hung upside down gaping with awe at this new spectacle. Half the crew members prayed while the other half reached for weapons. “Are you real?” Loretta DuPont the ship’s captain stammered as she watched the half-man half-fish splash in the water.
“Of course not all the fantastic stories that come from the sea are true, most are the product of boredom born on long voyages and rum-activated imaginations, but not all are lies,” the creature said. “My formerly land-loving companions,” he gestured to the dolphins swimming in the water about him, “entered the oceans about fifty-million years ago. My own ancestors returned to the sea much later, only about one-hundred centuries ago when a whole continent sank beneath the waves. As you can see,” he flapped his tail in the water and waved his arms, “we are not completely converted to life in water.”
“Atlantis!” Margaret Waldheim, the ship’s navigator, cried. “You are what remains of that fabled lost continent?”
“We call ourselves πορθείς (watermen) and yes this part of the ocean we call Aτλαντισ the creature said. My name is Οδηγός and I will try to keep you safe from harm.”
“Οδηγός?” Loretta struggled to pronounce the name, which resembled sounds made underwater, but couldn’t. “We just escaped from a dozen British warships!” She glanced around the peaceful lagoon. It had the appearance of an exquisite paradise rather than a battleground. “What enemies could you people possibly have?”
“It might be easier if you called me Osyok,” he continued. Not all of my people who returned to the sea were peace-loving,” Osyok hung his human head sadly as if something that happened thousands of years before still caused him great distress. “A large faction blamed our leaders for the sinking continent. They insisted that we should have been more ruthless in our dealings with others. They separated from us and formed their own society. As the centuries past they evolved differently from us. The Kreons have now become their own distinct and unique species.”
“And now you are at war with these Kreons?” Loretta wondered what these new vile creatures might be.
“We were at war,” Osyok confirmed. “Our once great empire that numbered almost a million inhabitants has been reduced by fighting to a colony of fewer than thirty individuals and several hundred of our allies the ones you call dolphins. These sheltered islands you see here are what remains of Atlantis and all of its past glory.”
“The dolphins not only saved us from the British, they brought us here for a reason,” Polly said as she reached into a barrel and threw dried fish to the chattering group surrounding the ship. “Didn’t they?”
“We are in our final days,” Osyok said. “Our people will not survive the next attack. Rather than see our race perish, those few of us that are left are willing to be transported to your world, to live as curiosities in zoos and scientific exhibits if need be to save ourselves from extinction.”
“You wish for us to deliver you to safety, but we don’t even know where we are?” Maggie gestured toward the broken compass. “We were driven here by a storm from hell.”
“Atlantis has its own magnetic field that always misdirects a lodestone,” Osyok said. “As well as un-navigable fierce winds that spread outward in all directions. It is this protection among others that has kept us hidden from the rest of the world all these centuries.”
“If your enemies are so powerful what makes you think we can escape them?” Polly had distributed the contents of one barrel of dried fish and was opening another.
“The Kreons are formidable under the seas,” Osyok said. “But can only breathe air for a short time and are slow and awkward out of water. With the right winds we should be able to glide over their forces and make our escape.”
“Where would you go that the first fisherman you encountered would not gut and salt your tails before you were transported to market?” Loretta asked bluntly, and glared at Polly who continued to feed the dolphins fish from the barrels.
“I believe the closest port is Barbados.” Osyok said. “We have friends there.”
“I knew it …. We’re smack in the middle of the Devil’s triangle,” Alison gasped.
“And these friends know of your existence?” Polly was amazed.
“Even the world’s tightest drums will spring a leak.” Osyok pointed to a pool of briny liquid seeping from Polly’s barrel. “Those who know the truth are, fortunately for our kind, almost always branded as lunatics.”
“I don’t know about your friends, but I’m sure we must all be hallucinating,” Loretta told him.
“Follow me,” Osyok said as he began to swim toward a wide stream of fresh water entering the lagoon from the mountains. “And I’ll show you that no asylum for the mentally unfit waits for you in your future.”
Polly, Alison and Maggie all looked at Loretta. “Do we have any choice?” she asked as they lowered the Jolly Boat into the water.
Loretta’s former handmaiden Fiorella and half the crew stayed aboard the Sea Witch as the other members rowed behind Osyok who only occasionally popped his head from the water to make sure they were following. The stream was wide, deep and swept past fruit trees so heavily laden that some branches hung into the water. The bottom of the boat was soon filled with sweet tasting oranges, bananas and mangos and Loretta struggled to keep the women rowing rather than feasting.
