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Thread: The Dark Voyage

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    Default The Dark Voyage

    ***This is a story I recently self published. It is my pleasure to post it in its entirety here for any reading enthusiasts. Feedback would be greatly appreciated, as I want to improve with my writing. The story features characters from friends and family, and some from another forum.***

    *sorry if the text looks messed up, I dunno what's wrong, but I will work to make it look good.*

    Prelude
    ***South Sea, 10 miles away from Port Goodweather, November 20th, 1658***


    It was a starry night with a full moon. A mild breeze blew from
    the southwest and no clouds could be found above.

    Valegrious Coral stood on the poop deck of the Smelly Ignacia, a
    medium size monster-hunting warship. His elbows were pressed against
    the surrounding railing, his chin rested on the palms of his hands, his soft
    brown eyes gazed out to nowhere in particular as he pondered about
    many things. Mostly he had been thinking about the things he had lived
    through in order to get to where he currently was, but also on his mind
    had been his dear sister, whom he would be seeing in just a few days after
    what had been a long, exhausting, and surely danger-filled trip.

    It would have been a quiet night if not for the splashing of the
    water as the ship sailed smoothly over it, the flapping sound of the sails as
    the wind hit them, and also all the shouting and laughing coming from the
    main deck where other sailors were performing some mild, nightly duties.
    Valegrious had issued some orders to them about ten minutes ago and
    had gone to the back deck to have some alone time, a thing he really
    valued while out at sea. Just by hearing the sailors' joyous talking, singing,
    and joking tones, he knew that they were just as happy as he was to soon
    be making it back to land.

    Valegrious was a handsome twenty two year old man with
    brownish, short hair parted in the middle and to the sides. He was four
    inches shy of standing six feet tall and had a slim body. He appeared not
    the muscular type to the eye, but the truth was that he had more power in
    him than met the eye. His skin color had always been a very soft light tan,
    but out at sea working under the sun most of the time had turned it a
    darker tan.

    Valegrious had worked hard to achieve many goals at a very
    young age when he and his younger sister Magatha had tragically lost both
    their parents. Because the responsibility to look after his sister had fallen
    entirely on him, he'd had to look for a job in order to take care of her and
    also himself, for they had no relatives alive whatsoever.

    Though it was a dangerous world in which they--and many other
    kinds of beings--lived, Valegrious had been up for any decent work he
    could find. Unlike others who chose to follow dark roads to make a living
    either by stealing, exploiting others, or killing, the lad's good heart had
    kept him away from joining any of the local thief or assassin guilds where
    gems flowed easy into one's pockets at the expense of risking one's life. A
    few friends he had known had invited him to join a few weeks after their
    parents had died, but Valegrious had quickly declined their offers and had
    even paid for that with a beating.

    The lad and his eight year old sister had faced rough times and
    even had to abandon their home village a few months later when the
    gems that their parents had left them had run out. With what little they
    owned they had gone to Port Goodweather, which happened to be the
    closest location to their village, and there they had found mercy at the
    hands of an orphan caretaker, a kind-hearted blonde woman who had
    dedicated herself to the caring of orphans after she had lost her own
    daughter in the past.

    Though they had found a home, Valegrious had known during
    that time that he had to do something in order to help the woman who
    had helped him and his sister, for life in all of Galileah was not easy for
    anyone.

    Soon enough, Valegrious had contemplated the idea of enlisting
    in the service of the realm's armada, but Evelina Brengle, the woman who
    had become his second mother, had told him that he would not even be
    considered for a spot, for he was still too young. Valegrious then
    considered joining the monster hunting guilds where his parents had
    worked most of their lives, but the orphan caretaker let him know that he
    also was young for that, in fact, for any job, for young men were
    considered only when they were past sixteen years of age. That's when
    young kids such as him became known as men, and many options opened
    when one reached that age.

    Though he had failed to find a job, those setbacks had not
    stopped Valegrious, who really wanted to help out at the orphanage in
    some way. He was the oldest orphan in the orphanage at age twelve at
    that time. Food and income were hard to come by when it was only
    Evelina who was doing all the working, and at times she did not find work
    at all for days, for all she did was clean houses and manors, sow, cook
    stews and other dishes for other people, as well as other low-paying
    errands that were not often available for the taking. When that happened,
    all of the orphans and also Evelina had to endure a bit of hunger, at times
    for consecutive days. Life was so hard in Galileah that families sometimes
    even had to sell their children in order to eat and survive.

    Valegrious had seen all sorts of misery and trouble during his
    early days in the orphanage, and that really filled his heart with sadness. It
    was also the thing that had led him to go out and attempt to find a job in
    the big port city of Goodweather.

    For a twelve year old like him back in those days finding noble
    work in the realm of Bulmax was hard. Most teenagers were quickly
    recruited by thief bands and other groups that enticed young ones with
    many promises of power and wealth. But Valegrious had been one of the
    lucky ones and had avoided stepping on those dark roads.

    One fine day that he had been traversing the docks of Port
    Goodweather, as desperation had begun to take over him, the lad had run
    into a kind-hearted felinum who had made a living hunting sea monsters
    in the local south sea. The felinum folk pretty much resembled humans,
    but they had cat-like ears on their heads, long tails, and thin hairy coats,
    although it appeared that they were just normal human beings, for their
    hair was not that visible over their human-like skin. Most felinum folk
    usually had weird symbols painted on their face, neck, arms, or legs, but
    there were those that did not do that, like this felinum that Valegrious had
    met. She was rather tall at six-three, was slim yet strong, and had light
    brownish, silky hair that fell off to the sides down to her jaw line. She had
    light skin, and the color of her cat ears and tail was multicolored, like that
    of a calico cat. The humans co-existed with the cat folk and many other
    benevolent species that called Galileah their home, but because of their
    many differences in looks and beliefs, the species often had problems
    accepting or looking at each other like the allies they were.

    That felinum had been a few men short of fulfilling her ship crew
    that day, and so when she had stumbled upon young Valegrious at the
    docks, she had spoken to him about her problem.

    The felinum had not even been interested in hiring him at all, she
    had just called the lad over and had asked him whether he knew any abled
    men or women who would be interested in working on a fishing vessel
    under her orders.

    Valegrious had been surprised to be approached by her, what
    with him never really having had the chance to treat other beings other
    than humans. In fact, Valegrious had never seen a felinum before, so he'd
    been quite amazed of the tall creature, but mostly mesmerized by her
    beauty. Nonetheless, he let her know that he knew no one in particular,
    but he pointed out to her all the sailors roaming about the docks that he
    thought could be looking for such a job. The felinum, though, had already
    spoken to all of them and had come to know that all were already taken or
    none had wanted to work for a subhuman like her. She had not known
    why but she told this to the young kid.

    "Bah," she had spat aside quite disgusted. "Most are taken, Lad.
    And the few other dolts who seek a job have not the heart to work for
    me, for a subhuman, as they refer to me, the b******s." Looking over at
    some sailors that were passing by, she added loudly, "They're all just a
    bunch of losers."

    That had really saddened and stung Valegrious, to learn once
    again that his own kin treated others unfairly merely because they were
    different. His father had taught him different, that is why Valegrious had
    not minded at all that the cat-like creature had come to speak with him; he
    saw her just as he would have seen any other human.

    "I would be interested in working for you, Miss," had said
    Valegrious in a lively tone.

    "You?" the felinum had replied in awe but had given the young
    man all her attention. "But you're just a lad. What do you know about
    sailing, Landlubber?"

    Valegrious had no experience whatsoever as a sailor, and he had
    let her know that with a saddened face and tone.

    "But I am willing to learn," had added the troubled young man,
    who desperately wanted to find a job and a way to sustain those back at
    the orphanage.

    That fateful day, the felinum had remained quiet for a while just
    observing the human boy as she had been caressing her chin. If anything,
    the female admired the lad's willingness.

    The felinum had had real need to replace two of her crewmen
    who had not come back for two days after the captain had given her
    whole crew free time after their last trip. The felinum had even sent the
    rest of the crew to look for them but they had not found them in the
    entire port. Most likely the men had returned home or something, for the
    sea was not made for everyone, and the captain had seen in those two fear
    but mostly discontent on their last trip.

    "Very well, Lad," the felinum had said at length after she had
    convinced herself that giving the lad an opportunity could prove
    worthwhile, or maybe it was that she just felt like helping him out, what
    with the felinum knowing how difficult life was for many beings. "If
    you're willing to learn, I see no problem in that. I can bring you aboard
    my ship, but I warn you now: the sea life can be very rough, very
    enjoyable, but also very treacherous. There are many dangers out at sea
    just as there is danger inland. My crew and I hunt sea monsters for a
    living, we're above ordinary fishermen. Do you know anything about sea
    monsters, Lad?"

    "I just know that the sea is filled with them," had replied
    Valegrious, who had lived his life so close to a port and the sea and yet
    knew little about all that, for his parents had not allowed him to go out
    that much. "My father, god rest his soul, told me stories about them and
    how there are many a variety out there, just like the many monsters that
    plague the world."

    When she had heard the lad saying that, the female had become
    aware that he had no parents, and that sort of had stung her and made her
    feel deeply sad, for she had no relatives alive either.

    "Quite right," she had gone on to say and had even crossed her
    arms over her plated busty chest. "The vast sea is filled with them
    creatures. Old stories say that all these monsters came to be after an
    ancient war between gods broke out and was fought mostly in this world
    of ours. Heck, there is a broad variety of monsters at sea that we keep
    finding new ones every now and then, and bigger too. But anyway, you
    know about them, you're not a complete dolt like other people out there.
    And so, if you are not afraid of sailing, or scared of sea monsters, I surely
    will take you in this day as one of my crew members, and I will teach you
    all that an aspiring sailor such as yourself needs to know. But, besides
    your life being at risk every day out there, also know that you will be
    performing hard work nearly every day, for everyone's got to pull his or her
    own weight on my ship. Do you still wish to become a sailor for me and
    the Smelly Ignacia?"

    Valegrious had really given the matter some deep thought, and
    mostly because the felinum had sort of scared him with her words. But he
    had known well what kind of life awaited him back in the orphanage if he
    refused. Most likely nothing would change and he and all the others
    would have to endure hunger and misery for several years until he grew
    and became of age and was able to work and help out. Or, he would
    probably give in to temptation and end up like his friends had when they
    had joined the local bad guilds. Whatever happened, the lad knew that
    would be wasted precious time, and Valegrious wanted the best for his
    sister and really wanted to help out Evelina and all the other orphans. The
    words that his father had once spoken to him had convinced him to say
    yes to the creature: Life is brief, Son. We have to seize every single second and
    make the best of it.


    Valegrious had been looking for an opportunity, and this one had
    presented itself to him in his hour of most need. He had known at that
    time that he would not be letting it go to waste. He had been scared, but
    necessity had been stronger than fear that day.

    "Yes, I do," Valegrious had replied with a firm voice. "Please,
    Miss, I just need a job so I can take care of my sister and other folks at an
    orphanage where I live."

    The felinum had become aware that he also had a kind heart and
    other folks to look after.

    "What is your name, Lad?"

    "Valegrious Coral."

    "Beautiful name you have," had said the felinum with risen
    eyebrows.

    "According to my father's words, the name means great valor."

    "Hm, I can see why you were given that name, then, Young
    Valegrious. I detect plenty of courage within you."

    That had made Valegrious smile warmly.

    "Very well, then, let us say no more," had smiled the pretty
    felinum. "You are now part of the crew of the Smelly Ignacia. I am your
    boss. My name is Jzak Hennessy. You can refer to me as Captain
    Hennessy from now on, or just plain ol' Cap'n, I really don't mind. From
    this moment on, you've stopped being Valegrious of the land and have
    become Valegrious of the sea."

    Valegrious had been so happy to hear that he had been accepted,
    that he had found a job after he had done much searching, but he had
    also felt very unsure of what was to come. The whole idea of going out to
    sea and hunt monsters--creatures he had never even seen--scared him, but
    he had understood that it was too late to go back, and besides, he knew
    that wherever he went and found a job there was bound to be trouble, or
    his life would be in peril. His parents' death spoke highly on that; they had
    died on a mission working for a good guild that specialized in killing
    monsters and keeping the region threat-free.

    And so knowing that by telling the female creature that he was
    not interested would make him look like a coward, and that he also would
    be disappointing and shaming his parents wherever they were, Valegrious
    had accepted the kind offer from the felinum.

    Captain Jzak Hennessy had never seen such courage before,
    much less from a young pup like him. She was glad to have him agree and
    vowed in that moment that she would take him under her wing and make
    him grow as a sailor.

    Jzak had given him plenty of time to go back home and say good
    bye to his loved ones, not to mention grab a few essentials for the trip.

    "Come back if you really meant your words," she had told him
    with a kind smile, for during their conversation she had also registered
    plenty of doubt within him. "It is still not too late to decline my offer,
    young Valegrious."

    "I will be back," had promised Valegrious in his most serious
    tone ever. "You can count on that."

    "I will be waiting on my ship, then," had said the Felinum with
    her arms crossed. "It's that one over there, Lad."

    She had pointed out the ship from several that were stationed far
    off in the harbor and asked him whether he would be able to find it when
    he came back. Valegrious had taken note of the mighty looking vessel and
    had nodded at her.

    "I can't miss it," he had said. "Not with that huge steel thing on
    the back of it."

    "That's a harpoon cannon," had explained the felinum after a
    chuckle. "Just one of several weapons we use for hunting the larger
    monsters. But, you have seen the ship, so you know where to find me.
    Besides, the name is imprinted right on the back just above my cabin's
    windows."

    Valegrious had nodded at her and then left her side. After he had
    spent around ten minutes talking to her, he had rushed back to the
    orphanage.

    Evelina, above everyone else, had been very confused and shocked
    at the unexpected news when Valegrious let her know the whole deal. She
    could not believe that the boy had dared to go as far as put his young life
    at risk merely to help her out. Evelina knew of the grave danger that was
    involved working as a monster hunter out at sea, but Valegrious had made
    her see things his way. He had let her know that working honorably at sea
    despite the danger involved was a far better option than him sitting there
    doing nothing or give in to temptation and desperation and end up like
    many other young ones did by joining the local guilds. And so Evelina's
    heart had been dealt a dose of great sadness once again, but in the end,
    with tears on her face, she had known that she could not keep him there
    regardless of what she might try to say or do to change his mind.
    Valegrious had a kind heart, she knew, so she finally agreed to support
    him with his decision.

    As to young Magatha and the other orphans, they had been so
    sad to learn that Valegrious would be leaving them in order to go work on
    a ship. Valegrious was just as sad as they were, but he made them all
    understand that it was all for the better. Everyone had cried when he left,
    even the few orphans that had known him so little. Valegrious had cried
    as well.

    Evelina and the orphans had come to the docks that day to say
    goodbye and also to admire the ship that he would be working on.
    Valegrious had had some final words with Evelina and his sister Magatha
    and the other orphans before proceeding to board the ship. The orphan
    care taker had also had very serious words with the felinum. Mostly she
    had just entrusted Valegrious to her care and told her to bring him back to
    them safe and sound.

    The felinum had soothed her anguish by telling her that she
    would do everything in her power to keep him safe. She promised
    nothing, though, because everyone's life in a world full of turmoil was at
    risk all the time. Evelina had understood that well and had chosen to
    deposit her entire trust in her. The felinum had been kind enough to even
    give the woman a small pouch of gems, and when Evelina had asked her
    why, the felinum had merely smiled at her and had told her to take care of
    the orphans with food and clothing, that the gems were like an upfront
    bonus of Valegrious's services to her. Evelina had thanked her so much,
    and the two had even shared a hug before the orphans and Valegrious.

    Since that day, young Valegrious had sailed the rough seas beside
    the tall felinum, several humans, and other weird species that formed part
    of the ship's crew. Besides twenty one other humans, seven of which were
    tough-looking women, Valegrious had shared the ship with three other
    felinum, two of which were males and one female, and also a female elf,
    two wolf-blooded men whose species were known as lycans, and a water
    pixie.

    The first months had really been tough for Valegrious, both
    performing the tough work on the ship and also because he had sorely
    missed those that he had left behind. Then there was the whole getting-
    to-know-the-crew issue. Valegrious had been shy with them all, but as the
    first days had passed, he had begun to open up to each and every one of
    them, particularly the blue-skinned water pixie, who, after the captain, had
    been the very next one to speak to him when he had come aboard the
    ship the first day. Sailing with them all, the boy had endured what life
    threw at him, just like a tough boulder on a beach takes the pounding of a
    powerful thunderstorm and remains unmoving. He had seen and learned
    many things on the many trips he took. Jzak Hennessy and the rest of the
    crew members taught him a lot, but it had been mostly the captain who
    had taught him so many things, including how to fight and defend himself
    using several weapons, for it indeed was dangerous out there; trouble did
    not only come from under the sea. The captain had also taught him so
    many things from the world itself that young Valegrious had not been
    aware of, such as the existence of many other species and faraway lands.
    Before he knew it, Valegrious was loving it out there, because he was
    working and learning so many things.

    But not all had been happiness and learning for the young man.
    He had also lived through many dark, dreadful experiences that had taken
    his heart. The ship and most of its crew had survived several deadly
    encounters against pirate fleets, sea marauders, flying hags known as sea
    harpies, and tough, gigantic sea monsters that had been bigger than the
    ship itself. Two times had the felinum captain had to purchase a brand
    new ship when monsters out at sea had destroyed or sunk the previous
    ones. Most of those who were still alive had really run alongside mother
    luck during those bad experiences. They had managed to survive the
    attacks and later had been rescued from the deadly sea by other passing
    vessels.

    After living through those kinds of nightmarish experiences,
    many were the ones that quit that life. The majority though, the seasoned
    mariners and those truly brave at heart kept going back for more because
    the demand and pay for hunted sea monsters was high in many of the
    realms of Galileah. For example, a flafagon, an oarfish type of creature,
    was big enough to feed many mouths for days. Catching one and selling it
    to some market netted around two black gems, and that was quite a good
    profit. The flafagon was just one of many lesser creatures fished by sturdy
    fishing poles attached to the ship. A flafagon was the first sea monster
    that Valegrious had seen, and it had come while he had been on watch
    duty of the fishing pole under Jzak's order just a month after he had
    joined the crew. How proud the felinum had been of the boy that day,
    and she would be more proud of him when later at night another flafagon
    had taken the bait under Valegrious's watch, and then a third two hours
    later. Jzak had riddled the boy's face with so many kisses that night. And
    many of the sailors had called the boy blessed and lucky, and the felinum
    had thought that about him as well.

    Then there were the Creycion. These were serpentine-like
    monsters that had small wings on their sides. The wings afforded the
    creature to jump out of the water and fly briefly. Those nasty flying
    predators sold for four black gems, because their meat was delicious and their
    hard skin was used for the making of armor and also weapons. Catching
    one depended on luck and timing. Many unaware sailors lost their lives to
    these ferocious creatures as they would come out of the water
    unexpectedly. Valegrious had seen crew mates of his get killed by those
    creatures on several occasions, and he, himself, had just barely survived an
    attack from one such creature on his second trip out. The creature's nasty
    mouth, which was filled with sharp jaws and wider than a shark's, had just
    barely missed taking him whole and down under the sea never to be seen
    or heard from again. Valegrious had always been focused doing his job, so
    he had heard the loud splash coming from the starboard side, and from
    the corner of his eye he had seen the huge creature emerging at the side.
    He had moved out of the way, but the young lad had not been that lucky,
    for the creature's spike-filled sturdy body had nicked his left arm good
    and had left him a bad scar and a memory to be proud of. He had
    survived, but barely. The felinum captain had taken care of curing him
    after the attack, and she had spent several days looking after him, for
    Valegrious had developed a bad fever and his wound had become
    infected. Luckily, the felinum had been able to cure him with the
    medicine available to her on her ship. Valegrious had been unable to work
    for two weeks, but he had spent that time mostly within the captain's cabin
    reading books and learning new things from her, who was always up to
    teaching him something new.

    Valegrious, after he had survived his second near-death
    experience against a mighty Kraken that had taken the ship and many
    sailors under the sea, had quickly come to love what he did out there. He
    valued life, and the encounter with the kraken, and a Gochapello, which was a
    sea monster thrice the size of a whale, as well as his close call with the Creycion,
    had made him understand just how valuable and precious life really was.
    But he also was reminded that quitting a profession he'd come to love and
    live in fear was already death. And so he had come back for more as well,
    and it appeared to him that danger fled from him.

    His courage, dedication, and hard work had earned him a high
    rank aboard the Smelly Ignacia. After ten long years, he had not only
    made it to lieutenant, a high rank that not too many who started off like
    him from nothing ever reached, but he also shared in the fame and glory
    that the ship and its crew received for their exploits achieved while sailing
    the south sea. Yes, Valegrious had started from the very bottom and had
    climbed up the ranks rather quickly, not due to how much Captain
    Hennessy had come to love him over the years as if he was her own son,
    but rather through his hard work and dedication, and because he had
    survived the rough seas up to that point. Now as a lieutenant of the ship,
    his work load was lessen by a lot, his share of the profits was higher, and
    he only answered to the captain. Despite being an officer now, Valegrious
    was often seen helping out and teaching less skilled sailors who struggled
    doing their job. Seeing him in action even when he wasn't supposed to be
    doing that filled Captain Hennessy with so much joy, for she had come to
    understand that her gamble--nay, the opportunity she had given the
    lad--had paid off in a big way.

    I've really come a long way, Valegrious thought and felt very grateful
    for that as he stared up at the star-filled sky. The gods were up there, he
    believed, perhaps looking down upon him and the ship and its crew. He
    thanked them in silence for all the good and bad experiences he'd had so
    far. In his thoughtful state, Valegrious often offered prayers to them on
    nights like these, and that's precisely what he went on to do then.

    *****

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    I'm a writer. Read my story here: The Dark Voyage

  2. #2
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    Here is the next update and the map. Thanks for reading. Oh, btw, every update I make will be an entire chapter. It's only twenty + and some are short and others long, it varies. XD


    http://i151.photobucket.com/albums/s...psf331df36.png

    Chapter 1: The bad news
    ***Port Goodweather, November 22nd, 1658***

    Valegrious really enjoyed himself while out at sea, but every time the crew made it back to land it was something else, a different magnificent feeling, a thing they all considered very special. And why not? While out at sea their trips sometimes were dangerous and very long. The longest one they've lived through had been eight months before they had docked at Port Bakashi in Asaki where they had sold all their catch.

    Two days had passed since he had been pondering about things on the poop deck; the ship had docked at the harbor half hour ago after the crew had been out at sea for three and a half months. That was a normal trip for them, but that time they had not killed or caught that many creatures. That probably could have been credited to the cold season, as their captain had told them the day that she had decided to head back to land. Despite that minor setback, the Smelly Ignacia had brought along a good catch of bonito and flafagons that would net the group a good pay in the coming days.

    It was early in the night, and the crew, after having secured the ship at the harbor, was anxious to be dismissed from duty. The felinum could see in all her crewmen's faces the yearn to be released. She let them go, but as she usually did, Jzak had given the team a final speech before letting them go out and have some much needed fun. Usually, when the team came back to land, the captain gave them a full week to enjoy themselves. This time, though, she happily announced to them that it would be two weeks since she had plans for herself.

    All the sailors applauded and Valegrious ordered them all to pay their respects by giving the captain three loud huzzahs. In unison, the entire crew did as told.

    "Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!"

    "Go now," the felinum said, this one truly delighted with her great crew. "Try not to have too much fun, boys and girls."

    More shouting and clapping was heard, and then two planks were lowered and the sailors filed out to freedom.

    Valegrious was a high ranking crew member, so he was actually one of the last ones to leave the ship. In fact, he always did so alongside the captain, whom he also had come to feel much love for over the passing of the years, for while on the ship, he had learned most of what he had come to know from her.

    "Well, Valegrious," Jzak said as they both stood on the wooden docks, with Valegrious holding on to a large sack over his shoulder. "We part again for some time, my boy. Do enjoy yourself, I bid."

    Valegrious regarded the captain with a curious glance as they heard all the ruckus that came with being at the busy port.

    "Ah, you don't have to worry about me, Captain," the lad replied coolly as he looked around the docks in anticipation. "You know I will be having a great time with my loved ones."

    "This I know," said Jzak with a smile and a wink; Valegrious had already spoken to her about his plans a night ago. "You can't wait to get on home, can't you? Anyway, go now, just make sure to come back in three days so you can get your share. Kaur and I would have sold our cargo by then."

    Kaur happened to be the water pixie. She had also survived up till that point. Only Valegrious Coral, Jzak Hennessy, Kaur Astraiyd, Kraven Longtooth and Rygar Willem, who were both lycans, Rubee Treeclimber the elf, and five human sailors, two males and three females, were all that remain from the original crew when Valegrious had joined ten years ago. The others had died during trips as the years had gone by, but Jzak Hennessy had recruited new salt as they needed it.

    "Will do," Valegrious nodded and even winked at her. She smiled, winked back, and then they hugged each other fondly. After they separated, Valegrious took his leave. The felinum remained standing there and watched him as he went away.

    "Take good care," the felinum called after him. "You know how it is out here."

    "I will," Valegrious promised after he had turned his head over his shoulder just to regard her.

    Then Valegrious lost himself through the docks, the young man avoiding colliding with other passersby as he went.

    It was a busy evening at the docks, with lots of sailors and other folk roaming about. The signs of winter plainly hung in the air. Dark grayish clouds hung above in the sky leaving few stars visible, and a mild, cold breeze was blowing. Valegrious shivered and felt the cold breeze despite being well clothed for it. He knew this place well, so he made it to a wider area on the docks where he had more freedom and less crowd to restrain him from moving on. Once he stood there, he turned to regard the captain over his shoulder once more. Jzak, who had been intently watching him, smiled and waved at him. Valegrious offered her a smile, a nod, and then moved on for good.

    And Jzak kept her emerald eyes on him until he was lost to her to some street he had taken.

    ***
    The young man moved through the streets of the port at a normal pace, quite enjoying himself to be back. Despite the cold of the night, Valegrious was enjoying being back on land, so he took his sweet time as he walked the crowded and not-so-crowded streets of the port. The sailor noticed that there now was more presence of soldiers than in past years, so that relaxed him a bit. And not only that, but now there were more species here than there had been when he had been a kid. The port had grown not only with the presence of newcomers, but also in size. More establishments had been erected over time, even a plaza filled with merchants and the such had been constructed close to the docks. Valegrious avoided going there despite the huge temptation he felt, for he just wanted to get home and see his loved ones. He knew there would be plenty of time to come here and have a look around the place alongside those he loved.

    Valegrious was kind enough to give several old bums who sat on a street a yellow gem, which was the lowest ranking gem in the gem currency that the world of Galileah used. Still, that gem could afford anyone a piece of bread and a glass of milk, or a good dinner at some inn.

    "Thank you kindly, good sir Valegrious," said one of the men. They knew who he was, for his fame as a great sailor and survivor of sea monster attacks had risen like beer foam in a mug. Another old man wished him good fortune, and the last one asked the gods to bless the young man.

    Valegrious had a brief talk with them about how things were going, shared some laughs and rumors with them, and then moved on. Later, he made it to a station that offered fast-travelling services. He had to rent the service of a coach in order to get to the monastery faster. Things had changed over the past ten years all over the world, and so the service he hired that young night came with several packages, with one of those being a quartet of guards in case the wagon ran into trouble along the way. The port area was mainly experiencing a war amongst opposing thief bands, (he had learned this info from the bums) but there was also a high alert due to a sudden outburst of monsters. What Valegrious had learned from talking to the bums was that something awful had happened in the east, which they believed was the cause for the resurgence of monsters and beasts.

    "Even giants have been sighted here," had said one of the bums, and those words had given Valegrious reason to shiver a bit. He had heard about the giant race that mostly made its home in Udria, a neighboring realm to the east. Giants were pretty much like humans were in looks, except four times taller, wider, and loved to eat humans and animals. To have learned that they had been sighted in Bulmax sure made him shiver and discomforted him a bit.

    Despite the danger of the area, Valegrious and those others riding on the wagon made it to the monastery safe and sound. Along the way, through the coach's windows, Valegrious had seen plenty of riders on horses on the road. They were knights under the service of the crown keeping the region safe, but amongst them had also been mercenaries. The crown forces were working congruently with local guilds to help suppress the rise of the monsters.

    Finally, the wagon made it to the monastery. The sailor paid the wagon main man, thanked them all and bade them a good night, and then quickly headed toward the monastery's entrance, his desire to see his loved ones guiding him there.

    The orphanage had grown from being a simple three-room old house within the port to a large three-level U-shaped monastery that was located a thousand or so yards north of Port Goodweather. It sat on a flat terrain surrounded by large trees, but it was not the only building out there, other homes and even a few forts were scattered close by, at least a hundred yards apart, others two hundred yards or so. Valegrious had purchased the place after having been sailing for three years. He had made enough gems by then to buy the old place from a group of monks who had been wanting to leave on a pilgrimage to the southwestern lands of Hisar, Denera, and Lidaj. Five black gems he had paid for it back then, but it had been overly worth it.

    The new place now housed more than twenty orphans, with several of those belonging to other races. They all saw Valegrious not only as their older brother, but also as a fatherly figure since he was the one bringing in most of the income.

    As Valegrious had grown as a sailor at sea and the gems had started flowing into his pocket, Evelina had no longer had to work, but she still had done so because she loved doing that kind of thing. Valegrious had only asked of her to take care of the children. Evelina had done that, and then some. She had made a few friends near her age who helped her daily in the monastery, two of those friends lived close to the monastery, the others at the Port.

    The large wooden door was closed, but Valegrious saw a thin line of light within through a large squared window that afforded no view inside thanks to the reddish curtains behind it.

    Feeling his heart on his throat for the excitement of being back, Valegrious went on to knock the sturdy wooden door a few times. Soon he heard footsteps coming from behind the door, and a female's voice soon asked, "Who is it?"

    Valegrious smiled in recognition of the sweet voice.

    "It's me, Minono," he said. "Valegrious. Please open up, it's quite damn cold out here."

    The door was opened immediately, and Valegrious thought he had heard a surprised, joyous gasp as well as an “Oh my god.”

    A gal who wore glasses over slanted, dark brown eyes appeared when the door had been opened. Her hair was short and dark like the night, her smile as beautiful as a daisy, her skin color was light olive, and her face very pretty and exotic looking. She was from Asaki, a realm to the south.

    "Val!" the young woman cried happily. "You are back!"

    Before Valegrious could respond anything to that, she rushed forth and embraced him tightly, even driving him back a step. Valegrious dropped his sack to the ground and hugged her slowly and patted her back.

    "Aw, Minono, you're so kind. I wasn’t expecting this kind of warm welcome."

    "Thank goodness you're back," she said worriedly after she let go of him. Valegrious noted her worried semblance then, and the joy he had been feeling after laying eyes on the girl dissipated a bit.

    "I am sorry if I surprised you, Foxy," Valegrious bent to retrieve his sack. "Is everything alright?"

    Foxy was Minono’s nickname, and everyone in the orphanage called her that most of the time. The nickname had come from the girl’s love for foxes.

    That cold night Minono was dressed in a common peasant girl dress, this one being of a plain white color from the waist up and an autumn leaf color from the waist down. Her upper torso was covered with a thick, green sweater that she herself had knit.

    "No," she said and gave him not only a sorrowful stare, but bad news as well. "It's your sister, Valegrious. She's been terribly ill for about a month now."

    "What?" Valegrious became pale, and the happiness he had felt for being back home quickly disappeared. He dropped the sack again and put his hands on Minono's tender shoulders.

    "Where is she?"

    "Upstairs, come quick," she told him, but as she had said that, Valegrious was already moving past her.

    Minono was quick to grab the sack that Valegrious had dropped, went back inside, closed the door, and then caught up to him just as he had been going up the stairs.

    "Magatha!" Valegrious cried as he made it up the stairs. "Where are you?"

    Once on the second level, the sailor opened several room doors but found only young orphans sleeping soundly, some which woke up with his calling or the noise he made by opening the doors. Knowing he was back, the orphans began to get up from bed. Valegrious would have gladly met their warm welcomes and hugs, but under the circumstances, he moved on through the hallway knowing that he would have plenty of time to do that.

    Just as he was approaching another door, Minono told him that Magatha was in matron Evelina's chamber at the very end. Valegrious quickly directed himself towards it as he ran, with Minono telling a few orphans that had come out of their rooms to go back to bed, that everything was fine.

    "But Valegrious is back," protested a young boy of about twelve years of age.

    "I know, Bluee," Minono told him tenderly. "But now is not a good time to be welcoming him, you know why."

    "Because of Maggie's illness?"

    "Yes. Now go back to sleep. Tomorrow everything will be sorted out."

    Bluee and the other children went back into their rooms, most of them surely displeased that they had not gotten the chance to welcome Valegrious. All of them, though, felt so happy to know that he was back.

    Valegrious crossed through that corridor like a flash, but just before making it to the door, it opened from within and the sailor was able to lay eyes upon the woman who had kindly taken him and his sister into her care ten years ago. At forty years of age her face was still beautiful, but the woman appeared very troubled before Valegrious's eyes. Evelina was dressed in a blue and white renaissance-style dress that nearly touched the floor, and her beautiful semblance was overshadowed by much worry and anguish.

    "Valegrious!" Evelina cried and was quick to embrace him tightly. "By the thousand heavens, you're back!"

    "I am, Ma." Valegrious hugged her as well, but he quickly let go of her and asked about his sister's well-being as he had laid eyes on her past his step mother. "What manner of illness is afflicting my sister?"

    As he had asked that, Valegrious had moved into the room and toward the bed where Magatha laid fully asleep. He quickly grabbed a nearby chair and sat there on the side, the lad choosing not to touch her merely because he knew she was resting peacefully. But he became so pained and worried when he saw her pale, ill semblance. Her face was a bit sweaty, her lips looked dry and showed an eerily light purple color that somewhat blended in with the normal pink color, and the lower part of her eyes was a dark gray, a sign of great loss of sleep.

    "We don't know for sure," said Evelina worriedly as she came to stand close to Valegrious. Minono came into the room just then and closed the door with care.

    "We thought it was a common cold," added Evelina as Minono made her way to them. "But it hasn't gone away, and..."

    "Yes?" Valegrious regarded her after Evelina had let her words hang.

    "We think her condition is actually worsening," Minono replied to that. "It's been three days that Magatha has refused to eat, and she's been puking and spitting this yellowy, reddish-looking goo like crazy. And her lips...well you can see the different color..."

    "Damn," Valegrious's face hardened. "But she's beginning to look like a cadaver! What really happened to her?"

    Neither Evelina nor Minono were able to give him an explanation. After a few seconds, Valegrious turned to regard his sister again. By that time, Magatha coughed roughly more than six times, but she remained in her same position, her eyes tightly closed.

    "We gave her a powerful sedating beverage not long ago," informed Evelina. "To help her sleep since the coughing has kept her from doing that these last two weeks."

    Valegrious nodded, but then he ran his hands over his face, the two females noticing that he had become sick worried. Determined, he rose up from the chair and looked upon Evelina.

    "Have you brought in a healer to see her?"

    "We've brought in eight over the past three weeks," explained Evelina. "Even three priest elves from Anor that happened to be in the port. None of them knew what is wrong with her, and the medicine they gave her does nothing to appease her coughing and vomiting."

    A long silence ensued, one which was disrupted moments later with more rough coughing and wheezing from the ill young woman.

    Valegrious went to her and knelt on the side of the bed. He ran a hand down her pale cheek.

    "Sister," he spoke gently to her. "I'm here..."

    More coughing, and that led Valegrious to touch her forehead. It felt very hot. He knew she had a fever, and feeling so helpless, so impotent to do anything to remedy her illness, he ran his hand down her visible blonde, silky hair.

    "It will be alright, Maggie," he added as tears began to flow from his eyes. "Just hang on tough for me, I know you’re as tough as a sea rock."

    Valegrious had really wanted to speak with her, but he knew that his sister was getting a good, deserved rest, so he chose not to disrupt her. Instead, he rose again, leaned in, and gave her a kiss on her forehead. He then went to stand close to Evelina and Minono and cleared his tears away.

    "What's on your mind, Valegrious?" Evelina asked him when he remained thoughtful before them.

    "I feel sorry for my sister," he sounded so sad. "I was not expecting to find her like this. I thank you and Minono for looking out for her as you have, you've done all you can for her."

    "Come, Valegrious," Evelina invited him. "We can talk about this in the kitchen. It will do you and me a lot of good to have a drink of tea or something. I'm sure you're exhausted from your trip."

    "Alright," Valegrious agreed with a sigh. "But what about Foxy?"

    "I will remain here looking after Magatha," the girl smiled and pat Valegrious softly on the shoulder. "You go on with Ma, Val."

    Val was a short name that Minono had given Valegrious a few weeks after she had been taken in by Evelina. She had been a shy one with Valegrious at first, but soon enough she became so fond of him after she saw the way he was and opened herself to him. Valegrious had given her a nickname too, but he seldom used it: Minos.

    Valegrious thanked her kindly and then went after Evelina, who was already opening the door. Valegrious followed her out, but not before promising Minono that he would be back later with a cup of tea for her.

    "You better," Minono told him with a soft smile just as he was exiting the door. "We have much to catch up on."

    Valegrious nodded at her and then closed the door softly.

    ***
    While the two had been drinking a cup of tea in the broad kitchen, Evelina had put Valegrious up to speed about what had happened to his sister. According to her words, Magatha had fallen ill all of a sudden about a month's time ago. Evelina let him know that she believed that Magatha's illness had originated after she had ventured into a nearby old cave looking for one of the orphans. Evelina's belief was strengthened by Magatha, who believed the same thing, for ever since she had stepped out of that cave she had not felt the same, in fact, she had already been coughing wildly at that time. And hence she had been living a miserable life while having to endure all those nasty symptoms that came with her illness.

    Valegrious drank that cup of tea and relaxed a bit, but he still felt so sour within. His sister was terribly ill, was suffering, and that pained him so much. He startled his step mother when he placed the empty cup on the table, slammed his fist upon it.

    "Why? Why? Why her?"

    And he stood up, turning his attention to the nearby wall.

    "I'm sorry, Valegrious," Evelina also stood up and went to him, the woman knowing how troubled he should be feeling. She came right behind him and put her hands on his broad shoulders in a soothing manner.

    "Me too," Valegrious cried, his head lowered in sadness. "I know you have done everything you can for her."

    "Well...we have," said Evelina, and then she cleared her throat. "But perhaps we could look somewhere else for help."

    Valegrious was quick to spin around and face her.

    "What do you mean?"

    Evelina sighed. "Well, we haven't gone to the capital, dear. I've heard from friends that the best healers are there. And not only those from our realm, but other healers that come from different places are said to make a living curing people there."

    Those words brought some hope to the troubled sailor.

    "Do you think we'd be able to find a cure for her there?"

    "It wouldn't hurt us to try," Evelina smiled at him. "The capital is big, Valegrious, I'm sure we'll find better healers there than what we've been able to find here, for sure. If I haven't taken Magatha there it is because of the troubles plaguing our realm. It's a dangerous trip just to get there, and I did not want to endanger Magatha or any others by going there. The truth of the matter is that I do not have enough gems to pay for a good entourage that would protect us along the way, I spent many of the gems you left me when I hired all the healers’ services."

    "It's alright," Valegrious understood her dilemma. "I'm back now, and I have plenty to take care of all that. Tomorrow, as soon as the sun comes out, I will get moving. I will go to the port and arrange things for the trip. I really want for my sister to heal before I take my leave again, so I will not be wasting any time with other stuff. Now, besides my sister's illness, is there anything else I should know, Ma?"

    Evelina ran her smooth hand over his cheek and smiled at him. "No, Valegrious, everything else is fine. The kids and I are doing great."

    "I am glad to hear that."

    "So relax, I can tell you're plenty tense. We'll take care of this problem soon enough. For now, I think we should both go get some rest. I really need it, Valegrious. I've stayed up several nights just looking after Magatha, and I really feel worn out."

    "Then you go get some sleep, Ma," Valegrious caressed her cheek and then gave her a kiss on her forehead. "I promised Foxy that I would return, though. I'll go talk with her for a while and then I will go rest, you can count on that."

    Evelina smiled at him. "You know, that girl's done nothing all these months but think about you, by the way."

    Valegrious seemed at a loss, then. He did not know what to say, but then he found the right words when Evelina smiled at him once again.

    "Re-Really? You speak about Minono, right?"

    "Yes. But it is not my problem to tell you all that she does while you are away. You go talk to her, Son. I will have things ready for you to take a bath before you depart to the port tomorrow, unless you want me to prepare them tonight?"

    "No, it’s alright," Valegrious felt good within, mostly because of the revelation his mother had let him know that night. “I will bathe tomorrow before I leave. You go catch some sleep now.”

    "I'll fix you and Foxy's tea, but then I will surely be heading off to bed."

    Valegrious nodded at her understandingly. And while he could have waited sitting at the table while she took care of fixing the tea at the stove, which ran on wood and oil, he had not, and only because Evelina had made him very curious. He had asked her to tell him more about Minono, asked her whether she believed that the girl had feelings for him. Evelina smiled and nodded, "From what I've seen from her since the day she became of our family, yes, I think she feels something strong for you. Magatha also confessed something to me about her, something that they spoke about in regards to you."

    "What was it? Do you know?"

    Evelina just laughed lightly. "Talk to Foxy if you want to find out, Valegrious. Tonight is not the best night, but do so whenever you think it appropriate."

    Valegrious nodded at her understandingly, his heart beating a little faster than normal. After that, he asked no more about Minono, and Evelina asked him about how his trip at sea had gone.

    Valegrious recounted his adventure to her, but because the tea was ready five minutes later, he promised to tell her all about it in full detail some other time.

    Evelina gave him a final kiss on his forehead, a very strong hug, and joy-filled words as to how she was happy that he was back before proceeding to head to bed. And Valegrious, carrying a teapot and two cups on a rectangular bronze tray, headed back up stairs.

    He stayed there with Minono for more than half hour just talking about Magatha's illness and about his trip at sea, for Minono had been very interested in hearing about it. Minono, ever since she had come to the monastery three years ago and had met Valegrious, had always been interested in hearing about his adventures at sea. Neither did Valegrious or Minono speak to each other about any possible feelings that they might have for the other. Valegrious was only held back due to the words his Ma had spoken to him earlier. She had been right after all, Magatha was ill and this night surely was not the right time for that. But he knew that he would soon ask Minono about it and get that resolved. In truth, Valegrious did like her, but the respect and love he had for her and every other orphan had kept him from telling her so. But now, after what Evelina had revealed, he definitely would be speaking to her.

    As he had promised his step mother that he would do, he went to get some rest, and so did Minono, who slept in that room in another bed that Evelina had brought in two weeks ago after Magatha's condition had worsened.

    *****

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    Chapter 2: Hiring Bodyguards

    ***Port Goodweather, November 25th, 1658***


    Dawn came too fast. Valegrious had found little sleep thinking about his sister and also about Minono. Nonetheless, he got up from bed feeling eager to get going. His stepmother and the Asakian girl had been up an hour earlier and had gathered him the necessary things for him to bathe. Valegrious was all up for it, but his interest was mainly getting his sister healed, so he did not remain long in the tub as he usually did after coming home from a long, exhausting trip.

    Feeling refreshed after the bath, he headed towards the kitchen area where his mother and Minono had just finished fixing breakfast. Valegrious made it there, and after thanking them both for the troubles they had gone through that morning, he sat down on chair and considered the food before him. Scrambled eggs on a plate, loaves of fresh bread on a straw basket, a wheel of cheese laying over a brown cloth, a large jar filled with milk, and a cup filled with hot coffee, were all visible on the table. There had always had to be coffee on the table, for it was Valegrious's favorite beverage.