Magnificent columns of pastel red, yellow and pink coral rose from the banks, some forming spectacular arches and bridges that spanned the water. Walls with doorways and even buildings appeared. All were so intricately formed they might have been built by a sculptor. Osyok smiled when he noticed the women were in awe of the structures. “Our ancestors had a working relationship with these tiny sea creatures,” he said, “when the sea level was much higher. Ancient aquatic engineers designed special forms for the coelenterates to attach to and insured an adequate supply of nutrients.”
The group passed forests of fragrant wildflowers towering like trees above glistening meadows. The delightful odors drifting in the air were intoxicating. “It is an unabated pride among my people that we are vastly superior to humans in that we have conquered two worlds land and the seas,” Osyok said as they reached a dock and a ramp all built of colorful calcium. He maneuvered himself into a kind of barrel with attached wheels just under the surface and used his strong arms to move up the ramp onto dry land. “Having a tail is fine for swimming,” he said. “But this self-propelled machine works exceptionally well on land and keeps my bottom half from becoming too dry.”
The party crossed several bridges and entered a magnificent city almost empty of inhabitants. Through open doorways, πορθείς could be seen swimming in small indoor pools and several children approached all propelling smaller versions of Osyok’s chariot and stared in timid wonder at the leg-equipped strangers. “I suppose you want to know how it is that I come to speak your language as I may claim without bragging so exceptionally well,” Osyok said as they entered a virtual palace surrounded by exotic plants, fountains and pathways made of glistening gemstones.
An overweight sailor with bits of food tangled in a scraggly black beard, and nested inside a cloud of hovering flies, lounged in a floating chair, made from an inflated whale bladder, while several bare-breasted πορθείς females swam about and served him from silver plates. He viciously slapped one young almost child-like attendant for being too slow. Polly drew a dagger from her belt but only stared. An exaggerated moan came from the man as he lifted flabby tattoo-covered arms to stuff fruit, meats and various breads into his mouth. The stench was horrible. Polly gagged and several of the Sea Witch crew members covered their noses. “This is Henry the Eighth, King of Britain,” Osyok said with an ever so slight smirk. “He has a great aversion to soap and water.”
When Henry saw the newcomers he scowled. “I bloody well told you not to fetch ‘em here!” he bellowed. “Anything what you scaly-bottoms needs I can gives to yah!”
“You learned your eloquence from this royal wagon-load of pig fat?” Polly was furious.
“King Henry washed up on our shores clinging to several broken ship timbers lashed together along with a dozen crates filled with books bound for the new world,” Osyok said. “He inadvertently taught me the fundamentals of your language and the rest I learned on my own … from reading.”
The king sat up in his floating chair as much as his enormous bulk would allow and shook a threatening fist above his head, creating a cavity in the flies. “This is my sovereign realm,” he glared at the crew members and especially Polly. “We don’t need any outsiders. Leave at once and never return or I’ll have you cut into pieces to feed the fishes!”
“I’m afraid that with our new friends we are no longer in need of your services,” Osyok told the king. “Knowledge has always been the weapon that frees slaves from tyrants.”
Polly jumped at the chance to puncture the floating chair with her dagger. King Henry bellowed and cursed as he floundered in waist-deep water. Minutes later, the group watched the king from a window as he trampled through several flower-beds before vanishing into the forest, vowing in a loud voice to return and destroy all who had come to depose him.
“We have prepared a feast in your honor,” Osyok told the Sea Witch crew. “Let’s hope your stay here is from now on much more enjoyable.”
As nightfall came the ship was left unguarded in the lagoon so that all the crew members could enjoy the party. Banquet tables placed around a large indoor pool in a magnificent but near-empty hall were laden with assorted meats and fruits of a kind the women had never before seen or tasted. Allison took second helpings of meat from a special shellfish that made her eyes glow in the dark. She claimed she could now see twice as good in darkness as she had in daylight. Fiorella devoured plate after plate of a spicy fruit-salad that made her lose weight with every bite. She sat smiling with yards of cotton fabric now hanging on her skinny frame and called for more. Polly discovered purple berries that made her giggle each time she touched one and laugh out loud each time one was placed in her mouth. She sat at least two seats away from everyone else, surrounded by pools of sticky berry juice, most of which had dripped from her mouth. “I feel like King Henry’s better half,” she giggled.
A dozen πορθείς swam around the pool in tight formation while an especially attractive female perched on their shoulders. She played a stringed instrument much like a harp crossed with a lute and sang a strange song that alternately put you to sleep, woke you up and made you want to dance with each verse:
Sweet dreams come on with blink of eye, a soft slumber gently calls.