    Evelina and Minono sat down just as he had done so and ate breakfast with him that morning. The matron of the monastery easily saw a few weird exchanges between Valegrious and Minono, but though her heart was filled with joy for them, she did not mention a word.

    They mostly ate in silence, but after a bite or two, Valegrious let them know what his plans were. He would go to the port and hire a team of mercenaries that would act as guards during their trip to the capital, and as soon as he returned with them in tow, they would leave for the capital.

    "I've had a talk with Minono about this," Evelina placed her hand on his just briefly. "I will be going with you, Valegrious. You'll need help to look after Magatha along the way. Minono will stay here and look after all the others."

    Valegrious regarded Minono. "Are you alright with that?"

    Minono was quick to give him a nod.

    "Don't worry about me, Val. I will be alright. And I will have plenty of help. Elly and Alecia will surely come and stay with me while you and Ma are away."

    "And you, Ma," Valegrious regarded Evelina. "You know it's dangerous out there. Are you sure you want to go? Hell I've heard that even giants have been sighted."

    Evelina frowned slightly. There was danger out there, what with wild beasts and monsters roaming the land, but there were also those that were working to keep the people safe from their threat. That thought alone led Evelina to say, "I'm sure we'll be alright, Valegrious. What is most important right now is Magatha's health. We must go to the capital and find a healer who may be able to heal her."

    Valegrious nodded at that and ketp eating. After he gulped down a piece of bread with a sip of his coffee, he spoke again.

    “Fine, then,” he said. “I will return later today as soon as I manage to hire a few guards. I know you’ll be ready to depart once I get back, so no need for me to tell you to be ready.”

    “I’ll be ready,” Evelina assured him.

    Before he left that morning, Evelina kissed him on the forehead and wished him the best. And Valegrious was very surprised when Minono approached him, hugged him a little tight, and kissed his cheek for the very first time. That morning, the twenty year old had grown courage and had given him her first ever kiss, one that had been long in coming.

    "You take care out there, Val," she told him. And she also reminded him to take his sword and a crossbow.

    “I will, Minos,” Valegrious eased her troubles and did his best to hide the happiness he felt. “I’ll be back before you know it."

    “I know you will,” Minono smiled back, the girl knowing how she had made him feel weird after the kiss.

    Valegrious left their side and went to see his sister before he departed. She was still asleep and looking just about the same as last night when he had laid eyes on her. Seeing his sister ill hurt his heart much, so Valegrious promised himself that he would not rest until he found a cure for her. Before he left her side, he leaned in and kissed her forehead, promising that everything would be alright soon. After having visited his sister, he headed to his room and got the things he would need for the trip to the port. He buckled up his sword belt and grabbed a white oaken crossbow from the wall, a weapon that Evelina had made for him from the trunk of an old oak. Valegrious also grabbed a quiver full of arrows and tossed it over his back. He made sure he was carrying enough gems in his pouch and then headed out of the room and down the stairs. Feeling lively after he remembered about the kiss that Minono had planted on him, he touched his cheek where he had received it and proceeded to leave the inside of the monastery altogether.

    It was still early when he went outside of the monastery, somewhere close to seven in the morning. It was cloudy, perhaps a bit chilly but not that windy, with the sun visible in the east under a light purplish sky. Valegrious had seen so many sunrises and sunsets during his young life, and he admired that one, although the sun was already fully out.

    Close to the monastery they had built stables, and they had four horses there, two cows, and a few ducks and chickens. They also had a wagon, so he headed there in hurry.

    Valegrious realized that taking the wagon would make the trip slower, so he opted to just ride a horse instead. He knew how to ride a horse. He had learned from Evelina after he had bought a couple of them later in time when he had turned seventeen. Evelina, who had been a mercenary during her younger years, had taught him and the others all about horse riding and also some battle skills. And it fits to say that the crossbow she had made for Valegrious had also come from her knowledge of having worked in the guilds, where she had learned other things that had nothing to do with fighting monsters.

    Valegrious prepared the horse and then got going, knowing that the sooner he got things done the better.

    The trip back to the port took him twenty minutes at least. Perhaps there was always the risk of encountering wild beasts and monsters out there, even in the region where they lived, but the young man only met knights and mercenaries who were keeping the land safe. They all saluted him and he saluted them back as well as he went.

    In the guilds where warriors were hired there was always someone available to take care of a job. When Valegrious had gone into Kyb's Corps seeking a group of warriors who could protect them while on their way to the capital, he had immediately been able to hire four of them from the lengthy blond haired guild master. The more warriors someone hired, the cheaper the pay for their contract, so for the services of a tall, barbarian-like human, a felinum short-statured beauty, an elf female ranger, and a dark elf buffy warrior who had long white hair, Valegrious had paid ten red gems. It was totally worth it, and he had saved himself maybe two fourths of what he would have actually had to pay without the discount. Kyb’s Corps guild, which was one of several elite guilds in the port, provided its warriors horses, so Valegrious did not have to trouble himself with renting any horses for them, the package he had paid for covered all that, even a day’s supply of food and drink. For any other days the warriors spent at his side he would have to pay for meals and drink, this the guild master had let him know.

    Once the warriors were his to order around, Valegrious told them to wait for him there at the guild since he still had business to take care of in the port. Because he knew that the trip to the capital would take days, he decided to go have word with his boss just in case he did not make it back in time. The warriors agreed to his wishes and Valegrious left the guild. By then, the streets of the port were beginning to become active with sailors and other morning passersby. Valegrious, lively as ever, saluted them all and kept going his way; he even helped a group of men who were struggling to lower a few heavy kegs of beer from a wagon, then he proceeded on.

    On the ship, the felinum beauty, who had been sitting on a crate eating peanuts, received him with a warm smile.

    “Back already?” Jzak laughed from atop the crate. “So Kaur did not lie to me: you do miss the Smelly Ignacia more than anyone else. But what’s with the crossbow and arrows? Are you going hunting or what?”

    Valegrious shook his head twice, and Jzak quickly noticed that something was wrong, for Valegrious’s serious semblance let her know that. She jumped down from the wooden crate right away.

    “Is something amiss, Valegrious?”

    The lieutenant let out a sigh before answering.

    “Yes,” he said. “It’s my sister, Jzak. She’s terribly ill.”

    “W-What?” Jzak appeared stricken, then.

    Valegrious went on to relate the whole story he had lived upon his arrival; he had left no details out.

    “Oh, this is bad,” Jzak lamented sadly after she had learned what was troubling her lieutenant.

    “It is,” Valegrious agreed. “I really wasn’t expecting to find her like that. But I am troubled at the fact that no healer has been able to heal her. And you know we have some great healers here in this port."

    "Aye."

    "So you see? That’s what has brought me to you this fine morning. I will be heading to the capital in an attempt to find a healer who might be able to heal her.”

    “You take your time,” Jzak told him right away with a concerned, serious voice. “I promise you that the Smelly Ignacia won’t be leaving this port without you.”

    “Thank you, Jzak,” Valegrious thanked kindly. “I’m glad to hear that, for I wouldn’t want to miss the next trip.”

    “Tis no problem, Valegrious. And you know I’d go with you on this trip to the capital, but alas, I’ve yet to start selling our cargo. The guys and I will commence later this morning. Perhaps if I finish—”

    “No way,” Valegrious told her, the young man even touched her on the forearm suavely. “I know you mean good by offering to come along, Boss, and you know damn well that I’d love to have you come with me, but I don’t want my personal problems getting in the way of your duty. You do what you have to do here. I am sure I will be alright out there. Besides, before coming here, I went to Kyb’s and hired some muscle for protection along the way, so we’ll be alright out there.”

    “I see,” smiled Jzak. “Alright, Valegrious. If you need anything just let me know. Are you still good on gems?”

    “I have more than enough for what I need to take care of,” the young man quickly nodded. “I’ve saved quite a lot from my earnings.”

    "Are you sure?"

    Valegrious nodded positively.

    “Glad to hear that,” smirked Jzak. “At least you know how to take care of your earnings, unlike most of the rest of the crew who just throw it all away buying this piece of crap or that.”

    “Well, we all decide what to do with our hard earned gems,” said Valegrious with a chuckle, and Jzak nodded at that and chuckled as well.


    “Good luck out there, Valegrious,” the felinum did not even ask him for permission, she just walked up to him and gave him a tender hug.

    “Thanks,” Valegrious said, not feeling surprised at all that she had done that. It wasn’t the first time that she did something like that, anyway.

    “You do come and let me know word on the matter once you get back, alright?” Jzak let him go. “I will be waiting for you, and I shall also be praying to Athena for your success.”

    “Thank you, Boss. I’ll surely come and let you know how it went as soon as I return.”

    Jzak nodded at him, and moments later, with much sadness within her, she watched as he left her side.

    *****

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  4. #4
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    Here is the next chapter. Lemme warn you: After this one comes a lengthy one, but not that long. XD

    Chapter 3: Taking Leave
    ***The Monastery, November 23rd, 1658***

    Valegrious and the four hired guards made it back to the monastery fifteen minutes after ten in the morning.

    When they got there, Valegrious noticed that someone had already prepared the wagon and horses for the trip. Two horses had been harnessed and stood calmly at the front of the four-wheeled, white-tarped wagon. The wagon was stationed just fifteen feet away from the monastery’s main entrance.

    Also, running around the large patio were several of the orphans, who, upon seeing him arrive, were quick to head his way making a ruckus. Most of the orphans’ attention was on Valegrious, but there were a few who considered the other persons that had come with him.

    Valegrious dismounted from the horse and received them all with warm smiles and hugs. They were so happy to finally see him, and Valegrious was also very happy. He spoke to each and every one of them, even ruffled some of their hair jokingly, or teased them in some other playful manner.

    Knowing that he was back, more orphans poured out from the monastery and welcomed him back and also poured him so many questions, such as if he was going to stay for a long while this time. Valegrious replied to all their questions and doubts as he usually did when he talked to them whenever he returned from a trip.

    “I have two weeks,” he told them as he remained standing in the middle, for the orphans had surrounded him. “But I am afraid I will be spending most of that time away.”

    The orphans knew why, but they still felt bad and some of them protested by saying, “Aw.”

    Moments later, after Valegrious told the hired warriors to make themselves at home, he headed into the monastery and found Evelina in the reception room, which also passed as a living room.

    “Magatha is up,” the matron mother winked at him. “She’s waiting for you in her room.”

    Valegrious tapped her shoulder and then was fast to head to the stairs.

    He quickly made it to the matron’s room and found his sister in the company of Minono and another fifteen year old brown haired girl who went by the name of Elly Rose. She too was a beauty, mostly her emerald eyes gave the young girl her beauty, but her semblance was pretty, like a flower staring at the sun.

    “Brother!” Magatha cried in happiness when her bluish eyes saw him entering the room. Valegrious had his mother's brown eyes, Magatha had inherited her father's. She headed his way right away.

    “Magatha!” Valegrious smiled widely and headed to meet up with her. The two shared a long, strong hug. “I’m so sorry for what you’re going through,” Valegrious told her once they became apart. “If I had known you’d fallen ill, I would have come back sooner.”

    “I know,” said Magatha in her crispy young voice, which sounded rough. “But that doesn’t matter now, I’m just so glad to see you. This illness..." she made a sad face. "I thought I was going to die without getting to see you again. I was scared and troubled because of that, but now that you’re here, I feel so much better now.”

    “You’re not going to die,” Valegrious held back tears after seeing her pale, gauntly face, and he took his sister by her shoulders. “You’re strong, Magatha. Listen, has Ma told you what we’re up to this day?”

    Magatha nodded twice. “You plan to take me to the capital in an attempt to find someone there who can cure me, right?”

    “Yes,” Valegrious replied. “And I’ve brought a group of warriors to keep us protected throughout the journey, so there is nothing to fear.”

    “You silly,” Magatha laughed lightly, then was taken by a cough attack. She turned aside and used her hands to cover her mouth. After she composed herself from the rough coughing, she added, “I am not afraid to go to the capital, not if you are with me, Brother.”

    “Me neither, but there are dangers out there,” countered Valegrious with a few nods. “I am not taking any chances. So, are you ready to go, then? The sooner we get you treated the better. This illness of yours has me worried, you know?”

    Magatha nodded at him, for indeed she was ready for the trip. During his absence that morning, Evelina, Minono, and also Elly, had taken to the duty of getting her ready. She was dressed in a white dress which had two pink stripes at the bottom and on the dress’s puffy sleeves as well. Because Magatha was very beautiful on a normal day, she would have resembled a princess, but she was not looking that captivating that day due to her illness.

    “Alright, then let’s get going,” Valegrious urged calmly. “As I said, the sooner we take care of this, the better.”

    “Alright, Brother,” Magatha spoke. “I will gather a few of my belongings in order to be fully ready, then I will come down the stairs.”

    Valegrious gave her plenty of time, even hugged her tightly once again just because, probably to lift her spirits even more. After he let go of her, Magatha quickly turned aside again, for another cough attack took her then. Valegrious did not like the rough sound of her coughing, nor the bloody goo that Magatha spat out that time, even though she had used a white cloth in order to not spit on the wooden floor.

    “I’m fine, Brother,” Magatha said after noticing her brother’s serious stare upon her. “I will go get those things ready.”

    While Magatha took care of her business, Valegrious spoke to Minono and Elly. He mostly confided the monastery and all the orphans to their care and told them that he would do all in his power to be back as soon as possible.

    "And you better ready yourself, Foxy," he told the Asakian. "When I get back, we are going to have a long talk, you and I."

    "Uh oh," Elly giggled and covered her mouth with her hand.

    "Me?" Minono cried with raised eyebrows. She looked at Elly and smiled at her. She then returned her eyes to Valegrious and added, "What did I do this time, Val?"

    With Minono's dark eyes upon him, Valegrious merely replied, "You'll see."

    Around five minutes later, they all came down from the second level. In the main room, Evelina was ready to go. She wore a blue dress that went tight on her torso, very loose from the waist down. She also had fastened a belt at her waist, and from this belt hung a scabbard with a sword within, and also a satchel with minor provisions within.

    The group went to the outside. There, Evelina had words with all the orphans, but mostly with Minono and Elly. She told them all to wait patiently for their return and to pray for their safety and success. While she had done that, Valegrious had spoken to the four warriors. He mostly had let them know that they were in charge of the trip and could make decisions that they thought prudent.

    “I know how to fight well,” he told them. “But I really don’t want to do that if I can help it. I don’t enjoy killing anyone, be it beast or monster. I am mostly a sailor.”

    “We’ve heard plenty about you, Master Valegrious,” said the kind-looking female elf. “We just are reserved about it. Don’t worry, if we encounter trouble along the way, then we will deal with it.”

    “Just let us know if you need help, alright? We’ll be willing to help you out, my Ma and I.”

    The elf thought on that for a few seconds and then said, “We will. If we find ourselves in a rough situation, that is. Is it alright if I take point and direct the wagon? I know how to get to the capital from here, my partners have never been there, so I’ll be more than glad to do the leading.”

    “Fine with me,” Valegrious agreed. “My Ma and I will take turns riding up front with you.”

    “Right,” the elf beauty said. “Anyway, let me give word of our planned strategy to my companions and then we can get going.”

    Valegrious nodded at her and the blonde haired elf stepped away and headed walking towards her colleagues.

    “Avon!” she spoke loud enough for Valegrious and the others to hear. “You and Tallinor will ride behind the wagon and keep our tails safe.”

    “Sounds like a plan,” the tall goatee-bearded man growled and looked upon the shorter, dark-skinned warrior. “You heard that, right, Tallinor?”

    “Aye,” said Tallinor, and the coal-skinned elf said no more, for he was the reserve type. The elf, knowing that both males had understood their duty, moved towards the young felinum.

    "As to you, Pandora,” she looked upon the young-looking, black-haired felinum, whose profession happened to be an archer. “You will ride off to the side of the wagon and alternate between sides every now and then. You have the best sight of us all, so we’ll depend on your keen eyes to keep our flank safe.”

    “Got it, Mistress Emilyann,” said the young archer.

    “Right, let’s do this, then,” Emilyann cried as she rubbed her hands together. She came walking towards Valegrious and told him that they were ready.

    "You're name is Emilyann?"

    "A combination of Emily and Ann," she nodded. "My first and middle names. You can call me that, Emily, Ann, or whatever you feel like calling me, Master Valegrious."

    "Emilyann will do," smiled Valegrious, and she smiled back at him with a nod.

    "Anyway," she said after a slight shrug. "Time to go."

    Valegrious saw her board the front of the wagon and then headed to help Magatha board through the back of the wagon. He helped Evelina up as well and then headed to the front part, where he climbed up and sat right next to the beautiful elf. One hand on his white oaken crossbow, Valegrious waved with his other hand at the orphans as the wagon got moving, but his dark brown eyes were on Minono mostly. She looked back at him, waved, smiled, and nodded once.

    “We will be back soon,” he shouted at her.

    "We'll be waiting for your safe return," she shouted back. “And don’t worry about the orphans; you know they are in good hands.”

    “Aye, make them behave while we’re gone,” shouted Valegrious with a smile on his face.

    Minono, Ella, and the orphans followed the wagon out to the road. They waved to their departing loved ones until the wagon and its surrounding vigilantes were lost to them in the hilly distance.

    *****

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  5. #5
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    Chapter 4: Finding no cure
    ***November 25th, Loungrine, Bulmax, 1658***


    Loungrine, the capital city of Bulmax, was sixty miles away from Port Goodweather. On foot, that took three days and a half at least, sometimes four. On a wagon or riding a horse, that took two days, sometimes more depending on the situations, troubles, and holdbacks one could find along the way.

    Valegrious and the rest of the group made it to Loungrine as the sun was setting on the second day since their departure from the monastery. The group had encountered little trouble along the way thanks to how effectively the realm's troops were taking care of the monsters and other threats such as bandits and highwaymen seeking to make a profit out of unsuspecting traveling victims. The group had not only seen many soldiers and mercenaries throughout the trip, but they also had run into a small horde of green skinned goblins as they had been passing through a lonely forest, and also a four-armed, flesh-eating Hruel, which was a white-furred bear-like creature with horns on its head and a nasty maw filled razor sharp teeth. The mercenaries had dealt successfully with both the threats without Valegrious or Evelina having to kill a monster. Other than that trouble, the group had also seen a group of soldiers all around a fallen giant, which they probably had felled hours earlier. Valegrious and company stopped just out of curiosity to have a look at the huge creature, which many of them had not seen before. Then, after a while, they had continued on their trip.

    Soon enough, on the second day, the huge gray-stoned castle had been available for them to see on the horizon. Loungrine was located right on the foot of a lonely mountain called Wiur near the center of the realm. The castle and its surroundings were all surrounded by an encircling thirty foot high wall, so mostly the high towers and other building rooftops as well as smoke that rose from several buildings could be seen over the wall from the distance. Because a wide, rampaging river ran close to the city's main entrance, a long stone bridge could also be seen from that distance. The river passed just under the bridge at great speed.

    Valegrious and company had enjoyed the entire sight when it had become available. The group had even stopped in order to have a good view of it because Valegrious and his sister had never been here before, had never seen the beautiful scene of the capital.

    "That's the capital," Emilyann had said proudly to all of them as they stood at the side of the road staring at the distance.

    Valegrious, as well as Magatha and the mercenaries that had not seen the breathtaking capital before, had surely enjoyed the great sight. As to Evelina, she had already been there before, but since it had been quite a few years since the last day she had spent there, she was surprised at all the new changes her eyes saw. The wall surrounding the whole capital had not existed when she had been there, and more high towers had been erected close to the castle, making it look bigger.

    Valegrious rode the rest of the way at the back of the wagon with his sister. The two talked about how big and beautiful the capital was and about other things, such as the view of the fallen giant, which had really amazed Magatha more than it had Valegrious.

    By nightfall, the group had finally entered the capital through its main wide entrance after they had gotten clearance from the many guards stationed both at the end of the bridge and at the entrance.

    Valegrious and company had come here for a single reason, a single purpose, and so as soon as they were within the mighty capital, the team, guided by the elf, headed to the bazaar.

    A large plaza built in the middle of a packed sector in front of the mighty castle was always packed with merchants and passersby from different races and realms. Many buildings and homes surrounded this plaza. Riding at the back of the wagon, Valegrious and Magatha were very surprised to see an assortment of new beings that they had never seen before. Despite feeling awful within due to her sickness, Magatha shared a broad smile with her brother and told him, "I never thought all these many beings existed, Brother."

    "The world is very big, Sister," Valegrious shared. "These are just a handful of races of so many others that exist out there. I just hope that there is someone here who can heal your illness."

    "It will be alright, Valegrious," Magatha believed, the blonde girl not missing her brother's worried tone. "I'm sure we'll find someone."

    She coughed roughly for several seconds, with Valegrious patting her shoulder tenderly.

    “You think so?”

    "I have faith that we will," Magatha told him when she calmed down from the cough attack.

    "I have that faith too," Valegrious was sincere.

    It was night but the plaza was well lit with torches and oil lamps that rested on poles, so everyone in the area could see well.

    At last, after going around the large bazaar and having seen different business establishments, the group came upon the section where healers made a living offering their curative services on the sides of the cobblestone street. Evelina let Valegrious know that they had come to such section and he ordered that the wagon be stopped. The elf heard him and found a place at the side of the street to set the wagon.

    There were more than thirty healers, all occupying their respective space on the sides of the street. Most of them had tents set up behind them, and some kept potions, herbs, concoctions, and other medicinal solutions on display on counters, tables, and stands, others on large cloths spread over the ground. Most of them kept signs that related to the passerby what they specialized in.

    When Valegrious and Magatha dropped down from the wagon, aromas of all kinds, sweet and sour, reached their noses. There were too many a variety of aromas for them to tell what caused them, for besides the smell caused by healing herbs and strong brewed potions, other aromas filled the air from the locales all around the plaza, especially those from inns, or from bakeries and restaurants. The plaza was also crowded with many wanderers, corner-gatherers, and soldiers that kept the law, but there was ample space on the streets for everyone to move about without hassle. Because it was an area where gems rolled and constant deals were made nearly every minute of every day, lots of chatter hung in the air.

    Evelina dropped down from the front of the wagon and approached Valegrious and Magatha behind the wagon, as did the mercenaries, who had dismounted from their horses a few streets back and had been following the wagon closely while pulling the horses along.

    "Let's begin searching," Valegrious conferred with Evelina. "You take Magatha and start on this end. I will go to the other end and have a look around. We’ll meet in the center."

    Evelina agreed to that, and so did Magatha.

    "Master Valegrious, do you need company?" asked Emilyann the elf. "It might not seem it, but though this place is well guarded by knights and lower ranked soldiers, thieves can still steal your valuables with ease without you ever knowing it. See all the young fellows milling about the neighboring establishments?”

    Valegrious looked around and saw more than a few young faces, some standing out of view, others reclined against porches of buildings or sitting on nearby large stones, but all definitely keeping a good eye out for possible victims. One such lass had had her eyes on him, but she turned her stare away the moment that Valegrious observed her.

    “I see them,” he whispered, and somehow, he didn't know why, he felt a little pity for them. Many of those youths, he perceived, were homeless and just trying to live on by whatever means necessary.

    “Right, so allow me to accompany you just in case. My feet allow me to run as fast as the wind, so I'd be able to catch any of those rats."

    "Fine," Valegrious agreed to that. "But I want the rest to stay close to the wagon and also to keep an eye on my Ma and sister. They both are what I am most concerned about out here, their safety, I mean."

    "It's done," the elf said, and she left his side momentarily in order to tell the others, but they had overheard Valegrious speaking, so they already knew their duty.

    "The kitty will watch them," the elf told the sailor. "She might be a small one and seem fragile to the eye, but she's a good fighter. And Avon and Tallinor will look after the wagon."

    "Alright," Valegrious felt relieved.

    The sailor and the elf headed away, Valegrious eyeing every possible healer as he went. With the help of the elf he soon found a few who were experts in healing influenzas and that sort of maladies. One was a short-statured horned being who had dark gray skin. He was a neutral demon, a deserter of its evil race come to the surface realms to live in peace with the good-sided races. The other was a being who could have passed for a young human girl if not for the pair of large white feathery wings at her back. She was an angelus from a northwestern realm known as Iviri. She was short in height, probably measuring five feet even, and she was small at the shoulders and thin but not skinny. Her hair was rather short and dark, and her skin was of a light olive color. She looked cute and young to the eye, but the truth hiding behind that facade was that the angelus was actually two hundred plus years old. That night she wore a dark sleeveless blouse and a striped skirt of black and white color, not to mention quite a few necklaces around her slender neck. After speaking to both healers about his sister’s illness for a while, Valegrious and the elf headed back to where Evelina and Magatha stood, the sailor feeling quite optimistic after the talk he'd had with the two healers. They had bid him to bring his sister forth so that they could have a look at her, and Valegrious was going to oblige their wish.

    Back where Evelina, Magatha, and the felinum were at, they had also found a few healers, but according to Evelina’s words to Magatha, they were no different than those that had already tried to heal her. They offered the same sort of medicinal potions, concoctions, herbal beverages, or prayers to gods, even false ones. When Valegrious and the long-eared beauty made it back to them, the matron of the monastery pulled the young man aside right away.

    “These healers here are quite the same as the ones who already tried healing Maggie,” Evelina let him know. “We’ll waste our time and gems with them. Did you find anything?”

    “Two, and they think they can heal Magatha,” informed Valegrious. “Come on, bring her along. We’ll see how it goes with them, but do let me know if you see anything you’ve already tried.”

    “Alright,” Evelina acknowledged.

    Evelina, Magatha, and even Pandora the archer followed Valegrious and the elf. First the group tried with the demon since he was the first one Valegrious had spoken to, and though the angelus had her small tent right next to his, she did not feel bad that the group had opted to try their luck with the demon first, for she, too, understood that in fact Valegrious had spoken to him first. The young angelus crossed her arms and paid close attention to what was developing there with the fellow healer.

    The demon healer asked the ill human to tell him all that had happened to her so that he could have a better understanding of her illness. Magatha did explain, with also help from Evelina. The demon was a good healer, but after he had examined Magatha and tried some things on her, things like body cleansing through herbs and other methods, even a quick summoning of a helper, which he had communicated with in his own demon language, he solemnly told the group a few minutes later that he could not heal her.

    "What girl has I cannot heal," he announced in his broken human accent, his negative words not only stinging and troubling Valegrious, but Evelina and Magatha as well.

    "What is the reason why you cannot?" Valegrious asked, feeling down, the lad knowing fairly well that the options to heal his sister were becoming few.

    "Because young one's illness is not a common influenza that my potions or wild herbs can heal fast or over time,” explicated the demon. “My helper detected something on her, though. Girl has a deadly bacteria in lungs, a bacteria I have never seen before."

    Valegrious gulped hard, the lad not liking the word deadly.

    "Deadly?” he said. “How do you mean?"

    "I do not know how pretty one became infected with this illness merely by having entered a cave, but that bacteria has been slowly eating lungs. If left unattended, she will most likely die soon."

    "Die?" Valegrious seethed, but then, just as he had said that, from the corner of his left eye he noticed movement off to the side.

    The angelus who had made a living there selling her potions and remedies made her way to the group.

    "Pardon me," she said, drawing attention from everybody there, even the demon healer.

    "Yes?" Valegrious asked her since her dark brown eyes were entirely focused on him.

    "I was overhearing and seeing," she said right away. "And I couldn’t help but interrupt because from what I have seen, I think I know what is wrong with your sister."

    "What?" Valegrious cried, surprised. "Really?"

    The winged healer nodded and asked for permission to revise her, and Valegrious conceded it right away. The demon, unbothered in the least at the angelus's interruption, remained hopeful that his medicinal comrade was able to heal the poor girl. After all, they were both two medic comrades who were there doing the same thing: healing people who needed healing.

    With permission conceded, the angelus walked towards Magatha. When the demon had performed his routine earlier on her, the angelus had noticed some odd and interesting things, particularly the intense, rough coughing and the yellowish bloody goo that she’d noticed coming out of the girl’s mouth.

    “Quite a cough you got there, Missy,” the angelus told the blonde girl after Magatha had coughed badly before them, even as the angelus had been revising her face with her tender hands. “I’ve only heard it a few times in my life time...and only back where I come from.”

    “Please tell us you can heal her,” Valegrious plead, and within himself, he hoped that things turned out to be positive. “We already tried so many things, with no real results.”

    The angelus appeared to be too focused on Magatha and appeared to not have listened to the man, but she had, it was just that other troubles were in her head, such as the way the girl had become infected.

    “Keep still,” the angelus spoke softly to the girl. “I am not going to hurt you, I’m just going to have a good look at your eyes.”

    Magatha nodded, and the angelus was then able to revise her eyes, mostly the bulbar conjunctiva, which was riddled with more than just reddish small veins; there were also yellow ones.

    “Hm, just as I thought,” the angelus said mostly to herself, but even those words gave Valegrious a small ounce of hope. The angelus then asked Magatha for the white cloth she held, and Magatha let her have it right away. The winged healer inspected the yucky goo on it for a while and then considered Magatha’s pale semblance. She crumpled the cloth in her hand and threw it off to the side to her portion of given territory.

    The angelus nodded a few times to herself, then, this after she convinced herself that she had been right in her speculation upon having seen the yellowy, reddish goo and had heard the girl’s rough cough. The winged being let out a simple sigh and then turned to regard the young man.

    “Well?” Valegrious asked with raised eyebrows. “Do you think you can heal her?”

    “Oh, I can’t heal her...” said the angelus with a shake of her head, her words stinging not only Valegrious’s heart, but also the hearts of those around her. Valegrious squeezed his closed mouth and began to hang his head low, but the angelus continued speaking, making him look back at her. “But my people back home where I come from surely can.”


    “Huh? Really?” Hope was reborn again in Valegrious’s being, also in Magatha’s and Evelina’s. The angelus saw how the young man stood the straighter before her.

    “Yes,” continued the angelus. “But her condition is very serious, soon bound to get worse.”

    “What do you mean?” It was Evelina who asked. The angelus creature shot the blonde woman a glance.

    “Let us just say that if you hadn’t brought her to my attention in a two month’s span from this day onward, she would have died and you would have never known why.”

    “W-What?” Valegrious cried in disbelief. Just as he had become riddled with confusion and fear, so had the others, even the elf and the felinum archer, who had no candle in that burial. Magatha and her dear brother exchanged troubled glances. “So our friend here wasn’t lying about her serious condition, then?”

    “No, your sister’s infection,” explained the angelus. “It’s deadly and not a common influenza as you all think. Anubis here,” she looked at the demon, for that was his name. “Is right, he cannot heal this illness, nor can anyone else found here for that matter. The reason why is because you eastern folks have never seen the monster at fault here for the infection, thus you have no cure."

    "Monster?" Magatha shot away, beating Valegrious and Evelina to those very words. The sailor and the matron mother of the monastery regarded the angelus with more than just shocked eyes.

    "Yes," the angelus replied coolly. "One found in my home realm. However, you told Anubis about how you entered a cave and when you came back out you were already feeling different, so it makes perfect sense since beygins, as we know these monsters as, prefer that kind of environment."

    The group remained all too quiet. Valegrious dissected the information that the angelus had just spoken, and he looked at Magatha and asked lowly, "Did you see any kind of monster in that cave?"

    "It...was a little dark," Magatha explained, the lass reliving those moments in her mind. "I was carrying a torch with me but I never saw anything, I swear."

    The winged healer raised a finger, calling for their attention. The brother and sister gave it to her.

    "That's because beygins blend well with their stony surroundings," she explained. "They resemble mere rocks or stones, but big ones, like the size of a foot, sometimes a little larger, but once you see them closely you begin to understand that they are not rocks or stones, but living creatures. When you went into that cave you might have disrupted the creature from its cherished sleep."

    "I did shout Kylia's name several times," confessed Magatha. Kylia was a young orphan under the care of Evelina, and Magatha had been searching for her on that day after the young girl had not been found anywhere. The search had ended positively when Magatha had found Kylia asleep in some nearby ruins, where the girl had gone in search of odd rocks, which she collected.

    "That's like an attack to a nearby beygin!" the angelus exclaimed. "These creatures are not known to be the aggressive type, but they do defend themselves when they believe they are threatened..." the angelus scratched her nose then. "They open small pores found all over their shell and release this near-invisible gas, which is filled with this deadly, yet non-contagious bacteria. Only if you intake this gas through your nose can you become infected. I'm sorry, Magatha, but that's probably what happened to you: you disrupted this creature from its slumber with your shouts and it released this gas upon you thinking you to be a threat."

    "That matters not now," Valegrious sounded desperate, his fingers nervously patting his brown pants. "The damage has been done, aye?"

    "Yes, and it is a very serious matter, really!" Yukiko's voice sounded more serious. "I'm still finding it hard to understand how it is that a beygin made its way here to these lands. I've never seen anyone with that kind of infection before, that is, until tonight. Maybe those creatures have always been here too, just not too easy to find, I suppose. But anyway, how that beygin got into that cave matters not now, what really should be of importance to you is that time is ticking for her. If she does not get healed soon, I'm afraid she will die.”

    That was a tense moment in which everyone remained quiet, with Valegrious regarding his sister in a dreadful way.

    “You said you couldn’t heal her, but you mentioned that your people surely can,” Valegrious’s voice carried so much anguish. “I am willing to pay for their services. Are there any others here who might be able to do that?”

    The Angelus cast him a serious look, shook her head at him, and then she headed walking back to her own area as she invited them all over when she said as she went, “Come.”

    Valegrious and his group headed to her area, even the demon approached on the side, this one wondering how everything would end for the group that night, however, at that time, a few clients arrived before his table and made him give them his attention.

    “My name is Yukiko Mirzaki,” the angelus introduced herself as she stood behind the small wooden counter. "May I know your names, good folks?"

    “I’m Valegrious,” the sailor introduced himself respectfully as he touched his chest with his left hand. He was about to use his right arm to introduce his sister and his Ma, but at that time the angelus interrupted him before he could do that, “Valegrious Coral? Might you be the sailor from the Smelly Ignacia?”

    “Y-Yes,” Valegrious said with raised eyebrows. “I am a sailor for that ship. But how is it that you know about me?”

    The angelus shook her head twice with a smile, “Word reached here about your crew’s exploits years ago. You’re quite famous, Valegrious. I imagined you to be somewhat taller, after all, word says you are very tall and can kill sea dragons with your bare hands.”

    “This is who I am,” Valegrious bit his lower lip, hiding a chuckle from the absurdity of the tales. “Sorry if I disappoint you.”

    “No,” said the angelus, the little one blushing a bit. “No, you didn’t disappoint me. But tell me, the rumors say that you are very valiant and that you’ve survived death several times. Did you really encounter those nasty monsters out there? The Gochapello and the Kraken, I mean.”

    “I did,” Valegrious spoke the truth. “And yes, I survived several other close calls as well. But anyway, this is my sister Magatha, and my step mother Evelina. The elf and the felinum are hired mercenaries who brought us here, but I am not allowed to say their names because I don’t know if they desire that, and besides, it is none of my business saying it.”

    “I’m Emilyann Greenleaf,” said the elf from Valegrious’s left side, and she cast the sailor a quick, soothing look. “It’s quite alright, Valegrious.”

    The elf returned her stare on the angelus and added, "The little one you can call Pandora, for that is her name."

    The angelus and the felinum exchanged looks and slight smiles, but that was about it.

    Valegrious waited patiently for the introductions to end. At the right side, Magatha coughed badly again, and Evelina handed her a clean cloth so she could use it to cover her mouth. The cough was so violent that it forced the ill girl to double over for a while. Valegrious, concerned, even put an arm on her shoulder in a soothing manner, but his sister rose a few seconds later, her eyes filled with tears, and she nodded at him. According to her nod, she was alright, but Valegrious knew well that her coughing felt stronger, coarser, and he did not like that.

    “As I was saying,” Yukiko went on. “Your sister is very ill, Valegrious. And no, there are no other angelus healers here but me, the ones that I know about make a living hunting wild animals and monsters in the north lands. I could probably heal your sister, but I don't have the materials I need to concoct the brew, the potion, and those are not found here. She’s got only a few months left of life, and really, it is very hard to say with this damn illness, she could have less. My people can surely heal her, but...”

    The angelus let her words hang and looked at everyone one at a time.

    “Yes?” Valegrious asked pallidly.

    “You do know that I come from the northwest, right?”

    When Valegrious heard her say that in a serious yet uneasy manner, he thought he understood why she was saying that and in that uneasy way. He had become unnerved within but showed it little, and it was because Valegrious knew that saving his sister from that damned illness could prove to be a very difficult task after all.

    “I hadn’t seen an angelus before I laid eyes on you tonight,” he admitted to the healer with a scratch of his head. “But I heard rumors while out at sea and saw some pictures in a few books. My crewmates also know some things about your race, and I have a captain who knows quite a lot, too, so I learned a lot from them. So yes, I've heard about your kind, and I know that your realm, Iviri, lies somewhere to the northwest. If you’re trying to remind me of the grave danger that is involved in order to get there through a short route by sailing the western sea, then yes, I am also well aware about that.”

    “Indeed,” Yukiko spoke and congratulated the handsome man in silence for having understood the meaning behind her serious, uneasy tone. “And so, are you willing to go there even with all the danger that is said to be there?” she inquired. “I mean listen, you can’t take the long routes due to how short a time your sister has of life, you’d never make it in time. The shortest route through the unsailed sea takes a month and a week of sailing at the very least if all goes well...so, with your sister’s scenario, you’re basically forced to take the short route.”

    Valegrious did not respond right away, instead, he momentarily lowered his head in sadness but then looked over at his sister. They stared at each other for quite a while, but then Valegrious cleared his throat, looked back at the angelus, and spoke, “If there is no other way, then yes, I am willing to head there if it means that she will heal from this awful sickness.”

    “What about you?” Yukiko stared Magatha.

    The blonde girl seemed afraid after the angelus had asked her the question, and if it wasn't for her already pale semblance, she would have seemed very pale before them. Magatha knew little about the dangers out at sea. Valegrious had told her many things during the times he had come home from a trip, but he had rarely spoken to her and the others about a dangerous region out at sea that not many ships dared to sail over, a region that was heavily rumored to be the ancient burial of a sunken realm. Trembling a bit, Magatha looked over at Valegrious as if seeking help and support from him.

    “She does not know much about the tales of the unsailed sea,” Valegrious came to the rescue. “Nor does my Ma, for that matter, for I haven’t really spoken much to them about it, and I doubt they've heard much.”

    “What is this all about, Valegrious?” Evelina, in her confusion and willingness to know, commenced to ask as she came forward, but Yukiko spoke louder then, “Would she be willing to expose her life like you? Would your sister be willing to do that in an attempt to make it to my home realm just so she can get healed?”

    It appeared then that a long silence took over, and surely Valegrious thought that he had lost his breath for a long while. But he had not, it was just the tension he felt.

    “We have no other option,” Valegrious spoke then, also calming Evelina down with his right hand, the lad promising with whispered words that he would tell her about the problem soon enough. Evelina did relax and just chose to listen to what was being spoken between her adopted son and the angelus. At Valegrious's side, the elf had turned a little anxious, and just because Emilyann had, in fact, heard several tales about the unsailed sea. Pandora was all confused about the whole thing but listening on as well, hands on her slender hips, her cat ears surely perked up and listening intently.

    “It’s a foolish idea, I say,” Yukiko barked and looked down at the potions on the counter. “For you see, I, myself, barely made it here ten years ago through that very route. I was a fool to have attempted it back then, but I had an adventurous heart to a fault and wanted to come to the motherland, as this cluster of lands is known as. I came with a great crew, the best warriors from my tribe that I could gather. Three ships put out to sea from my home realm, all were destroyed during our voyage, all the other angelus that came with me died out there." Yukiko lowered her head, it appeared, in shame. But she lifted it up right away and added, "I survived, but just because of ill luck, I guess. I should have died with all them after—”

    “Hold on,” Valegrious requested, holding a hand up. “You have my sympathy for your lost friends, but let me ask you something before you go on. May I?”

    Yukiko nodded at him, not upset in the least that the famous sailor had interrupted her.

    “Do you think my sister wants to die from this illness?” he shot at her. “Do you think I want that? I'll tell you what...I surely as hell don't. And just look at her face. I am sure she does not want to die from that illness. She's scared beyond reason.”

    Yukiko swallowed lightly and looked at Magatha, who looked back at her quietly and tensely. Another cough attack took her then, and all waited till it passed.

    “Tell her, Sister,” Valegrious urged. “Do you want to die from this illness?”

    “No,” Magatha spoke, her tone troubled, for she was now surely scared. “I would take the chance that my brother wants to take. I appreciate my life, and abandoning hope and remaining here doing nothing would prove me to be a coward. What I have heard from your conversation surely has scared me greatly, but my brother is right: we have no other option. Even if that area is very dangerous as you say, I would gladly sail there if it means that I would be able to get to your home realm, where you say I can be cured.”

    “Look,” Valegrious added, a hand of his risen briefly before going back down. “She’s young and strong, and she will see many more years of life." Valegrious hugged his sister with his right arm and went on, "I will not cross my arms and do nothing and allow this illness to claim my sister. Instead, we both will take the chance and try to make it to your homeland. That’s worth a shot instead of doing nothing, don’t you agree, Yukiko?”

    The angelus rubbed her hands slowly down her face, and she walked a few steps away, quite troubled. She felt bad within knowing that these good folks were going through something so tough as this. The girl, she knew, was surely done for if she remained unattended, for there was absolutely no cure for her illness out here, only back in Iviri. But she had just a few months left of life, possibly less, and that meant that if her brother was to save her, he and those that went with him would have to take the risk of sailing over the dangerous route that mostly one out of a hundred ships took on a monthly basis, sometimes none would. Yukiko was mostly troubled because of that, because she had already experienced the awful things that the area had to offer to any brave souls that dared to venture there. While many lives had been claimed in that area, she had somehow survived, perhaps barely, but she had survived and knew things about the area, which she didn't speak of to anyone since her awful experience. The past came back to her that moment and haunted her heart, soul, and mind. And she would have cried after remembering her bad experience, for she had indeed lost so many loved ones and friends, except that Valegrious cleared his throat then.

    “Look,” Valegrious said, sensing that the angelus had somewhat become troubled about something. “Let’s leave the danger out for now. Just tell me what I should know if I am to heal her. Where exactly in your realm are the healers that can heal her located?”

    Yukiko did not reply, she only remained in her position struggling to hold back her tears.

    “You want gems for any information you will provide?” Valegrious began to search an inside pocket of his vest when he noticed that Yukiko was not even paying attention to him. As he brought out a small pouch, he cried, “I will pay you, just tell me, please.”

    “Save your gems, Valegrious,” Yukiko spoke. She turned around and came back and stood before them, and she sighed loudly. “Telling you something as simple as this information that you want to know does not require any form of payment from you. All you have to do, if you make it, is tell the first of my kind that you encounter about her illness, about how she has the Beygin sickness. They will take care of her. But I warn you now, it’s going to be costly, so you better take at least enough to total five black gems.”

    “Is that it?” Valegrious asked, the lad not thinking much about the cost, he knew that after he spoke to his boss he would have enough for the trip and to cure his sister. If not, then he knew that he would have to sell some things in order to raise enough gems for all that.

    “That’s it,” Yukiko nodded sadly, but mostly because she imagined Valegrious losing his life in that place at sea where she nearly had died. “You shouldn't worry about being strangers there, either. My folk know about your kind and many others, so they will receive you with good eyes. Besides, there are humans living there already, so you will be fine.”

    “Then there is no more for me to say on the matter,” said Valegrious, the lad truly unaware that Yukiko felt pity for him and the others. “I thank you kindly for all the information you have kindly provided tonight, Yukiko. If there is a way I could ever repay you for it, just let me know before we take our leave.”