Rise-up and wake, it’s do or die, by late a water falls.
Shake your arms and swish your tail, you’ll never feel him better.
And dance with joy when love you’ve found, discovered, marked and met her.
Heavy eyes for want of sleep, it’s off to sandy shores we go
To wake with fish in morning stream, to swim and feed and tow.
Spin round about and glide across, a frozen water floor.
And bid fond greetings to the friends we’ve made, the mighty forty-four.
When the πορθείς learned Maggie was adept at fortune telling they pleaded with her to read their fortunes. She shuffled cards on a low table while the πορθείς clustered about, some in the water and some out. “You have rid yourself of a terrible parasite who was attached to you for many years,” Maggie said as she turned over the first card.
“King Henry!” Osyok shook his head. “He was like a pilot fish grown fat and self-important from our labors.”
“You are about to embark on a voyage that will forever change the destiny of your people,” Maggie said when she saw the second card.
“These are very hard times and we have no choice.” Osyok and several others hung their heads.
“You and all those who live in two worlds are at this moment in great danger,” Maggie gasped when she turned over the last card.
Osyok and the others were speechless. They looked to Maggie and then to Loretta for an explanation. A distant rumble like thunder caused the πορθείς to cluster together in terror. “It sounds like the beginning of a storm,” Polly tried to reassure them.
“All weather in these seas is created by us!” Osyok said. “This night was to be without wind or rain.”
At that moment an iron cannon-ball blasted through a coral wall and made splinters of a banquet table. The Πορθείς and the Sea Witch crew-members swam and ran in all directions.
“King Henry!” Osyok gasped. “He’s made good on his promise to return and seek revenge.
“He must be aboard the Sea Witch,” Loretta said. “But he can’t possibly man and shoot those large cannons by himself!”
“I fear he has betrayed us to the Kreons and is receiving help from them!” Osyok grabbed a trident leaning against one wall and swam toward the lagoon followed by the ship’s crew and as many warriors that could be found.
The Sea Witch sat idly in the center of the lagoon but now it appeared to be painted from hull to topsail with a black crust … that was moving. “The Kreons are here,” Osyok said handing Loretta a pair of enlarging spectacles. When she balanced them on her nose even distant objects appeared up close and in fine detail. What had appeared to be paint was thousands of giant hard shell decapodas (crabs) walking upright as they swarmed across the ship’s deck and climbed onto the rigging. King Henry could be seen placing a torch to another cannon’s touch-hole while behind him the Kreons loaded more guns. The resulting explosion blew the roof off from the building the banquet had been held in.
“You knew they were coming. Why didn’t you try to stop them?” Alison blurted.
“The Kreons are non-swimming,” Osyok said. “They travel on the bottom of the sea. The area all around our island is covered by traps except for a few secret places where we bring in underwater farm supplies. We thought the traps would hold them back until our escape. King Henry must have shown the Kreons have to circumvent our defenses.”
“The dolphins seemed very loyal, perhaps they will help us!” Polly looked but could not see any of the creatures she’d called angels.
“The dolphins were our greatest allies and our most loyal friends,” Osyok said. “They were our last defense!” He gestured to a far shore where what looked like hundreds of grey logs were washing up on the beach. Polly took the magnifying spectacles from Loretta and gasped. Blood covered the sand on the opposite side of the lagoon. Many dolphins had been cut in half, all were dead. Not a single flipper moved.
“How?” Polly cried. I thought you said the Kreons only traveled on the ocean floor.”
“They do,” Osyok replied. “But they have other larger and more ferocious allies.”
With a tremendous roar, three crocodile-like monsters, each one longer than three Jolly Boats placed end to end, rose out of the water showing double rows of plowshare sized teeth. The crew members had been so consumed by the pitiful spectacle of the dead dolphins that they didn’t notice King Henry aim a cannon in their direction. The iron ball exploded directly in front of them just as hundreds of Kreons swarmed out of the water. Flying sand, bits of shell and small stones stung their arms, legs, hands and faces and drew blood just before the world started to spin and darkness came.
To be continued …
Thank you for reading ... I hope you enjoyed this story. It is for you dear reader that I write. If this tale made you smile, if it made your dreams a little brighter, please purchase my first "Sisters of the Sea" adventure. It is one of 14 short stories contained in the volume CRAYON MONSTERS available from Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B017KHLD2O/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1#nav-subnav