    Yukiko remained quiet for a while and just stared him over from head to toes. She admitted to herself that he was a fine specimen.

    “It was no trouble,” the healer spoke at length. “Just, if you do go out there to that zone, be extra careful and always on the lookout for trouble, because it always finds you there.”

    Valegrious remained staring at her in silence for a while, but then, after he heard his sister coughing roughly again, he nodded and said, “We will.”

    *****

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    284 views. Thank, peeps. I really expected way less views.

    This next update is a small chapter.

    Chapter 5: Confessions

    ***November 27th, 1658***

    Everyone was disappointed about how the trip to the capital had been all for naught. The group had returned to the monastery two days later.

    The orphans were pained with sadness when they became aware that Magatha was still ill, but Valegrious told them all to keep their hopes high. He told them about how there was a cure for his sister out there and that he would be attempting to make it there in order to see her healed. He never mentioned the danger involved to them because he knew they were young and did not need that kind of worry on them.

    With the help of Evelina, Valegrious had explained the dire situation to the ones who had a right to know, the older ones, like Minono, Elly Rose, and a seventeen year old lad named Tyson Arrant. Those three were the only ones that were told about the dangerous voyage that Valegrious had planned in taking, but Valegrious bade them to be discreet.

    That chilly night of November, Valegrious called Minono out of the monastery, and she went with him up to the high roof. Seated on it very close to a bricked chimney that stuck out in the middle of the roof, the two stared at the beautiful stars for a while. And while doing so, Valegrious explained to her in full detail about the dangers involved where they would be heading to. Upon seeing Minono's sad, worried semblance, he let her know that they had no other options.


    "I must see Magatha healed," he said, his voice full of anguish and concern, and Minono knew why that was. "If that's the only chance that we have, we've agreed to take it," he went on. "Time is of the essence, Minos, and so as early as the morrow comes, I will set to action. I will go explain things to my boss and then will attempt to gather everything I need in order to set sail..."

    "I'm sorry about all this, Valegrious," Minono told him and even placed her hand over his shoulder. Valegrious, feeling her hold, regarded her. The two remained staring at each other for a few seconds, their breaths visible to each other when they exhaled. Minono showed him a tender smile, and Valegrious returned it and with a slight nod.

    "Me too," said Valegrious quietly, then he cleared his throat and went on. "Listen, Minono. I know this is not the opportune moment, but I might as well get this over with tonight."

    Valegrious stood up and reclined himself against the chimney. Minono also stood up, but her semblance had changed. Just like Valegrious, she seemed serious, and it was because she felt that Valegrious was going to confess something to her, though she did not know what. It was very chilly out there, and though the two were wearing warm gear like sweaters, coats, gloves, and scarfs, the chilly wind forced Minono to cross her arms over her bust.

    For a while, Valegrious just regarded her, considering her beauty. Even with those glasses that she wore she looked pretty, in fact, Valegrious believed that the glasses were what gave her extra charm, exoticness, and beauty.

    He reached out to her and touched her gently on the side of the shoulders and kept his hands touching them, his eyes always on her.

    "Better days have passed in which I should have told you this," he began nervously. "But I was undecided at that time, perhaps held back by fear or uncertainty. The truth I want to let out this night is..."

    Minono regarded him for a while after he paused.

    "Yes, Val?"

    Valegrious coughed and went on, "That I have feelings for you, Minos."

    After he had let it out, he just remained staring at her. Minono smiled softly and never lowered her head, neither did she look the other way. Her eyes danced wildly behind her glasses as she kept them on him, and she felt an inner warmth, her heart beating a little faster than usual. All of a sudden, for both of them, it appeared that the cold did not exist.

    "I..." the Asakian stammered, turned her head aside in mild embarrassment, and then faced him again. "I feel the same way, Val. Ever since I met you I've always felt something special for you. But as you have said, for those very reasons that you mentioned, I was kept from professing my love to you. But I did want to, I was just too scared to tell you because I was afraid of refusal."

    Valegrious smiled happily and used his gloved hands to bring her closer to him, and she never put any resistance. She took him by the waist when her body was touching his torso, and Valegrious kept her embraced tightly.

    Hugged is how they remained on the rooftop for more than two hours, and they shared more than one kiss that starry, beautiful night. The two talked about many things, mostly on what could have been if either of them had decided to confess in the early days to the other the love he or she had felt.

    "I don't know," replied Valegrious to that question. "But we will make up for that lost time, Minos. Right now my duty is to see my sister healed."

    It was during that time that Minono grew courage and told him that if he was going out to danger, so would she.

    "Minono, no," Valegrious started to protest. "I don't want to put innocent lives at risk if I can afford it."

    "I no longer can be without you at my side," she told him right away. "Not after you've confessed your love to me. You don't know how much I've craved this moment, Valegrious, to be with you, that is. To know that you love me. And I surely as hell won't lose you. If you are going out there, I will be going with you and face the same danger you will face, because I truly love you."

    "And because I really love you, I say these next words to you. I think you're better off here, Minos. Ma will have need of you more than I will."

    "No, Val," she countered. "I already had plans to tell you about how I wanted you to get me a job aboard the Smelly Ignacia. I want to be with you! You can't be mean and leave me here after you've told me you love me. I want to be with you, I want to help you through these hard times that you and Magatha are going through. My place is by your side. Besides, you know damn well that Ma has plenty of help with Elly and Tyson. And I will be able to look after Magatha, too."

    Valegrious swallowed hard. He wanted to tell her otherwise, wanted to change her mind somehow, but he never spoke to her those words because she then rested her head on his chest and kept talking about how anything he said to her that would be an attempt to change her mind would not work.

    "We have time to be together, Minono," is what Valegrious told her after he had planted a kiss on her dark hair. "Think about this matter well during the next days I beg of you, alright? It's no game, this is truly serious."

    She looked up at him. "I know that, Val. Why do you think I want to go with you?"

    "Look, if you really want to go out there, I won't stop you. You're of age and can make your own decisions, and I respect that. But it is my obligation to tell you what we'll most likely be running into out there. So listen to me, alright?"

    Minono quietly nodded at him. And Valegrious went on to tell her all about what he knew about the unsailed sea, about the rumors he had heard during his many trips. He really troubled her when he had told her all about it, he could see it in her pretty face, which appeared very worried before him. Valegrious hoped that in the end that information made her reconsider.

    *****

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    Chapter 6: Taking Action
    ***November 28th, 1658***

    Early the very next day Valegrious headed to the Smelly Ignacia and spoke to Jzak about his sister's deadly illness and about what his plans to see her healed were.

    The felinum had turned pale when Valegrious had mentioned that he would have no choice but to take some time off from work in order to venture into the unsailed sea in an attempt to get to Iviri and save his sister's life from that terrible illness.
    The captain of the Smelly Ignacia had not expected the young fellow to come to her ship that morning bearing those terrible news. She quickly had taken him to her private cabin and there the two discussed the matter for several hours. Valegrious left no details out.

    Jzak Hennessy knew well about the deadly region that Valegrious had in mind sailing through, and so the first few minutes of the conversation had been to Valegrious like facing a deadly storm out at sea like the several he had lived through on the Smelly Ignacia. Jzak became not only troubled, but she also became deeply saddened and shocked at the sudden turn of events. She was quick to tell Valegrious to think about finding another way instead of sailing over that rough terrain.

    "I'm sorry, Cap'n," he told her. "There is no other way."

    "Have you forgotten all I've told you about that area, Valegrious?" Jzak fumed, and only because she thought it crazy that Valegrious had in mind going there no matter what.

    "No, but I have no other choice, Captain," Valegrious replied with an upraised voice. "If I don't do this, according to the angelus's words, my sister will die in sixty days or so, probably less. You know that I will never let that happen."

    "The unsailed sea is not a game, Valegrious," Jzak clutched his shoulders with her hands, her beautiful face deformed with much worry and fear. "You do know that you will be exposing not only your life but all the lives of those that go with you?"

    "I knew that from the moment I became aware that I had no other choice. Still, I will go there because I have no other choice."

    "Dammit, this is madness," Jzak walked away off to the side, quite troubled within. "Countless of ships have mysteriously ended at the bottom of the sea out there, Valegrious," she went on without looking at him. "Others were simply destroyed by the pirate fleets that are said to operate in that zone. And then you have all these other bizarre stories about the sunken realm, about creepy monsters coming out from the sea and dropping unexpectedly from the sky, the fog that kills, the deadly sirens, and so on." The felinum turned back on Valegrious, who was listening intently to her, listening to everything that he already knew about. "You know all this since I already told you about it many times."

    "Yes, and I'm worried as hell," Valegrious was sincere. "But pirate fleets are said to lurk in that zone. How do they survive the madness of the place? If they can do it, so can another crew, dammit."

    "It's not just those damn pirates," Jzak cried, the captain using her right hand to rub her chin after all the tension Valegrious had brought upon her soul. "They lurk on the edges of the zone, this I am sure of. It's in the very center of that area where it gets very nasty. You have to go through there if you aim to reach Iviri by the short route, but it's damn impossible if--"

    "Still," shouted Valegrious. "I will not see my sister dead because of that damn illness that's eating her lungs. I will go there, and though I hold much respect for you, Cap'n, there is nothing you can do or say to alter my plans, so save your words."

    Jzak Hennessy wanted to tell him more on the matter, wanted to really change the lad's mind, but she calmed down after what he had told her and walked over to a wooden table where she kept bottles and goblets. The stormy moments of the chatter passed then and came the calm, with the felinum seeming to understand that no matter what she told Valegrious that she would not be keeping him from going out there. She was deeply sad and concerned for him, though, and so she uncorked a bottle of rum and poured some on two goblets. She needed a drink to relax herself.

    Valegrious could tell that she was not angry at him, just very edgy and frightened that he had to go through all that just to heal his sister. But as she served the liquid on to the goblets, the sailor noticed that she appeared to have understood that he had no other choice but to go with the deadly current.

    "Valegrious," her voice sounded hurt, sorrowful. Her head was lowered, and she was still facing the other way, quite heart-struck.

    "Yes?"

    "I can't really keep you from going out there," she continued with a faint voice. "I'm just very worried about all this, that's all."

    "As well as you should be," Valegrious agreed, his ears hearing the liquid being poured on to the goblets. "I mean, who wouldn't be, Jzak? You don't know how worried I've been ever since I understood that myself. But even I am wise to know that I have no other choice before me, and thus I must do this for the sake of my sister. After all, she's all I have..."

    At that, the felinum turned around, her hands holding on to the two goblets. She walked up to Valegrious and offered him one. The human took it and took a quick sip of it, because he really needed to calm his tension down as well. The felinum followed suit with a sip of her own, a long one that left the goblet half full.

    "The decision is yours to make in the end," she pointed at him with the goblet, her voice a little calmer now, but within she remained truly perturbed. "I'm deeply saddened to see you go, to know that you've decided to venture into that dangerous place where not many dare to go."

    "I know you are," Valegrious said from his place. "I knew this when I made my decision days ago. I knew that I would be upsetting and making you feel like...well...like you are. But, I do believe we will be fine out there, and I've never paled before the face of danger. I haven't let the trouble of the route panic me like it does others. Sure, I'm tense and scared about it, but I have to remain sane. I'll deal with all that when the time comes. For now, I have so many other things to worry about, like finding a crew and buying a ship. My sister really needs to be cured, Captain. She's all I have left of our family line, and so heal her is what I aim to do, or I will die trying."

    The felinum took another long drink. Valegrious noted then how troubled he had made her. She was surely upset, but mostly he could read concern for him on her face. Moments like these were meant for crying, and the felinum never hid the tears that dropped from her eyes then.

    "I'm grateful for the time you've given me," she told him with watery eyes. "Grateful that I got the chance to teach you all that I know. I trust in you and your skill, Valegrious. The place where you will be sailing over will require that and much more from you, but I do believe in my heart that you have what it takes to make it. In the past, ships have made it through, perhaps just a few of them, and there's been survivors, tales say. I've nothing much to teach you. You've been a great sailor, and we'll all miss you. I will be praying for your safety and success as well, you know this."

    She then hugged him very tight, and he did likewise, the lad enjoying the fresh, sweet smell of her perfume. The Smelly Ignacia had two meanings under that name. One was attributed to the stinky fish smell found on the lower levels of the ship where the caught fish were stored and salted, and also on deck where the caught fish and monsters were examined firsthand. The other meaning was attributed to the fact that the captain had named her ship like that after her own love for perfumes, which she sprayed on herself every day. Ignacia was Jzak's middle name, but one she rarely used.

    "I know you will," Valegrious breathed calmly as he kept her embraced with one free hand, with the other he held on to the goblet, which was still half full of rum. "And I shall be praying for yours as well."

    "You're such a brave soul," Jzak whispered at him. "Not many would hasten to make the decisions you made both as a young kid and this recent one. That's of admiration, Valegrious. And I'm really sorry that I can't go with you on this voyage. I have my own agenda to follow, my own reasons...you understand."

    They separated then. Those final words sent a shiver running down Valegrious's back, not that he had been hopeful that the felinum would take heart in the matter and accompany him and the rest out there.

    "I do," Valegrious stared up at her beautiful face. "I just feel glad knowing you understand me. Should we set sail and make it, and if we return back home alive and well, I will be coming to the docks regularly if I don't find you upon my return, that is, if you want to take me in once again under your service."

    "Oh, Valegrious," the felinum smiled despite her teary eyes. "You know you will always have a place on my ship. You're part of it, you've earned it after all the time you've sailed with me. You know you will have an open spot, child, always will. Remember that when you are out there. Remember that I will be longing for your safe return, just like everyone else you're leaving behind."

    The two remained talking for another two hours unbothered, not just talking about the matter at hand, but also reliving moments from the past. Valegrious thanked her kindly for everything she had done for him up to that point, and before leaving the ship, he got a bonus for all the years of service on the Smelly Ignacia. Captain Jzak Hennessy not only gave him enough gems for the trip he was about to take, but she had also given him a few presents that she'd had in mind giving him if ever such a day in which he said goodbye to her came. She had given him a sword that had a white colored, diamond-filled hilt and a pistol, both magical. Valegrious had been amazed to see such fine gifts, and he had started to protest at her for having given him such mighty objects, but Jzak told him that she would not be taking no for an answer.

    "You've earned them, Valegrious," she told him. "And besides, they'll come useful out there where you are going. I had plans to give them to you after our next trip, but alas, today is a good day."

    Valegrious couldn't thank her enough.

    Besides the mighty gifts, she also gave him several strong hugs and told him to take care out there. Once the two came out to deck, the sailors that were there on the deck, though very saddened when the captain told them all that Valegrious was going away for some time, had said farewell to him, but not before having given him presents, good wishes, and several huzzahs for his long service rendered to the Smelly Ignacia. The water pixie turned very sad and could not believe that he was leaving them, but she wished him good luck and gave him an amulet charm for good luck. Valegrious allowed her to hang it around his neck, and he thanked her kindly.

    Leaving the ship was hard for Valegrious. His legs had felt heavy, as had his soul. He had cried when the sailors had bid him farewell, but the lad had left nonetheless because he had a duty to his sister. As he walked through the port with intentions to start finding an abled crew and a ship for sale, his heart was torn merely because it had really pained him to have asked Jzak Hennessy for his release.

    ***

    Word, like a wild fire burning a forest, spread fast in the port about someone who was looking to buy a ship and hire brave sailors and warriors who would be willing to expose their lives by sailing over the western sea's unsailed sea.

    Word of these news easily reached the many taverns, guilds, and nearby establishments located in the port. Many sailors--old and new--heard about it, and also warriors. And though the majority of them would be refusing to take the risk as they had on many occasions, some really considered signing up after word also ran with these news that it was Valegrious—the famous monster hunter from the Smelly Ignacia—who was really the one who was looking to set sail if a ship crew was assembled. He was only doing it because he had no choice. His sister was gravely ill and that is what was driving him to organize a brave crew for the dangerous voyage.

    Many seadogs held much respect for the lad, for they knew of his achievements, knew that he had become a sailor at a very young age, and they also knew that he had a very kind heart. Plus, knowing that his sister would die if left unattended, that information touched the hearts of many sea dogs. Most of those knew that over the years Valegrious had helped the needy folk who made a living at the port, and they all knew that he had an orphanage that housed a lot of orphans. That orphanage saw the visit of several sailors and warriors who had become quite interested and had gone there seeking to speak with Valegrious himself. And Valegrious had spoken to each and every one of them and had explained to them the situation. He told them that he indeed was the one looking for a brave crew, but also revealed to them that he still had not bought a ship.

    "My friends," Valegrious told them all outside of the monastery. "The rumors you've been hearing are true. I have plans to sail over that unsailed territory, it's no joke, the voyage has been planned since days ago. My sister is terribly ill, I must attempt to get her to Iviri so she can heal from this illness. I still haven't bought the ship, and I won't be doing it unless I find a crew, else it will be a waste of gems. So, if you really are interested in sailing with us, then I bid you to present yourselves tomorrow at the docks at noon. If we complete the crew that we are looking for, then we might be setting sail in a few days. Please, I bid you to spread word of this matter. And god bless you all."

    The sailors and warriors had left, and from what Valegrious had seen in their faces and their enthusiasm, he knew that it was very possible that he would be gathering the crew after all, perhaps not all of it, but most of it. He felt good that night, felt great knowing that there was a high chance that they would be setting sail after all. He had trouble sleeping that night, what with so many things on his mind, but he did catch his good rest right beside Minono, who had chosen to sleep at his side that night. Knowing what was coming in the days ahead, both used that night to please and show each other the love they felt for one another.

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    Chapter 7: An Unexpected Surprise
    ***November 29th, 1658***

    Morning came fast, but Valegrious had been looking forward to this day since he had last spoken to the angelus at the capital. He seemed optimistic when he came to the kitchen that morning, but the rest of his family did not. Evelina evidently was thick with worry even though he had not even put out to sea yet. His sister appeared even more ill before his eyes, and very troubled as well. The pure truth was that Magatha was very scared about the whole trip they were going to take. The last days had really been a pain for her, for she knew that because of her illness her brother and many others would be exposing their very lives at sea. That, if anything, made her feel worse than she already was feeling thanks to that awful sickness. As to Minono, she, too, was filled with much worry and fright, but she was not backing away an inch, she had let Valegrious know last night after the sailors had left that she was going and that was final. Valegrious once again had tried to persuade her to change her mind, what with all the danger that they would be living through.

    "I just don't want to expose any innocent lives than I have to," he had explained last night. "You are a good woman, Minono. As I told you days ago, Ma could benefit from your presence here while I go and take care of this matter."

    "No way," Minono had said right away whilst shaking her head. "We already spoke about this. I love you too much, Val. Where you go I will go, doesn't matter if it's this unsailed sea or hell. I am going and that's final."

    A long, tense moment had ensued in which Valegrious just remained quietly staring at her.

    “Then calm yourself, woman,” Valegrious had hugged her.

    “I am calm,” she had replied. “I just want you to understand that I am going and that you can’t do anything about it.”

    Valegrious felt bad knowing that he could do nothing to change her mind, thus he applied a little more strength to that hug.

    "Today we'll know if I manage to hire a crew," he told them over breakfast, but his voice sounded low and very tense. Both Evelina and Minono knew that he was more scared about not being able to hire the crew than sailing out there. "I will return with news later today, but since I am actually feeling very hopeful, you better ready any belongings you might be taking, Minono, because even if I don’t manage to hire a complete crew, I will still be sailing out there with whatever I happen to get."

    Minono quietly gave him a nod.

    ***


    The young man was not expecting to get a shocking surprise as he had been riding his horse towards the port. Ever attentive to his surroundings and the possible danger, Valegrious had easily seen a flying form coming from the north from beyond a range of tall trees. He slowed the horse down, rested his hand on the hilt of his sword, but his eyes soon narrowed when he thought he recognized the flying figure as it came flying close towards him.

    “Yukiko?” he asked himself.

    It was indeed the angelus. Flying some fifty feet in the air she saw how Valegrious stopped the horse and dismounted it right away. She flew low and landed not ten feet away from him. Her wings folded as she walked towards him, the angelus smiling lightly as she went.

    Valegrious noticed that a sack hung from her right shoulder.

    “Yukiko, what are you doing out here?” Valegrious was surely surprised.

    Yukiko regarded him and the white horse behind him.

    “I convinced myself that I had to find you,” she said all too eagerly. “It took a lot of reasoning and convincing from my part, but in the end I chose to follow my heart.”

    “I am so glad to see you,” Valegrious smiled at her, and within he suddenly felt a little hopeful. “I really am. But still, I remain curious about your presence here. Why have you really sought me? Did you somehow...managed to brew the potion?”

    “Not really,” Yukiko breathed calmly. “I mean, I hate to give you those news. Look, I know you are surprised and all, but I will tell you why I have come."

    Valegrious could only offer a slight nod as his hope died within.

    "I gave the matter some deep thought after you and your group left that night," the winged being explained. "I felt so awful not being able to heal your sister. I came seeking the cave where she fell ill, and I did find it and also the culprit making of it its home.”

    She threw the sack that she had been carrying over her shoulder to the ground. Valegrious followed the sack with his eyes but then regarded her again.

    “There in that sack you’ll find the beygin responsible for your sister’s illness, albeit dead. I killed the monster and brought it so you could see it, that is, if you want to. It was a little hard finding you, but at the port I heard word about your whereabouts, and here you have me. I also learned word that you indeed are planning to go out there, so after giving this matter some deep thought, I agreed with myself that I am going with you...that is, if you’ll allow me to go."

    Valegrious swallowed hard. He had never expected this to be the case, in fact, he thought he would never see the angelus again. Valegrious ignored the sack on the ground, the sailor never doubting the angelus that she had killed the monster. He felt so bad about his sister’s illness that he did not feel like looking at the contents of the sack, instead, he just looked suavely at the angelus, his eyes glimmering with more than just thanks.

    "Yukiko, are you sure?” he then asked her. “I mean, of course I would be honored to have you go with us, but have you really considered the danger involved?"

    "I have," nodded the angelus, and she sighed before the sailor and put her hands on her slender waist. "I'm filled with more than dread, Valegrious. I was lucky to survive my first voyage through that dark place, and perhaps I should listen to reason and take care and not go there again. But...it pains me greatly to know that you and your sister are forced to go through there. I've given the matter a lot of thought and have come to the conclusion that perhaps my experience could be of use to you. I don't want to go anymore than you do, hell, my knees are trembling slightly just telling you about it, but believe me when I say that I want to tag along and help as best I can. Your sister deserves every chance that you can give her, and besides...so long have I yearned to see my home land and the loved ones I left behind. I was planning on taking a longer route there once I did decide to return, but I might as well forward my trip and lend my help to you. If we make it through, I will be doing just that: laying eyes on my home realm and loved ones once again, so give me the chance to accompany you, please."

    "It's a done deal," Valegrious smiled at her. "I'd never tell you no, Yukiko. Listen, I am on my way to the port. I will be enlisting those that wish to help me with this task, you're welcomed to come with me if you want."

    "But of course," Yukiko cried. "I have to go to the port and pick up my possessions from the inn, anyway."

    "Then let us go," said Valegrious. "If you want to, you can ride behind me, or you can fly if you want, however it’s more comfortable for you."

    "I'll ride with you," the angelus was quick to choose. "I do like riding horses, fine beasts they are."

    "Suit yourself," Valegrious said and then mounted the horse. “What about the sack?”

    “The monster will no longer hurt anyone,” Yukiko said, then she stooped low and untied the sack, later to reveal a stone-like thing that Valegrious saw. He was forced to dismount the horse and neared Yukiko, who had remained in her low posture. He examined the stone-like being and indeed noticed the details that made it a monster and not a stone. Its main body appeared like a shell, but it had many legs underneath, like a centipede. It also had two thin antennas on the front end, which Valegrious believed was the creature’s smallish head, and lastly, Yukiko revealed the tiny holes on the beygin’s hardened shell.

    “It’s dead now,” Valegrious said moments later as he rose up. “But we better get rid of it.”

    “I’ll properly dispose of it at the port. I’ll take it to the burning locale so they can toast it for good.”

    “That sounds good to me,” said Valegrious, at least feeling a bit happy knowing that the monster that had infected his sister with that deadly illness had been dealt with.

    Seconds later, he mounted his horse and helped the angelus up with his own arm. Yukiko, once on the horse behind him, was quick to put her hands around his waist, as a security measure.

    Valegrious and the angelus made it to the port fifteen minutes later. With the sudden addition of the first crew member, the young man was already feeling very sanguine. What other surprises awaited him that day, he thought.


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  9. #9
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    Thanks for the 500+ views, peeps. I dunno who you are, but thank you. Hope you're enjoying this tale.

    Chapter 8: Crews Confirmed
    ***November 29th, 1658***


    More sailors than Valegrius had expected showed up at the docks that chilly afternoon. In truth, many of them had been waiting for him to show up. Some had even followed him from the moment he had entered the port. Seeing their interest made Valegrious relax from his worries.

    Once at the docks, where the smell of salt and fish were heavy, and where seagulls seemed to hang around just like old sailors did to share tales during their morning coffee, Valegrious found a small wooden crate and stood on it while the multitude surrounded him. After a deep breath, he explained to them all what the situation was.

    "Thank you all for coming," he began, and those present quieted down and gave him their undivided attention. Even a few knights had gathered there, but mostly to keep the peace after quite a crowd had gathered there. "Most likely you all know about the grave danger that is involved in this trip that I have planned in taking," Valegrious went on, not beating around the bush. "But I have to go out there for the sake of my sister. And so I am here to sign up anyone who is willing to risk his or her life."

    The crowd erupted in a ruckus, as all those present were either interested in being signed up or had some questions that they needed answered before deciding to risk their lives. Valegrious had control of the situation, though. He extended his arms out and the crowd quieted down when they saw him. Yukiko was standing nearby, but she was listening on to his words just like everyone else.

    "Geez," continued Valegrious with a light smile. "No need to fight over the positions available, gents and ladies, there are plenty of you here that we might even be able to organize two crews or three instead of one."

    The crowd blurted out laughing, but they were soon quieted once again, but not because Valegrious had bid them to do so with his hands, rather because there came a very loud bang somewhere behind Valegrious.

    The whole crowd turned in that direction, as did Yukiko and Valegrious, who'd been surprised but not scared by the loud bang. The lad's brown eyes saw Jzak Hennessy holding a sawed-off double barreled musket, and her entire crew was right beside and behind her; Valegrious recognized them all easily. There were Rygar and Kraven, Kaur Astraiyd, Rubee Treeclimber, and a red head girl named Abigale Gamon, who happened to be the cook and most recent hired crewmate from the last trip. There were more known faces right beside them. Valegrious’s brown eyes also noticed that Jzak was dressed in a black and white outfit that he had never seen on her before. The outfit was similar to the ones sea officers who worked for the crown wore. It was composed of a feathered hat, white pants, and black boots that went past her knees.

    "Young Valegrious is right, chums," the felinum spoke loudly as she began walking forward, the musket on her shoulder. The crowd that had come with her followed her closely. Some seadogs made way for her as she came walking through. "About the two or three possible crews, that is," she added. "And that really is not a bad idea if you ask me."

    The felinum, without much trouble, was able to get to where Valegrious stood. Valegrious looked down at her in wonder and surprise, and he sniffed the sweet, cherry-like odor of the perfume she had donned that day.

    "Cap’n," he rejoiced within. "What are you doing here? What’s with the neat outfit?"

    "Don’t mind the outfit," she said, the felinum looking up at him, who for once stood taller than her. "Tis a uniform I picked up at some bazaar years ago, just hadn’t given much use to it."

    "Well, you look wonderful."

    "Thank you kindly, lad. But anyway, my presence here should be of no surprise to you, Vally, nor that of the whole crew."

    "I don't understand..." Valegrious felt lost for words.

    "You called for anyone who'd be interested in joining you in your trip to show up," reminded Jzak. "I won't beat around the bush, dear Valegrious. I spoke to the whole crew last night about the matter and the vote was unanimous. They have all agreed to go with you on this daunting trip."

    Valegrious was finding it hard to swallow this information.

    "I guess I felt really bad after you left my quarters yesterday," confessed Jzak. "But I sorted out my uncertainties and fears and agreed with myself that I would be going with you as well. And there is nothing you can do about it. Unless, of course, you wish to inflict a wound on my tender heart by refusing to allow me to go."

    “Never would I do something like that,” Valegrious jumped off the crate and hugged her tightly, the lad even spun her around twice, which surprised Jzak and made many sailors smile.

    "Oh, thank you, Captain," he told her once he settled her on the ground once again. "I wasn't expecting this, but you and I know how you tend to surprise me with things."

    "That's right, lad," Jzak pat his shoulder. "I really wasn't testing your courage or mettle, but you've shown me over these last couple of days that you've got big balls, kiddo, bigger than those that Rygar puts into those twelve pounders of ours."

    Rygar Willem, the bulky lycan sailor from the Smelly Ignacia was notorious for his Mohawk hairstyle and two large earrings he wore on his ears. He was amongst the crowd, and when eyes fell upon him, he stared back and made most feel nervous.

    Valegrious chuckled lightly after he had heard the felinum's words and looked upon the sailor. He didn’t seem to be offended at all, in fact, he said, “Boss speaks truthfully.”

    "Tis true," added Jzak. "Not many are willing to head into that area, but you've got no choice and are forced to do that. That made me understand that you need all the help you can get. You have surely touched my heart, and also the hearts of all these old salts out here. So you can count me in, as well as all those that you know from the Smelly Ignacia. We have agreed to risk our lives for you and your sister."

    Valegrious stared at the sailors he knew quite well. He gave them all a slight nod as if in thanks.

    "No thanks are necessary, Vally," Jzak told him with a genuine smile. "I know in my heart, and the rest of the crew knows in their own, just how grateful you are."

    Before Valegrious could thank her for all that she had done, the crowd all around them erupted with loud claps and cheers, particularly those from the Smelly Ignacia. Some huzzahs were heard, and Valegrious kindly thanked the felinum with another strong hug. After he let her go, he saw that Yukiko, who was standing right beside him, was all smiles. Valegrious quickly let Jzak know that the angelus was the one who had really let him know about his sister's illness, although Jzak had suspected that much when she had laid eyes on her earlier. The introductions were quick, with a polite shake of hands between the angelus and the felinum, the mention of their names, and two friendly smiles that they shared. Jzak Hennessy then regarded Valegrious and spoke again. "You will be leading this expedition, Valegrious. I'll be acting as your second if you allow it, but I do have some suggestions for you."

    "I'm listening," Valegrious still could not believe that this was happening, that friends he had known for a long time had come to help him out.

    "I believe that the more ships we can take, the better it will be for us," Jzak announced. "The unsailed sea is called that for a reason, you know? Lots of danger lies there, but I believe that the more we are, the merrier and the better odds at surviving out there."

    Yukiko was nodding slightly throughout all that the felinum spoke, but she never opened her mouth to speak.

    "That's why I also wish to ask you for a three days time," Jzak went on. "This only because I want to go to my homeland and recruit some warriors from some of the most prominent guilds. Believe me, Valegrious, there will be plenty of fighting to be done. I believe that these warriors will help us out big time."

    "There are warriors here, Jzak," mentioned Valegrious, who was curious as to why Jzak wanted to go back to her homeland.

    "I know," she said, matter-of-factly, and while doing so she handed a nearby sailor the musket. "And though I don't doubt their prowess in battle, I only want to hire a few from my homeland. These are friends I know from the time I spent working for the guilds before I became a sea monster hunter, if you must know."

    Valegrious nodded quietly at her. "I see. So you were a guilder before you ever became a sailor?"

    "Yes I was," she admitted. "Plus, I do wish to lay eyes on my homeland before departing for this dangerous trip, Vally. So, will you allow me to go?"

    "You have the days you want," Valegrious accepted. "But please, I want to set sail no later than this upcoming Sunday, for my sister's time is ticking."

    "Three days is more than enough, Vally. I will handle all that and be back here before Saturday. While I am away, I will leave the whole crew under your command, because I know you still have many tasks to take care of."

    "Thanks," Valegrious thanked her. "I actually do."

    "Thank me after we take care of business, Valegrious. Thank me only after we've managed to get your sister safely to Iviri, for this will be the most dangerous trip we've ever taken, any of us, for that matter,” she scanned her arm all around her and pointed at the crowd. “Nonetheless, together we'll confront whatever we run into out there, and depending on the ships that go, we'll use most to surround the one where you and your sister will be traveling in, for safety measures."

    Valegrious nodded feeling quite comforted by the fact that Jzak was there helping him out. Her suggestions sounded like a great idea, and in truth it sounded better than having one ship go out there with a bunch of brave souls onboard, as pretty much had been his original plan, his only option.

    Suddenly, Jzak put an arm over Valegrious's shoulders and took him away for a walk. She gave him a large pouch filled with gems and told him that there were plenty of black and purple gems in it for him to get his hands on some ships and supplies.

    "We'll need them," she said in a serious voice. "So once you sign up all the sailors willing to go with us, acquire the ships you see fit that we need. I recommend Crown designs over all others, but I will leave it up to you to decide."

    "Crown designed ships sound good to me," Valegrious agreed. "It's the kind I had in mind purchasing. They're sturdy enough, speedy enough, and vessels of war they are."

    "The very best we can hope to get our hands on," Jzak agreed. "I mean, we could navigate that wild sea on a damn large barquentine, but it would be a slow voyage. And so quick, compact ships will do."

    Valegrious agreed wholly with her.

    After a while, Jzak departed his side in order to do what she had in mind. Valegrious remained at the port and the signing of willing sailors for the trip began. In total, the sailors who had agreed to offer their lives in service to the great cause numbered more than a hundred that day. There were sailors from several different races, but seventy percent of those were human, the rest belonged to an assortment of species—lycans and elves mostly, but there were also a few felinum representing.

    As to Jzak, who had returned to her homeland in the far northern reaches of Gor-Gateia, she had managed to recruit quite a handful of warriors over the next couple of days as Valegrious and some of the crew had been busy acquiring the ships and provisions for the trip.

    Jzak came back to the port with a multitude of fine warriors at her side days later, and Valegrious was able to lay eyes on them after Jzak had sent for him.

    Valegrious, who had been drawn out from the monastery and out to the docks of the port early the next day, regarded the warriors that Jzak had recruited. There were eleven felinum in the group, three male elves, ten berocs, who happened to be human-like creatures, except they were actually berserk-natured and had four eyes instead of two, and sharp fangs instead of teeth. Their hair was long and loose, and their mostly-naked bodies were all painted of assorted colors and riddled with weird looking symbols. Valegrious, filled with a sense of shock and joy, also noted that there had come seven rixacor, who were tall, four-armed lizard-like beings, but these just had a single large eye right in the middle of their forehead. He had not seen the ferocious berocs or the rixacor folk before, but he knew all about them thanks to Jzak and some of the books she had shared with him from her library within her quarters. Both races shared the massive, untamed land of Panliss. Valegrious knew then that Jzak had brought some pretty tough fighters, and according to the felinum, they were the very best available from her homeland and Panliss. Some, she confided to him, were great friends of hers from old times.

    In total, Jzak had brought thirty one warriors from her homeland and the neighboring realm of Panliss, all from the most prominent guilds, and all willing to put their lives on the line. Twenty of those warriors she knew well, the others had been recruited by her own friends after she had asked them whether they had any tough friends who would be willing to expose their lives on a dangerous trip through the unsailed sea.

    Valegrious thanked them all kindly that day, of course. Jzak introduced him to some of her friends, and he came to know a few by their names, however, because the berocs and rixacor had weird long names, he couldn't manage to remember them after a while.

    "We'll divide these forces amongst the ships as best we can," Jzak told him later when the two of them discussed things in her cabin. "Believe me, they are all excellent warriors. I fought alongside the majority of them when I was a young kitty."

    "I believe you," Valegrious did not doubt her one bit. He knew what he had seen in the warriors. The felinum and the human spent a few hours in the cabin talking about how things were going on Valegrious’s side of the project. Valegrious informed her that he had successfully acquired four Crown designed ships, and also informed her about the number of sailors he had managed to sign the previous days. But that was not all that he told her, he also let her know that he had bought most provisions and a few large weapons for the ships, in case they ran into mighty trouble out there. Jzak was alright with it.

    "You did well," she had told him.

    Valegrious later had left her side, but not before having invited Jzak for dinner at the monastery. The last days had really brought them so close, closer than they had ever been when it came to their strong friendship. The beautiful felinum had accepted without hesitation, more so when Valegrious had mentioned that he wanted for her to attend because he wanted her to meet his future wife.

    "What, really, Valegrious?" Jzak had seemed content. "A wife? Wow, you have a surprise for me every day, eh? How did it happen, you lucky big lug you?"

    "It just happened," Valegrious was modest. "But I assure you, we both had deep feelings for each other since years back, we just were afraid to tell each other, I guess."

    Jzak had congratulated him with words and a hug. And Valegrious had gone on to relate to her how he had come to make Minono his girlfriend. And after he had finished with that, Jzak had agreed to go have dinner later that day.

    Along the way back to the monastery, Valegrious was not expecting for things to get even better for him, but they actually did.

    It happened that Emilyann the elf and her companions had been waiting for him some hundred yards outside of the port. Valegrious laid eyes on the elf, the tall man, the dark elf, and the cute felinum archer, but there was another woman with them. She was blonde and short and looked the silent type.

    "Valegrious," Emilyann cried out as she rushed out to the road to intercept him. "Good thing you came passing by. We've been waiting for you."

    "Really? Well how can I serve you?" Valegrious asked from atop his horse.

    "We want to go with you," Emilyann said right away. "We are all at your service." They all bowed and proceeded to take a knee before him.

    "Please allow us to go with you on this dangerous quest," Emilyann went on.

    "Please, rise," Valegrious bade, surely surprised. "Tell me why you want to go."

    Emilyann went on to explain to Valegrious over the next several minutes how it was that they had left the guild in order to seek permission to accompany him in his dangerous trip. They had been hearing word of what was going on, and Emilyann had really wanted to help out and had convinced her friends to aid the cause. The gems as pay for one risking his or her life was good, but they were really doing this because they had wanted to help him see his mission fulfilled.

    "Who wouldn't want to see a loved one healed?" Emilyann asked during her explanation of things. "Even my best friend Lupinka, this blonde beauty you see here," Emilyann glanced at the other female off to her right. "was touched by your story. Weren't you, Lupinka?"

    "I was," Lupinka bowed slightly. She was dressed in iron armor and carried a rapier on her right side hip, a weapon that only the most of honorable knights were given as gift by the king.

    "Are you a knight?" asked Valegrious upon recognizing the weapon merely for its hilt.

    "Never been one, Master Valegrious," she spoke up humbly as her blue eyes regarded him from below, for Valegrious remained on the horse. "But if you perceived me as being one because of my sword or armor, then know that the rapier belonged to my father, who now rests in peace along with my mother and little brother."

    "I see," Valegrious was saddened, and mostly because she had reminded him of the cruelness of the world. She too, had lost her parents, and that pained Valegrious just to know it.

    "Valegrious," Emilyann took over. "We know of your big sacrifice and want to help you out. Please, you can't deny us."

    After hearing Emilyann saying that, Valegrious thought about it for a while but then allowed them to join him, because even though he and Jzak had managed to sign up full crews, he believed that he could use these warriors as well. Jzak had said it best with her own words, "The more the merrier."

    "You can come if your heart really dictates you to," he told them. "But I hope you've given the matter quite some thought. After all, it's a dangerous situation and no game."

    "I assure you that we all have," Emilyann responded. "We're at peace with ourselves. We want to go. Right guys, and gals?"

    "Aye," Avon spoke. He'd had his muscular arms crossed throughout the chit chat between the elf and the sailor. "I've never been out at sea, so I do want to go and see what’s it like."

    "As do I," said Tallinor. "If my sword can serve you out there, then I am game, Master Valegrious."

    "My rapier is yours from this day hence, Master Valegrious," said Lupinka. "That is, if you take us in."

    Valegrious looked on over to the felinum.

    Pandora threw her arms aside and sighed loudly. "I can't be without my friends. If they are going, then hell I am going too."

    "Then you all shall," said Valegrious that cool day. "We depart at noon tomorrow, so just show up at the docks. I'll have you know that you will be sailing in the ship that I will be commanding, the Smelly Ignacia. And though we already have full crews, you five will be serving me as guardians, but mostly I will have you keep an eye out on my sister and girlfriend. See it as a special force of sorts."

    "We'll be honored to serve you," said Emilyann with a bow of her head. The other warriors did the same, and the blonde elf proceeded to speak, "We know we're sailing out to grave danger, but the cause is overly worth it. Trust me, Valegrious, if I was in your shoes I'd be doing the very same thing for my loved one."

    "I know you would," Valegrious nodded at her. Moments later, after paying them for the service they had agreed to, he said goodbye to them and moved on, and the five warriors went back to the port to collect their essentials and ready themselves for the trip.

    With the addition of the four warriors that day, after all was said and done, five full crews were confirmed, so five ships would be going in the end, with the Smelly Ignacia being one of them. The other four ships had been given to the best captains or abled sailors that Jzak and Valegrious had found amongst those that had signed up. Three were males and one a female, and they all had the privilege of naming the ships to their liking. When they had, the ships became known as the following: The Crazy Yosh, whose captain happened to be a tall, crazy, and buffy lycan who usually tended to screech mid his talking or at the end. Many sailors believed the captain to be gone, crazy, in another dimension, but many others believe that he only did that in a playful manner. Valegrious did not care whether he was crazy or not. He knew of Yosh’s sailing expertise, and that’s what mattered in the end.

    Another ship was named Sea Sprite, mostly because the tall bearded man who became that ship's captain carried on his shoulder an eight-inch, light-blue skinned sprite from the sea, a distant cousin to the water pixie race. The little things were merely known as sea sprites, or sprites. When Valegrious had seen the little sprite on the captain’s shoulder, he had whispered at the felinum that one day he would have to get himself one of those.

    “I’ll help you get your hands on one after we come back from this trip,” Jzak promised him. “If we come back, lad.”

    “I have high hopes that we will, Captain,” Valegrious said strongly, to what the felinum agreed with a nod.

    Another ship was given the name Three Hearts by a buffy elf captain named Anubis Highmoon, this after his wife and kids that he was leaving behind in the port. And last but not least, the only female captain of the five, a cute Asakian girl named Alecia Xandria, who had long dark hair that ran down to her butt, had named her ship Hope Never Dies, this, according to her words, to serve as a reminder to all those that were going out there to face uncertain danger.

    Because the trip would be at least a month and a half long, and also very dangerous and perhaps the very last one that they all took, Jzak and Valegrious had paid each and every sailor and warrior their contract gems so they could spend it in whichever way they wanted before setting sail. Neither of the two had never hesitated in taking the risk of giving them the gems upfront, because they had known that they were all taking a bigger risk by going out with them out to sea where they were going. Their gamble would pay off in a great way as all sailors and warriors would show up to fulfill their contract on the set date.

    *****

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  10. #10
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    Chapter 9: A Fine Day to Sail
    ***December 1st, 1658***


    It was noon at the port, a new day, a Sunday, to be exact, the first day of the entering month of December. On this day, the sun was mysteriously shining brightly up in the sky despite it being the cold season. A good, mild breeze was blowing from the south. Any sailor worth his or her salt would have known that it was a fine day as any to set sail. Despite all these good signs that Valegrious did not miss, the hardest part for him, Magatha, and Minono, had come. It was time to put out to sea.

    Valegrious, his girlfriend Minono, and Magatha, were all saying their final adieus to their loved ones during those tense moments. In a matter of minutes, alongside the company of more than a hundred and forty brave souls that they had managed to gather over the past few days, they would be embarking on the most dangerous trip they had ever taken, and they would be away for who knows how long--all in an attempt to get Magatha to Iviri where Valegrious hoped that she would be healed from a deadly bacteria that was affecting her respiratory system and killing her with each passing day. Or, they would all die along the way in that attempt.

    Valegrious watched in sadness as his sister and his girlfriend hugged and spoke words to Evelina, the multitude of orphans, and other folks that knew them that had come out to the docks to wish them good luck on their trip. He felt sad and edgy, but his spirits were being kept high knowing that he was doing the right thing, even if it meant that he and all those that were going with him were risking their very lives just to save one.

    Valegrious's turn to say goodbye came. The young sailor had been composed for the most part, but tears betrayed him, and a strong sad sensation won over him when he began to hug his younger brothers and sisters. Would he be seeing their young faces again one day? Would he get to sit down with all of them around a fire and tell them stories as he had done so on several occasions? Or as he and Jzak had sat down with them all the previous night? He did not know, and thus he was troubled, but also encouraged to succeed.

    After he personally said goodbye to each and every one of the orphans, he did the very same thing with a few other folks who knew him. He told most of them to take care of his Ma and his brothers and sisters while he was away. The responses he got back promised him that they would do that and much more, that he shouldn't worry one bit about that.

    Then it came down to saying goodbye to Evelina, the kind woman who had played the mother role for him and Magatha all those years after they had lost their own parents. Valegrious hugged her so tight, and she did likewise and wished him the best, all while crying on his shoulder.

    There was no need for Valegrious to mention again why he was doing this, why he was going to attempt to sail through a region in the sea that not many dared to sail, Evelina Ashad already knew why he was doing it. But she was still heart-struck that three of her dear children and countless of other brave sailors and warriors had to expose their lives and go through all that trouble merely for a good cause, as was the case with seeing Magatha healed. Evelina would be terribly sad for many days to come, and not only Valegrious knew that, but so did Magatha and Minono and those many others that saw the woman's worried semblance that day.

    Like many sailors had done so earlier with their loved ones, Valegrious, Magatha, and Minono, had to depart from the presence of their own loved ones and walked away towards the ship. They all did so, but their eyes were tearful, their faces reflecting sadness as never before. Jzak Hennessy and Yukiko, who had been waiting a few paces away, walked right beside Valegrious.

    "It'll be alright, Vally," the felinum touched him on the shoulder quite tenderly. "Just hang in there."

    The young man nodded and kept walking on, too hurt to say a word.

    The girls felt their hearts heavy and their legs felt like mush as they walked over the plank and on to the ship. Valegrious was a sad mess when he boarded the Smelly Ignacia after Yukiko and Jzak had done so. He had been the last to board the ship. The lad saw many familiar faces and also new ones already onboard. The young man glanced all about the deck and up at the crow's nest where two watchers had already made themselves comfy. It was time to put out to sea, he knew, and he could see it in everyone's faces as well. Valegrious could tell that they were all as tense as he was, but he still gave the order for the ship to put out to sea.

    "Jzak," he spoke directly to her, though his voice sounded hurt and sad. "Let's roll."

    "Aye, Captain," Jzak Hennessy acknowledged his words, then she shouted the order as she spun her upraised left hand, "Let's roll, ya seadogs! Let’s put these bunch o' nailed planks and boards out to sea!"

    The entire crew heard the order and the deck soon became busy with boisterous sailors who went to action. Jzak and other top commanders on the ship continued issuing orders.

    Valegrious invited his sister, Minono, and the angelus, to the back deck, and they followed him there. From behind the safety rail they waved at their loved ones, who were waving white cloths and shouting at them encouraging words and good wishes. Valegrious, Magatha, and his girlfriend, waved back and shouted similar words to them. The angelus watched in silence and with her arms crossed over her bosom.

    "Pray for our success!" Valegrious called out as he waved at everyone at the docks.

    Having given main orders out, Jzak Hennessy soon joined them back there as sails all over the ship came dropping down. The felinum stood right beside Valegrious on the left side.

    "Tis a good day for sailing, eh, Cap'n?" she smiled at him.

    "Aye," Valegrious agreed, the lad ignoring the noise that came with the wind blowing against the sails, which flapped loudly every now and then. Being called captain by the felinum, who had been his captain for many years before all this had come to happen, felt so weird to him. He let her know that.

    "You'll get used to it," Jzak pat his shoulder and attempted to break his gloomy state by offering him a slight simper, then she added, “Cap’n.”

    Valegrious did like the sound of that.

    "I hope so," he murmured, and he sort of smiled back, but that smile vanished soon.

    The breeze that was blowing helped get the ship out of the harbor and out to sea. After an hour, the docks and those still standing there were still quite visible, but no longer could Valegrious or anyone else onboard the Smelly Ignacia hear the people's shouts. Jzak Hennessy had passed out several spyglasses, and so through the use of those the two girls were looking back at their loved ones.

    All five had remained there on the back deck during that elapsed time. Valegrious and Jzak regarded the other three females. The angelus stood calmly and staring back at the port, still with her arms crossed. Unbeknownst to Valegrious and the others, the healer was sad to leave the land where she had spent the last years of her life, but she showed it little. Magatha seemed as ill as ever and quite troubled, and Minono appeared pale and very sad.

    "How are you all holding up so far?" asked Valegrious, his tears long gone. The females immediately turned to regard him. He appeared before them as less troubled and more confident.

    "I'm doing alright," chirped Yukiko from her place at the far end. “Don’t mind me standing here...just enjoying the breeze.”

    "I'm sad," Minono did not lie, neither did her teary eyes behind her glasses. "And a little nervous, too, I admit."

    "Me too," Magatha said with her head lowered. "Never thought saying good bye would be this hard, Brother. Last night as I laid in bed I knew it would be a very hard day, but it turned out to be worse than I imagined. My heart feels so hurt."

    Valegrious put his right arm on her shoulder and rocked her to and fro several times as Minono came walking his way and buried herself in a hug on his side.

    "They will be fine, you two," Valegrious took his girlfriend by the waist. "I know this is so hard for us all, but I assure you that we are doing the right thing, and they all know it."

    Minono nodded at him. "They showed their support to us till the very end."

    "And there is no doubt in my heart that they'll continue to support us with many prayers as the days pass," Valegrious believed. "I am saddened deeply to have left them behind like that, but if I am glad about something, it's that the goodbye phase is over. That sure was hard to endure."

    "Got that right," murmured Yukiko, mostly to herself, but the others did hear her.

    "Now comes the part where we all will have to show what we are really made of," continued Valegrious, his voice sounding serious. "The part where we'll have to endure and confront the troubles that come our way. Hard, dangerous days lie ahead, ladies. Do not burden your hearts and thoughts with fear. I bid you all to remain calm and to only panic if there is reason for it."

    In her place Yukiko stirred slightly, and Jzak noted that.

    "Come, ladies," invited the felinum. "Valegrious is right, of course. No need for us to feel any fear and travel with a heavy heart. I will show you all your quarters in the second level. I arranged them myself for you."

    "Will you come by sometime?" Magatha asked and grabbed her brother's arm, the lass thinking that he would find himself busy with work and would not be having time to see her.

    "I will be with you most of the time during the voyage," Valegrious calmed her down and even ran his hand through her golden hair. "But I also have a duty up here, so there will be times when I will be away from you and Minono. I might be leading this expedition, but I like helping out most of the time."

    "A true sailor he is," beamed Jzak. "The best one I've had the pleasure of working with."

    Valegrious bowed in respect at her.

    "I understand, Brother," said Magatha in reply to what he had told her. “I’ll do my best to stay out of the way.”

    "Good," Valegrious brought her close to him and touched her forehead with his. "Try to relax, Sister. I know you're scared like I am, but it does us no good to be scared when there is no reason to be it. Like I said, we'll deal with any danger if it shows up."

    "Yes, I'll relax, Brother," she promised. "You are here, after all, and so is Minono and all your friends. I feel safe with you all."

    "They are your friends too," Valegrious quickly told her. "They are all out here for you, too."

    "I know," nodded Magatha. "I feel secure, and my fear leaves me by the passing minute. I also feel excited to be out at sea, you know?"

    “Yes,” chuckled Valegrious. “You’ve never been out here. I’m sorry that you had to come out here under these circumstances, Sister.”

    “No, it’s alright,” Magatha soothed. “The day had to come, right? I’ll try to really enjoy myself while out here.”

    "You're as brave as your brother, Magatha," congratulated the felinum from the side.

    Magatha regarded her and noticed she was smiling.

    "But do come, Magatha and Minono,” Jzak added right away. “You too, Yukiko. You’re all going to love your rooms."

    Magatha gratefully nodded at her, as did Minono. As to Yukiko, she finally moved from her spot since she had boarded the ship.

    Minono gave Valegrious a peck, ruffled his hair, and then followed the trio of females, who had already taken leave. Valegrious followed the females with his eyes as they went away.
    He saw them head to the main deck, and there they all went down some wooden stairs that led down to the 2nd level of the ship.

    Once alone, the sailor took a deep breath and let it out to steady himself, and once he had done so, he felt a little better, but only a tad bit.

    Five hours later, with the sun setting in the west, the Smelly Ignacia finally caught up to the other four ships that had been waiting out there. With signals that they had worked on, the fleets soon assembled into a formation that the five captains--and Jzak--had discussed a day ago. Soon, the Smelly Ignacia was devouring the open sea as it sailed right in the middle of the formation, with the other ships--all two hundred or so yards apart--protecting it from all sides.

    *****

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    Chapter 10: Pirate Fleets
    ***December 13th, 1658***


    The first week and a half of sailing had gone smoothly and with no trouble whatsoever for the five crews. The group had made great progress on their way towards Iviri and were days away from entering the so called unsailed sea. But on that twelfth day of sailing, the group finally ran into some form of trouble.

    Valegrious and Jzak stood behind the starboard safety rail looking through spyglasses at a troubling scene. On the other four ships, the captains and their assistants were doing the very same thing, and murmurs about pirate fleets being about were fast spreading on all five ships and making the crews nervous.

    "Three," Valegrious counted the ships that his eyes could easily see in the distance thanks to the help of the spyglass. "None fly a flag."

    "They're pirates," believed Jzak. "They hafta be, Cap'n. Rumors say they operate in such groups out here. These must be the Dark Hearts. You see the small dark spot way beyond the ships?"

    "I do," said Valegrious, his right eye surely concentrated on the lens. "Just barely, but yes I do see a dark spot in the distance. What about it?"

    "That must be their headquarters, an island that was known as Aurrie’s Spot years ago after a merchant claimed it as hers. But then, drawn by wealthy merchants that came from our own land and the southwestern lands of Denera, Hisar, and Lidaj, pirates claimed this territory as theirs. The original name of the island was removed and the island was renamed to Dead Man's Pass. The Dark Heart pirates are said to own this area now."

    Valegrious shortened the spyglass by pushing it inward and looked at the felinum.

    "Perhaps you are right," he spoke. "This could be their territory, but we won't engage them unless they decide to meet us. We'll continue on our northwest course, Jzak, but keep all fighting divisions at the ready."

    "Aye, Cap'n," said Jzak, and she left his side to take care of issuing such orders not only to the crew of this ship, but the other four as well. She was the one who was in charge of doing such a thing.

    Feeling a little tense, for those ships out to the west were the first scenes of trouble that the group had run into so far, Valegrious enlarged his spyglass and looked out at the ships once again, his heart beating just a little faster.

    "Don't dare, just...don't," he breathed calmly as he looked on. "Unless you want to be blown out of the water..."

    *****

    "What do you think, Scars?"

    "I think they'd be good for the taking, Cap'n Blue," cried a badly scarred black haired sea dog. "Been a long time since me old bones have seen such a purdy grouping like that. Why I bet they carry plenty of riches in those holds. One look at those ships through my spyglass was enough for me to notice their design. They're warships, mostly, with the one in the middle being a sea monster hunting vessel, it's design is way different."

    Realizing that Scars spoke truthfully, the black haired young man who wore a black pirate hat continued to stare at the five ships through his own spyglass, his attention mostly on the middle ship. That man was the captain of the Saint Eleine and the main leader of the Dark Hearts, the pirate group that operated in those waters. For his twenty years of age he was handsome, and his blue eyes made his charming looks stand out more.

    "You still have good eyes, Macdamera," the captain called Scars by his real name.

    "So, we takin' 'em down, Cap'n?" Scars sounded eagerly hopeful.

    "I don't know," the young captain said as he continued eyeing the five ships far in the distance. "They've done bad by coming 'ere, no doubt, but I am thinking that it won't be by our cannons that they'll be going down, Boys."

    Another pirate, a tall, mean-looking bald one, walked close to the captain.

    "But, Cap'n," he said in his rough voice. "We haven't had some action in a long time."

    Knowing that himself, Captain Blue lowered his spyglass and spun on the bald pirate, who towered over him.

    "They're five, Drakol. Five! The same number as the fingers attached to your hand!"

    "I 'an count, Cap'n," said the bald pirate.

    “Good,” The captain walked away, and his two lieutenants followed after him.

    "I know all you scallywags are dying to see some action, but every one of those ships is capable of putting a big hurt on us, of sinking us, and I see too big a crew on all of them. Even if we manage to take out one or two to even the odds a little, we'd be in for a lot of pain, our losses could be significant--our very lives could be claimed by the sea or their cannons this day."

    "So what will we be doing, Cap'n?" asked Scars with wild eyes. "We're now letting sailors come uninvited into our waters and letting them go?"

    "Since when have we done that?" Drakol spat in disgust and crossed his muscular arms. "We've taken down anyone who's had the audacity to come 'ere. I think we’re becoming a soft bunch."

    Close to where the helmsman of the Saint Eleine stood behind the helm giving the wheel some spins every now and then, the captain stopped walking and turned upon his two assistants.

    "Not soft, it’s just precaution. Better this time to be the first in allowing such a group to pass by than having our small empire come to an end, boys," reasoned the captain.

    "But, Cap'n, we—" the bald lieutenant began to say, however, the captain slapped him then and ended his words. The pirate touched his cheek and gave his captain a mean look.

    "Look, you pesterin' fool. We've waged battle so many times with adversaries and passersby alike, and we've won very close fights and some with the odds against us. But you know as well as I do that we have a minimal chance at taking that fleet as a prize. They seem well coordinated and are heavily armed. Four of their vessels are Crown designed, the best for a close up fight. Besides, they seem to be sailing northwest to the unsailed sea..."

    "A total waste o' possible wealth, then, Cap’n," cried a pretty-looking, raven-haired girl that had been hearing things close by. "They're sailing towards sure death. Such a pity it would be to let 'em go and keep our pockets empty."

    The captain and his lieutenants turned to regard the master at arms, who also had a secondary duty of watching over the captain.

    “Attica speaks with the truth,” barked Drakol. “Listen to her if not us, Cap’n.”

    The total waste idea that Attica Pumpleton had mentioned was what made Captain Blue reconsider. He knew his crew was right, they had not had a good haul in months, and those five ships could be loaded with something worth their trouble. Was it worth the risk?

    "We'll remain about our waters, boys and lassie," the captain finalized. "If I happen to see an opening, a weakness, I might consider going after them before they get away from us. For now, we stay attentive of them, but gradually away."

    ***

    Word of possible pirate fleets being about not far away had reached the ears of Magatha, Minono, and Yukiko the angelus. All three came from the second level to the main deck and used their own spyglasses.

    "Don't be alarmed," Valegrious came walking behind them a few seconds later. "They've been keeping their distance, and I believe they won't bother coming after us, perhaps our numbers have made them think it over."

    "Are they pirates, Brother?"

    "Most likely they are, Magatha," Valegrious used his own spyglass to have another look. "All I can tell from their ships is that they are no fishing vessels. Their designs are meant for speedy vessels, Wave Cutters, as we sailors know them as. But like I said, don't be frightened. If they dare come after us, we'll surely blast them before they ever put a scratch on us."

    “You think you can do that, Heart?” Minono asked, her voice filled with some tension.

    “We’ll definitely be trying,” said Valegrious. “We’ve dealt with pirates and marauders before, so we know what we’re doing.”

    His words were reassuring to the females, who surely had become nervous after having learned that they had possibly encountered their first problem out at sea.

    “Magatha,” Valegrious spoke to his sister after he noticed her worried semblance. “Come with me. Let’s have a brother to sister talk.”

    “Hey, can I come too?” Minono asked, kind of hopeful.

    “I will see you later,” Valegrious replied, and Minono understood and said nothing more.

    Magatha moved towards her brother, and he took her for a walk through the main deck.

    “Be not afraid,” he told her as they walked with caution, for part of the crew was working on deck at that time.

    “I’m not afraid,” Magatha lied, and even laughed wildly. But she did not fool Valegrious.

    “Heck, I am,” he put his right arm over her neck, but they kept walking on. “And I know you are as well. I can see it all over your face. But...don’t be afraid. We’ll deal with them if they decide to come after us.”

    Magatha stopped, and so Valegrious had to stop as well. She placed her hands on the safety railing and stared out to nowhere in particular, for there was just water to be seen all around. She took a deep breath, for she thought she needed it.

    “Do you think they will be coming after us?” she asked worriedly a few seconds later.

    “I believe they won’t,” Valegrious said right away and joined her at the side. “Pirates tend to act rashly, though, so I wouldn’t put all my gems in the bet. But like I said, if they do come at us, we’ll blast them out of the water.”

    Magatha said nothing for a while. She just remained staring at the sea.

    “Come on,” Valegrious invited with a soothing voice. “I’ll have Abigale prepare you and the others some nut cake. You’ll lose the tension with a slice and some coffee, you’ll see.”

    “You promise?” Magatha followed him. She would never do anything contrary to what he demanded.

    “I guarantee it,” winked Valegrious at his dear sister.

    ***

    Valegrious’s promise held up. Abigale indeed prepared the delicious nut cake for Magatha and many others. As he had said, Magatha indeed lost the tension she had been feeling, but that was perhaps due more to the fact that Magatha had remained at Abigale’s side while she prepared the cake. The two young lasses had talked about many things and had become good friends. And soon, eating while they enjoyed their own slices of nut cake and a cup of coffee, Magatha had lost the tension she had been feeling about the ships in the distance.

    ***

    That night, the whole five crews remained on the alert as the ships continued devouring salty water on their northwestern route. Valegrious himself stayed up late with Jzak at his side within the crow's nest, the two eating nut cake, drinking coffee, and keeping their eyes peeled for any signs of trouble.

    And the three pirate ship crews remained wary of their possible prey. As their captain had ordered, the ships had been keeping a fair distance away from them, but still were flanking them close enough to give chase and reach them before they ventured away from their territory and sailed into the beginning waters of the unsailed sea.

    *****

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  12. #12
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    Chapter 11: The Sea Dragon
    ***December 14th, 1658***


    Valegrious had been resting in his bunk bed comfortably for a few hours after having performed nightly guard duties, but all of a sudden he was woken up by Minono's crazy and loud shouts.

    "Valegrious! Wake up! We've got major trouble!"

    She came running into his room. Having heard her shouts, Valegrious jumped out of bed right away and noticed how pale and scared she was.

    "What is the matter, Foxy?" he asked. "What's going on?"

    She was pale and trembling, and she swallowed hard before him and fumbled for words. "I-It's a m-monster," she informed.

    "What?"

    "C-Come," she pulled him along, or at least started to, but Valegrious held fast and told her that he needed to put his boots on.

    She nodded and let go of him and waited while he did that, Valegrious all the while hearing the ruckus caused by the sailors up on the main deck. He put his boots on as fast as he could and stood up from bed, where he had sat in order to put his boots on. As he rose, he was suddenly surprised when a loud splashing sound was heard right outside the window of his room. A dark shadow obscured the window and the whole room darkened a bit. Valegrious did not miss any of it, his face paled when his eyes saw the large form outside. His heart began to pound his chest as he rushed to stand behind the small round window. He was fast enough to catch a glimpse of a dark green colored, fat, and scaly serpentine form filled with black spikes before it went back into the water.

    "Oh crap," he cried, his whole being becoming filled with fear.

    He spun around and rushed towards Minono.

    "Stay here, Honey."

    "Valegrious, why?" Minono was scared, and she grabbed his right arm before he could rush away. "Is it bad?"

    "It's a Kalemar," Valegrious explained calmly. "A damn sea dragon. Stay here."

    "W-What? No, don't leave me here," she clung to his forearm, her face distorted in raw fear.

    Valegrious was about to tell her that she was safer there, but he understood that when it came to huge sea monster threats, no place in the ship was really safe, except perhaps outside in that salty water.

    "Come on," he grabbed her hand and rushed out. Minono ran along with him, her heart still beating fast.

    The two came up the wooden stairs out to the main deck. Sailors armed with more than just muskets, swords, and javelins, were scrambling about, others were already stationed close to the side railings and looking out to the sea. Valegrious even saw several sailors already stationed behind the two mighty weapons of the Smelly Ignacia, these working hard to get them ready for firing. One was a big cannon that fired spiky cannon balls, and the other one was a bigger cannon that resembled a giant bow that fired harpoons, which sailors believed were just gigantic iron arrows.

    Valegrious looked around and soon caught sight of Jzak Hennessy on the forecastle of the ship, the felinum holding a huge spear and shouting orders as she peeped out and over the safety railing off the starboard bow.

    "Where did that damn kalemar go, Lads?" Valegrious heard her shout. "Where, dammit?"

    Several scared and excited voices replied to her right away that they did not know, others pointed out that the monster had disappeared under the water some fifty feet away.

    "Valegrious!" suddenly the current captain of the Smelly Ignacia heard a familiar voice coming behind him. He and Minono turned around and saw Emilyann the elf rushing towards them. The elf's friend warriors, Magatha, Abigale, and the angelus were at her side.

    "It's a big one,” Emilyann cried in more wonder than fear. “Tallinor here saw it.”

    At the side, the dark elf nodded several times.

    "We didn't know what to do," Emilyann went on. "But I thought my men and I could furnish your sister and friends some protection, as you said we should."

    "Yes, Emilyann, stay with them, please," Valegrious plead. "I have to help deal with that creature or we could be in for a very rough time."

    Magatha, hearing him say that, gulped hard and got real scared.

    "Lemme at it," said Pandora from the side, the short felinum holding her crossbow tight, an arrow already strung.

    "You won't inflict much pain to it with that," Valegrious mentioned and made the young cutie felinum quiet down.

    "What do we do, then?" asked Yukiko. The angelus appeared very frightened, same as those who had never seen a sea monster before. "Is there anything we can do to help?"

    "Just stay out of the way," Valegrious told her and all others that were there. "Leave this to us who know how to deal with it. If things get out of hand, though, jump over board!"

    "W-What?" Emilyann cried feeling scared and confused. Magatha and the angelus also asked the very same question, and the other warriors behind them looked at each other in confusion.

    "Overboard?" Lupinka stared at Abigale, her rapier in her right hand. "Did he say overboard?"

    "Yes he did," said Abigale.

    "Look," Valegrious cried, his expression as serious as his words, for he knew time was of the essence. "This is a big creature, a ship sinker, as we call them, so things can get pretty nasty. If it attacks the ship, your best bet is to jump overboard into the water. These creatures just tend to destroy ships and then leave."

    Valegrious had no time to say more on the matter, so he just told his sister to not be scared, that everything would be alright. And he gave Minono a quick kiss, reminded them all to keep out of the way, and then ran away.

    "Dang it, there he goes," Pandora cried as she saw him go. "Guess we should listen to him and do as he said if it gets nasty."

    "Yes," said Emilyann. "Come on, stay close to me, everyone. We'll stay out of their way."

    "This way," invited the cook. "I know a place where we can hide and stay out of the way."

    "Lead on," bade Emilyann.

    Everyone followed the red haired girl as she led them all to the very middle of the ship where the main mast rose from the deck. Several covered and exposed wooden crates lay close by. Abigale told them that this spot was as good as any to stay out of the way.

    ***

    Valegrious reached Jzak and she put him up to speed.

    "A damn Kalemar, Vally," she revealed, her face pale, her voice more than just excited. "Biggest one I've seen!"

    "I saw a bit of it," nodded Valegrious at her. "We better deal with it before it takes down our ships."

    Five years ago the crew of the Smelly Ignacia had dealt with a similar monster, but it had been smaller, perhaps the ship's size, and they had been able to drag it along and later sold it in Asaki's meat market. Judging from the size of the monster that he had been able to see, Valegrious knew this one had to be a fully grown Kalemar, which, to his guessing, could be up to three or four times the size of the Smelly Ignacia, maybe more!

    "The damn thing went underwater just right over there," Jzak pointed out, her green eyes staring out to the water and working hard trying to see the large form. Valegrious grabbed at the railing with his hands and looked out for the monster as well but saw nothing but agitated bluish water. He looked about the other ships and noticed that the crews were very alarmed and also doing what they were doing. Before they had departed from Port Goodweather many days ago, the other ships they had bought had been rigged with the sea monster hunting weapons and equipment that the Smelly Ignacia carried, so Valegrious believed that they would be able to deal with the monster effectively if it attacked them.

    Knowing that, Valegrious ran across to port side and looked out to the horizon. The pirate fleets, if they were pirates at all, were still out there.

    "They've been keeping their distance," informed Jzak. "But have been following us from afar."

    "Maybe they're just watching out for their territory," Valegrious suspected.

    "Or waiting for an opportune moment to strike us," the cat-eared beauty feared.

    "Perhaps,” said Valegrious worriedly. “But we can't worry about them now. We've got this monster to deal with."

    "Indeed," Jzak frowned. "But I've taken precautionary measures and have ordered the Sea Sprite's crew to keep an eye out on them. I know how lengthy the greed of pirates can be."

    Valegrious agreed with her with a nod.

    "Alright," breathed Jzak. "We know what we're dealing with here, Vally, let us get to action."

    "Yes, it would be good for us to deal with this one as we did with the one we killed five years ago. You are our best hope behind the harpoon cannon, Cap'n, so go..."

    "Dammit, Valegrious," the felinum cried and stomped her right boot on the wooden deck. "You're our captain out here, not me."

    The sailor was nervous. "Yes, I know," he chuckled nervously. "A slip o' the tongue, dammit. Anyway, go, we'll probably rely on your accuracy for this one. Rygar will have to do something else."

    "Right," Jzak understood. "He's not going to like it, but I'll send him down to lead the cannon crew."

    "I'll make sure to make him happy with an extra ration of potatoes and gravy tonight," said Valegrious. “If we survive the day, that is.”

    "Right," Jzak laughed nervously, for indeed with an extra ration of something, food or drink, one was able to make it up to unhappy sailors.

    "Give me that thing," Valegrious took the fat spear from her. More than being just a spear twice the size of Valegrious's height, it was actually a weapon designed to deal with gigantic monsters such as the one they were dealing with. Its wide, diamond tipped head was razor sharp and could penetrate monster hardened skin like a knife through butter. It was usually used to stab the monsters in the head or in other vulnerable parts that would kill them instantly, such as the heart. Weapon in hand, Valegrious then began to drop his weapon's belt and the weapons he carried on him right on deck, for he wouldn't need those for what he was about to do. As he'd done that, a bearded scrawny sailor was quick to grab them and rushed off to put the weapons back in his room.

    "You're not going to...dive in, are you?" Jzak asked, surely preoccupied.

    "I'll do it if I have to," Valegrious told her. "It's my sister that we're out here for, so a lot of our safety is riding on my shoulders; I will take the risk and do my part if that thing comes at us."

    Jzak nodded once, told him to be careful if he did dive in, and then left running toward the back deck. Valegrious grabbed the nearest sailor by the collar of his shirt and not only told him to keep everyone calm, but he also told him to tell everyone to keep an eye out for the monster, for spotting it was crucial for everyone's safety. If Valegrious was able to spot it, he could damn well attempt to kill it before it ever reached them.

    Because the sailor stammered, Valegrious helped him into action by shoving him away. The sailor-turned-captain then climbed the beak of the ship and stayed on the alert, Stabber, as the weapon he held in his hand was known as, firmly gripped in his hand.

    ***

    The one hundred and two ton elongated monster swam in the depths below. It was an ancient creature, one of several monsters that had been used in the ancient war that the gods had waged against each other in this very world chiliads ago. The folk of the new era knew that kind of monster as a Kalemar, but its godly given name was Jinnachi, which meant water serpent. The monster's skin was oily and of a dark green color, it was also riddled with tough scales and pointy spikes. The creature had a long, sturdy body and a tail with spikes. The predecessors of that sea creature had been created by a demonic god to safeguard an ancient realm, a realm that the folk of Galileah knew as Atlantis. A handful of the sea monsters that had been created to safeguard Atlantis's surrounding oceans from foes had survived the war and had remained alive in the sea, and as time had passed, they had given birth to more.

    Kalemars mostly fed on large fish like sharks and whales, but they were carnivore monsters, so other large sea predators like giant squids and giant types of fish were on the menu. Moreover, movement on the surface often grabbed their attention, and these monsters came up to have a look, as did other types of creatures. Kalemars were known to attack vessels, many had been the terrified souls that had witnessed their rare appearance. The meal that had come from attacking vessels were meager and unsatisfactory to them, but they still attacked them because their predecessor's killer instinct remained instilled within them. In the ancient war, when the gods from heaven had sent their warriors on ships and other sea vessels in their attempt to invade the realm of Atlantis, many sea monsters had attacked the ships under orders from the demonic god. The war was long over, with the realm of Atlantis now lying underwater somewhere in this same sea, but the creatures' killer instinct had remained.

    From deep underneath the dark watery abyss the Kalemar swam upwards gaining momentum as it went, a single purpose in mind. It had targeted one of the five spots visible on the surface.

    ***

    An old sailor stationed on the starboard side of the Three Hearts had been attentive watching the water when he saw a wide dark form approaching fast from below. His eyes grew with fear as the darkness ascending fast became a recognizable nightmare that had two reddish glowing eyes. The sailor opened his mouth to issue the warning, but this one never was heard, for raw fear had frozen his vocal chords.

    The monster's humongous head disrupted the sea as it exploded out of the water some twenty feet away from the starboard bow of the Three Hearts. Up in the air the monster’s head rose for several seconds to the horror and dismay of many eyes before it turned its reddish glare on the ship. The monster's great head collided against the side of the ship, splitting wood apart easily. Its mouth, which was filled with razor-sharp fangs the size of a tall human, bit at the ship crazily, doing more damage. Sailors cried out in horror and scrambled about the deck. Loud bangs were heard as the sea dragon's head tore the front of the ship apart. The harpoon cannon, which had indeed fired at the creature, inflicted some major damage to the creature's long neck as the harpoon it had fired had gone through and through, but the creature's mouth remained opened and came down hard on the beam, its colossal head ramming and splitting the main mast and causing it to fall harshly on the ship. Wood creaked loudly as the mast came heavily down, and frightened sailors below shouted in fear and scrambled out of the way. Some were unfortunate, and the mast pinned and killed those several sailors instantly.

    That had just been the creature at play with its heavy head. The body appeared seconds later.

    “Abandon ship!” sailors cried in horror and jumped out to the sea as the monster’s long body came into view from port side as it wreathed its body around the ship. By squeezing its body harshly, the sea dragon split what remained of the three-mast ship easily in half and killing more unfortunate souls that had been in its wicked body’s path. The last one to abandon ship was its captain, the elf, for he had remained only to throw several spears at the creature. He caused little damage to it, so he jumped out to sea at the very last second as the sea monster went down with whatever remains of the ship it had wrapped in its body.

    The creature's astonishing rise from the depth was seen by many, including Valegrious, whose being was rocked with the utmost of terror after he saw the monster easily tearing the neighboring ship apart in just a matter of minutes. That’s how it was with gigantic sea creatures. So visible had been the monster attacking the ship that not only Valegrious and those many others that had dared to come out here had seen most of its slithery, impressive dark green body, but also some pirates from the pirate fleet via the use of their spyglasses. Attica, who had seen the scene through her spyglass, was quick to relay word to her captain, who came rushing to the starboard rail and focused his view on the ships in the distance. The monster was not visible to him, but the scared sailors assured him that it had just gone underwater. Proof of the monster's appearance lay with what pieces were left to see of the torn ship, which the captain easily noticed floating on the water.

    "By the damned crazy gods!" Captain Blue cried after he saw the carnage it had left. He remained there surrounded by most of his crew staring through that spyglass to see what else happened.

    ***

    After its deadly attack, the monster was gone, submerged into the water it had. The remains of the split ship were fast sinking into the ocean. From where he stood on the beak, Valegrious could see sailors struggling in the water and could hear the shouts of help coming from those that had survived the savage attack. Many, he knew, perhaps more than half of that crew, were already dead, some of their lifeless bodies floated visibly in the water.

    "Men overboard!" cried Valegrious loudly. "Put a few doreys in the water, Boys and Girls! Let's rescue our comrades."

    His words were easily heard and the order was passed along rapidly.

    “Go, men!” shouted Rygar, the sailor pushing some of his comrades. “Collect the wounded!”

    Sailors went to action right away, the lot knowing that their comrades needed help. Several small life boats were soon lowered on to the water. On the other three ships, the crews were also taking action, with all sailors frightened to the core.

    The monster was gone, so Valegrious jumped down to the wooden flooring and rushed through the main deck with intentions to make it to where Jzak stood behind the harpoon cannon. Valegrious moved several sailors out of his way as he went crossing the main deck. The young lad saw his sister seated on the deck behind some crates. She was crying in fear, and those that were gathered with her seemed perturbed and full of fear as well. How that scene had pained Valegrious, to have seen his sister’s tears. The truth was that Magatha had become frightened after she had witnessed the monster's attack on the neighboring ship, so had the others, but it had been Magatha who had truly lost it.

    "Val!" Minono cried at him when she had seen him passing by. "Come here, my love!"

    He would never deny her his attention, so he went to her right away, but he'd had in mind going to them when he had seen his sister in that terrible state anyway.

    "Are you alright?" Valegrious quickly asked her, his right hand touching her on the back of the head. Minono, despite being frightened as never before, nodded at him.

    “Good,” the captain touched her cheek and then knelt before his sister.

    "Magatha? Magatha? Look at me," Valegrious implored her, and she was quick to bury herself in his torso in a strong hug. "It's alright, Sister, don't be scared."

    "It was such a horrible thing to see, Valegrious!"

    "I know," Valegrious pat her back. "Just stay low, alright? I promise you that everything will be alright soon."

    Somehow his words sounded strongly soothing to her, and she nodded, because really, there was nothing else she could do at the moment.

    "I have to go do something," Valegrious whispered in her ear. "I have to...” If only she knew how terribly pained and sad he was due to the sailors that had lost their lives just minutes ago. “...help stop this creature before it does more damage to us. Will you be alright, sister? You have to be strong."

    "I will, Valegrious," she promised. "Just kill it...or make it go away."

    Valegrious remained staring solidly at her after she had spoken those words, but he then gave her a quick nod and kissed her forehead. He touched her cheek suavely and then rose up.

    "Valegrious," Yukiko got his attention then. "We want to help, too. We feel so useless just standing here."

    "Yes, Honey," Minono assisted. "We all want to help somehow."

    The elf and her band of warriors accentuated with nods.

    "Come on, Valegrious," cried Avon. "Lemme have a piece of that creature."

    "Right," Valegrious told them all. "Then look for Kaur, she'll tell you how you can lend a hand."

    "The water pixie, right?" Minono remembered the name of the blue skinned sailor that Valegrious had introduced to her and the others during dinner on the first night of the expedition.

    "Yes," Valegrious said. "But please, Minos, you stay with Magatha. I need you to do that for me, alright? She needs you now more than ever."

    Understanding the importance of the task, Minono nodded, gave him a quick kiss, and assured him that she would do that.

    "I'll stay with them too," Yukiko offered.

    "Yes," Valegrious said. "Remain together, all of you, but not here, stay close to the side in case you have to jump. I will be back as soon as I can, I promise."

    A few seconds later he was able to continue to the back deck, where Jzak stood behind the harpoon cannon.

    "It was too far for me to take a shot," she said right away when Valegrious made it to the side of the harpoon cannon. "I'm pretty sure I could have nailed it in the heart or head, but it was too far away."

    "But do take a shot if you see an opening next time," Valegrious urged with a stricken face. "We can't afford another loss like that."

    "Let's just hope that damn thing doesn't attack us next or we're done for, our expedition done!"

    Those words rocked Valegrious's feelings to the core. Surely scared at that, scared that it was very possible, he shook his head in denial.

    "I didn't come out here to fail even before we've entered the damned unsailed sea," he shouted angrily. "We have to do something. We can't just remain out here like sitting ducks for it to pick us apart."

    "What can we do?" Jzak cried, her face full of concern. "That thing is probably swimming down there and preparing its next attack."

    "If it did not tuck tail and fled already," said Valegrious. "Those sailors did manage to hurt it with that harpoon cannon after all."

    Jzak, who'd seen the harpoon wounding the creature as it had come down upon the ship, nodded at the captain. She greatly hoped that the creature had fled and left them alone, as Valegrious believed, but there was a big chance that it would attack them again.

    "We can't be too hopeful that it's fled," Jzak mumbled.

    "Then..." Valegrious's heart was beating so fast that it was pounding his chest hard. "Then we must see its next attack coming if it hasn't left."

    He never allowed Jzak to utter another word, he merely ran towards the back of the ship and dived into the water.

    "Valegrious!" Jzak shouted, but all she heard then was a loud splash.
    .

    ***


    The serpentine creature was hurt, but the disturbance in the water brought the monster up again. Instead of attacking another ship, it chose to rise and just swim by, its massive body visible on the water near the debris of the split ship. Sailors cried in horror when they saw it and after they heard a loud sound that the monster let out, a roaring bellow that lasted more than ten seconds. Valegrious, already in the water, heard the monster's bellow and saw part of its massive body as it swam by some two hundred yards away from his location. To him it appeared that he had seen a sequence of dark, moving lumps on the water, then the monster disappeared again, its lengthy spiky tail being the last thing submerging into the water.

    The sailor took a deep breath and submerged into the cool water. The salty water stung his opened eyes, but he followed the dark, blurry form, which he barely could see passing by far away. Unbeknownst to him, the Kalemar changed direction and was on its way towards another target: the ship at the very front. The monster was not using discretion this time, though, it reappeared on the surface fifty yards out from the ship, it's reddish eyes concentrated on the vessel and making most of its crew's hearts pound hard with fear.

    Valegrious came up to the surface, what with his lungs asking him for much needed air. He breathed loudly and then saw the monster far away.

    "Dammit!" he cursed when he noticed that it was swimming towards the Crazy Yosh. He would never make it in time to use that spear, the monster was too far away, so all he could do was watch as the creature advanced on.

    "Come on, come on," Valegrious murmured as he watched, hoping that the crazy lycan's crew would nail the monster.

    The Kalemar came swimming at the ship fast and furious, but the crew had been wary of it, and so they had been prepared to launch an attack before the monster reached them. At a shout from the lycan captain, cannons opened fire at it, sailors threw their long spears towards it, and another huge harpoon flew out to greet the approaching monster. Valegrious, floating on the turbulent water, saw as the cannon ball fire, the spears, and the harpoon, flew out to hurt the monster. All were true strikes, but the mighty harpoon was the one that really struck the creature right on its head, puncturing its brain in a matter of seconds. But the creature, though mortally wounded, rose high out of the water again while issuing forth a painful bellow. Sailors of the Crazy Yosh jumped overboard as the humongous creature came down upon them fast, perhaps already dying from its grave wound, but still coming down upon them, for that had been the creature's intent all along before the sailors had fired their weapons at it.

    Valegrious shut his eyes tightly, having chosen not to witness the fall of the monster upon the ship. It would be a tough scene to watch, to take, he had known, and with his eyes closed he hoped that all those sailors survived.

    A loud crushing sound was soon heard, followed quickly by loud splashes. The Kalemar was fast dying, but its heavy head and body still fell upon the ship and tore it easily in half, squashing those few unfortunate victims that hadn't been able to jump out to sea or to safety. Sailors, water, and splintered wood, as well as other debris from the ship, were catapulted high into the air seconds after the heavy monster fell on the ship with such tremendous force.

    Valegrious reopened his eyes and caught sight of a few sailors still falling into the ocean, he could even hear their shouts of terror. And the monster, struggling to cope with its grave wound, made the scene much worse as its twists and struggles further disrupted the sea.

    Monster-caused harsh waves came Valegrious's way, but he expertly did not oppose the water and went with the coming current, as Jzak Hennessy had taught him to do years ago. The Smelly Ignacia, too, and the four life boats, were hit with the violent waves. The life boats were flipped over and the sailors tossed into the sea like rag dolls. And Valegrious was taken deeper down into the ocean. His commanding ship was stronger, though, but though it remained as it was, it was rocked badly several times. Several sailors were injured when they had fallen on deck or hit themselves against crates and other parts of the ship. Magatha, nor the group keeping her company would be spared, they too lived through a rough period of time during those moments, with Magatha falling hard on top of Emilyann and Tallinor, the water taking them for a wild run on the deck. But that was less pain compared to what Minono went through when she had hit hard against the wooden wall of the rising back deck, the right side of her head becoming open with a nasty cut. She lost consciousness after the hit and knew no more.

    Unbeknownst to Valegrious that his love had suffered pain badly, he swam up and breathed loudly again after he made it out to the surface after being washed away by the waves for several long seconds. He noticed that part of the Kalemar's body was still visible in the distance, but that dark green body soon disappeared as the sea monster swam down seeking a place to calm a pain in its head it did not understand. The place it sought would never be reached, for even as it swam down, darkness took over it and it completely stopped struggling. It would reach the bottom of the ocean many, many minutes later, albeit dead.

    There came cheers from the Smelly Ignacia after the sailors had noticed that the sea monster had been killed, and Valegrious heard those shouts but did not rejoice like the rest of the crew was, for he knew that the monster's death had come at a high price and at the cost of many lives. He spun around and noticed Jzak cheering wildly at the side of the harpoon cannon, her arms raised to the sky, just like many sailors that stood around her. If anything, Valegrious felt grateful that he had not had to deal with the monster himself as he had intended, a task that the felinum had once masterfully completed against a smaller Kalemar.

    *****

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  13. #13
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    Chapter 12: Pirate Attack
    ***December 14th, 1658***

    Fourteen. That's the number of sailors that had survived from the two destroyed ships; within that small number had survived the two captains. The Kalemar attack had claimed thrice those numbers before its death, though, forty three lives, to be exact--all lost in a twenty minute time span.

    Feeling so down, Valegrious himself had worked hard the rest of the day helping to flip over the life boats and save those very sailors as well as salvaging whatever they could from the lost ships.

    When he had boarded the Smelly Ignacia hours later, he appeared sad, tired, and obviously very hurt before the crew. His sister Magatha had been fast to rush to his arms.”

    “I am sorry, brother,” she told him with tears falling and with a guilty voice. “All this is all my fault.”

    “No,” he whispered at her, also very sad. “If there is anyone guilty here, it is me. But what is done is done. There is nothing we can do about it but move on.”

    The two remained hugged for a long while. Then, when Valegrious noticed that his girlfriend appeared to be hurt, he went to her immediately.

    "Are you alright?" he touched her cheeks with his hands, surely concerned.

    "I'm alright, Honey," Minono replied. “Just a hard hit on the back of my head, that’s all.”

    “I am glad you are all alright,” Valegrious breathed easier before her. “But are you sure you are fine, Minos?”

    She explained to him what had happened to her and told him not to worry, that she was fine and just so glad that the monster had been killed. While Valegrious had been helping rescuing those on the water, a sailor medic named Naruko Ibuki had taken to the task of healing the girl and several other sailors who had suffered minor injuries.

    Later on, because they had recovered half of the dead bodies, Valegrious and company held a burial-at-sea ceremony in which they paid homage to the bravely departed and gave them to the sea. The bodies were put in cloth sacks, which were then woven, and then dumped into the sea minutes before a heavy drizzle came from the cloudy sky. Despite the light rain, the entire crews had prayed simultaneously, and many had been the ones who had cried through it all, for many had lost friends or relatives. Valegrious was one of those who had shed the most tears, for he truly resented what had happened so early into the voyage. Magatha, too, cried like never before, for the weight of guilt heavily fell upon her. When Valegrious noticed her tears, he guessed why she was crying. His hug upon her supported her through those awful moments.

    The monster trouble had passed, but trouble still remained out there. An hour after they had held the wet ceremony, the sky had thickened with dark clouds and the drizzle had grown in strength and turned to a harsh rain. With that change in the weather so too came word from the crow's nest about the imminent approach of the three pirate ships that had been following the group over the last couple of days.

    The entire group had not even had enough time to recollect themselves after the monster onslaught and more trouble apparently was already heading their way.

    When the warning reached them, Valegrious and company came rushing to the port side railing and used their spyglasses to have a look. In effect, Valegrious, despite the rain falling, noted that the ships were definitely coming towards them.

    "They must think that they can take us," Jzak Hennessy said in a disgusted but also worried tone. "What with two of our ships gone now."

    "If that's their intention, we'll be in for a rough time tonight," Valegrious believed, the captain feeling very sour after what they had been through. "Three on three is a fair fight, but we'll continue as we are and will only fight if they come too near. I don’t intend to die this night, so let's begin making preparations, Ladies and Gentlemen.”

    "Aye, Cap'n," Jzak nodded and went away to speak the orders to the crews. And Valegrious, face and clothing wet from the rain, used that time to speak to his sister, his girlfriend, and the Angelus about the possible danger and what he wanted them to do in case they did see battle tonight. He mostly confined them to remain in the provisions room in the second level of the ship.

    ***

    With two ships having been destroyed, Captain Blue had seen opportunity and much gain to be had. The taking of the group had become a reality, a possibility through a fair fight. And so even though he knew that the group had successfully dealt with the mighty water serpent, still he agreed with himself that he wouldn't be letting this golden opportunity pass him by. He knew that the opposing crews were frightened, their morale low. How would such a crew fare against them?

    "Damn sailors over there yonder might be tough, Boys!" Captain Blue shouted. "But we now have an even battle on our hands. Steer the ships in that direction, fellows. Ready the cannons and sharpen your blades. We'll intersect their advance and be hitting them tonight."

    His crew shouted happily when he'd given the order to go after the ships, some even performed wild dances before him. The seadogs and high ranking crew members, all too eager to see some action, had gone to work gladly, even with the cold, ungentle rain falling from the darkened sky.

    ***

    The rain continued to fall from the sky, but it never grew to a violent storm that could have made navigation difficult, quite the contrary, its power lessened to a light drizzle. Night had come after four hours, and with it, the trio of ships had approached ever closer. As they had been nearing, Valegrious and the other two captains of the other ships had noticed how two ships had separated quite a ways from the one in the middle. Their intentions were clear to Valegrious as the water they were sailing over: the opposing ships wanted to intersect all three vessels at once and go to battle against them side by side.

    The Smelly Ignacia, not new to battling it out against pirates or lower ranked scum as were classified sea marauders, was up to the challenge.

    "We'll take them as they come in," Valegrious ordered with a roar. "Relay word to the Sea Sprite and the Hope Never Dies that they'll be alone against those ships at least till someone deals with its own problem and is able to lend help."

    Using their signals, the orders were passed out to the other two ships.

    Valegrious was already dressed for battle. At his left hip he carried the fine sword and pistol that Jzak had given him, and at the right side he carried the one his mother had given him. He had given Minono a dirk and his white oaken bow, which she was to use to defend herself and those with her if it came to that. The rest of the crew, including those that had survived the monster attack, were all ready for battle, all carrying swords and pistols. So too, were the crews of the other two ally ships. The ship-less captains Yosh and Anubis became second ranked lieutenants for the Smelly Ignacia. They were under Valegrious’s and Jzak Hennessy's orders, and either of them had a small squad at their service for the upcoming battle. Valegrious positioned Yosh and his crew just below the stairs on the second level. He also sent Emilyann and her friends down there. They all were to defend those who did not want to fight that night, such as Magatha, Yukiko, and Minono, but there were also a few young sailors who had never lifted a weapon before; nonetheless, Valegrious ordered them to arm themselves in case they had to fight for their very lives if all else failed on deck and in the second level.

    With battle preparations so too came precautionary measures. At orders from their captains, the sailors on all three ally ships formed barricades with wooden crates and barrels on the main and back decks. It was a busy time in which even the captains helped set up things in order to try to survive. Jzak Hennessy had wanted to use the harpoon cannon for the battle, perhaps to nail an approaching pirate ship, but Valegrious told her that it would be best if they saved those harpoons for later in case they survived the battle and met any other ship-sinking monsters out there. Jzak saw things his way and agreed with him after she envisioned the ship and crew out there with no real defense against a large monster like the one they had faced earlier. Because the harpoons really were useful against such gigantic creatures, Jzak ordered her lower ranking mates to pass this knowledge to the other two vessels. The Sea Sprite and the Hope Never Dies received word on that and the harpoon cannons became obsolete for the battle.

    The first cannon fire came about twenty minutes later, when one of the ships was just about two hundred yards away from the Smelly Ignacia. The pirate crews had previously risen their skull-and-crossbones adorned black flags prior to opening fire, as if to finally identify themselves to their foes.

    The iron balls sailed by, whistling loudly but missing the ship, albeit just barely. Standing on the main deck alongside Jzak Hennessy and the rest of the fighting crew, Valegrious waited for the cannon division to respond to the aggression.

    "Fire!" Rygar, the Mohawk-haired lycan in charge of the cannon crew, gave out the order down in the second level. "Let's show those stinky sea rats what we’re capable of."

    The sailors went to action with courageous screams, and soon the cannon compartment wooden windows were opened. Cannon heads poked out, and the Smelly Ignacia spit out its own doses of cannonballs.

    The other two ally ships were intersected by the other pirate vessels and a similar pre-battle ambient was lived by all crews involved as they exchanged cannon fire. Loud bangs were heard as cannon balls went and came. The ships exchanged deadly fire, and soon the cannon balls were finding their intended targets. Splintered wood and sailors alike were sent out flying when those solid iron balls struck the ships, but this, despite causing chaos, confusion, and fear amongst some sailors, riled those that were still standing and waiting to see some action.

    The night was lit up by the fire produced from the firing of cannons. On and on the firing went for several long minutes, and ships and sailors alike continued to endure the harsh pain that came with having to endure flying pieces of debris or a cannon ball itself, as was the case with several unfortunate sailors and pirates who ran with that grim fate. With each loud bang that was heard, Magatha, Yukiko, Minono, and every other non-fighter located down in the second level felt shivers coursing through their backs. All they could do during those fear-filled tense moments was pray and hope that all ended soon. Magatha, the Angelus, and Minono feared for Valegrious's life, but they were equally worried for everyone else involved in the fight.

    The Smelly Ignacia and the Crown designed ships were built to endure cannon fire, but even their hardened wooden structure couldn't hope to last much, not with cannonballs traveling at more than two hundred miles per hour and coming in hordes at an interval of at least a minute. And the opposing pirate ship, which happened to be the one in which the main captain sailed, was also a sturdy ship. The two ships still looked pretty much the same after six rounds of cannon fire, but they had taken some damage.

    The ships sailed on through the rainy night, but as they had continued to sail through the water they had continued to exchange fire and they had slowly been nearing each other, had been closing the gap close enough at least for a side by side battle that would allow both sides to board the other via ropes, and in the case of a real close-up, through long wooden planks that would connect both ships. Knowing that a side by side battle was imminent, pirates and sailors tied ropes on top of the yardarms. The ropes were to be used to swing across to the other ship.

    Valegrious and his crew, as well as those on the other two ships, knew that they were fighting for their very lives, so they wouldn't be having mercy against the enemy. Pirates were greedy thieves and would not hesitate to chop them down just to take their valuables and whatever else they thought to be a good prize.

    As Valegrious stood staring at unfriendly faces on the other side, word came to him over the ruckus that filled the night that they were beginning to take in water off the starboard bow.

    "Tis not a large hole, Cap'n," informed a blonde woman. "But the ship has been breached."

    "Patch it, Vee," the captain cried in a hurry at the woman. "Take a couple of men from the cannon crew if you have to and deal with it right away, we're about to repel boarders up here."

    "Aye, Sir!" the sailor nodded and rushed away to take care of the order. Valegrious, a bit startled due to the news, hoped that the woman and those who were to aid her in that task managed to patch the damage.

    Then the real fight began on deck. Cannon fire had lessened, and most of the crew on both ships were on deck, all shouting crazily, cursing at each other, and ready to board and repel any invaders. Valegrious hoped that the warriors that Jzak had brought from her homeland helped them win the night.

    Brave and also daring pirates came towards the ship hanging from ropes, but most of them were dealt with right away when the sailors from the Smelly Ignacia fired pistols and muskets upon them. With cries of pain some dropped from their ropes and fell into the water with loud splashes, others hard on the deck of the ship, soon to be dispatched by those sailors nearby where they fell. Those that did make it to the deck were quickly engaged by sailors who had been ready for them. More and more pirates came swinging across, and soon the whole crew was busy battling it out with them.

    Valegrious soon found himself using his own weapons. A mean looking pirate holding a cutlass came his way showing him an evil grin and several missing front teeth.

    “You’re dead meat, boy! My blade will be colored with your blood tonight.”

    “Come on,” Valegrious cried at him. “Let’s see what you’ve got.”

    Their swords met with clangs and Valegrious battled it out with his contrary amidst all the chaos and shouting going on around him. All around him the deck was busy with fighters, but Valegrious, who'd been taught how to fight by Jzak and Evelina, kept his focus just on his opponent, and he felled him a minute later with a sword stab just underneath the pirate’s left ribcage, albeit the lad wasn't happy about his kill, quite the contrary, he felt so bad seeing so many beings falling on the deck quite hurt or dead, from both sides. But this was reality, this was just a ferocious day in a turmoil-filled world, a day—nay—a scene that was not new to Valegrious, and he was not about to let himself die this night.

    The captain of the Smelly Ignacia had put that pirate down, but more foes he would find as the minutes went on and the carnage aboard the ship continued. On his way around the deck, Valegrious even helped some of his crew by engaging their opponents or driving them away with a kick or a hit upon their face with the pommel of his blade. Bangs from fired pistols or muskets were heard every now an then, even a few loud bangs belonging to fired cannons, but the most common sounds were the ringing of steel weapons, the crazy shouting, and the cries of agony and pain. The fresh air was filled with smoke and a heavy powdery aroma, even with the light rain still falling. The Smelly Ignacia had fast become a bloody battlefield, as had the other ships.

    A few minutes later, the planks were finally lowered and the two ships became as one. More pirates from the Saint Eleine rushed over those planks, all heavily armed and surely being the elite ones—all led forward by their unafraid captain, who knew that the enemy was defending itself rather well from the wave of pirates he had sent first, just the common fodder.

    Uncounted minutes went by, and all of a sudden, the captains of the Saint Eleine and the Smelly Ignacia found themselves engaged in battle one on one.

    "Hello, lad," the pirate captain grinned at Valegrious, but he did nothing else but remain concentrated on him, his face showing not even an ounce of fear. “You must be the captain of this ship, aye?”

    “Yes, and surely the one who’s going to send you to hell,” said Valegrious bravely.

    "Come on, then," vociferated the pirate leader as he exchanged his cutlass back and forth from hand to hand. "Show me what you can do."

    And the two commanding leaders went at it as Valegrious rushed the pirate captain. They fought all around engaged foes, their swords trying to cut the other down. Captain Blue fought on using his cutlass and a long, fat knife, which he had brought out from a holster moments later. Valegrious, using his sword and a dirk, fought on and defended his life.

    Their fight took them a long while, for they were both skilled, and for more than ten minutes they fought amidst all the chaos. They wounded each other badly during that time, but not gravely, and their fight even took the two up to the crow's nest, where Valegrious had had to climb in pursuit of the young pirate leader, who'd always preferred to fight in terrible heights. They fought on the main mast's yardarm for several minutes. The two fighters kept their balance rather well, surely amazing those that were looking at them from below. Then they took their fight to the circle-shaped crow's nest, the pirate leader jumping within, with Valegrious following him there right away. There, in that small round space it was where the two wounded each other the most with cuts on their arms and even stabs in their thighs and body. Valegrious had even delivered an astonishing head butt to his opponent, but he'd gotten a nasty elbow in the face in return that made blood come out and nearly made him swoon. Valegrious fought over the pain and the feeling and kept the captain pirate at bay with that sword of his. Their swords met again, and they kept trying to stab the other to death, but neither left an opening after a strike. Suddenly and full of desperation, the pirate let that wicked knife of his fly towards Valegrious in an attempt to end the fight there. The Smelly Ignacia’s captain just barely threw his whole body aside and let it fly past him, but he hit his ribs badly against the wooden side. Valegrious, angry as hell, regarded the pirate with mean eyes. Captain Blue chuckled, “Good move, for such a tight space here, Captain...”

    He wanted his name, but Valegrious was having none of that. He also threw his own dirk at the fool’s face. The captain avoided the dirk by ducking and laughing afterwards. Then again they met with their swords doing the talking. On and on it went for a few minutes, the two slashing and hacking without much progress.

    But minutes later, Valegrious disarmed his opponent's last weapon with a wicked slash of his own blade. Seeing him weaponless, Valegrious tossed his own sword away, this one falling fast and sticking wickedly pointy end first on the wood of the deck below.

    “Ah, so you wish to engage in a little fist fight, aye?”

    “That’s my specialty,” Valegrious countered, putting his arms up. “Come on.”

    They continued fighting it out with their fists for a while, but their battle would not conclude due to the victory belonging to the Smelly Ignacia, whose ferocious warriors had surely cut down pirates easily, especially the four-armed rixacor and the berocs. Shouts of glee and joy filled the deck below as sailors recognized that victory was assured when pirates began kneeling with their hands behind their heads, a gesture of surrender. What with most of their mates laying on the bloody deck dead or badly injured, their standing numbers had been few then, and so those that remained chose to surrender instead of meeting death that rainy night.

    From above, Captain Blue noticed his elite friends surrendering below.

    "Argh, well that's not good, is it?" said the bleeding pirate captain when he recognized that he and his gang of pirates had lost the battle.

    “I rather die than see this,” the pirate captain said sourly.

    Bleeding from the nose and mouth, and from several other wounds, Valegrious spoke when he saw how the pirate climbed out to the yardarm again. "You don't have to die this night,” he told him. “Just surrender like your crew has. We'll spare you all, but you'll be confined to the cells in the third level of my ship."

    "Bah," spat Captain Blue. "That’s not a bad suggestion, lad, but I've never surrendered, and therein lies the problem. Argh, I won’t allow you to take me prisoner and later be judged at some port city where I will then be hanged for the viewing pleasure of the attendants."

    The pirate spread out his arms to either side. “I prefer death.”

    “No, don’t do it!” cried Valegrious, his arms outstretched in front of him.

    "Well fought, lad," the young pirate congratulated. "It was an honor fighting you." And after a quick bow, he let himself fall over, his back leading the way, the pirate smiling as he expected death to come greet him.

    "Nooo!" Valegrious cried and even rushed forth in an attempt to grab him when the pirate had let himself fall. He missed grabbing him by a lot, and all he could do was stare down at the pirate as he fell. Below on deck, though, two mighty rixacor were able to catch the falling fool before he met up with the wooden deck and paid for all his sins. Those two rixacor had been instructed earlier by Jzak to keep an eye out on the captain in case he fell. He had not fallen, his opponent had, but the two rixacor had thought it prudent to catch him regardless. The tip of Jzak's long silver sword came to touch the pirate leader's throat.

    "You lose," the nose-bleeding felinum told him.

    “Aye, Pretty One,” agreed the pirate with a chuckle. “Looks that way.”

    Up on the crow's nest, Valegrious gulped lightly and was thankful at least that the fool had been spared a nasty death. He sighed, surely feeling a bit relieved. Too much blood had been spilled this night, though, he knew, but he remained there for a while just hearing loud huzzahs from the crew below and also claps and shouts of joy.


    *****

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  14. #14
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    Chapter 13: Aftermath
    ***December 14th, 1658***

    "Oh, Valegrious," Magatha hugged her brother tightly many minutes later after Valegrious had rushed down to the second level just to let them know that the fight was over and that things were fine now. "I am so glad to see you," she went on. "I was so worried and scared that something had happened to you and all the others."

    "I'm alright," Valegrious's voice sounded troubled. Minono also came forth and rejoiced with him in a tight hug.

    "You look hurt, Val," she observed the bloody shirt and the wounds on his arms and left thigh where Valegrious had been wounded the worst. "Are you sure you are alright?"

    "Don't worry about me, Minos,” somehow the girls caught a sorrowful tone in his words. “I look hurt, but I am fine...these are just minor wounds and bearable compared to the grim fate others suffered tonight."

    "But is it all over?" Yukiko came forth from the shadows, surely saddened at what Valegrious had just let them know. "Is the battle itself over?"

    A few other young sailors that had not partaken in the fight came forth as well.

    "It is," Valegrious confirmed, he even nodded once as he looked at the group. "There is nothing to be afraid of now, people. The night is ours."

    Indeed, the night was theirs, because the other two crews had also been successful in their battles against the pirates. Nonetheless, the group's losses were significant once again. The Sea Sprite sunk into the depths of the ocean hours later after its stern had taken so much damage from cannon fire. And it's captain, along with a great number of sailors, had also been killed in action. In return, Sea Sprite's crew had also managed to sink the opposing ship, a vessel named the Sugary Sally, and the loss of life from that ship was close to total, with only five pirates having been taken prisoners when the battle had ended. The battle those two crews had waged that night had been the most bloody of the three, and the most with the loss of life.

    As to the Hope Never Dies, its crew had had their hands full dealing with the crew of the Black Skull, the most ferocious of the three pirate crews that night. But just as the warriors that Jzak Hennessy had brought from her homeland had played a significant role in helping the Smelly Ignacia win the night, so too had the warriors that had been sailing on that ship help achieve victory for Captain Alecia Xandria and her ship.

    The remaining crew of the Sea Sprite had salvaged from that ship all the provisions they could, and as the night had continued its course, they had then boarded the two ally ships, helped by the survivors of both the Smelly Ignacia and the battered crew of the Hope Never Dies.

    The after-battle tasks became getting provisions and survivors on board the remaining ships. The group had lost another of their ships, but they had gained two. That's right, the Saint Eleine and the Black Skull became rightful property of the winning side, as well as all treasure and provisions on board.

    Valegrious and Jzak had faced a tough decision the following hours. They could either regroup after all that had happened to them and continue their journey just aboard the Smelly Ignacia and the Hope Never Dies. Or, they could board the pirate vessels and continue almost with the same number of ships that they had started with, albeit, if they did that, they knew that their crews would be smaller and surely incomplete.

    In the end, because they did not have enough sailors to form four crews, they had to leave one of the ships behind, and that was the Dark Skull.

    They continued their voyage after the bloody battle against the pirates. A lot had happened to them all early in their quest, things that could have surely made them turn around and give up with this quest. But Valegrious and company had known the risks prior to setting sail, and besides, even shorthanded or with a crippled crew, Valegrious wouldn't be turning around, not when his sister's life was at stake. Thus they had gone forward even after having endured two wicked attacks early on.

    ***


    ***December 15th, 1658***

    As Valegrious stood on the beak of the Smelly Ignacia the following afternoon as the ships sailed freely over the serene water on a cloudy but rainless day, he had been staring to the horizon quite unnerved, the lad wondering whether all that was said about the unsailed sea was true. So far the voyage had been trouble for them, and Valegrious couldn't help but shiver after realizing what could be awaiting them there in the next couple of days.

    "Don't let your heart fail you," Jzak spoke to him from behind, making him turn around. Valegrious helped her up, for she had extended her left arm for that purpose.

    "Naw, I was just thoughtful," said Valegrious. "I mean I am a little edgy after what we have lived so far, Jzak. But even you know there's no way I will be turning around."

    "I know," she smiled at him, one hand of hers holding on to a line of roping and another on his shoulder. "I'm here to help you be rid of any troubling thoughts you might have."

    "Really? How so?"

    "Well," Jzak confessed. "I am here to inform you that no one has been able to cheer up Little Sammy..."

    "Sammy?" Valegrious's eyebrows went up in surprise. "Who is Little Sammy?"

    Jzak smiled briefly before replying, "That is the actual name of Captain Rongo's water pixie. She's torn at the loss of her master."

    "I see," Valegrious remembered about the small pixie. She had survived last night's battle, but her master had died defending the crew. After they had regrouped last night, once again Valegrious and company had held a burial-at-sea ceremony in which they had paid homage to all fallen crew members. And once again, with much sadness, they had delivered all the fallen to the sea. When the bearded captain of the Sea Sprite had been tossed into the ocean, the water pixie had been uncontrollable. It had taken Jzak and many other sailors to comfort her down during the night. Valegrious had not been one of them, for after the ceremony, he had mostly sought solitude. After what had happened, he had needed time to be alone.

    "And you think I can help cheer her up?" Valegrious looked curiously at Jzak.

    "You're our last hope," Jzak grimaced. "The pixie has been asking to be let free. She has been wanting to be thrown into the ocean. I, of course, have refused her wish."

    "What do you think?" Valegrious asked. "Doesn't she belong in the ocean?"

    "From what I know," began Jzak with a shake of her head. "She's a deserter of her clan, and she's given herself as servant to a master. In other words, she's tainted and will not be allowed back in her race's homeland, wherever that might be. But if she does go back to the water, she'll most likely seek death, because once their master dies, they believe that they belong nowhere and no longer have a purpose in life."

    "I won't allow that to happen," Valegrious said. "Not if I can help it."

    "Then go speak to her," Jzak urged. "If she deems you a worthy being, worthy enough to replace the great master she's lost, she'll give herself to you and you will become her next master."

    Valegrious scratched his head.

    “Come on,” Jzak pushed on, this time smiling lightly. “Remember you told me back at port how you wanted an imp?”

    He nodded twice.

    "Then this is your chance," Jzak said, then with an imploring tone, she added, "Save her, Valegrious. She doesn't deserve to die so young."

    "I'll see what I can do," Valegrious jumped down to the deck.

    "She's down in the provision's room hiding behind some sugar and flour sacks."

    Valegrious nodded and started heading in that direction.

    Jzak, feeling hopeful, watched him go, then she dropped down to deck and ordered sailors around, just because she missed being in command.

    *****

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  15. #15
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    Chapter 14: A New Master
    ***December 15th, 1658***

    Valegrious hoped to find the water pixie where Jzak had said she would be. He hurried across the deck and went down to the second level. Leaving his nervousness behind, he decidedly entered the semi darkened room and spoke softly, so as not to startle the pixie if she was in there.

    "Sammy, are you in here?"

    "Go away!" came a faint childish voice, one surely filled with sadness and woe. Valegrious remained quiet for a few seconds and ran a hand over his mouth, and he thought about doing what he had just been told, but, since he never gave up so easily on things, he decided to remain there.

    "My name is Valegrious," he introduced himself as his eyes fell upon the stacked sacks of flour, sugar, beans, and potatoes. "I haven't had the chance to speak with you. I only just learned your name minutes ago from a friend of mine. She let me know what is going on with you and I thought I'd come and talk to you about it."

    There came no spoken response, but after a few long seconds Valegrious saw the small pixie's head peeking out at him from behind a sack.

    "No need to fear me," Valegrious stuck his hands out in a calming way. "I'm just here to talk."

    "Please, leave me alone. I don't feel like talking to anyone right now."

    "I know how you feel," Valegrious insisted. "If you could see into my heart or soul, you'd be able to see that I feel somewhat like you this very minute, or even worse. And why not?" Valegrious walked off to his right side and relaxed himself against a wide barrel that had been standing in place near the wooden wall. He crossed his arms and went on, "The last few days have been devastating for me. I've lost so many good friends and people I didn't even know that well. All the lives that have been lost so far out here weigh heavily upon me, and though that really puts me down every time it comes to my mind, I know that I have to be strong and aim to do my very best at completing the task we came out here to do. I know I’ll be scarred for life with the weight of all the lives lost so far, but I have to move on as best I can. You...lost your master, I was told. You don’t know how sorry I am for that, for the loss of his life, but you, like me, should be strong and move on, Sammy."

    The water pixie decided to show more of herself, then, but she did so cautiously, slowly, her eyes always on the speaker.

    "You're the main captain of the voyage, right?" she asked him with interest.

    "Yes," Valegrious felt glad when his dark brown eyes saw her coming out completely. At least she had decided to talk to him, and that was a good thing after how things had started out between them.

    "I'm sorry if I was rude before," the pixie apologized.

    "It's alright," said Valegrious. "I understand how you are feeling. Look, Sammy. I know you lost your master during the fight with the pirates, and I know just how terrible that feels, and also how irreplaceable a friend or loved one is. But...I don't feel good after I've been told what you have in mind doing. If what my friend told me is true, then I sincerely believe that your road is not the sea, not if you really plan to seek death out there..."

    The sprite skipped across several sacks, jumped up to a barrel and came running over other barrels that were lined behind that one against the wall until she stood close to him on another barrel. Valegrious uncrossed his arms and regarded her eight inch form. To his eyes, she was just a small version of a human, except her skin color was light blue, her hair white as the snow, and she had small but visible gills on her slender neck, not to mention long ears like an elf, however, hers resembled fish fins. She wore a soft purplish dress, and her eyes were a darker shade of purple.

    "You care about what happens to me?"

    "I do," Valegrious said and nodded, and his words sounded sincere, his face looked serious before the pixie. "I actually do, even though I know you little. I just...don't want you to go out there and die. I just can't picture that, and surely, that is not a fate I want you to suffer. I believe that there is a handful of opportunities for you here at our side. So, please, Sammy, I bid you to be strong. I ask you to deal with your inner feelings, and to think things over and remain here with us."

    The pixie looked aside, quite thoughtful and distressed. She was tearful for the loss of her master still, but she used her small hands and bust them away.

    "I know you're hurting for the loss of your master," Valegrious went on. "He was a good man. I wish I'd had more time to have known him better, or that I had met him earlier in my life under other circumstances, but sadly, that's not the way things work in this unjust world."

    The pixie looked back at Valegrious, who continued, "He came out here just like everyone else risking his life so that I could have a chance at getting my sister to Iviri. He's dead now, and his death, like every other person that has died so far, weighs heavily upon me, like I’ve told you. But I'll certainly never forget about them, about their big sacrifice, and I hope that we make it to our destination so that their lives were not lost in vain. So come on, Sammy, last I need is for more unnecessary lives to be lost under my command. Please tell me that you will reconsider and remain with us."

    Valegrious looked hopeful before the pixie, and he hoped that his words made her change her mind.

    "You're right, of course," the pixie said after a few long seconds that she spent thinking. "I bet that my fallen master wouldn't be happy with me if I took to the sea in an attempt to find death."

    "So you will stay?" asked Valegrious very hopeful and smiling.

    "Only if you will become my new master," the pixie said seriously. "Come on, Valegrious. What do you say?"

    "I...I say yes, of course," Valegrious was overjoyed. "I just hope that I can live up to your expectations, Sammy."

    "With those words you've spoken to me," said the pixie. "You already have."

    Valegrious smiled and walked towards her and put his left hand close to where she stood.

    "look," said Valegrious. "I know I'll never be able to replace your previous master, nor do I aim to do that, but I will do all in my power to be a good master to you."

    The pixie smiled lightly at him, then she boarded the palm of his hand, and Valegrious was able to bring the pixie to rest on his right shoulder.

    "Come on," he said as he headed for the doorless entrance. "Let's go begin our time together, Sammy. I will introduce you to my sister, my girlfriend, and some friends, and then I’ll show you where Abigale hides the sweet bread."

    *****

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  16. #16
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    Chapter 15: Calm before the Storm
    ***December 22nd, 1658***

    In a triangle formation, with the Smelly Ignacia sailing at the point, the three ships and their crews covered great measures of salty sea water over the following week without running into too much danger as they previously had. The worst they had lived through during those days had been a nasty thunderstorm that had brought along crazy winds and even more than a dozen waterspouts. Thankfully, the waterspouts had touched sea far away from the ships and had only served as a great spectacle. But the wind had given the crews a hard time as the ships rocked back and forth due to the nasty, disrupted waves. Several crew members had gone overboard as the crews had been fighting the storm and waves that invaded the ship, but they had all been rescued successfully. Other than that, the following days had been stormy, but all had passed without much incident.

    On the 22nd day since their departure from Port Goodweather, the group came upon an area in the sea that unsettled someone from the Smelly Ignacia's crew in particular.

    Just minutes ago, Yukiko had seen the small island in the distance through the use of her own spyglass when the watcher up in the crow's nest, a skinny sailor named Locke Deniri, had announced sighting of it by shouting, "Oy! Land ahoy!"

    The time had come, she knew, and she sighed loudly.

    Valegrious, who had been writing in his log book in his quarters in the second level, quickly came rushing up the stairs after news were relayed to him. The pixie was on his shoulder and looked as excited as he was at the news. Magatha and Minono also had heard the news, so they came up to the main deck a few minutes after Valegrious. Everyone, it appeared, at least those who were not performing any work, had congregated at the bow and were looking at the distance, some even pointed with their fingers.

    The captain of the Smelly Ignacia had had intentions to go to the group and have a look at this so called island in the distance, but Yukiko, who had become uneasy and had been waiting for him to show up on deck, pulled him off to the side by the arm before he could begin heading towards the crowd.

    "Captain Coral," she whispered. "We need to talk, you and I."

    "Eh?" Valegrious was surprised, but he soon saw Yukiko's troubled semblance and turned to face her. "Just call me Valegrious, Yukiko," he told her with a sigh. "I'm captain of this ship, but really, the real captain is still Jzak, everyone knows that, even myself."

    She nodded at him but she still looked troubled.

    "What is it, Yukiko? Is something wrong?"

    "I-I have s-something to tell you about that island in the distance..."

    Valegrious quietly stared at her for several seconds, and from her stuttering he could only guess that it was something bad.

    "So it is an island, then? Not something else."

    "Yes," Yukiko breathed calmly. "It’s an island, a big one, too. It's full of cliffs and rocks, and some mountains hide behind a lengthy, dense jungle."

    "I see," said Valegrious, his hand on his chin, his mind imagining the island.

    "But that is not what I want to talk to you about, there is something else you should know."

    "Alright, well I'm listening."

    "I think we must talk about this in private..." Yukiko's voice sounded even more troubled than she looked. For a while Valegrious just regarded her, but then he gave her a slight nod.

    "Alright, let us go to my quarters, then."

    Yukiko agreed instantly and they headed back to the second level.

    There, in the comfy room that Valegrious called his private quarters, a room which had a window on the wall, a small bed, a small wardrobe close to it, and a small round table with two wooden chairs, the troubled angelus began her revelation about the place they were about to come upon.

    "It's urgent that you hear this," Yukiko sat on a chair and Valegrious did the same on the other one, with the water pixie choosing to remain seated on his right shoulder.

    "You can tell me anything that might be troubling you," Valegrious said, then he noticed how Yukiko regarded the pixie and added, "Oh, Sammy won't speak to anyone about what she hears here. Right, Sammy?"

    "That is correct," said the pixie in her infantile voice. “Make believe I am not even here.”

    "Alright," Yukiko nodded and relaxed, and she showed it with a lengthy sigh. "You know what? I haven't been too open with you about my experience at sea when I sailed through here those years ago. I really should be telling this to everyone in particular, but it is best if I tell you first, Valegrious. Then you decide whether the rest should know or not."

    "Very well," Valegrious smiled lightly at her, as if wanting to settle her down with that smile. "I am listening."

    For a few moments the angelus remained playing with her mouth and looking off to the sides, as if she was uncertain that she was doing the right thing.

    "First off," she began, the angelus holding on to a pair of serious eyes. "If I hadn't spoken of my experience to you or anyone else before, it was mostly because I decided to wait till we reached this certain area."

    Valegrious just nodded and remained attentive of her confession. The pixie too, just listened on.

    "Days ago, we left behind the area where the fishing caravel found me stranded on my raft. I didn't say anything about it, but these last days I've been so uneasy, and only because I know that we're about to head into the area which will throw so many challenging tests our way. This is the epicenter of the unsailed sea, an area that is heavily rumored to be the tomb of Atlantis, the realm that was sunk by the gods millennia ago. In fact, I believe that island there was once part of Atlantis."

    Again, Valegrious nodded, for he knew about the tales that spoke of Atlantis and what supposedly had happened there. And he had also known that they were close to venture into the area that tales and rumors exhibited as the most dangerous area of the unsailed sea. What he did not know was what Yukiko had mentioned last, about that island being part of Atlantis. Valegrious had read several tales about the sunken realm, and only one had mentioned that there could be spots of land that had not sunk, but no one had confirmed that before, thus his surprise at Yukiko's belief.

    "I never saw much of the so called troubled region when I sailed those years ago," Yukiko went on. "But before I get to those parts, let me tell you about that island in the distance. We had already lived through so many tests and troubles before we came upon it. Hell, we had already lost a ship. My crew and I, and all those that came with us on the other vessels, saw that island once we cleared a heavy foggy section.... I can assure you that the island is no safe place, and yet we will have to navigate so close to it..."

    Valegrious surprisingly shivered, but he was fast to ask. "If I may ask, why is that?"

    Yukiko thanked him silently for asking her, for she then was able to take a deep breath to contain her nervousness.

    "It's the sea all around it," Yukiko cried. "It's...it's full of sink holes!"

    That made Valegrious raise his eyebrows and lick his lips nervously, and Yukiko, knowing that he was taking this seriously, saw how he readjusted in his chair.

    "Sink holes, you say?" Valegrious inquired, and he looked discomforted for the first time before Yukiko.

    "Yes," Yukiko replied. "Do you know what they do?"

    "I actually do," Valegrious seemed a bit perturbed before the angelus. "I read some books about them here on this same ship during my travels in the south sea. And Jzak told me a bit about them too, she's seen one before. If a ship or something enters said sink hole, they will sink, they will be taken down, as if merely swallowed, for sink holes are like magnets that drag anything that happens upon them right to the bottom. Right?"

    "Yes," Yukiko nodded. "Sink holes are like separate pockets of water in the sea and even large lakes, their currents are treacherous and shifting so often, mostly in an inexplicable upward and downward movement. The heavier the thing that enters its range, the easier it will be pulled down."

    "Right," Valegrious nodded. "And you say that this island in the distance is surrounded by them?"

    Yukiko nodded and looked pale, too pale, actually. "Too many of them, Valegrious," she said. "Too many to avoid if you'd keep us on our current course. If indeed the tales are correct, these sink holes were born after Atlantis sank. A great power still emanates from below, rumors say, but the historians in my homeland have argued that these sink holes came to be even before the great realm sank, that they were constructed by the Atlantians themselves as a defensive measure against their enemies.”

    Valegrious seemed very thoughtful before the Angelus, so did the water pixie.

    “I don't know what the deal is,” Yukiko went on. “But the truth is that they are there and we are nearing them. You and everyone else will be able to see them from atop the crow's nest if you have a good eye, because their waters are darker. But still, though there are unspoiled waters as well, it will be very difficult to navigate over this dangerous area. We lost a ship and its crew there," Yukiko recalled. "I saw with my very own eyes how ship and crew were swallowed in a matter of seconds. Only my ship made it through, and only because we sent several good-eyed kinsmen ahead to guide us after the incident. From my experience lived, I can tell you that the safest path leads close to that damned island--however..."

    "Yes?" Valegrious asked when Yukiko let her words hang and stared at him very seriously.

    "Well," Yukiko lowered her head, troubled by memories that flooded her mind then. "It was even worse there for us that survived the sink holes. The island is teeming with flesh eating monsters who will be quick to come seeking to make a meal out of us."

    Valegrious digested the information carefully, and the pixie on his shoulder gulped hard enough for him to hear.

    "These creatures are known as sirens," continued Yukiko, not giving them time to settle down. "They are flying creatures resembling beautiful women from the waist up, but their lower bodies are similar to eagle legs that have sharp talons, which are deadly. But, it is their beautiful voices and their singing that will be putting us to the test, for they can put you to sleep."

    "Yes," Valegrious nodded, agreeing. "I also heard several tales about the existence of these hags, but most tales put them as being water monsters and not the kind of creatures you described. Stories say they come out from the water and sing to sailors, their beautiful voices were so sweet and beautiful that they charmed sailors into a deep slumber, then they were dragged down to the bottom of the ocean never to be seen again. I don't know if I believe those tales now, for you survived sailing over this dangerous route and I'll believe you if you say that island is teeming with them."

    "You will see for yourself soon enough," said Yukiko, who by that time felt a little better after she had explained to Valegrious about the dangers that they were about to face.

    Feeling awfully tense, Valegrious puffed out air, then he went on to place his right hand’s index finger and thumb on the part of his nose that separated his eyes and squeezed it gently, a thing he did when he really felt tense.

    "So it just keeps getting better and better for us, eh?" Valegrious referred to their voyage getting worse and worse, actually, but Yukiko easily understood what he meant.

    "And you haven't heard what awaits us if we get past the sink holes and the island," Yukiko looked scared before him once again. "Our greatest challenge, and perhaps our very last one, but surely the most difficult one. Well, there is actually two things for us to deal with, but one I don't consider dangerous, it's just a marvel to see."

    Valegrious ran his left hand over his hair, surely troubled as ever. Again he puffed out air.

    Sammy, sensing that her master was troubled, jumped off his shoulder and landed in the middle of the table. From there, she asked him, "Are you alright, Master?"

    Valegrious regarded her and noticed that she looked concerned for him.

    “I’m fine, Sammy,” he nodded at her and then looked over at Yukiko.

    "Don't feel bad, Valegrious,” she said. “Like I said, I have to share all this with you so you and everyone else can be prepared for it."

    "Yes, I understand," he said, his voice kind of dry. "Look, Yukiko, we all knew it was going to be such a difficult journey, but this is just too much. We barely survived the monster and pirate attack, not to mention that nasty storm we ran into days ago, so I do wonder how we'll fare against all this that still awaits us."

    "Let’s take it one test a time," Yukiko said in a soothing voice when she noticed that Valegrious appeared so troubled. "As I told my crew back then, we can't worry too much about what lies ahead when we're in the middle of a problem. We'll deal with things as they come our way, for having too many matters on our mind could be disastrous."

    Valegrious straightened in his chair.

    "Alright, so tell me," he went on. "I'm just curious here. If we happen to sail past this sink hole filled area and make it through that island, what else are we expecting to find out there? Is it even worse than this, what we'll have to deal with, I mean?"

    Yukiko did not respond. She lowered her sight to the table and remained like that for a long while, as if lost in her own thoughts. Not even after Valegrious cleared his throat did she reply, but a few seconds later, she regarded him.

    "As I told you earlier, Valegrious, let us take one matter at a time. I could go ahead and tell you what else I lived through before reaching this point in my journey, but I don't want to trouble you and make you lose focus on the matter at hand. Right now we should be aiming to get past these dangerous waters and those hags. Only if we manage to survive will I tell you what comes next."

    "Fair enough," Valegrious said. "Is this all you wanted to speak to me about, then?"

    "Yes," Yukiko said. She watched as he stood up and said, "Well, I think everyone should know what you told me. There will be a few who will panic, perhaps, but it is best if they all know what danger we're going up against this time. Besides, why keep this only to ourselves when they will witness it later? Better if they know what's coming."

    "You're our captain, Valegrious," Yukiko said. "If you need me when you tell them about it, I will gladly help you out."

    "Come with me," he invited nicely. "I wouldn't mind having you at my side when I tell them."

    And Yukiko was at his side when Valegrious related to the whole crew what lay ahead for them. As Valegrious had believed, there were those amongst the crew who became scared, but they would manage.

    "So long as we stick together like we've been doing it so far, we'll be fine," Valegrious had told the crew, and they all agreed.

    Soon, with the help of Yukiko, who could fly, the other crews were also notified of the danger ahead.

    *****

    Pokémon X 2981-6150-7153
    Pokémon Y 0533 6586 5116

    Services I offer: Dex entry, EV Training, Evolving a pokemon, cloning. Pm me for requests

    Members helped thus far: (3)

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  17. #17
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    Sorry for the long delay, peeps. Got a little busy doing other things. Excuse the long update. XD

    Chapter 16: The Island of Death
    ***December 22nd, 1658***

    Valegrious reunited the whole crew on the main deck minutes later, and with Yukiko at his side and the pixie on his shoulder, he explained to them all what tests lay ahead for them all.

    Most sailors became scared or at least very worried after they heard him and the angelus speak of the sinking holes and the island of death, but Valegrious assured them that they would be coming out of those tests victorious, as they had with all previous tests they had endured so far.

    "There might be more losses for us to endure," he told them calmly and sourly. "But we will carry on as were our plans from the very start."

    "Captain Coral is right," said Jzak from off to Valegrious's right side. "We're already too far into this voyage to think about going back, and besides, only brave souls came aboard those five ships when we sailed out."

    "Indeed, "Valegrious assisted her. "Now, I want to know something.”

    He scanned the faces of the multitude of sailors. “Is there a faint soul on board this ship or the two that accompany us that would be too scared to proceed onward?"

    "Noooo!" Loud shouting filled the air, the many sailors raising their arms and pumping them in defiance before him told him that they all would go to the very end with him if need be, as they had all known would be the case from the very start.

    "Then let’s look to survive once more!" cried Valegrious at the crew with a risen voice similar as theirs in intensity, and again he was replied with a chorus of loud shouts.

    Later, Valegrious and company began preparations for what was to come. All sorts of weapons were prepared once again, and every sailor on board the three ships were given some to use, for according to the angelus, they would be using them.

    Finally, Valegrious and his closest group of friends stood close to each other on the main deck of the Smelly Ignacia.

    "I will be guiding you through these hard tests," Yukiko told Valegrious.

    "Guiding me?" Valegrious asked sort of confused. "How so?"

    "I mean the whole crews, of course," the angelus calmly corrected herself. "I will be flying ahead and conducting the ships through the safe paths with signals for our first test. For the second test, when our path brings us close to the island...well, we all will have to watch each other's back if we aim to survive the siren attack there. You men will be having the hardest test after all, what with those dang vixens being able to charm you into a deep slumber with their voices and melodies. But worry not, I've come prepared this time for that test, you'll see in time. For now, you better make sure the other two ships align themselves behind this one and follow its path. Also, it will be best for us all if the ships are no less than thirty or so feet apart from each other."

    Valegrious nodded, surely understanding what she meant; being crowded close together was better than having the ships sail two hundred yards or so apart and have one of them, the very last one, come out of that zone last. Closely together is how they would meet the next challenges, not many feet dividing them.

    "I will make sure we all do as you've just proposed," Valegrious seemed calm even though on the inside he did feel a little bit tense. "I will send word to the other crews to get in formation behind us."

    "I will go inform them myself," Yukiko volunteered. "I want to be able to speak to the captains and their crews personally about what they have to do if they want to survive. Plus, I have some things I must deliver to them if we are to survive later on."

    "Sounds like a plan," Valegrious accepted her words. "We'll be busy here while you return."

    Minutes later, Yukiko flew away to take care of her business. And Valegrious and company carried on.

    ***

    The angelus returned after being absent for twenty minutes. She quickly sought Valegrious and showed him something that she had brought out from a small satchel.

    “What the heck is this little thing?”

    “A cotton ball,” replied Yukiko.

    "A cotton ball?" Valegrious eyed the small cotton ball that Yukiko had just given him. He had never seen such a thing before. "What is this for?"

    Valegrious smelled the cotton ball and then asked, "Is this edible?"

    "No, silly," Yukiko was fast to grab his arm and take it down when Valegrious had aimed to put the cotton ball in his mouth.

    "It will help save your life," explained Yukiko, hiding a smile. "With that in your ears you won't be able to hear the sirens’ beautiful but deadly singing, and you will have a huge chance to fight them off, whereas, without your ears being covered, you'd be an easy prey for them."

    "And are you sure this will help us?"

    "Put them in your ears," Yukiko bade. "Let us try it out now.” She looked at the pixie and added, “Sammy, you better cover your ears tightly."

    "I thought siren songs were ineffective against us females?" protested the sea imp.

    "Please, just do as I say," bade Yukiko. "You will be thankful later, you'll see."

    Sammy nodded and covered her ears with her tiny hands, and Valegrious did as well, but he had already stuffed his ears with the cotton balls. A few seconds later, Yukiko began singing loudly, but Valegrious heard her words faintly, just barely even though she was standing close by. Other sailors that were close by regarded the winged maiden and thought that she had gone crazy, but Minono, who was also close, told them that she was just experimenting with the captain.

    "That's a big relief, for we surely don't need a deaf captain," laughed Abigale the cook, who had been passing by while carrying a bucket of salty water that she would use to clean the kitchen room where she cooked.

    "No, we don't," Minono smiled at the redhead gal.

    A few seconds later, the angelus stopped her wild singing, which despite what she thought to herself, her singing had really been loved by some bystanders, for her voice wasn’t that bad.

    "So?" Yukiko asked the captain after she had approached him and had taken out the cotton balls from within his ears. "Did you hear my singing?"

    "Just barely," the captain admitted as he looked down at her.

    "Yes, same here," added the sea imp from Valegrious’ shoulder.

    "See now why I wanted you to cover your ears, Sammy?"

    "Yes," the sea imp laughed. "But I thought your voice was alright."

    Yukiko blushed but shook her head. She then coughed and went on to speak, surely embarrassed a bit, "Anyway, barely is right, Valegrious, but so long as you and all those other males don't listen to those hags’ beautiful voices in all their strength, you will be spared falling in their wicked trance, or deep slumber, whatever you want to call it."

    "Do you think these cotton balls will really help us?" Valegrious looked a little concerned to the angelus.

    She nodded at him, but she knew that Valegrious would be needing more than a simple nod in order to relax and be fully convinced.

    "My angelus brothers and sisters fared well ten years ago by covering their ears with their hands after they realized that the hags’ singing was the cause behind their deep trance, but because they used their hands to cover their ears, they couldn't fight them off, and most of them died by their sharp talons. Be glad you and all other men will have a chance to defend yourselves from them, though I believe we'll still lose many friends."

    Valegrious took the time then to thank the angelus. "I don't even know where we'd be without your help, Yukiko. Thank you once again, from the very bottom of my heart."

    "Don't mention it," she smiled warmly at him. "Just make sure you give those *****es hell, alright? For all my kin that died here those years ago. Kill them all, Valegrious!"

    "I will surely drop as many as I can," Valegrious said in a serious tone, and he looked fierce enough to Yukiko that there was no doubt in her mind that he would be fighting with a vengeance later on.

    "I believe you," said Yukiko. "Anyhow, I will go spread these cotton balls amongst the rest of the crew."

    "Allow me to help you," Valegrious volunteered with a smile. "Please, you've done so much for us."

    "Alright," Yukiko agreed to have him and the imp on his shoulder by her side.

    "Come on, Honey," Valegrious invited his fiancée as well. "Come help us."

    "Sure," Minono was fast to reach them.

    The three passed out cotton balls to the rest of the male sailors. Some were surprised to receive them, but after Yukiko explained what they were for, they quickly took a pair, some took four cotton balls! But then there came a dilemma when Yukiko asked Valegrious about the prisoners.

    "Should we provide for them too?"

    The captain of the Smelly Ignacia was thoughtful for a long while, he even bit his lower lip while he thought on it.

    "We better give them their own pair so they can withstand the temptation," Valegrious made his choice. "They are behind bars, but I don't want to take any chances."

    "Right," agreed Yukiko. “Besides, I have plenty still.”

    "Minono," Valegrious looked upon his girlfriend, who was quick to give him her attention.


    “Yes, dear?”

    "You've become quite good at climbing up to the crow's nest, in fact, you've told me how you love the thrill, the excitement as you go up. Could I ask you to take cotton balls to Locke up there?"

    "Oh, it will be my pleasure," Minono agreed right away.

    In truth, after Valegrious had taught her how to climb up to the crow's nest a few days after they had left Port Goodweather behind, Minono had indeed become fond of going up there just for the thrill and excitement. She also did it because from up there she had a great view of all the surroundings out at sea, not that there was much to see except water and more water, and at times other rare sights.

    "Good," Valegrious let her have some cotton balls. "I will be eternally grateful to you for doing this."

    Just then, the sea imp stood up from Valegrious's shoulder and asked him if it was alright if she went with Minono.

    "I want to go up there, too," said Sammy with a smile. “If...you allow it, Master.”

    "That is fine with me," said Valegrious heartily. "Are you alright with it, Minos?"

    "Of course I am alright with it," Minono extended her right arm out and the sea imp jump down to it, later to sit on her right shoulder. Valegrious saw them take their leave, then, just for precautionary measures, he looked upon a four-armed rixacor and with his eyes asked him to be attentive of them as they went up. The warrior understood the captain's care for the woman and the imp, so he nodded at him and moved close to the main mast and remained ever attentive of them.

    Many heartbeats later, Valegrious and Yukiko went down to the third level of the ship and handed out cotton balls to the prisoners. Some threw them back at them, but after their captain ordered for everyone to take them, they did. Valegrious, surprised and wondering why the captain had asked them to do that, gave him a nod.

    "Thank you," Valegrious thanked the pirate for his intervention. "Perhaps you will all thank us later for this."

    "You know what? You'd do well turning us loose," Captain Blue told the captain of the Smelly Ignacia before he and the winged maiden could leave. "Maybe it is you who will be thanking us much later if you did that."

    Valegrious and Yukiko turned around and stared at him, who was clinging to the cell bars with his hands.

    "Now why would I be doing that?" Valegrious questioned.

    "Because I've heard several tales about that island where we're headed," the pirate captain replied right back. "We pirates call it Sing Me Up a Death Song Island. We know what kind of creatures live there. Besides, no lies, I survived an encounter there long ago as a young kid, so I'll tell you now, Captain, you will be witnessing much death at the hands of those beautiful maidens, even with all these defensive measures you're taking."

    A long silence ensued in which only shouts and noises from above could be heard, as well as the usual grunt of the wood and the water splashing against the ship.

    "We'll fight to the death as we did against you and your crew," Valegrious replied, solidly. "I hold faith that we'll come out of this alright, like we did against you."

    "Nay, that's a fool's faith, I say," cried the pirate leader in a serious, scary tone that did not alter Valegrious, however, Yukiko did get scared a little, for she had been there before and it had not been a pretty picture. Valegrious did not notice how she seemed to shrink a bit behind him.

    “You are a fool, captain,” added the pirate leader.

    "Excuse me?" Valegrious intensified his look upon the pirate captain. “What did you say?”

    "I meant no offense to your thinking, of course, Captain," the pirate went on. "But trust me when I say that there will be many of those hags."

    With his words, the pirate made Yukiko relive the dark scene that she had lived ten years ago; the more reason for her to hide even more behind Valegrious.

    "Too many for your three crews to handle, for sure," the pirate went on. "Can you picture the sky full of flying hags? Because that's what you're going to get, Captain. Hordes and hordes of those beautiful creatures will come to your ships seeking to bewitch you with their songs and make you drown for their viewing pleasure. If not that, then they will surely tear you, your crew, and your ships apart with those wicked talons of theirs."

    Valegrious came walking close to the cell's iron door, his eyes just a foot away from the pirate captain, who merely stared back, albeit calm and with a smile.

    "We'll drop all those that dare come," Valegrious said, toughly. "We have ample weapons, ammunition, and courage."

    "Yes, but you will lack the numbers in the end," contradicted Captain Blue. "That island is teeming with them hags. It’s their stronghold, their place of residence, their homeland. Too many crews have died out here to them..."

    Those words made Valegrious swallow lightly and stare defiantly at him for a while, and Yukiko, who had remained back a few steps, said nothing, but the sailor-turned-captain could easily hear her uneasy breathing behind him.

    "Look," the pirate captain went on. "You have thirty two souls of us behind bars, from what I've been told by your cell guardians. Is that accurate?"

    "Yes, sir. Twelve of you ride here, ten more in each of the other ships."

    "Then let us out and let us fight for you. Let us survive the madness together."

    Valegrious quickly chuckled and looked back over his shoulder to Yukiko, who just stared at him quietly.

    "You must think me a fool,” Valegrious returned his eyes to the pirates behind the bars. “No, you're staying where you are, so get comfortable."

    His decision made, Valegrious turned around and walked away, and Yukiko followed suit, but not before giving the pirate scum a last look.

    "If you fail, our very lives will be lost, too," shouted the pirate, and he slammed the bars hard with his hands several times. "You're going to get us all killed! You'll see, you arrogant *******!"

    Valegrious turned around and walked towards the cell door in a hurry. A nasty punch right on the nose sent the pirate captain staggering back, but he was caught by some of his own crewmates.

    "Why...you!" Captain Blue said as he touched his bloody nose. "Ow, that really hurt!"

    "Good that it did," Valegrious cried, surely angry. "I am not a *******! Now shut the hell up or there won't be any supper for you and your crew tonight."

    As Valegrious and Yukiko left the scene, the pirate captain kept shouting warnings at him and kept slamming the bars hard.

    ***

    As the night had come and the crew had been dining while the ships remained anchored, Yukiko had requested to Valegrious at the table that they sail through the sinkhole-infested zone at sunrise.

    "We'll need all the daylight we can afford," she told him, but she spoke loud enough for the rest that were there to hear. "That will at least get us to the island and the path near it that will be more easy to navigate. If we did it at night it’d be a death wish."

    "Then we will do as you think best," Valegrious agreed with her. "We'll spend the night anchored out here and then begin our journey anew come sunrise."

    “Thank you, Valegrious,” Yukiko was grateful to know that the captain was not putting anyone at risk by choosing otherwise.

    And as Valegrious ordered later on, the crews did just that: they rested well during the night, with the guardians who kept an eye out getting relieved after four hours of watch.

    A new day crept in slowly, but even before the sun came out and the shadows of darkness began to fade, Valegrious was already up and ready to tackle the day. The sea imp was not with him, for she did not sleep at his side, rather every night she comfortably slept at Magatha’s side, whom she had taken a liking of as well. But, as gradually advanced the day, she would find herself on his shoulder, or someone else's shoulder whenever she wanted to give her master a break.

    By ten O'clock in the morning, the imp was already at Valegrious's side. From atop the crow's nest and with the sea imp on his shoulder and Locke the lookout at the side, Valegrious had been able to see the first of several large sink holes that the crew came upon. To his eyes they resembled what he had expected to see, and he felt weird within when he actually gulped hard. The sink holes he saw were round, and the water within them was sure darker than the normal water of the sea. Those waters were active, too, this Valegrious could easily see in the way those darker blue waters remained vibrant with a rippling effect.

    "Scary," said the sea imp as she too had seen the first sinkholes.

    “Yes, I agree,” Locke said from his spot. He was observing the sinkholes with his spyglass.

    "At ease, the both of you," Valegrious breathed calmly. "There will be many more of them before we get through."

    Locke and Sammy could only nod at him, but just like him, they too were nervous.

    The rest of the crews were able to lay eyes on the sink holes as the ships, guided by Yukiko's signals, who had fled ahead to do her job, sailed safely past them some thirty yards away, sometimes even less. Many became frightened just by looking at them, for they were actually laying eyes on what for many were just myths.

    To get through the dangerous area, Valegrious knew that their lives now rested solely on Yukiko's accurate guidance and the helmsman's skills at the wheel. Jzak Hennessy, the more skilled at the wheel, had taken over that duty and had relieved a tall, stocky, black haired woman named Shawthia Mihara, so it was her with her great finesse that directed the ship through the perilous waters, not the actual woman who performed that duty while hunting sea monsters out on the south sea. The felinum had several sailors relaying directions to her from the beak of the ship. The other two ships followed the Smelly Ignacia close by, those also following directions from sailors positioned behind the poop deck's railing.

    On sailed the ships through the sinkhole infested sea, guided by the brave Yukiko and the expert felinum, not to leave out the other two helmsman of the two ships. The group left behind sinkholes both large and small as the seconds turned to minutes, and minutes to eternal-like hours. The island kept getting ever close to them, and Valegrious, now standing on the beak of the ship, which had become one of his favorite spots to travel on, kept his spyglass on it and wondered how they would fare later when they went sailing close by.

    Yukiko was not an eternal flier, she needed to rest too, so whenever she could afford it, she flew back to the ship and rested a bit. But, despite her rests being short lived, she showed great courage and determination by going out there and continue to guide the crews through that nightmarish sea. By doing that, she easily won everyone's respect and love that day.

    She guided them all the way to the start of the safest path found on that area, the one that would take the crews so close to the so called Island of Death. Her task done hours later, Yukiko started flying back to the ship. She was surely exhausted as never before, but the angelus felt happy with herself for having led the crews safely through the dangerous sea. The sun still had an hour or so to go before it went down, but the island was already upon the group. The entire crews from all three ships could see it well now, and all that surrounded it. Even as Yukiko came flying towards the ship, Valegrious was busy seeing a trio of large spiky mountains within the center of the island, and lots of greenery, but what had stolen his breath was the many wrecked ships found so close to the island. Some were partially sunken or laying aside on shallow water, others, all badly destroyed, were clearly visible on the coastal parts of the island, where the waves probably had washed them ashore. Besides complete and torn ships, many masts could be seen sticking out of the water, as well as torn sails and other debris. It was just a spine-chilling view for them all to intake, they knew that the place was a real ship graveyard. Other than the ships and the waves that splashed on the island's cliffs and its beach, nothing else moved.

    Valegrious felt a wave of sadness when he thought about the grim fate all those ships and their crews had suffered. As his eyes saw Yukiko approaching, he hoped that they did not suffer that fate.

    "Roll up all sails and drop anchor, lads!" Valegrious ordered, and his order was instantly carried out. The other two crews were relayed the orders and soon the heavy anchors were dropped and sailors mobilized themselves to roll up the sails.

    With the way the wind had been blowing that day, Valegrious and crewmen alike had known that they would be passing by the island even before the sun set, but Valegrious had other plans.

    "We did it!" Yukiko landed on the main deck a few seconds later.

    Valegrious, his sister, and many others, received her with a nice, warm smile.

    "All thanks to you," the captain bowed respectfully at her. Seeing him do that, the others bowed at the angelus as well.

    "Yes, Yukiko," said Magatha. "We owe much of our success to you."

    "Ah," Yukiko took a deep breath and puffed out air before them, for she was tired. "I thank the gods for having given us a beautiful day to get past that zone."

    "Aye, and we thank you kindly from the bottom of our hearts as well," Valegrious spoke for everyone there. The others that stood behind and beside Valegrious nodded and felt grateful.

    "Thank me when we leave this wretched place behind us," Yukiko said timorously. "For now comes another great test."

    They all already knew what that test was. They had to survive the siren attack.

    "So many lives have been claimed here," Valegrious spoke quietly and sadly as he walked past the angelus and on to the bow's starboard side. "Seeing all those wrecked ships makes my heart beat with sadness and also makes me want to faint, perhaps like many of you, but we must all be strong."

    "What are your plans, Valegrious?" Jzak Hennessy, who had left her position at the helm after the anchors had been dropped, asked loudly.

    Valegrious turned around and stared at her and then all the others, who surely were waiting for his word.

    "We will once again pass the night moored out at sea," he informed. "Right in this spot, that is. I feel that if we go on with this tonight, we'll be at a disadvantage with the darkness. So we will sail through this place come daylight, and if those things dare come at us, we will battle them in broad daylight. Anyone have a problem with my decision speak now and be heard."

    No one said a word as Valegrious's stern gaze scanned them all.

    "I think we all agree with you, brother," said Magatha.

    He nodded at her and spoke again. "Good. We will maintain a good watch over night, in case those things come out to greet us. I want the best warriors to have a good rest, for I will need the best of the best fully awake and ready to go come the morrow."

    The captain's plans were relayed to the other crews soon after.

    Then night came and the whole crews were riddled with more than just tension and fear, most were expecting the sirens to hit them anytime. For safety purposes, Valegrious sent Magatha, his girlfriend Minono, and other non-fighters, to the second level. Emilyann and her friends were to watch over them down there and remain alert in case an attack came.

    But the sirens never came that night. In fact, nothing came from that island. All was tensely quiet as the hours kept passing by, with the sounds the watchmen on the ships heard being just the waves of the sea splashing against the ships and the light wind that blew that night.

    ***

    Valegrious had slept little after he had taken his relief at two O'clock in the morning of the new day. He had laid to catch some sleep on a bedroll just on top of Jzak Hennessy's cabin on the poop deck, always expectant of trouble. But no trouble had come and he soon had drifted off to sleep, until he was awakened by a bell that was rung every hour and by an aroma he knew all too well.

    Though lacking proper rest, he got up full of enthusiasm and willing to get going, but he soon was surprised by someone. Jzak Hennessy had been drinking a cup of coffee just a few feet away from where he had been resting. Valegrious lay eyes on her and found out that she was holding on to two cups, both, he guessed after seeing the steam rising at the top, filled with coffee.

    "Good morning, Cap'n," the felinum smiled at him from close to the back safety railing where she stood reclined against it. "It is so pleasant a day."

    Valegrious stood up wholly and walked towards her, his eyes gazing past her to the far distance. The sun was halfway up already, the sky dressed in an assortment of dark, orange, yellow, and gray colors, a beautiful sunrise as any he'd seen before.

    "Good morning, Cap'n, I mean...Lieutenant."

    "Someone is still a little sleep it seems," Jzak chuckled.

    "I keep forgetting you named me captain for the journey," Valegrious excused himself, his eyes noting how heavily armed she was that morning. Besides her swords, Jzak Hennessy carried several pistols and daggers all around her waist belt and two leather-made mercenary straps that crossed her torso. Valegrious knew the occasion called for it. Yes, the felinum was definitely ready for a war.

    "It's understandable, Captain," the felinum merely smiled at him and offered him a cup. "After having served me all these years, I understand it must be hard for you to not call me that. Care to accompany me in a drink of coffee?"

    Valegrious agreed and took the offered cup. After he took a careful sip, he then regarded the island in the distance.

    "No signs of movement whatsoever," said Jzak, who was always attentive of his actions. "But I do believe they have been watching us since we made it here. I don't know, I just felt that spooky sensation yesterday."

    "Yes," Valegrious said. "I am guessing once we go sailing by they will come out of their hiding holes and attack us."

    "Well I'm ready for a long day," Jzak said solidly.

    Valegrious looked all around. The day seemed normal enough, with a cool breeze blowing from the south. At least they would be pushed onward in their trip. There was a scene of heavy, puffy dark clouds behind them, but to the west, east, and north, all appeared to be rather clear, but Valegrious wasn't fooled, he knew just how unexpectedly the weather tended to change out here.

    "Me too," he said a few seconds later. "I think it is time for us to get going."

    "The sooner the better, Cap'n," Jzak said and took a long sip of her coffee. "I wouldn't want to be passing through that creepy-looking place when darkness comes."

    "Time to rouse everyone, then."

    "Aye," Jzak nodded. "I will take care of it, you enjoy your cup of coffee, Cap'n. I made it myself."

    "You did?"

    “Uh-huh,” Jzak nodded. “I gave Abbey a break, told her to catch some sleep. Her kitchen was mine for a while.”

    "Then I will surely enjoy it, I am sure," said Valegrious with a kind smile. And he took another sip before her, and she did likewise with her own cup of coffee.

    "I miss the good old days on the south sea where I shared so many cups of coffee with you," Jzak pointed out. "I thought this day we could enjoy doing this once more before we sail into danger."

    "We will be doing this kind of thing many more days in the future, Jzak. Sharing cups of coffee, I mean. We just need to take care of our goal."

    She nodded at him and told him that he was right. Then, minutes later, she left his side in order to speak orders to the rest of the crew.

    After twenty minutes of preparations, everyone appeared to be ready for the big test, but many were rather nervous, just not showing it that much. Valegrious reunited his sister and the rest of the crew on main deck and gave them some final words before they sailed on.

    "I have no heroic speeches for you all," he said in a gentle, calm voice, yet loud enough for them all to hear him. "We've come a long way since we departed from Port Goodweather. We've all seen so many things and have also lost so many dear friends, and yet today we all are sailing into danger once more." He knew he had their entire attention, and he knew that he shared the same tension with them, perhaps a bit of fear for the unexpected that was to come. "That place there, the Island of Death, surely got that name for a reason. We are going to sail by it, and our lives will be at risk like never before. I can only tell you all to watch yourselves and fight for your lives if we indeed see action. Protect those around you if you can afford it, and give no quarter to whoever comes at us, for I am sure you won't be given any."

    He stopped there to have a breather and to scan everyone’s faces, but then he went on.

    "After talking a bit of strategy with the other captains and our officers last night after supper, we've agreed to let our prisoners out."

    Many already knew what was going to happen with the pirate prisoners, for word of Valegrious's plans had spread all over the ships like powder on fire. The words the pirate captain had spoken to him when he and the angelus had gone down to the third level to deliver the cotton balls had really put him to think, and so Valegrious had explained to the captains and the officers how he thought the words of the pirate made sense to him.

    "The more people we have if an attack does come, the better," he had told them out on the main deck where they had spoken last night. "Thirty two is a broad number, almost a full crew, and so we will surely have a bigger chance to survive this."

    No one ever argued with Valegrious, and so no one had that night. The captain's plan was simple: liberate the pirates and have them sail after them on a separate ship, the one in the middle. They would merely be fighting for their lives armed with weapons such as swords, axes, daggers, and lances, but no pistols or cannons. Valegrious had spoken about that to the pirate captain himself, and he had agreed to that, which to his reasoning, was better than being helpless behind a barred cell.

    "They will be taking over the middle ship," Valegrious explained to the crew. "And after we've crossed this island, after danger has been dealt with, they will continue to sail in that ship for a while and then they will return to their cells. That is the deal I established with them for now. If they choose to dishonor that deal by betraying us in some way, there will be no other day of life for them all to enjoy."

    Valegrious heard some wild murmuring amongst some of his crew. He knew they were discomforted at the fact that they were allowing the pirates to be freed. It could be a mistake, many thought but didn’t speak it. But Valegrious knew merely by looking at them.

    "I am not a pirate myself, nor an officer of the armada," he said to appease those and any others who might be thinking him stupid. "I have no right keeping a human being caged, let alone thirty two. We had our conflict with these pirates, but both sides paid dearly, because we, in our defense, killed fellow humans as well. Moreover, they have a right to fight for their lives, despite what they might be, despite what they tried to pull off by attacking us. If we fail to cross that island, if we die, that is, they deserve the right to at least fight for their lives and not die within a cage."

    No one said a thing then, despite there being those who did not agree wholly with his reasoning.

    "Now, on to lift your spirits," Valegrious went on, the sight of his beautiful sister catching his eye. The wind was playing with her blonde hair, and Valegrious, despite knowing that made her look more beautiful, believed she was scared. "Yukiko's told me that if we come out of this one alive, we most likely will only have to deal with one last test before we cross this terrible, forsaken place and make it to her home realm. This other test, according to her, will be our true test, the most challenging of all. So I bid you to be strong and to fight to the bitter end so we can all confront that test together. If we do that, if we succeed with this upcoming test and the next, the rest of the voyage will be smooth sailing with minor dangers to threaten us or impede our progress, and we would have done what so few have done before: we would have sailed over this forsaken area. So I urge you now, people, to sail with me with a strong heart and no fear the rest of the way. We've covered so much, and our goal is at hand's grasp. My sister and I remain ever grateful to you all and all those that gave their lives in order for us to be here where we are. I say let us make those who have fallen proud by successfully completing our quest. Let us sail together as the big family we became weeks ago, and let us all look after each other. Now, is everyone ready to go?"

    Valegrious received the most loud response he had ever gotten. The sailors shouted and pumped their fists and weapons to the air. Oh yes, he knew they were ready, and he smiled grandly at them, for just like them, he was ready as well.

    Minutes later, the pirates were transferred over to the middle ship, which had been prepared for their sailing. They had food, provisions, and weapons onboard, but only the ones mentioned before. No cannons or pistols could be found on the ship. The crew that had been riding in that ship had become crew to the other two ships right after Valegrious had made the decision to liberate the pirates.

    When he was brought up to the main deck, Captain Blue saluted Valegrious and his officers with a kind bow before proceeding to board a life boat that would take him to the ship.

    "Thank you," he said. "I heard it all. I was wrong about you, Cap'n. And I am sorry I shouted all those nasty words at you. If I had known before attacking you that you were just sailing by in this quest to save your sister's life, I would have never ordered an attack on you and your people."

    After hearing his confession, Valegrious believed that he had found out about his quest thanks to word from the guards that were keeping a watch on them. The captain must have asked them where they were headed and why, so it was most likely that someone had delivered the truth to his ears.

    "So, in the name of all my crew, I must thank you for allowing us the chance to fight for our lives out here," Captain Blue added. "Now I have another chance at avenging my father and all those that died out here that day..."

    Valegrious was saddened to hear that. He could tell in the young pirate's sad face and the tears that followed that it was probably true.

    "Just keep yourselves alive," Valegrious spoke to him kindly. "We'll aim to do the same."

    Captain Blue nodded at him and then boarded the life boat. In it already boarded were Scars, Macdamera, Attica, and the rest of his crew.

    Many minutes later, sails were dropped and the anchors were risen on all three ships. And the trio of vessels and their crews began their crossing through that eerie island.

    *****

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  18. #18
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    Chapter 17: Siren Attack
    ***December 24th, 1658***

    Everything seemed to be calm as the ships neared the island. From his place at the starboard bow and with his ears covered well with the cotton balls that he had stuffed in them, a ready-for-battle Valegrious could not see anything out of the ordinary. There were no sudden motions, no loud singing, no flying beautiful hags. Nothing at all.

    Breathing calmly as he looked towards the island, he could only hope that things remained like that throughout their passing, that somehow the hags had died over the passing of the years and that the island was now empty. He was hoping for too much, though, he knew, and thus remained at the ready.

    His hope and that of sailors who also hoped for the same thing would be all for naught, for ever since they had appeared in the zone the day before, hundreds of eyes had been looking at them. Sirens, indeed, had made of the island their home after the ancient war. Linexia, the leader of the sirens, had forbidden her kin to attack the ships the day before when they had shown up. In truth, the sirens had seen the three ships approaching days ago, but they had made no movement to intercept them. And the night that they had moored close to the island, despite the pressure she got from two of her sisters and a cousin who said that they should just attack the ships and get it over with, Linexia had forbidden any movement from them and her kin altogether.

    "We will attack them, alright," had said the dark haired siren leader within the confines of her dark cave where she had been devouring a bear that past night. "We will be having our fun, but we are going to do it as we always have, and that is when they come passing by."

    And the sirens did just that. When the ships had been sailing by midway through the island, they sprang their trap. A lookout that had been keeping an eye on the ships gave the signal to the large group of sirens below.

    “Now, let’s go!” cried Linexia, who had been in hiding amidst the heavy green brush. “And remember to stay away from the water, ladies.”

    Linexia took off flying, the sign to attack, and the so called sirens of the Island of Death finally made their sudden appearance.

    Led by Linexia, who was the tallest siren at six feet eight inches tall, hordes and hordes of winged maidens suddenly appeared from within the greenery and the trio of mountains found in the center of the island. More than three hundred of them came flying and making a ruckus, their bodies—mostly their large feathery dark wings—obscuring part of the clear sky that morning.

    "Holy saint!” Jzak became pale. “Here they come!"

    On the three ships, the crews grew concern over the vast numbers that their eyes saw.

    Valegrious swallowed hard and his eyes nearly popped out when he saw the great number of the monsters coming at them. There were hundreds of them, he could tell. He had barely heard Jzak's words, but he nodded at her and said, "Let's make them pay for all the living beings they've killed here."

    Jzak shouted, "It'll be my pleasure, Cap'n."

    As always, Valegrious had taken his position right near the stairs that led to the lower levels of the ship. He would always defend his sister and those others who couldn’t fight with his very own life.

    Once again, prior to them setting sail that morning, Valegrious had had in mind positioning Emilyann and her friends below with his sister, Sammy, and Minono, however, the four warriors requested that they remain on deck in order to help fight off whatever came at them. At Emilyann's request, who convinced Valegrious when she told him that they all knew how to fight well as a group, the captain had no other option but to allow them the right to fight for their lives however they chose to do it. They had not seen much action against the pirates, so he allowed them to fight this time. And so Valegrious positioned them near where he and Jzak would be guarding the stairs. As he saw the monsters approaching, he was glad to be surrounded by friends such as them.

    The wild ruckus of the approaching sirens was deafened briefly with the sudden loud bangs of the firing pistols and muskets, even Valegrious and Jzak, who were fighting side by side, fired off at intended approaching targets.

    And sirens shrieked in pain and fell down to the sea quite dead, for they were just as mortal as the souls on the ships were. But their numbers were many, and though they kept dropping into the ocean as the crews kept firing upon them, many made it to the ships easily.

    A great number of the hags made it to the ships and landed anywhere they could. As soon as they touched down, thinking that these crews were vulnerable to their enchanting voices as so many others before them had been, they began singing their beautiful—yet—deadly songs. They did not know that onboard was a survivor from the past, someone who had warned the crews about their deadly songs. Other sirens—the ones who enjoyed killing instead of enticing sailors to a deep slumber with their charming voices—came swooping down, their sharp deadly talons seeking to grasp and tear apart anything fleshy that moved. Unbeknownst to the sailors, the siren attack was somewhat coordinated, with Linexia having appointed each of her sisters a ship to attack with their minions. She and her large group had taken the lead ship.

    Valegrious fought to the best of his skill, as did those many around him, who were fighting for their very lives. They fought like people who wanted to survive, like people who knew there was no tomorrow. For many there would not be a tomorrow after the day was over, but they all fought bravely and dropped many sirens. It was during that time that Emilyann and her brave friends showed what they were made out of. Alongside men and women and folk from other realms that they did not know that well they fought united like brothers and sisters. Pandora was a great archer, and she proved that to those around her by using that bow and arrows of hers to drop sirens like crazy. The giant man was no novice to battle, he fought remarkably well with his axe and at times just with his massive arms, close lining sirens that happened his way, or just plain swatting them down like the tall rixacor did with their long swords. As to the quiet warrior Tallinor, he proved to be a master with his twin blades. He defended himself and those many allies around him from siren harm, dropping and cutting those that came at him. Emilyann fought close to his side, also doing the same thing. She was an expert with the long blade, and she downed sirens using several styles. Valegrious even saw her running speed that day. She was surely fast, like a cheetah, and her speed allowed her to save the lives of several sailors, as she had been able to get to them in time before the sirens could have their way with them. The group was full of fighting skill, but the bird-maidens also began to drop sailors. Valegrious even witnessed one of his comrades, Kraven Longtooth, getting lifted and taken away.

    "Godamn it!" he cried, feeling so enraged, so helpless to help him out as he was taken away by one of the beautiful maidens. A shot suddenly came from somewhere, and Valegrious noticed how the buffy sailor and its dead kidnapper dropped into the ocean. He hoped he would be alright before turning his attention to the enemy close by. The dropped sailor would not be alright, for as soon as the lycan and the shot siren had entered the water, flesh-eating sea nymphs that had womanly faces but long, fish bodies and who also lived in those waters and cliffs around the island took him down and drowned him, later to make a meal out of him and the siren for them. Below the murky waters, the sea nymphs waited for more bodies to be dropped down.

    Valegrious took down the sirens he was able to get to with his sword and pistol, and more often than not he had to use his evasive maneuvers when those bird-women came swooping down, their deadly talons seeking to rip him apart. He rolled aside, and even performed back flips several times, a move that he had learned from Jzak Hennessy after having sailed for her for five years. After he had back flipped away from the reach of a seeking siren's talons, he stabbed her with his sword, dropping her dead right on the main deck, to the joy of the water pixie, who mentioned that she thought he was dead meat.

    "Not quite yet, Kaur," Valegrious told her. "Come on, fight on, we're doing great!"

    She nodded at him and indeed kept on fighting, but she also took the time to warn him through shouting about the strange figures she had seen peering out of the water.

    “What?” Valegrious could not believe it. “More trouble?”

    “Aye, in the water,” said the pixie worriedly. “Fish woman or something...”

    “Just concentrate on these hags,” Valegrious spoke louder than usual. “We can’t worry about them.”

    “Right,” Kaur agreed.

    Valegrious soon put that new information behind his mind and found himself helping those comrades of his who happened to be in trouble near him, or he pushed them out of the way from it and dealt with the sirens himself. But not only him, everyone was fighting ferociously just like he was. Everyone was looking out for his or herself, but also helping those in need whenever they could, as he had told them to do so.

    Despite their numbers being less than the attackers, Valegrious knew they were faring pretty well. The captain smiled when he caught sight of the rixacor beings doing their thing. They had four arms and all hands were armed and doing damage to the sirens, who had not expected the crews to be prepared for their deadly songs. And the berocs were just as ferocious as they looked. They, too, fought extremely well. Some of them, using bows like Pandora and other sailors, were really putting the hurt on the sirens.

    Valegrious was glad to see they were doing extremely well against the enemy, but he suddenly saw from the corner of his eye a huge siren approaching in from port side, its dark eyes fixed on him, her fangs showing in a wild, evil grin. Jzak Hennessy had warned him with a shout about the approaching siren, but Valegrious, amidst all the fighting and noise, did not hear her, and surely not with his ears plugged up with the cotton balls. He aimed the pistol at her as she came flying down upon him, and he saw how that siren's beautiful face deformed in raw fear, for it saw its death coming at the hands of that handsome pistol-wielding sailor. Valegrious pulled the trigger, but the pistol just issued a clicking sound, with no iron ball firing off. He had run out of ammo, and so as a last resort, Valegrious dived aside, just barely avoiding getting clipped with those sharp talons. With his evasive move he had been spared Linexia's talons and wrath, but the siren, thankful that she was still breathing, kept flying on and grasped another sailor who had been unaware.

    "Auuughrr!" the sailor cried in much pain after he felt the talons perforating his shoulders. Taking the foolish man for a ride, the siren flew up high, avoiding several arrows that had been fired her way. She headed away from the ship, and later she dropped that sailor to his death on some cliff below. Valegrious turned his head aside, unable to see the fate that his friend suffered. With a shout of anger, he ran to the closest siren and impaled her right on the back, perhaps saving Rubee Treeclimber's life, who had just been disarmed and thrown to the deck by the strong flapping wings of the siren, which had slapped fiercely against the young elf. Valegrious helped the elf up in an instant.

    "Thank you, Captain," the blond haired elf thanked.

    "No problem, just keep fighting." Valegrious said and soon engaged another incoming siren.

    In the air, feeling such delight after what had been her third kill with the sailor she had dropped to his death, and also feeling so happy with the fun she was having after it had been a long while that she did this kind of thing, the siren leader turned around, flapping her enormous wings. She would not tolerate her own failure. She would round the ship and seek the one that had evaded her grasp almost too easily.

    By the time that Linexia returned and hovered close by and moved out of oncoming arrows and small iron balls as she tried to find her target, Valegrious had already downed six more of her kin, and his crewmates had downed their own share of numbers. The Smelly Ignacia, and the ships behind it, were riddled with more dead siren bodies than their own. The stinky sailors were winning, Linexia made that thought out just by looking at her kin's dead bodies on the ships and on the ocean waters, which not to her surprise, were quickly pulled down below by the savage flesh eating nymphs. She growled after admitting to herself that the crews had indeed been prepared to receive them. Never before had the sirens had much trouble with their victims. They had endured losses, but not like this day, no, this day they were getting their butts handed to them, and that made the leader so angry. But more angry she became then when her eyes noticed the dead body of one of her sisters on the second ship.

    "Kinella, noooo!" the siren's heart was wounded, and she could not believe that her youngest sister had fallen to the enemy.

    "Arghh!" Linexia growled. Her sister would be avenged.

    Hovering in midair, she grabbed the attention of two of her kin and growled at them loudly, "Distract that lad with the pistol and sword, the one dressed in black. He seems to be the main leader. Death will come unexpectedly to him!"

    "The sailors fight well," protested one of the sirens, a blonde haired one. "We've lost so many of our sisters this day than in many years, even Lady Kinella..."

    "I know! Do as I say or I will kill you myself!" Linexia screamed angrily. "We'll win the day for her!"

    The sirens, surely afraid of her, flew down, willing to do as told.

    Soon enough, Valegrious found himself fighting one of those hags, the other was engaged by Kaur, who had gone after it when the two had been upon Valegrious, that other one inflicting a few cuts upon his arms and making Valegrious drop his pistol before Kaur had been able to drive it away.

    Down came the leader of the sirens from the sky, her wings flapping loudly as she swooped in low in order to grab her intended and unaware prey. Her large talons tightened as she neared the sailor that had avoided her earlier...

    But before she could get to him, the bird-woman suddenly ran into two hundred and twenty pounds of pure felinum beauty and fury, who had intersected her as she had been coming in from the starboard side. Siren and felinum crashed hard against the front railing of the bow. Jzak Hennessy found herself hitting that winged beast hard, her clenched fists dealing hard blows against her face and partially naked-and-feather-riddled chest. But Linexia was leader of the sirens for a reason. She'd lived more than a thousand years compared to the two hundred and fifty of the felinum, and she had killed so many of her kin, who often challenged for the position, as well as countless of poor sailors and wild animals during her lifetime. She knew how to kill! She had no hands to defend herself with, really, for those were glued to her wings, but she did have those deadly talons of hers, which were wide, large, and deadly sharp. With them she cut the felinum badly on her legs, arms, and even on the side of her belly as the two of them rolled back and forth on deck. Despite the bad cuts, Jzak Hennessy kept pounding on the siren as hard as she could when she found herself on top of her. The two rolled on top of each other several times, exchanging positions and dealing damage to each other somehow. They cried in pain, but the two were on a mission, and that was to kill the other.

    "You thought about killing my boy," Jzak cried angrily as she delivered a wicked punch to the siren's left cheek. "That was the greatest mistake of your life!"

    Linexia moaned, and she nearly swooned after the hard blow upon her face, but she held on to her senses and managed to kick the felinum off of her by using those eagle-like legs of her. Both adversaries were bleeding badly, the deck was thick with their blood, but the two were able to get back on their feet as all around them the sailors and sirens fought on, no one really minding their affair, for they all had their hands full, even Valegrious, who had seen the felinum pounding on that huge siren. He had wanted to interfere and help her out, but he was then assaulted by other blood-seeking foes, so he was not able to do that, but he trusted and hoped that the felinum would be alright.

    The air all around the fighting warriors was filled with shouts and screams, sometimes even loud splashes off to the sides that either came from falling sirens or sailors that were taken off from the ships and then dumped into the water where they were soon dragged below never to be seen again. Bangs from pistols and muskets were heard every now and then, and groaning and moaning from those that were injured was also very hearable to the ear, at least those of the females, for all men had their ears plugged. Despite that, some of the sailors had even been lured into a deep slumber by the sirens after they had lost their cotton balls amidst all the fighting.

    Despite it all, Jzak and Linexia stood staring hatefully at one another.

    "Come on, then!" Jzak Hennessy challenged the siren, whose beautiful face had been given a make-over, although one of pain and bruises. Jzak, too, bled badly from several wounds on her face, arms, and legs. The siren saw how the cat-woman pulled out a nasty dagger from her waist belt, the only weapon available to her after she had lost the others after she had tackled the siren as she had been swooping in against an unaware Valegrious.

    "I'm going to enjoy gutting you, fool," shouted the siren, the half breed surely preparing those bloody talons of her.

    "You will try," Jzak cried, the felinum holding that dagger in front of her.

    "Oh, it is already done. Look at yourself. You’re all cut and bleeding...do you have enough strength to even be holding that dagger tight?"

    She spoke some truth, for the felinum was bleeding badly from her wounds and was surely weakening with every second that passed.

    But Jzak was as brave as they came. She ignored the pain and the swooning sensations she began to feel.

    "Then come and meet your end at my hands, foul hag!"

    That was like an offense to a siren, being called a hag, that is. They were overly proud of their beauty, and so after hearing the cat-woman say that, Linexia growled and went after her again, not minding the cruel-looking dagger on the felinum's hand. She knew they would both be giving and taking pain in their duel to the death.

    And they did give and take pain, but it would be the felinum who would emerge victorious from their fight nearly three minutes later, although barely and seriously injured. Linexia remained face up and very still on the blood-filled deck, the dagger stuck in her chest. And Jzak made out Valegrious amongst the crowd and tried walking his way, however, Evelina's son saw her collapsing after just taking a few steps forward.

    "Jzak!" Valegrious, his heart nearly failing him, quickly went to her. Those nearby gave her cover while she laid on the floor of the main deck. She was badly injured and bleeding from many parts, Valegrious noted this with a grimace when he was able to get to her. Those talons of her contrary had done an awful lot of damage, and Valegrious forgot all about the battle and fought the next minutes to patch her up with his own shirt, which he had removed and tore to pieces.

    "You're going to be alright," he promised her when he noticed her emerald eyes staring weakly up at him. Jzak's face and mouth showed wounds and blood, but despite that, she smiled weakly at him.

    "Are we st...still wi...winning?"

    "Yes we are," Valegrious didn't even know if that was true, but he did not care at that time. His eyes were watery. "Just hold on, Jzak, you're going to be fine."

    ***

    "Lady Muwilla, I beseech you," urged the young siren at the last remaining noble sister. "We must retreat for our own good. Your sisters and cousin have fallen...we will not have a leader from the Rorokihl line if we continue the assault..."

    "Fine," a saddened and tearful Muwilla cried as she hovered in midair and saw the carnage below. She had just become the new leader of the sirens after Lady Linexia's passing had been confirmed just minutes ago. "Order our retreat, but make sure the bodies of my sisters and cousin are recovered, as well as those others that can be."

    She left flying, but her orders were carried out, and for the next ten minutes or so, the sirens pestered the tough crews little and seemed intent on getting their talons on their fallen sisters to take their bodies away. They daringly flew on to the ships and did rescue many of their fallen kin, and also the bodies of Lady Muwilla's sisters.

    And the crews cheered happily when they noticed that the sirens had apparently given up. No longer were they attacking anyone, but they continued to bravely swoop down to the ships and retrieve their sisters’ bodies. A few of those daring ones fell to those that were able to bring them down, but soon the crews stopped fighting altogether when they noticed what the bird-women were doing. For the most part, the crews let the hags do what they were doing, knowing they were just collecting their fallen kin. Minutes later, the battered crews watched as the flying hags flew back to their island in defeat.

    What was left of the crews cheered loudly in unison. They had survived the assault, but they had lost many friends, too, and most would not be able to be recovered.

    Down in the second level within his room where he had taken Jzak to, Valegrious cared little for the celebration he heard on deck. He rejoiced at the fact that they had apparently survived, but many of them had died and many were injured so badly for him to be happy about the victory. Very concerned and with the sad imp on his shoulder, he was aiding Yukiko with healing duties on the felinum, who he thought wouldn’t be seeing another day.


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  19. #19
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    Chapter 18: Before the Final Stretch
    ***December 24th, 1658***


    Because some of Jzak Hennessy's wounds were deep and quite serious, the angelus bade everyone in the room to leave, even Valegrious, whom she told, "It'll be alright, Valegrious. We'll do all we can for her. You should go up there and make sure things are alright."

    A nodding and worried Valegrious said with penetrating eyes on the angelus, "Will she be alright, though?"

    Valegrious hoped that the answer he got was a solid yes. Yukiko showed him an uncertain face, and she replied grimly, "She's lost a lot of blood from several bad wounds, so I can't tell you for sure. But every second that passes is crucial, so go, and allow me and Ambrossia to look after her."

    "Come, Valegrious," said Minono as she tried to pull him along with her. "Let them do their job, there is little we can do, really. I will treat your wounds in my room."

    "Fine," Valegrious agreed, but just barely because he did not feel like leaving his friend behind like that. The only one allowed to stay with the angelus and the wounded felinum was Ambrossia Odaney, the official healer of the Smelly Ignacia, who had gone to help Yukiko after she had been dealing with her own share of wounded sailors in other nearby rooms. From all the sailors that had been injured in the fight, Jzak Hennessy was the one who had been injured severely, and so the two healers decided to work together to try and save her life.

    Ambrossia Odaney was a black haired, slim-figured lass. She was twenty years old, and after the crew losses would be counted and noted later on, she would be one of nine original crew members of the Smelly Ignacia still alive at that point in time, with Valegrious Coral, Rubee Treeclimber, Abigale Gamon, Shawthia Gigas, Kaur Astraiyd, Rygar Willem, Locke Deniri, and Jzak Hennessy being the other eight--the rest had fallen that day.

    Valegrious was very worried for the safety of his great friend, a figure he considered his third mother, but he knew that she was in the best hands possible. He also knew that Minono was right, knew that with their presence in the room there was little that they could do to help remedy the felinum's grim situation. And so Valegrious, in the company of his girlfriend and the water imp, went to Minono’s room where his light wounds were treated. He spent half an hour there mostly whining and moaning to Minono’s gentle care. Later, all three came out to deck, where they then helped the crew to clear the ship of dead siren bodies and to continue sailing onward, all the while keeping up their guard, for they were still sailing through the island.

    A few hours passed, and the ships sailed on, leaving behind the Island of Death. No sirens came after them during that time, and Valegrious believed that they would not be coming after them later on, for they had really been dealt a great blow. Indeed, Valegrious and the rest of the crews had felled more than two hundred of the bird-women, and those that had retreated back to the safety of the island had been less than a hundred. With those short numbers, the sirens would never fight, they would rebuild their kin with the few caged male slaves they kept for breeding purposes and nothing else.

    Still, despite no sign of the sirens, there remained fear amongst the crews, who believed that perhaps the bird-women would be coming back later on. But the island remained eerily quiet to them as they sailed on.

    When they had left the island behind, Valegrious and the Smelly Ignacia's crew regrouped with the other two groups, who had also had their own bad losses, especially the pirates, who had lost twenty of their mates. The pirate captain and Valegrious shared words with each other as one stood on the beak of the ship and the other on the poop deck. Because the pirates had been left terribly shorthanded after the attack, they agreed to return to their cells. And so Valegrious sent out life boats for them. As to Alecia Xandria’s crew, they had suffered losses as well, but the crew was still good when it came to abled numbers. A ship, though, the Saint Eleine, would have to be abandoned because of lack of a complete third crew. Valegrious spoke of this with the captain once he was back in his cell along with those few pirates that had survived. After thanking him for having lent their strength against the sirens, he told him about the imminent loss of the ship.
    "The ship belonged to my father," lamented Captain Figgins in his cell. "It's an old but speedy ship, and I'd hate to lose it just like that, captain. My boys, my girl here,” he nodded towards the raven haired beauty, “and I, could manage to sail it, even as shorthanded as we are, but I am guessing you won't be taking the risk to allow us that."

    Valegrious remained thoughtful after he heard the pirate's words. He knew they had lost many of their own friends in the siren battle, but the captain sure was feeling joyful, for he personally had killed about twelve of those hags and had gotten his revenge. When Valegrious had approached the cell minutes earlier, Captain Blue had thanked him for that. And before Valegrious’s eyes, he had appeared to be less of a meanie and more of a calm, young man.

    "Well," Valegrious said after a while of reasonable thinking. "That ship carries good provisions onboard that would be too much for our ships to carry, but also such a pity to dispose of. They could come handy later on. I could allow you to keep your ship, but you'd have to swear several oaths and continue sailing along with us. Then, if we make it to Iviri, we'd see where we are. I might even allow you and your men to go free before we reach Iviri, because I’ve never been fond of seeing pirate hangings. Furthermore, you helped us against those hags, and to you and your men’s effort, perhaps we owe our very lives. You have my sincerest thanks.”

    The pirate captain nodded at him. “No thanks are necessary, captain. We had to fight in order to save our skin.”

    “Still, you were great help today, and I shall not forget it. So, the only way you can save your father's ship, Captain Blue, and also your very lives, is to stay onboard that ship and sail close to us. So what do you say?"

    The pirate, of course, agreed to his demands without much of a thought. Valegrious nodded calmly when he received his reply and kept a settled stare at the imprisoned pirates. The two captains established a pact of honor, then, before the presence of the other pirates and the sailors standing behind Valegrious. The two shook hands to seal the deal. Valegrious made the remaining pirates swear an oath of honor that they would not lift a finger against him or his friends...ever again, under pain of death. If in the end they all made it safely to Iviri, Valegrious swore an oath himself before them all that if they made it to the realm of Iviri, he would surely let them go free.

    And so once more, with the pact in play, the pirates were taken to the Saint Eleine, and Captain Yosh and the few sailors that had been directing the ship were sent back to the Smelly Ignacia.

    Soon, the island became smaller to the eye as the three ships left it behind in the distance. Valegrious, feeling a lot calmer for many reasons, believed that they were out of trouble for the time being. The lad called for another burial-at-sea ceremony for their fallen comrades, which were quite a handful, several whose bodies would not be possible to recover since the sirens had taken them away from the ships and had dropped them to their death in different places. Still, Valegrious, deeply pained once again, offered them all to the sea come four O'clock that afternoon. Even Magatha, sick as she was now, attended the ceremony and cried and felt worse than everyone else for the losses of life.

    As the hours passed, Yukiko came out to deck on several occasions to deliver updates about how the wounded were doing. In her latest visit to the main deck, she found out that it was already dark and cool and that they had left the island quite a distance away. The sailors were working fervently as ever, even in their saddened state after so many of their friends had died. Noticing the eerie quietness, she found a lonely Valegrious at the beak of the ship, which had become his favorite spot to travel at during the voyage. He was alone and eating an apple, for earlier the water imp had left his side and had gone with Minono to look after Magatha after Valegrious had bid her to give him some time to be alone.

    Valegrious heard the soft footsteps approaching and was quick to have a look over his right shoulder. When he saw Yukiko approaching, he was damn quick to throw the apple out at sea and jumped down from the wooden beak to the deck.

    "Well?" he rushed to her and grabbed her lightly by the side of her shoulders, his face eager. "How...Is she alright?"

    "She's a strong one," Yukiko informed as she breathed easy. "Ambrossia and I believe that she'll make it, but she will be recovering in bed for many days...possibly for the remaining of our trip out here."

    Valegrious had been so relieved to hear those words that he even gave Yukiko a strong hug after he had heard those words, and as he usually did with females, he spun Yukiko around in all his felt joy. He put her down back on deck and remained smiling at her. The matter of the fact was that Valegrious didn't care that Jzak would have to be in bed recovering for days, he was just so damn happy to hear that she would make it. Earlier, after he had helped put things back under control on the ships, he had gone to the beak of the Smelly Ignacia and had remained there just thinking about how bad the trip had turned out to be so far for all of them. He lamented all the losses they had suffered and was deeply pained. He surely blamed himself for all the lives lost, and indeed, aboard the ships, he was the saddest soul. He cried on the beak of the ship in silence as he had been devouring the apple, and he found himself in a very sad mood then, but what helped him at that time to remain strong through the hard times was Jzak Hennessy and the many memories he had of her. Valegrious had fought the sadness by reliving in his mind some of the good old times he'd had at her side, like the very day when she had given him a job, and also the days in which she had looked after him after the creycion attack he had suffered. In truth, Valegrious had also had negative thoughts about his friend dying due to her wounds, but Yukiko's words had surely put him at ease.

    He asked the healer if he could see her, and the angelus nodded at him, but she also held on to his shoulder before he could leave and told him that they needed to talk about their final test.

    "Do we have time before we come upon it?" Valegrious asked, the lad wanting to do nothing else at the moment but go pay a visit to a patched up Jzak.

    Yukiko, noticing the eagerness in his face, sighed, though troubled.

    "Aye, we do," she revealed in a timid tone. "We'll be getting to that area maybe two days hence. But we really must talk about that, Valegrious, so we can make suitable preparations for it. It would be our ruin if we don’t prepare for it..."

    "I assure you that we will," he spoke seriously and pat her shoulder in a comforting way. "But I must see my captain now, else this anguish is going to kill me."

    "I don’t want to see you dead, much less due to anguish. So let's go," Yukiko invited. "I'll accompany you, if that is alright."

    "Of course, I don't mind," said Valegrious as he led her onward through the deck.


    ***

    Valegrious felt happy and grateful as he laid eyes on a patched up Jzak Hennessy. She was out of it, pale-looking, but alive and recuperating with every second that passed. She was facing upwards and was covered with a white sheet up to her neck. Her face showed cuts and bruises, but all had been treated by the healers, so all Valegrious could see on her was thin red and dark lines running in different directions.

    "Ambrossia, you can take a break if you want," Yukiko spoke to the other healer, who had stayed behind to watch over Jzak. "I will remain here now."

    Ambrossia, who had been sitting on a chair, stood up and kindly said, "Alright. I'm hungry, so I am going to go get something to eat, then I will be back."

    Yukiko nodded at her, and as she went passing by Valegrious, he pat her shoulder and told her to take her time.

    Yukiko then occupied the chair in which Ambrossia had been sitting, and Valegrious was able to move closer to the side of the bed in which the real captain of the Smelly Ignacia laid.

    As he stood watching her with soft eyes, Valegrious was hopeful that Jzak would open at least one of her emerald eyes to take notice of him so that he could speak to her. But even he knew it was not going to happen, not with the wounds she had suffered. He still remained there for ten minutes or so, gave the felinum a kiss on the forehead, then had some words with Yukiko about how he and she would talk about the upcoming test after dinner, and then took his leave. When he left, in his heart he knew that the time would come in which he would be able to speak to the felinum again, but Valegrious was already counting the seconds.

    Dinner was at least an hour away, so Valegrious headed to pay a visit to the other sailors and warriors who had suffered wounds. He thanked them all for fighting bravely and was glad to see that many had just suffered cuts and nasty bruises here and there like he had. He knew that they would be up and about soon, in fact, after he was about to leave, many had wanted to go back up to the main deck and resume their duties, however, Valegrious opposed their wishes and told them to rest well, told them that the time for them to be up and about would come later.

    "But, captain, you are also wounded," protested Rubee Treeclimber. "Shouldn't you be resting too?"

    "My wounds are light compared to yours and have already been treated," Valegrious told her, and he stared at all the injured sailors that Ambrossia had gathered and cared for in one spacious room that she called her healing room, or, as she liked to say, her "treating wing".

    "But some of those wounds look bad, captain," argued Shawthia the helmswoman. “Especially that one cut on your arm there.”

    "Nay, Shawthia," Valegrious was quick to respond. "These are just scratches that already are halfway healed. You all take as long as you have to. I don't want injured sailors up there. Use this time wisely, because there will be darker days ahead of us."

    The sailors regarded him cautiously, some even felt tense after they heard his serious words.

    "Darker days, you say, Cap'n?" Abigale the cook cried, feeling quite the fright.

    “Oh yes,” Valegrious went on to say. “Our real test is yet to come, Abigale. So see? Rest well and be ready for it.”

    Abigale gulped hard but nodded.

    Valegrious's word was law on the Smelly Ignacia and the other ships as well, so the injured sailors agreed to do as he had spoken.

    Finally, as he usually did every night, and also whenever he had the free time, Valegrious went to spend some time at his sister's side. He was flattened deeper in his sadness when he noticed her that night. She looked awful, worse than past days. She was getting sicker with every day that passed, and yet, when Valegrious arrived the room, Magatha smiled widely and got up from bed and went walking towards him.

    "Valegrious," she said in her now too-raspy voice as she met him. "I'm sorry. Oh, I'm so sorry."

    Before he could say anything, she tightened her arms around him in a hug.

    "Sister, what is wrong?"

    "I'm just...very sad," she confessed. "It's all my fault."

    Magatha felt crushed because so many more lives had been lost at the hands of the siren attack, and she told her brother how faulty she felt because of that.

    Valegrious placed his hands on his sister's shoulders and looked directly at her face.

    "No, it is not your fault," he assured her. "Wither that thought, sister. You should not blame yourself, or anyone else for what has happened so far. It is no one's fault, really. Everyone out here is at risk of dying any time, we all knew this before we made the decision to come out here. If anyone is to blame, though, let it be me."

    "I know, but still..." she walked away sadly back towards her bed and sat down on the side. Valegrious went after her and sat right next to her. Minono remained seated in her chair and just listened on. And Sammy, she too, was a silent spectator on Minono’s shoulder.

    "Listen, Magatha," Valegrious went on to say. "I could have fallen today. Or I could have fallen in our past troubles. I haven't fallen, but so many others have, and that really makes me sad and angry. But, I know I can't do anything to bring back those that have died. Though those thoughts pain me deeply and worse than a dagger's cut, I'm grateful that I am still alive, and grateful even more for those who gave their lives so we could be here where we currently are. It was a tremendous sacrifice, and every person that I see falling, that I see dying, pains me badly, you just don’t know how much.”

    He was in tears then, but he kept on speaking. “What keeps me strong and going is to complete our goal, that goal we all set ourselves to complete when we sailed out: to reach Iviri and get you healed, remember?”

    Magatha nodded twice.

    “I aim to get you there, Magatha, with the help of all those that came with us. Lift up your spirits, for we are nearly there! All these lives that have been lost out here will not be forgotten, and they would not have been lost in vain if we complete our goal. So don't blame yourself. Have faith and hope, be ever grateful like me for all those that have fallen, and remember them in your heart and thoughts, because that is the only way they can't really be forgotten, and so they live on, my dear sister, just as we must."

    Magatha nodded at her brother's supportive words and hugged him again, but she kept crying silently.

    Valegrious stayed with her and with Minono and the sea imp until the dinner bell was rung. At Magatha's request, though, Valegrious agreed to dine in her room that night, alongside with Minono, the sea imp, and Yukiko, who agreed to dine there in order to speak with Valegrious afterwards about their upcoming test.

    ***

    Valegrious decided that it would be for the best if Yukiko informed everyone onboard and not just him about what they could expect for their upcoming test, which Yukiko believed would be their final test, albeit the hardest one they had to face.

    And so those that could make it to the main deck were gathered there yet again come ten O’clock in the evening. Magatha was there even though she was sick as hell, for she still could walk. That’s the pretext she gave her brother when he told her to remain in bed and rest. Valegrious finally agreed to let her stay after Magatha had insisted several times.

    “We’re almost home safe,” Yukiko told the audience of the Smelly Ignacia as she stood all alone and before them. Only Jzak and Ambrossia were missing, but they would be getting notified of this speech moments later when Yukiko finished. “Iviri, my homeland, is but two weeks or less of sailing away,” she went on. “I know it’s been a long and difficult journey for us all.”

    Some sailors nodded sadly at that, and some even lowered their heads momentarily before raising them up again when Yukiko went on.

    “We’ve been tested time after time again and have lost so many of our friends,” Yukiko hammered one of her palms with a clenched fist. “But I ask of you all to remain strong and with hope and with our heads held up high. We are so near to accomplishing our goal. We are so near of sailing over this damned area and do what no one else has done before...and that is survive it in vast numbers. I, myself, as some of you may know or may not know, am a survivor. I am not the only one, as there have been others, like the pirate captain who’s currently in command of the Saint Eleine. He was a lad when he survived the siren attack, but he lost his father and many friends. Anyway, I also came through here ten years ago and survived but just barely. I can tell you from my experience lived that we still have something terrible to face. Something more sinister and terrible than what we’ve seen and faced so far. This danger will require every ounce of courage and skill from us.”

    Yukiko scanned the audience with her serious stare. Everyone was looking at her, and all were paying great attention.

    “So what is this danger?” Emilyann suddenly asked from her place, her question causing Valegrious and others to regard her.

    “Aye,” other sailors soon joined in, also wanting to know. “What awaits us, Lady Yukiko?”

    “Many rumors call this upcoming section the mist of death,” Yukiko went on. “I assure you that the name fits this strange place perfectly, for mist and death we’ll see. And so long as this mist remains, we’ll have to deal with the undead.”

    Murmurs were heard then, many loud and many low in volume. And some of the sailors stared at each other, some confused, others as if afraid.

    “Undead?” Valegrious asked Yukiko, his voice loud enough to silence the murmuring going on. “You mean the evil spirits that fables tell of, right? Those creepy phantoms that are said to come out from the water and drag you down below to your death.”

    “Indeed,” Yukiko replied with a soft nod. “From my experience, I believe these evil phantoms, or apparitions, are remains of the civilization of Atlantis, the realm that was sunk by the gods many, many centuries ago.”

    All was quiet on the ship again, with the only sound being the flapping of the sails and the waves of water that gently crashed against the ship.

    “It has never been proven that once a mighty realm existed out here,” shouted Anubis the elf from his place. “The phantoms and this so called sunken realm of Atlantis are just tales invented by crazy people who have never sailed through here. Why should we believe you, Lady Yukiko?”

    “What I speak is no lie,” Yukiko spoke urgently and in her most serious tone yet as she envisioned the buffy elf. “Forget what you have heard, my friend, and you all other friends of mine. These undead exist, and they will harass us so long as the fog remains.”

    “Can they be hurt?” Kaur questioned from her place, and many stared at Yukiko wanting to receive an answer to that.

    “To our relief, yes they can be hurt and sent back to the depths of the sea where they surely come from,” Yukiko replied.

    “How?” Abigale shot.

    “Any weapons imbued with silver or magical traits can put a hurt on these things, as well as fire,” Yukiko said. “I know those three things for sure hurt those phantoms, from my experience. I lived through that hell long ago, so believe my words, chaps and lassies. Normal weapons won’t do much, so you might as well forget about trying to slash one with an iron sword or axe, it won’t do a damn thing except go right through and probably just anger them the more.”

    “Oy, but we don’t have many silver or magical weapons onboard,” feared Locke the watcher. “At least not enough for all of us.”

    That fact scared many, but as silence remained for a while, Minono rose her right arm decisively.

    “Yes?” Yukiko asked her.

    “I just want to say that we do have plenty of silver with us,” she said, staring at several sailors and her boyfriend. “Anything like pendants, gauntlets, and bracelets we can probably burn and condense into a liquid that would allow us to coat our pistol iron shells and arrow heads with them.”

    Voices came from all around her, for it was indeed a good idea. Valegrious, at the side, felt proud of her for having contributed in such a big way.

    “That’s one fine idea, Minono,” Yukiko granted. “We can surely do that and have more ways to defend ourselves.”

    “I have this silver plate of mine,” Tallinor offered right away. “If you can melt it and use it for those purposes, go right ahead."

    He removed his armor and tossed it on the floor.

    “And we also have plenty of fire,” Valegrious smiled at the white haired warrior and at all those that he stared upon. “Torches will have to do, we just have to be careful not to torch the damn ships as we do battle with these damn phantoms.”

    “And battle we shall,” Yukiko rose her voice then, receiving all attention once again. “For days and nights unrested, I’ll have you know. So long as this mysterious mist remains these undead creatures will be coming relentlessly at us. Once this mist disappears, we’ll be safe, the phantoms don’t appear if there is no fog, and if memory serves me correctly, we’ll be out of the unsailed sea territory once we’ve cleared this strange foggy area.”

    “What if we don’t encounter a fog at all?” cried Shawthia. “What if we get lucky or something? Is that even a possibility?”

    Yukiko just made a weird face at the tall, buffy sailor in response to that, as if she did not bet that was a possibility.

    “We can’t expect miracles to happen,” Valegrious bit his lower lip, and he moved toward Yukiko and faced the crowd. “We must be very courageous and fight for our lives like we have so far. We must fight without fear and knowing that our goal is at grasp. We must fight with hope that we’ll make it out alive, and once again, let us fight like the big family we’ve become, lending our aid to anyone you can. If we do all that, our possibilities of making it through that area will multiply, just as the possibilities multiplied for us when we fought together against the sirens. Now you all know what to expect when the mist appears. So keep your hearts, your courage, and your senses strong, do not despair. Thanks to Yukiko, we have the advantage because we know what to expect.”

    Many grateful eyes fell upon the angelus, even Valegrious’s own. He nodded at her. Yukiko, knowing well that through that nod he was saying thanks, nodded back in return.

    After the Smelly Ignacia’s crew had been told about the upcoming test, Yukiko flew to the other two ships and let them know as well.

    The very next day before noon, all crews were armed and ready, and all sailors alive were expectant of the fog, with the majority of them having prayed for no fog to appear.



    *****

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  20. #20
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    After this chapter only 2 chapters remain and this story will end. Thanks for reading, Serebii members. I really appreciate the support. ^^

    Oh, looks like I will have to split this chapter in two parts since I am not allowed to post it all in one post. I will post the other part as soon as I can.

    This is Part 1/2 of Chapter 19

    Chapter 19: Remnants of Atlantis
    ***December 26th, 1658***

    Loud thunderclaps could be heard outside nearly every five seconds, sometimes sooner and at times later. The great booming sounds were accompanied by deadly lightning that flashed wickedly in the sky every now and then. The sea had become very unstable and the sky itself and the surrounding zone below it had turned dark early that day when the three ship crews had encountered the foul storm. The rain was falling fiercely and heavily, the wind howling as if a great number of demons had broken loose from the dark depths. Not a good time to be sailing, for sure.

    Only the best sailors—and several courageous beings like Tallinor and Emilyann—were performing ship duties on deck, the others were well hidden below in the second and even third level of the ship, for there was nothing much they could do except pray and deal with the sea sickness that came from the ships being rocked this and that way. All who were not facing the violent storm out on deck were indeed praying that their comrades survived and that the nasty storm passed quickly. But the storm was moving slow coming from the southwest, and so the crews were having a tough time dealing with it. Valegrious, who was one of several expert sailors out on deck, was behind the wheel and doing his best to navigate the Smelly Ignacia over the deranged nasty waves. He could not do much, really, because he and everyone else were up against the raging sea. But despite the danger of the terrible storm, Valegrious, who was already entirely soaked from head to toes, was very happy, and only for a single reason: Jzak Hennessy had woken up earlier and he had been able to talk to her. Having spoken to her had calmed him greatly and had made his fears of losing her disappear entirely. And so, knowing that many lives depended on him, beginning with his sister's own, Valegrious kept his cool and went with what the storm and the raging sea threw his way, the lad doing all he could and giving it his best at the helm. He often had to leave Shawthia behind the wheel in order to go help the other sailors cut rope, cut something loose, or throw unnecessary things overboard, not to mention rescue or help someone who was in trouble. He even scolded Abigale the cook when she had removed the safety board that shut way to the low levels and had come up to deck only to ask how everyone was going.

    "Get your butt back in there, Abbey!" Valegrious had shouted at her, but mostly for her own protection, because he did not want to lose anyone to the storm. "And don't let anyone come out!"

    "Yes, Captain!" Abigale had replied. "It's just that Minono sent me out here to see how you and everyone else was doing."

    "No excuses," Valegrious replied to that, although he felt his heart warm up after he realized how much Minono cared for him. "I said no one was to come up here under any circumstances. Go, and do as I say now."

    "Aye, Captain," the red haired girl quickly obeyed and had placed the wooden board back over the stairs.

    Valegrious, all soaked, moved to help Tallinor untangle a line of rope that had gotten entangled on the main mast.

    "It's useless from down here," Tallinor let him know with force in his voice so he could hear him over the raging wind. "It's stuck good up there, Captain Coral." And he had pointed upwards.

    Next, the dark elf and those that were out there witnessed Valegrious doing his thing as a common expert sailor. He headed to the port side and started climbing up through the shrouding. Expertly, he was able to make it to the yardarm and began untangling the rope with one hand, the other he used to secure himself from the wooden frame. Tallinor helped him toss it around from below, untangling it bit by bit. It took the captain several minutes, but they got the job done.

    From below, with his hair and body all wet, Tallinor gave him a thumbs up signal when the task was done, and Valegrious returned it and remained hanging there tightly, for he felt a little sea sick then.

    The other crews were not as lucky as the Smelly Ignacia, perhaps because the crews’ sailing skills were not on par with the remaining sailors of the Smelly Ignacia, who had lived through many worse storms out in the south sea. The Hope Never Dies lost several men when the waves threw them overboard. Two were rescued, but two were lost to the sea. And the Saint Eleine, though the small pirate crew battled the nasty storm to the best of their skill, the ship capsized due to a high, violent wave that crashed against its starboard side. Most of the pirates survived the catastrophe. In the violent waters they sought loose wreckage and held on for dear life under the darkened sky. They were at the mercy of the sea and the storm, but the crew of the Hope Never Dies was able to get to them and rescued them all from a terrible fate that day.

    After many hours of terrible anguish, after many minutes of gripping fear had gone by, the storm passed and the sea became a calm blue blanket of salty water once again. Another obstacle in the group’s path had been left behind, but with its passing, the crews had lost more dear friends.

    Every life that was lost out there made Valegrious feel so helpless, so impotent, so guilty. A ship and several lives had been lost, he knew this when the damage was assessed. Things were replaced, someone’s life could never be replaced. Valegrious knew that, and that is why those out on deck saw him and heard him scream out in rage as his knees remained touching the deck. Upon hearing him, Emilyann went to soothe his pain, but Valegrious just remained there crying and feeling guilty as never before, his right fist smacking the wooden deck hard.

    “It’s not your fault, Valegrious,” Emilyann said and took a knee next to him. “It could have been either of us all.”

    Valegrious regarded her with teary eyes. He shook his head at her and quickly stood up. What did she know about the pain that he was going through during that moment?

    “Valegrious?” Emilyann stood up. “It’s not your fault. Please, just calm down.”

    Again, he slowly shook his head at her, then he ran to the beak of the ship. Emilyann had in mind going after him, but Tallinor’s strong hand on her slender shoulder detained her from doing so.

    “He needs time alone, beautiful,” he told her. Emilyann said nothing, but she did nod at her friend. Then she fast turned to stare at Valegrious, whom she noticed had seated on the beak of the ship, as he usually did.

    No one disturbed him while he was there. The lad remained in total solitude for many minutes just crying in silence and lamenting over what had happened. So many lives had been lost so far, he knew, and he was hurt because of it. He just wanted to cross this damned ocean and get it over with without losing anyone else, and yet he knew that one big obstacle still remained. That grim reminder surely unsettled him, but the sadness and guilt remained.

    Valegrious’s day would not get any better, either. Later, when the first night hours came visiting that day, he was informed by a tearful and scared Minono that his sister had unexpectedly fainted.

    Valegrious was quick to rush to her side, the lad shoving several sailors off to the sides as he went.

    “It’s her illness,” Yukiko explained minutes later after she had checked her. “It’s getting worse now, as you can see. It’s entering the fatal stages...”

    “Nooo! Oh god no,” Valegrious became full of fear and again burst into tears. He imagined that his dear sister was going to die soon.

    “Calm down, Valegrious,” Yukiko grabbed him by the shoulders. “She’s alright, just very weak now. But she will be in bed until we get to my homeland.”

    “I don’t want her to die,” Valegrious cried, then he proceeded to kneel at the side of the bed, his hands clasped together with Magatha’s right hand. He soon lowered his head and started praying in silence to the gods he believed in.

    Yukiko, Minono, and Sammy, all exchanged preoccupied glances, but they all remained silent.

    After Valegrious stood up and faced them five minutes or so later, Yukiko let him know that Magatha was not going to die, that she still had two weeks or so.

    “Back in Loungrine you said you weren’t certain of the time she had,” he recalled. “This could be her last night...”

    “Calm down, Valegrious,” Yukiko soothed. “She won’t be dying tonight, alright. But she will not be up anytime soon,” she reminded him. “She’s too weak for that now.”

    “But...” Valegrious tried to protest.

    “Magatha needs plenty of rest from now on,” said the angelus as she regarded the ill girl. “I’m actually quite shocked that she was able to be out there walking and moving as she was doing it these past few days.”

    “Isn’t there anything you can do to help her become strong as she was?” Valegrious asked.

    Yukiko shook her head, very sadly. “I don’t have any invigorating potions left. All she needs is to get to my homeland now, where my people will see to her health. I am powerless here.”

    “But...Yuki...”

    “Honey, come on,” Minono grabbed his left arm. “Come with me. Magatha needs to rest now, you heard Yukiko.”

    “I can’t leave her like this, Minos,” Valegrious protested with every ounce of righteousness that he had in him. “My sister needs me.”

    “I will watch over her,” Yukiko proposed. Valegrious was quick to regard her, so were Minono and Sammy.

    “But the mist...” the top-notch sailor said. “We are close to getting there, aren’t we?”

    “Yes,” the angelus shivered. “But you don’t need me up there, Valegrious. I am not much of a fighter, just a healer. I’d just be in the way. My place is right here beside your sister. I will watch over her as if I was her guardian. It is you who will need to lead the charge against those foul creatures. Get us through this next test, Valegrious, and all there will be left for us to do is to lay eyes on an unbelievable scene and to smooth sail straight for Iviri, which should not be long in appearing now.”

    After he heard those words, Valegrious remained very quiet and just thinking about it all.

    “Alright,” Valegrious nodded many times. “Alright, Yukiko. I hear you. You watch over my sister. I will do what I do best, and that is to sail. I will do my best to help us get through this upcoming test.”

    “I believe in you,” Yukiko smiled heartily his way. “I believe that you will get us to our destination. My whole trust was placed on you the moment I boarded the ship. You have not let me down one bit, Valegrious. You sure are a fine sailor. Go, get us through the mist. For the sake of your sister and us all.”

    Again Valegrious nodded at her, his eyes gleaming eagerly. “Will you be safe here?”

    “So long as no phantoms find their way in here,” she breathed lightly.

    “But...”

    “These phantoms cannot go through walls as tales speak of ghosts doing so,” Yukiko explained. “These abominations have life even if they are dead, pretty much like our very own lives. They can touch, they can smell your fear, and they can surely kill. Though their bodies may seem transparent and weightless to your eyes, don’t be fooled, they still are subject to obey the other laws of this world. Trust me, when we fought them, they were unable to filter into the lower levels of our ships by going through the wooden walls. They’re undead beings but still possess bodies much like our own, only ghostly in appearance. So Magatha and I will be safe down here, and anyone else you decide to send down here with us, the non-fighters, I mean.”

    “Alright, I understand,” Valegrious said. “Would it be alright if I transferred you and my sister close to Jzak? There is room there for another bed, and having you all gathered together would be a great relief to me. I am sure Jzak will have nothing to complain about, in fact, she will be delighted to have you and my sister there with her.”

    “I have no problem with that,” the angelus told him. “That will allow me to look after Jzak as well, and I will feel much better in their company, even if they are incapacitated.”

    “Indeed,” said Valegrious. “And that way Ambrossia can help us fight those damned things. She’s a good fighter.”

    “Yes, she told me about herself,” Yukiko nodded. Indeed the two healers had gotten to know each other well by talking and sharing tales while they had been attending the ill and wounded.

    “I will bring a few fellows to help me with moving my sister over to the captain’s quarters, then.”

    “Right,” said Yukiko. “I will gather my belongings.”

    She saw Valegrious, his girlfriend, and the sea imp, take their leave. And minutes later, they all returned. With them also came Tallinor, Avon, Anubis, and Rygar. Tallinor and Rygar took care of carrying the ill girl on a stretcher to the captain’s quarters in her cabin while Avon and Anubis disassembled the bed and then took parts to the cabin. There, the bed would be assembled so Magatha could remain resting right beside the injured felinum. Finally, when the elf and the tall man finished with their task, Valegrious, Minono, the sea imp, and Yukiko followed them.

    Jzak was awake in her bed, but Valegrious had already spoken to her about the deal, so she just watched as the bed was assembled and Magatha was lain to rest on it. The men then took their leave.

    “I will send word to you when we come upon the mist, just so you all are informed of it,” Valegrious told Jzak and Yukiko.

    “It shouldn’t be long now,” Yukiko told him seriously.

    “Valegrious,” Jzak said, drawing the sailor’s attention. “You know I would love to fight alongside you and the rest, but even I know I can’t due to my injuries. That damned siren ruined my legs.”

    Valegrious rushed on over to her side.

    “You have done your fighting, my friend,” he told her with a smile. “You saved my life and helped us survive that day against the sirens, and we are all grateful for that, especially me.”

    “I know you are,” Jzak smiled proudly at him.

    “We’re sure going to miss you out there, but you rest now, Jzak. I will do what I can to get us out of this deadly mist.”

    She nodded at him and again smiled. “Go. It’s best to be prepared. We’ll be fine with Yukiko at our side.”

    “Aye,” Valegrious agreed. He let his girlfriend go out the door first, and then he left—or started to, but he did not go anywhere since Yukiko made him turn to regard her when she called his name, “Valegrious!”

    “Yes?” he asked. He noticed that Yukiko’s face had turned hard, as if a bit angry, but not at him, rather at something else.

    “Give them hell for me and for all those of my kin that fell here those ten years ago.”

    Valegrious waited a while just staring at her. He could tell just by looking at her angry facade that she meant those words from the bottom of her heart. She wanted revenge for her fallen kin, just as she had with the sirens.

    “I will,” he said as serious as he could sound. “Don’t you be doubting that, Yuki. I will.”

    “Look, I have a silver sword on me,” Yukiko said and even showed him part of a small sword she carried on her left hip by drawing it out a bit from its scabbard. “Courtesy of the profits I made at the capital. So go on, if any phantoms come in here, they will deal with me. I will do what I can, but you, you give them hell for me and my fallen kin.”

    After a nod or two to her, a promising stare his sister’s way, and a glance and smile Jzak’s way, Valegrious left.

    “Do you think he’ll be alright?” Yukiko asked the felinum when they had remained alone.

    “Oh, he’s going to trample those things, you’ll see,” Jzak winked. “It’s a shame you and I are going to miss out seeing him fight. He’s as good a fighter as he is a sailor.”

    “I believe you,” Yukiko was sincere.

    ***

    The moon was full that night, and the stars were shining brightly as ever as the two ships sailed side by side and separated only by fifty yards of watery distance. No mist had the two remaining ships encountered yet after having dealt with the deadly storm that had taken out one of their ships and had claimed several mariners. It was a beautiful night to be out at sea, and the beautiful full moon allowed the beast-blooded humans to transform into their ferocious monster state. The human-looking lycans turned to their hairy beast forms. Rygar and Yosh were some of them, but there were also several that had come from the other crews that slowly over time had been boarding the Smelly Ignacia after their ships had been destroyed. In total, there were five lycans, three males and two females, all transformed in their beastly state, but they did not harm the others around them, for they clearly knew they were allies. Valegrious, despite already knowing how a lycan looked like in its beastly state, was impressed with them. And Minono, who had never seen one before, was shocked and impressed and surely sticking close to his side. The sea imp was no longer on her shoulders, nor Valegrious’s for that matter. For her safety, Sammy had been left behind in the captain’s quarters. There, she now sat on the wooden table close to Yukiko, who sat there keeping an eye out on Jzak and Magatha, but also perking up her ears for the chaos that was to come.

    The nightly hours kept passing by. No mist appeared, and so, because of that, Valegrious ordered one half of the crew to have some rest. The rest would have their own rest four hours later. The groups were ordered to sleep on the main deck, in case action was needed to be taken.

    The next day came, and with it finally the crews were able to lay their eyes on an unnerving scene in the distance. A grayish mist seemed to be hanging in the air and cloaking the entire surroundings till where the eye could see. The ships were coming upon it fast. With the find, everyone onboard the two ships had become rigorously tense.

    “This is it, then,” Valegrious shouted courageously to his crew on deck. “Time to deal with these damned phantoms. Yukiko said it could be days, so keep steady, lads and lasses.”

    Silver and magic-imbued swords were drawn, pistols and torches were at the ready to be fired and lit, and the sailors on both ships were all ready to fight.

    A few hours later, the two ships were swallowed by the mist. In the distance off to the right, the Hope Never Dies slowly disappeared from view, and to its crew the Smelly Ignacia did the very same on their port side. Both Valegrious Coral and Alecia Xandria knew they were on their own with their crews.

    Valegrious, stationed at the main deck, held on to his magical sword given to him by Jzak Hennessy, and Minono held on to his arm, surely very afraid. Everyone, just like her and Valegrious, remained expectant of what was to come, their eyes on the lookout for any undead beings. Nothing came at the crews for a long while, just a terrible silence that was defeated only by the flapping of the sails and the noise of the waves. Underneath those cursed waters, though, the hosts had become aware of the intruders. The undead beings began to swim upwards from their ancient grave.

    Indeed, the ships had entered the waters where once the mighty realm of Atlantis had existed, a realm which had been sunk by the gods after its demonic residents had caused many troubles for them, particularly the construction of a huge portal that had been opened and which had allowed passage to many demons into the land of the gods. Great magic had been at play there, and thus those fallen demonic beings had been able to remain alive even after having suffered a terrible death, for their leader, an ex-god turned bad, had blessed them with a second life even after death.

    *End of Part 1 of 2 of Chapter 19*

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  21. #21
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    Ok, here is part 2/2 of Chapter 19. ^^

    Several sailors were on the lookout for undead creatures close to the sides. Nothing moved, and the water had really turned eerily dark to the sight, perhaps due to the mist not allowing full sight of it. The sailors could not see the hundreds of undead beings swarming just underneath the surface of the water, these waiting for an opportune moment to strike, as they had always done so with other intruders.

    It all began with an assault on the neighboring ship. Valegrious and the Smelly Ignacia’s crew clearly heard the shouts coming from over the starboard side. They could not see the ship, the mist was too thick, but they could hear the shouting and screaming and also splashes of water.

    “Be wary!” shouted Valegrious, his heart racing. “The Hope Never Dies has been attacked!”

    Just as he finished saying that, there came loud splashes close by. Several phantoms had jumped straight out of the water and had clung to the sides of the ship. Others had clung to the front and at the rear. Quickly as they could they began climbing up until they boarded the ship entirely.

    But the Smelly Ignacia’s crew had been expecting their appearance and quickly went to work on them. Rygar, who had been keeping a watch close to the side, sent the very first boarding phantom back to splash into the water with a swing of his sword.

    “We’re being boarded!” Rygar alerted, but many already knew.

    Other sailors soon engaged other boarding phantoms, and so the ship became active with fighters. One phantom happened to jump onboard and quickly headed towards Valegrious and his girlfriend, making them both take a step back. When she saw it, Minono screamed in fear and hugged Valegrious, for the ghost was very ugly. It was a female, and it looked more palpable than transparent. Valegrious and Minono, and those others that saw it, noticed the quite visible details on it. It could have been a woman just as tall as Valegrious, but it had horns on its head and its face appeared to be thin, mawkish, and semi-rotten, its hair long and loose. The creature’s clothing looked grayish and worn out, like its own skin, and she gave off a rotting, vomit-inducing smell. It growled at the two beings it had in front of her and showed sharp fangs and pointy nails. The phantom, clearly smelling their fear and wanting to kill, began to make a move against them, but Valegrious did not hesitate and drove his magical sword in its torso with a simple stab move, even with Minono sticking on to him like glue.

    The phantom felt something that it had never felt in a long time: pain. She looked curiously at the human that had just furnished that sensation, and Valegrious believed that the phantom actually smiled flippantly at him.
    Smile or not, Valegrious drew the sword out, and to his shock and Minono’s, the phantom disappeared in a puff of dark smoke.

    Unbeknownst to Valegrious, he had killed the phantom once and for all, for there was no coming back from a second death. It was as if Valegrious had liberated the demonic being’s soul for good from the curse of its once powerful leader, which had cursed his army to remain alive even after death.

    “It...disappeared,” Minono looked confusingly at her fiancée.

    “They...can be killed,” Valegrious nodded and told her to stick close to him.

    Minono wasn’t going anywhere, not after she had seen the scary-looking ghost. If indeed this test was their last obstacle, she would pass it alongside him and no one else. She lit her torch and remained ever close to him, clutching his left arm.

    “Use that torch against any son of a ***** that tries to get too close to you,” Valegrious told her. “Except me, of course.”

    Somehow, despite feeling tense and scared, Minono smiled at Valegrious, who was also smiling slightly despite the trouble they were in.

    “Valegrious!” she chastised him and hit him on his shoulder. “Quit it, now is not the time to be joking around.”

    “Just trying to lighten the mood,” he chuckled, and in truth he just wanted to make her feel better and not afraid as she surely was. “But yes, use that torch against any phantom, don’t be afraid to fight, I am with you the whole way.”

    She nodded at him and became infected of his courage.

    Soon, more phantoms boarded the ship, and more of them were crawling upward on the sides. The sailors fought them off as best they could, Minono even dispatched one by sticking the torch in its face. The undead creature wriggled and then turned to nothing but a puff of smoke.

    “Well done, Honey,” Valegrious made her feel good.

    “You told me to do that,” was what Minono said, the lass hiding a smile.

    “Yes I did,” said Valegrious. “And you did wonderful. Keep doing it if you have to, your life depends on it.”

    She already knew that, but she nodded at him nonetheless, wanting nothing but to have another phantom come her way so she could teach it a lesson not to mess with her or her boyfriend.

    Minutes later, Valegrious of the Sea saw many phantoms go down just like the one he had dispatched earlier, and he smiled, for his crew was actually pwning them. He only hoped that the Hope Never Dies was doing good like they were. All he could hear from the distant ship was faint screams and battle sounds, but just barely because the ship was separating quite a bit from the Smelly Ignacia. Unbeknownst to him, Alecia Xandria and her crew were doing pretty good themselves, they were fighting like a family as well and surviving the day.

    The difference between many other crews and the two that were sailing through the cursed sea that day was that they had known what to expect from this area, the others had not had that privilege and had been caught unawares. In truth, as the years had gone by and they had turned into centuries, many were the lives that had been lost out here, mostly due to poor preparation and uncertainty, perhaps also some ill luck had been involved many times with nasty storms that came out of nowhere and also sea monsters that had been roaming the area, but the remnants of Atlantis, these demonic undead beings known merely as phantoms, had played a big part of that as well. In their sorrowful, undead state, they had taken out their rage against every ship that had passed over their fallen zone.

    Valegrious and company did not have it any easier than anyone else that had sailed through here before them. Though they had known of the danger thanks to Yukiko, they still had to fight it off. And fight it off they did, to good measures, despite the overwhelming phantom numbers. The first day went by without much incident and no losses from either crew, although some sailors had gotten injured, for the phantoms used their pointy nails to scratch or pound their victims. But then there came the second day. Though the wind had picked up from the east on this new day, the mist did not disperse, it mysteriously remained cloaking the entire zone heavily. The two ships were advancing through the misty area at a great rate and making headway, but the danger remained. The assault from the fallen Atlantians upon the passing two ships continued non-stop. And the crews, tired and lacking sleep, began to flounder. Often sorely pressed by the phantoms, and when sailors started to fall or getting dragged out into the ocean by these undead beings, Valegrious thought their failure was imminent, but knowing what was at stake, and remembering Yukiko’s words, the promise he had made to her, he fought on and so did everyone else.

    The second day passed, although it seemed eternal to both crews, who just wanted for the mist and the phantoms to go away. They had fought nearly the entire day without rest, but there had been some breaks due to how efficiently they were dealing with the undead that the fallen Atlantians were thinking it twice before jumping on to the ships. Midnight came and so did the early hours of the third day, and the Smelly Ignacia and the Hope Never Dies, although separated by more than two miles of distance now, were still sailing defiantly over these cursed waters, much to the anger of the phantoms. No crew had ever made it through day three before, just a lone survivor ten years ago, and she was onboard the Smelly Ignacia and praying for everybody’s well-being within the captain’s quarters. On this third day, fighting against the phantoms was at its pinnacle during that hour, for, unbeknownst to the crews, they were close to making it out of the mist.

    Knowing that, knowing that very soon they would not be able to harass them any longer, the fallen Atlantians pressed them even more. Phantoms scaled the sides and back and front of the ships, some dropped into the deck and everywhere they could, and the sea waters were dense with them that the sailors could hear their hissing and wailing as the undead desperately reached with their decayed arms for the passing ships.

    The Smelly Ignacia and the Hope Never Dies crews were nearly running on empty when the morning hours of the third day came. They fought on, though. Hope, skill, determination, and the desire to clear the mist and survive led them to fight and hang on for dear life. A fire had even started on the poop deck after Avon was ganged upon by a group of phantoms and his two torches hit the wooden deck. The giant man was dragged out of the ship and to the ocean, with the Smelly Ignacians unable to keep it from happening, not even Tallinor or Lupinka, who had been fighting close to him could do a thing to save him.

    “Avon! Noooo!” how seeing his friend being taken away had pained the white haired warrior, and not just him, but those many on the Smelly Ignacia, for the giant man had become their friend, their brother, over the passing of the days.

    "Die, you damned things!" Lupinka fought harder after her friend had been lost to them.

    “Put that fire out!” Valegrious heard Yosh crying out to some sailors. Valegrious also shouted out that same order, and as he did, he even saw as the lycan mobilized himself to do so, but the phantom numbers were many and did not give him the chance. They soon surrounded Yosh, but he fought them off using not only his silver sword, but his hands and feet as well. He punched and kicked them away, later to turn them into puffs of smoke by successfully stabbing the fallen creatures with his silver sword. Pandora the felinum and several archers were helping greatly with their silver arrows, which they used over and over thanks to the phantoms disappearing when struck and leaving them on the spot where they fell. Sailors had seen the importance of the arrows, and so they had started retrieving them for the archers to reuse since the very first day. But even with the archers defeating phantom after phantom that third day, the numbers were still many and did not give the fighters, nor the archers, a chance for a breather.

    It got to a point where the sailors found themselves body slamming the creatures against the ship’s railing and on the deck. Two Rixacor warriors that remained and Rygar mostly were to blame for this action, but they did dish out some pain to the phantoms that way, perhaps not kill them but still making them feel stinging pain through those means. Valegrious even heard Yosh scream at one of those phantoms before tossing it out to sea, “This is the Smelly Ignacia, fool. Its crew is far superior than the likes of you!”

    Finally, the fire was put out, but it had cost the Smelly Ignacia some of its crew, including four berocs and a rixacor. The good warriors were falling, friends were being lost, taken out to sea and drowned by the damned phantoms. Knowing that they had begun to lose lives, Valegrious called for everyone that remained alive to cluster together and fight side by side, with the archers in the middle. They would protect the entrance to the lower levels of the ship where Valegrious had been doing his fighting alongside Minono, Yosh, Ambrossia, Kukim, Abigale, Anubis, Rubee Treeclimber, and other warriors and sailors. Minono, who was at his side and bleeding from her arm and head and fighting with a silver sword that she had picked up hours ago, let him know in tears that they were losing dear friends. She was scared because she thought they would not be seeing another day, not with the way sailors were falling now.

    “Just keep fighting, honey,” Valegrious urged as he felled another phantom, and then another that had been coming from the opposite side. Minono did just that, using that sword as best as she could to kill a phantom that had been threatening to get to her. Evelina Ashad had taught her well, but she really had never seen much fighting at the orphanage. Out here she was doing her best under tremendous pressure, and yet Valegrious was always on the lookout for her well-being. And not just for her, but everyone else who happened to be close to him.

    On and on the phantom onslaught went. Phantoms came at them and phantoms turned to nothing but puffs of smoke. But they kept coming! Their numbers seemed endless.

    Half hour later, something else showed up besides undead beings who wanted nothing but to take the living down to the bottom of the ocean with them so that they could share in their sorrow and lament: rain. It came in the form of a light rain shower, but Valegrious and company welcomed it, for it felt refreshing and even invigorating after they had been fighting for consecutive days. In his tired state, Valegrious wondered whether the rain was a sign of good things to come.

    The remaining crewmates fought on, sensing that they were close to making it out. The rain gave them hope as well. Valegrious, sensing that as well, sensing that they were nearly out of the mist, pushed himself over his limits, leaving the fighting circle and going on a frenzy against the oncoming phantom hordes, who easily were coming onboard without no one there to stop them. As he fought them head on, there was nothing in his mind but the good memories of his home. His dead parents and his mother Evelina he could clearly see, as well as all the orphans and friends he had left behind, who, without a shadow of a doubt, were praying for their success. Then there appeared the image of Jzak Hennessy, Yukiko, Sammy, and his dear sister Magatha, who was close to dying. That thought alone pushed Valegrious to do what no other men had done before against the phantom hordes, and that was to fight them on without regard for his life, to take the fight to them instead of fighting defensively. Truly a great sailor, he was also a better fighter, though he had hardly showed off his skills, for he loved sailing more than anything else. Taught by Evelina and the real captain of the Smelly Ignacia, he had learned how to fight extremely well as he had been growing up. The phantoms that tried to grab him and take him out to sea paid dearly that day. Valegrious cut down phantom after phantom, turning the scary-looking beings to nothing but puffs of smoke and scaring them away. He was a phantom slayer and surely something out of this world to them.

    The others fed off of his valiant display and rushed out to do what he was doing, rushed out to give all they had left. And through that very action they dealt with the phantom numbers.

    A mighty phantom, the fallen leader of the Atlantians, swam up to the surface, perceiving that his undead kin were not getting the job done. The undead being, in all his felt fury, had decided to go up and show them how the job was done, just as he had done it many centuries ago before the gods had sunk him and his realm to the bottom of the ocean.

    A loud scream behind him made Valegrious turn that way. And he saw that Minono was down on the deck and being dragged away by two ugly phantoms. She tried to hang on by scratching the wooden deck with her fingers, but there was no place to grab on to.

    “Minono!” Valegrious cried full of anguish and quickly headed to help her out. He barely made it in time. He grabbed on to her outstretched hands and kept her from getting taken over the railing and into the water. The phantoms kept tugging at her, though, laughing maliciously as they did. Valegrious tugged back the opposite way, hoping not to lose her.

    “Don’t let go!” Minono cried fearfully, tears in her eyes, for she knew what awaited her down there.

    “I got you!” Valegrious told her. “I’m not letting go.”

    He fought a tug of war against the phantoms for several long seconds. Then a third one joined in from the side and a fourth from the other, and he almost lost Minono then, but he held on with a grunt as he used his own right foot against the side railing for leverage. Minono screamed louder, her heart beating so fast when she felt her boyfriend’s grip on her weakening.

    Pandora, from her spot, was able to hear the scream and furnished assistance then. She nailed the phantoms with her silver arrows, and through those means had aided Valegrious and his fiancée. Boyfriend and girlfriend fell on to the deck, and from the ground, Valegrious gave the archer a nod and a wink. There was no time to rest, though, more phantoms then showed up over the railing. Valegrious bravely stood up, and he helped Minono do the same, who had wobbly legs after the horror she had been through.

    "Are you alright?"

    She hugged him tightly, nodding.

    “It’s over, Honey,” Valegrious soothed. “You’re fine, I’m right here with—”

    Before he could complete his phrase, a mighty looking phantom, bigger and broader than the ones he’d faced so far, dropped on deck right before them and swat several phantoms easily away. It wielded a long and fat blade, and his empty, dark sockets fell upon Valegrious, who knew the creature was staring right into his own eyes.

    The creature was big, at least seven feet tall, and it was armed!

    Sensing grave danger, Valegrious shoved his girlfriend away towards some friends he saw from the corner of his eye, hoping that they would protect her. He barely had time to move out of the way as the phantom drove his own sword down upon him, which stuck hard on deck. The two of them went to battle, then. Valegrious avoided several death-seeking blows as he spun around the creature, turning two phantoms into smoke with quick, well-placed stabs. He avoided another death blow by ducking, the tall phantom’s sword just barely missing him but allowing him to feel the passing air over his back. Several sailors tried to assist Valegrious with this big one, but the phantom actually cut down a sailor and sent the other one, who happened to be Tallinor, stumbling off to the side after it had delivered a nasty punch to his face.

    The veteran dark elf fighter quickly got his senses together and went to aid Valegrious, who was in for it, for that huge sword was sure seeking to cut him in half like it had done the other sailor, however, several phantoms intercepted him and kept him from getting to the captain. It was as if the undead creature understood that he was the crew’s leader and wanted to make an example out of him after Valegrious had re-killed so many of his undead kin, that is why the phantom giant was going after him.

    Not scared in the least of the phantom, for Valegrious had lived through many worst scenarios that he even thought he’d died several times already, Valegrious danced away from the creature’s blows, driving him close to the beak of the ship, an area that Valegrious knew too well. The phantom was tall and strong, but not as agile and speedy as Valegrious was. Still, the phantom lord went after him, growling angrily. When Valegrious had to use his sword as a shield against the phantom’s incoming blows, his hands shivered and hurt, and he almost was disarmed. But somehow, Valegrious kept his wits about him and blocked several nasty blows that could have been the end of him...until the phantom cornered him and was able to kick him hard in the stomach after Valegrious had yet again rushed off to the side and blocked a nasty overhead chop. The nasty kick sent him to smash hard against the starboard railing. Valegrious’s back absorbed the impact, and it had driven the air out of him and had hurt quite a lot that he remained seated on deck, his back kissing the railing, a light swooning sensation at the back of his mind, but his eyes on the foe despite it. On came the phantom, sword raised over his head as he held it with two hands. Somehow, because he was actually a bit dazed, Valegrious barely rolled out of the way and the sword split part of the side railing like knife through butter. The blow even sent several would-be boarding phantoms back into the water.

    Then entered Tallinor the fray once again as he came to Valegrious’s aid.

    “You alright?” he asked him, but he knew he was in pain after having witnessed how the captain had hit the railing with his back.

    “Yes, I am fine,” Valegrious sort of lied. “I just got the wind knocked out of me, that's all. Let’s bring this big ***** down once and for all. You on the right, and I on the left. Look for an opening.”

    “Aye,” Tallinor understood.

    Three swords against one, two much shorter foes against one tall phantom, that’s what the bout became then. Valegrious and Tallinor avoided several sweeping slashes but endured several punches and kicks from the phantom that drew blood out. This, while the rest of the crew had been dealing with the other phantoms, keeping them away from them, for with the appearance of their master, their numbers had increased.

    Finally, after having taken some punishment from the phantom, Valegrious got the opening he had been looking for. The phantom had gone after Tallinor, whom it perceived had become the greatest threat with those two swords, and though its free hand had sought to smash against Valegrious to send him flying away, he, unexpectedly rolled into the monster and was able to score the killing blow on the creature’s heart by driving that magical sword in.

    Valegrious rolled away after he had inserted the sword into the creature’s chest, his stare hard and defiant upon the tall foe. The phantom, not believing what had just happened, growled loudly in anger. It just had plenty of time to draw the sword out and stare hatefully at Valegrious, but then, it too had to obey the laws of the world. The big phantom, the once leader of the Atlantians, exploded in a cloud of smoke, a weird magical wave, and was gone from the world forever.

    Valegrious was quick to pick up his sword, and when he was back on his feet.

    A bloody Tallinor nodded at him.

    “Well done, captain,” he smiled.

    “We did it together,” Valegrious replied, also bloody from his mouth. “So the kill is half yours, not that it matters much. Let us instead be rid of more of these damn creatures and help our friends survive.”

    “I’m with you,” Tallinor cried, feeding off of Valegrious’s daunting courage.

    Valegrious found his girlfriend and went to her side, grabbing her hand.

    “Stay at my side,” he told her. Minono, who had witnessed his battle against the mighty phantom, would never be leaving his side, ever, not after she had seen that display of great courage and fighting skill. She knew she was safe at his side.

    They fought together, each one protecting the other by cutting down any phantom that came their way, and also helping those nearby when they could afford it. The others too, fought on, turning those evil beings into nothing but puffs of smoke, liberating them from their ancient curse.

    Minutes later, there appeared the shade of a great light in the sky above. The mist was lessening with every passing minute.

    “Look, the mist is dispelling,” someone shouted. Valegrious recognized Rubee Treeclimber’s voice over the sounds of fighting. He had lost many good friends today, some of which he had not known well, but he smiled knowing that she was still alive. It was true, he noticed, and so did Minono and the rest: the mist was indeed dwindling.

    The phantom hordes knew that too, and once they noticed the sun’s rays coming through the failing misty curtain, they began to abandon ship.

    Those that were hit by the sunrays, though, turned to nothing but puffs of smoke, for they were cursed beings, slaves confined to the misty zone and nothing else.

    “We made it—Rawuuur!” someone shouted and screeched happily.

    That was Yosh, Valegrious recognized his screech. More shouting and cheering ensued, and Valegrious looked happily at his girlfriend, who was just as happy as he was to have made it out alive. He took her in a strong hug and spun her around several times, all the while shouting, “We made it! We made it, Minos!”

    “Yes, we did it!” she cried happily, and she kissed his face so many times, for she couldn’t contain her joy.

    The beak of the Smelly Ignacia was the first thing that made it out of the misty zone. No more phantoms were onboard the ship when it did, nor did they hung at the sides. They would no longer harass the crew.

    Valegrious and his girlfriend ran to the beak of the ship, and they regarded the scene way ahead. Others came behind them fast. The air felt crispy and invigorating to them. Nothing but a calm ocean could be seen ahead, and the sky was rather clear.

    Valegrious, pretty much in tears, congratulated those that were there near him and his girlfriend, for they had made it out of the mist. Soon, though, he then headed to the starboard side railing and remained looking out for the appearance of the Hope Never Dies, which had yet to leave the mist. His girlfriend joined him soon enough, as did others, who began to wonder what had become of their brothers and sisters.

    For several long minutes they remained staring hopefully at the mist they had left behind, but no ship came out. For every minute that passed their hearts turned heavy and they became saddened fearing the worst. More minutes of true anguish went by, like fifteen or so.

    "Do you think they will make it?" Minono asked, beginning to actually lose hope. She was sad, too.

    "I hope they do," Valegrious remained hopeful and staring for the ship. There, with Valegrious hugging her tightly, they waited for three more minutes or so, and then, suddenly, the beak of the other ship came out from the mist like a mile away, and the crew cheered loudly once again.

    “There they are,” said Minono happily, and she even pointed towards the appearance of the ship. “They made it!”

    Valegrious was so glad to see the ship appearing a few minutes later. He ordered that signals be sent out to have the ships regroup together to assess the losses, but he already knew Alecia was working on that at her own ship. Knowing that, he soon made his way to the lower level. He did not make it far, because Yukiko, who had heard the wild shouting, had been coming to see what the deal was.

    Sword in hand, she was startled when the board was removed and Valegrious came rushing down the stairs.

    “Ah, Valegrious,” Yukiko sighed. “It’s you.”

    “We made it,” he said slowly and finished with a smile.

    Yukiko’s face brightened as if the sunlight had hit it, and without saying much, she just dropped the sword and launched herself at the bloody sailor in a strong hug.

    “I knew you could do it,” she cried and began shedding tears. “I knew you would sail us through.”

    The two separated a few long seconds later.

    “I did,” he admitted and nodded. “But with the help and the sacrifice of so many, whom I will never forget.”

    “Neither will I,” Yukiko shook her head, and she began to clear her tears with her hands. “They will always be remembered. I have a special place for them all in my heart, and I know you do too.”

    “Indeed,” the sailor said, for it was true.

    “I must thank you kindly, Valegrious.”

    “And why is that?”

    “Because by having sailed us through the mist, I feel different now. The sorrow and anger that was stored in my heart all these years has left me for good. I know that all my kin have been avenged this day, as well as those many that have fallen in there. I bet you put a hurt on those beings, eh?”

    “Well, I did,” Valegrious said, but he was not boasting about it. “I remembered that I promised it to you, but I did not do it alone. Everyone helped out, and because we fought together, we were able to survive. We lost many good friends, though...”

    At that, Yukiko gulped and lowered her head. She felt so sad then. Valegrious took her by the shoulders in a comforting way.

    “They all fought bravely,” Valegrious wept and spoke sadly. “Because of them it is that we are here. Let us be grateful and honor their big sacrifice later today with a mighty prayer to the gods so that they may have mercy on their fallen souls. None deserved to have died in that dark, foul place.”

    Yukiko agreed with a nod.

    Moments later, Valegrious let her know that he was going to inform Jzak that they had made it out of the mist. She needed to know as well. Yukiko let him go and she went up to the deck, where cheering was still going on. She was wanting to lay eyes on her homeland, which she knew should be visible in the far distance in a few days, depending how the weather affected the ships' passing. Soon, she knew, for now she would celebrate with the rest of the crew.

    ***

    Jzak Hennessy received the good news with a wide smile. She even requested Valegrious to come near her so she could give him a hug. He did so, and she embraced him with her hands and patted his back.

    “I knew you were going to get us through,” she felicitated the sailor after the hug. “I never had a doubt.”

    “I never wanted to fail,” Valegrious replied. “I was spurred on by many things, my cap’n.”

    “Valegrious!”

    “I know, I know,” he smiled. “I’m the acting captain at the moment. But to me, you’ll always be my captain, though.”

    Jzak understood that and nodded at him.

    Moments later, Valegrious grabbed a chair and sat in between both beds, and he revised his ill sister with a long look upon her. Valegrious then reached for his sister’s forehead and touched it gently with the palm of his hand. It was burning hot.

    “She’ll make it,” Jzak believed, the felinum aiming to give him hope with her words. “We’ve left all trouble behind. Now it’s just smooth sailing, Valegrious, like Yukiko said.”

    “Unless we encounter a damn sea monster or something,” Valegrious returned his stare to the felinum. “But I hope we don’t. We’ve seen enough trouble already and have lost so many good lives. I couldn’t stand to lose a single one now.”

    Jzak then became aware how hurt he was because of the loss of life.

    “They all fell honorably, Valegrious,” Jzak spoke softly. “If we make it to Iviri, I am sure that wherever they are they will be so happy to know that we made it across after all, that we reached our goal.”

    “You think they are in a good place?” Valegrious wondered.

    Jzak did not reply for a while, but then she nodded slowly and spoke, “If those damn phantoms exist even after death, as well as other ghosts said to exist out there, then I am sure our friends have been given the right to enter a better world. I wouldn’t call it paradise, but I do believe that they are in a place where peace and comfort reign supreme.”

    “Funny,” Valegrious said and decided to smile before her. “I always thought something alike.”

    “I am pretty sure that our parents are in that place as well, Valegrious,” Jzak’s words were sure comforting to the sailor, who nodded. “So lift your spirits up and lessen your heart’s troubles. What matters at the moment is that we are still alive thanks to the sacrifice of our friends. Our goal is to get to Iviri, not only to make all our fallen friends proud, but also because it was our very goal since we departed from Port Goodweather.”

    Valegrious sighed and stood up.

    “I will get us there,” he promised. “It’s now just a matter of time, my friend.”

    Jzak nodded at him, the felinum feeling so mighty proud of him.

    “I miss you out there,” he said as he made his way to the door. “So do the rest. Once we come close to Iviri, I will surely bring you out so you can see it. That’s a promise, captain.”

    “I will be counting the hours,” said Jzak with a smile. With that said, Valegrious nodded at her and then exited the room.


    *****

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  22. #22
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    Well, my faithful readers. We've reached the final chapter of this tale. I'm glad where we are atm, and also very glad since I was able to work this chapter and add some info that might allow me to write a sequel. After this chapter there is still the Epilogue, which closes the story quite nicely. I will post that ASAP so we can be done with this tale.

    Chapter 20: Iviri

    ***December 28th, 1658***


    As Yukiko had said it days ago, smooth sailing surely followed for the next days that passed. Both crews were shorthanded after their nasty experience through the misty zone, but they were dealing with that rather well. Onboard the Hope Never Dies, their beautiful captain Alecia Xandria had survived unscathed, untouched by the phantoms. She had fought the phantoms off using her magical chain whip. So had survived Captain Blue and three of his loyal mates: Scars, Drakol, and the beautiful Attica, who had nearly been claimed by the phantoms, just as Minono almost had been, but she had been rescued by Drakol, who had slashed wildly at the foul phantoms with his sword and got brutally slashed in return. He had survived though. It was he and the rest of the pirates who had been the ones who had really put a hurt on the phantoms, what with their awesome fighting skills. They had lost the rest of their friends during the fighting, though, and the Hope Never Dies had lost fifteen of its 25 sailors, compared to the 12 that the Smelly Ignacia had lost. They had all been given to the sea the same day that they had come out from the mist in yet another ceremony.

    When Yukiko had mentioned to Valegrious that her homeland should be visible in the far distance soon, the captain had spent his time out on deck looking for it. He wanted to be the first to see it, so he even gave Locke many breaks and he kept watch from atop the crow's nest in the company of his girlfriend and the sea imp.

    On the third day after they had exited the cursed mist zone, Valegrious finally caught sight of big shadowy spot in the distance. After he had brought out his spyglass and had taken a look, his heart began to beat wildly. For to him, visible in the distance was the mighty realm of Iviri, their goal. It was still far, but it was a clear day and Valegrious could discern the landmass in the distance quite easily.

    “Land ahoy!” he shouted loudly as he stared down below at the deck, where the sailors working there turned upwards to gaze at him. Those that remained alive, who were at least half of the numbers that had originally ventured into the mist, rushed to the front to check it out. Soon, through the use of their own spyglasses, they saw what Valegrious was contemplating. Many cheered and shouted happily, some, like Rygar, Yosh, Lupinka, and Emilyann, even danced. Others hugged each other quite happily. Soon their feet would be touching land once again.

    The ruckus and the rumors of land having been sighted brought the winged healer up to deck. A great shiver coursed through Yukiko’s back when she saw her homeland in the far distance, and her heart quivered as well, but she was so happy then. She knew that in a few days she would be back home, back to the land she never should have left merely to chase adventures and dreams.

    She sought Valegrious on deck but did not find him, but she was informed that he was up in the crow's nest, so she flew up there right away. Once within the crow's nest, she thanked him mightily and with tears.

    "Soon you will be home, Yukiko," Valegrious told her with a proud smile.

    "Aye," she said. "But before that, you and everyone else that's alive will lay eyes on something extraordinary, a treat, actually."

    "Are you talking about that other task?" Valegrious looked at her curiously. "The one you said that you did not consider dangerous?"

    "Indeed, captain," Yukiko said. "It's...well soon you and everyone else will be marveled. Just remain wary of the sea and with your ears perked up."

    "With our ears perked up?" Valegrious asked.

    "Yes, for you will actually hear it before seeing it."

    Valegrious remained curious as to what it was that they would hear and see that would marvel them, and so did Minono and the imp.

    The next day around noon, he and everyone else onboard the Smelly Ignacia and the Hope Never Dies got a full view of what Yukiko had been talking about. Many were awed at what their eyes saw that day, most became a little scared, for even though it was a site to behold, it was also very unnerving. What they saw that day was a very large round cavity in the ocean, the water cascading down like waterfalls to an obscured pit. The falling ocean water caused a great uproar, like a normal waterfall does, and so the scene had been hard to miss because of it, really, for it was a strenuous noise. The two ships had heard the deafening, roaring noise hours earlier before coming close upon the site itself.

    "What the hell is it?" Valegrious asked, surely awed at the giant hole in the ocean that his eyes were staring at.

    "It's a big hole in the sea, honey," Minono beat Yukiko's reply. "What I want to know is, are we safe from it? It looks very disturbing, and the water seems to be flowing that way..."

    "Aye, I agree with you, Minono," Sammy sounded scared on Valegrious's shoulder. "I'm scared."

    "Me too," said Abigale with a worried look, and she began to back away. Valegrious and the others regarded her.

    "I think...I better go bake a cake for you, captain. The kitchen is calling me..."

    The red haired cook was fast to leave to the second level, drawing a chuckle from Valegrious and those others who saw her. Though she had said that in a kidding kind of way, Valegrious and the rest sailors also understood that the cook had been a little frightened at the sight and that is why she had taken her leave.

    "Ah, that Abbey," Valegrious said, returning his stare to the angelus. "But we are safe from it, aren't we, Yukiko?"

    "We're sailing by at a good distance from it," Yukiko replied to that quite coolly. "Don't let it scare you. Of course, if we were to sail straight for it, or close by it that it would pull us in, we'd fall right in, to our ruin." She looked over at Valegrious and added, "That, Valegrious, is what we Ivirians call The Great Fall. Our historians refer to it as Charybdis, for it was believed that in that ancient war that culminated with the sinking of Atlantis, an evil goddess named like that fell right there. Her power was so much that when she fell, she exploded and created that hole there. According to history, the gods sealed the hole and her soul there and decided to leave it like that as testimony to us mortals of what happened in the past."

    "Have...ships been claimed by it?" Emilyann, who had just approached with Lupinka in tow, asked from the side.

    Many that were gathered there regarded Yukiko for answers.

    "Yes, many who were curious of it," Yukiko explained. "Many who sought to see what the bottom down there looks like, or many who were daring and wanted to get a closer look..."

    "We're good on our route," Valegrious smiled at Yukiko and even chuckled lightly. "We are not going any closer to that humongous thing." He turned around and admired those that were gathered around, which was probably the entire crew that had been working on deck at that time. "Admire it all you want, lads and lasses," he told them. "From out here is all the looking you will be doing."

    “I’m fine with that,” laughed Pandora nervously.

    "Many stories tell of Charybdis being still alive in there," Yukiko added, and again, all eyes went to her. "And that she is the cause behind the many hurricanes and whirlpools that form out at sea, especially around this region and to the northwest of my homeland, where many of those deadly things are seen. I don't believe that's the case, but I don't discard it either. We live in a weird world where bad things happened afore we came to exist. Your proof of this lies in everything we've seen during our voyage. My final thoughts on the matter...something bad happened in this region many years ago, and remains of it still exist today to make us wonder."

    "Well spoken," Valegrious said in a quiet tone.

    As the ships sailed by, most of the sailors really admired the Great Fall, and most wondered whether what Yukiko had spoken about it was true. Had a goddess really been the cause for it to come to exist? Was her soul trapped there? Or was it just an anomaly of the sea? Oh, the mysteries of life. Even Valegrious spoke of this wonder to Jzak and his sister Magatha later that night. The ill girl never heard any of it, though, for she was unconscious, terribly pale, and barely breathing now and holding to dear life. Valegrious was troubled as ever just seeing how terrible she looked, but he touched her forehead tenderly and whispered, “We’re almost there, sis. Hold on!”

    A few days went by, and the ships finally left behind the Great Fall and its roaring noise. Everyone’s spirits were soaring high, like a seagull flying through the sky. All remaining sailors and warriors onboard the Smelly Ignacia and the Hope Never Dies were riddled with anxiety and joy. The land of Iviri was getting closer and closer with every day that passed. Now, through the use of the spyglasses, everyone who stared at the land through these devices could make out several craggy mountains on the land afar. Those that did not have a spyglass awaited their turn until someone let them borrow one.

    Valegrious now passed his time on the beak of the ship in the company of his girlfriend when there was nothing to do. Having almost lost Minono had brought Valegrious so close to her, and that awful experience had made Minono realize just how much she loved him. Because of him she was alive, and she would always be thankful and love him for that. If it wasn’t the ship’s beak, then the two could be seen high in the crow’s nest.

    The days kept passing by, and the realm of Iviri became ever closer. The crews were now able to make out ever green forests and even several ships and boats near the beach. Valegrious had brought Jzak out as promised, and she was helped up from her chair just so she could get a glimpse of the beautiful land. The group had yet to see movement when it came to living beings, but despite that, Valegrious’s emotions grew with every passing day. Their goal was at hand’s reach now. According to Yukiko’s calculations, only two more days and they would be there. With every passing minute the excitement grew and so did Valegrious’s hopes that his sister would live to tell the tale.

    The next day, life was finally detected at the beach of Iviri. It was Locke who made the discovery. Everyone with a spyglass came to the front of the ship and stared out.

    Indeed there was life there. Valegrious, with a great smile drawn on his face, saw a multitude of angelus and several humans that had gathered at the beach, apparently staring at them in return.

    “Ah, my kin,” Yukiko felt so happy to see them, she even started crying again.

    “You’re back home,” Valegrious smiled warmly at her, and Yukiko nodded and returned the smile tenfold.

    “Valegrious,” said the winged being. “I think I can make it there if I fly. I think it’s for the best if I go on ahead and get the remedy for your sister. She’s so ill and I fear she might leave us any given minute. Will you allow it, captain?”

    Valegrious read much anxiety in her and was troubled with her words that his heart even skipped a beat. He knew just how much Yukiko wanted to be back home with her loved ones, but he could tell that it was actually his sister’s well being that was making her wanting to go fetch the potion.

    “I wish I had a pair of wings,” Valegrious simply told her. “Of course you can go, Yukiko, but equip yourself well. We’ll follow in as soon as we are able to.”

    “Thank you,” she said, and she gave him a tender hug. “I will get the potion for your sister and return here immediately once I do.”

    ***

    And so it was that Yukiko, who had longed to return home, was able to fly there. She was young still and had very strong wings, and the weather was nice and did not impede her progress. She touched Iviri soil three hours later, and once she did, she fell on her knees and kissed the ground. She was back!

    After that, she recited a long prayer as those of her kin began to make their way to her. Yukiko, wanting time to do that, had purposely landed a bit away from the curious crowd.

    The angelus and the humans did not disrupt her from her praying, but Yukiko did hear several murmurs from folks that wondered who she was. They had known right away that she was one of them when she had been approaching, thus several archers had stayed their arrows and had lowered their bows and crossbows.

    When she was done thanking the gods for allowing her to return safe and sound, she regarded her kin, her watery eyes looking for some familiar faces in particular.

    And she found several, who also found hers. For a moment Yukiko just stared at the crowd and the crowd stared back, some of them in sheer disbelief.

    “Yu…Yukiko?” an old-looking angelus stuttered upon seeing her face. “I-Is that you, my child?”

    It was Yukiko’s mother who had asked that as she had stepped forth from the crowd. She was a black haired, stout-looking angelus dressed in a sort of rainbow colored robe and sandals, and around her neck she wore many pendants.

    “Ma!” Yukiko easily recognized her mother. She was quick to head her way, and her mother did the very same thing, both in tears. The truth of the matter was that Yukiko’s mother had thought her lost, dead. Before the crowd they embraced so tightly, and Yukiko wept in her mother’s arms and said that she was very sorry over and over. Relatives of Yukiko gathered closely, all surely in shock. Yukiko had not died, she was alive, they knew, and that made them feel so happy.

    “How, my child?” Yukiko’s mother asked. They separated from their hug and Yukiko, crying and feeling her mother’s tender touch upon her face, replied, “It’s a long story, mother, but one I will surely be sharing with you and everyone else soon enough. For now, I really must ask for one single thing.”

    “What?” asked her mother. “What thing, my beautiful Yukiko?”

    “A concoction.”

    Her mother, whose face was kind-looking and older than she was due to many days of lost sleep and mourning for her thought-dead daughter, wondered why she needed a concoction.

    “Are you ill, Yukiko? Did you somehow picked up a disease...”

    “Naw,” she shook her head right away and started clearing her tears away. “A good friend of mine is, though. She’s back in one of those two ships. All in all, her illness is what brought us out here...”

    Her mother, whose name was Mizzyfus, turned to regard the ships in the distance, which could just barely be made out in the distance without a spyglass.

    “They are all friendly,” Yukiko told all those around her when she noticed that they stared at the ships as well. Most of her kin regarded her, and she went on. “All those on the ships are my friends. If not for them, I would not be here with you this day.”

    “Humans they are?” asked Mizzyfus, not in a bad way, just curious.

    “Aye,” Yukiko confirmed. “But other creatures also come with us, all allies and seeking no trouble, I assure you.”

    “I see,” said her mother. “That’s a relief, for plenty of troubles we have at the moment with the Warikki...”

    “The Warikki?” Yukiko asked, sort of concerned. She knew who the Warikki were: a great adversary tribe of hers.

    Her mother sighed. “Aye, but let that not concern you, dear. We are dealing with it as we always have. Seraph and his cronies will never get the best of us. We are still here.”

    But now living so close to the beach, Yukiko duly noted, which assured her that her tribe had been made to retreat.

    “That damn dastard,” Yukiko tightened her fists as the image of Seraph, an angelus who had been banned by her own tribe many years ago for having killed another angelus, crossed her mind.

    “Bah, don’t worry about that foul fool,” Mizzyfus said. “To the matter at hand, my dear. If those that come aboard those ships are really your friends, they will surely be welcomed here. I, as village magistrate, have spoken.”

    Yukiko was surprised to hear that. In her absence, her mother had achieved a tremendous honor, it seemed. She had become tribe magistrate. Her word within the tribe was law. With the many amulets she carried around her neck, Yukiko had not been able to distinguish the one that made her magistrate.

    “Thank you, mother.”

    “Don’t mention it. Now tell me, what concoction is it that you need? Our resources have been cut off thanks to that fool and his cronies, but we might have what you need.”

    “My friend’s sister contracted the Beygin sickness,” Yukiko explained right away. “I need the remedy for that as soon as possible. Oh, please tell me you have it! The girl is in her last days, mother, so please tell me there are some potions available.”

    Mizzifus was saddened and shocked to hear that, but she quickly turned to regard her kin, and so did Yukiko.
    “I’m sure Rammik has some in his shop,” she said. “Right, Rammik?”

    Surely Yukiko remembered about Rammik. She had been younger back then, but to her the angelus healer still looked quite the same, just more matured. He was tall, brown haired, and now sported a goatee, which he often caressed. Rammik stepped forth nodding and smiling decently.

    “Yes I do, dear Yukiko. I will go get them for you this very moment.”

    “Oh that would be so nice and kind of you,” Yukiko said sweetly. “And I don’t want to sound demanding here, but if you have some vigor potions that could speed up wound recovery, I’d like to have a few as well. We have several injured folk onboard. Oh, we’ve been through so much during our dark voyage...”

    “I believe I have some,” said the male angelus. “Let me go get them for you.”

    Yukiko kindly thanked him and the angelus took off flying. Then Yukiko was able to greet all the others while she waited for him to return. Salutes and hugs followed for uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, and even those who did not know her at all, like the handful of humans who had found sanctuary there after Seraph and his cronies had taken over the rest of the big island. All who knew Yukiko were so happy to know that she was alive. Yukiko was so happy to be back with them all, was so happy to be back in her dear homeland, but happier still to have returned to her mother, whom she had left behind merely for following her young adventurous heart back in the day. Still, despite that huge happiness, her heart was already troubled due to how she had found her own tribe full of troubles.

    “We have so much to talk about,” said Mizzifus to her daughter after she had greeted the rest of the family. “But there is time, by the gods, there is time. You go on and do what you have to do, Yukiko. Go back to your friends and deliver these potions that they sorely need. Let nothing else trouble you, you hear?”

    “I will, Ma,” said Yukiko. A few moments later, Rammik returned with a leather satchel full of medicinal potions and other items.

    “There is everything in there that you need,” he said and handed over the satchel to the cute angelus.

    “Thank you, Rammik,” said Yukiko after she was given the satchel. “I will surely pay for all this later on, you have my word.”

    “Nay,” the tall angelus shook his head and flashed her a polite smile. “It’s on the house, Yukiko. I’m just so glad that you are alright after all these years. You have no idea how your mother and the rest of us have suffered thinking you were dead. Seeing you alive and well does my heart good and is enough payment.”

    “Many thanks, then,” Yukiko bowed at him and even gave him a quick hug. “I owe you one.”

    Rammik, who believed himself to be blushing, nodded and then lost himself amidst the gathered crowd.

    Yukiko then turned to regard her mother.

    “I will return with my friends,” she said. “So don’t expect me to return flying like I did.”

    “Go, my daughter,” urged Mizzifus. “Go deliver the potions to them.”

    Yukiko heeded her words, gave her mother a hug and a kiss on the forehead, and then moments later, after gulping down a stamina restoring potion, she took off flying.

    *****

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  23. #23
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    Epilogue: Goal Accomplished

    ***January 5th, 1659***


    Valegrious and company were so glad to see Yukiko once again a few hours later. The sailor did not miss the extra satchel that she carried strapped across the shoulder and neck. His hopes of seeing his sister healed for good grew immensely just by seeing that satchel, which Yukiko surely had not carried with her when she had left.

    The angelus landed on the main deck, and those that had been there began to surround her.

    “I’ve brought the concoction,” she smiled at Valegrious at the same time that she took of the satchel from around her neck.

    Everyone was all smiles at Yukiko, but the angelus could tell that Valegrious’s smile was full of pride and gratitude towards her. She brought out the potion and showed it to him and to the others.

    “Great!” Valegrious’s heart was sure beating faster, and he wasn’t the only one filled with excitement, everyone around him was.

    “Come with me,” Yukiko invited nicely. “Let’s get your sister healed this very moment.”

    How Valegrious had waited for this moment to arrive, the moment in which he would see his sister cured once and for all. He followed the angelus, Minono followed him, and several sailors followed after them.

    The captain’s quarters became filled with the presence of sailors and warriors who wanted to see Magatha healed. Valegrious and Yukiko were there right in the center of it all, as were Minono, Kaur, Emilyann, Tallinor, Rubee Treeclimber, Pandora, Rygar, Yosh, Shawthia, Abigale, and a few others who stood near and outside the door.

    Jzak Hennessy, though still recovering from her bad wounds, was attentive of it all as she remained in bed in a seated position. The moment they had all been waiting for, the cause that had led them all out here, had arrived.

    “I brought potions for you and those who might be suffering from slow recovery,” Yukiko told Jzak. “I will get to you all as soon as I give this potion to Magatha, who really needs it.”

    Of course, Jzak plainly understood, and so did the other wounded.

    “Magatha deserves to go first,” Jzak said. “It’s what we came out here for, after all.”

    “Aye,” everyone agreed, and in his place, Valegrious nodded.

    With that said, Yukiko approached Magatha, and Valegrious, who was close by at the side, was so eager to see her healed.

    Magatha was pale as ever. Her eyelids and the surrounding area were very dark, her lips purple-looking. It seemed to those that were laying eyes on her that she had aged quite a lot during the last few days, and how that saddened them. But they smiled joyously knowing that she was moments away from getting healed.

    “Magatha,” Yukiko spoke softly at her. “Magatha, wake up.”

    The blonde girl was very weak, her illness had weakened her over the passing of the days. She was not dead, but she was surely close to that. Still, after Yukiko kept calling her name out several times, she barely opened her eyes a bit. She knew nothing of what was going on around her, she just wanted to close her eyes and go back to knowing nothing, wanted to go back to that darkness where nothing existed, not even dreams.

    “Drink this,” Yukiko drew the opened vial near her dry-looking lips. “It will kill the infection.”

    Magatha heard her words, but very far away, and she could see the many figures within the room, but to her eyes they were blurry as hell.

    “Drink it, sister,” Magatha heard the placid voice of someone whom she thought she knew well. Then the image of her brother appeared in her thoughts.

    All of a sudden, a refreshing, invigorating smell reached her nostrils, and she inhaled it in. Yukiko collocated the tip of the vial near her lips, and she lifted the bottom end slowly, the contents of the vial seeping into the girl’s mouth slowly. Magatha, feeling the oozy, fresh-smelling liquid in her mouth, began to swallow it slowly. She kept on drinking, to the joy of all, who were expecting her to get up soon enough.

    Magatha weakly drank the whole potion, but nothing happened right away. Everyone waited, though, because the potion still had to take effect. And it did, many seconds later that seemed eternal not only to Valegrious but also the rest sailors. Yukiko knew what was coming, so she put the vial away and waited patiently for it to occur.

    “She’ll be alright,” she whispered, knowing that everyone wanted to see results. “Just wait a bit.”

    Indeed, within the ill girl, the potion began to strike at the deadly infection, immediately killing those microorganisms that had been consuming her lungs and veins.

    Magatha blurted out coughing wildly, like she had been doing it all that time that she had been sick. She coughed violently for several seconds and even sent wads of bloody spit flying out, but as her coughing went on, everyone noticed the change in the cough. It went from a coarse coughing to a much smoother one. Even her skin color took a drastic change, then. Her pale yellowish semblance left her, her normal skin color returned bit by bit, and the yellow veins in her eyes disappeared entirely. Feeling the change within her, the blonde girl opened her eyes entirely, and she looked about the room in total confusion.

    “Magatha!” Valegrious saw her reaction, and he had seen some of the changes as well. He rushed closer to the side of the bed. “Are you alright?”

    He was now kneeling at the side, his hands touching her own.
    She stared at those that her eyes could see, but then, guided by the voice of her brother, she turned to regard him immediately.

    “B-Brother,” she stammered. “What...happened?”

    Before Valegrious could give her an answer, though, Magatha remembered it all. She remembered her sickness and all about the trip. She remembered the huge sea monster, the fight with the pirates, and also the deadly storm they had been through. But...she felt a whole lot different. She lifted her hands up and stared at them, feeling as energized as never before. She noticed the yellowy skin color was gone. Then she touched her face, and she smiled broadly when she noticed that her brother and everyone else in the room were smiling widely at her.

    “I’m...Am I healed? Have I been healed? I feel so different now...so normal!”

    “Aye, you have been healed, dear sister,” Valegrious jumped on the side of the bed and sat down. “Yukiko brought the potion a few minutes ago, and you drank it. It’s a miracle, you’re cured.”

    Magatha blurted out laughing contently, the girl barely registering the miracle. It was no dream, she was alive and well.

    How she hugged her brother then, and how Valegrious hugged her back, so strongly like never before. He would not be losing her as he had been fearing every since he had come to know that her illness was bad. They both became filled with wild emotions and cried, uncaring of the others present in the room.

    Sitting on her bed, Jzak then understood the tremendous love they both had for each other, and she smiled happily and felt like tears were starting to betray her.

    “Thank you, brother,” Magatha thanked him so many times as she remained hugging him. “You kept your word. You healed me.”

    Valegrious remained silent, just hugging her dearly. He did not deserve the credit, for he knew well that Magatha had been healed thanks to the help and the sacrifice of so many.

    “Thank me not,” he finally spoke. “I did nothing but organize the trip. Give thanks to the many souls who made this possible, especially those whom we lost.”

    Valegrious let go of her, and only so she could thank everyone within the room. He knew Magatha well and knew that she would be doing just that.

    “Oh, I do give thanks,” Magatha said kindly as she regarded the faces in the room. “You all have my eternal gratitude.”

    “I,” said Yukiko. “And I think I speak for the rest as well...we are all just happy to see you are fine now, Magatha.”

    Those many others in the room agreed to that with nods and ayes.

    “Can you stand up?” Valegrious asked her as he stood up from the edge of the bed.

    “I think so,” Magatha was very excited to try that out. She was strong as she had been before falling ill, so when she stood up from the bed, she was herself, her legs never faltered.

    “Welcome back to the real world, sweetie!” Minono said from her place. Magatha regarded her and went to her. They hugged so tightly. When they separated, Minono went on to say, “You had us all so worried there for a second.”

    “I thank you all kindly once again,” Magatha bowed. “Really, I don’t know what else to say to you all.”

    “Thanks is enough,” Yukiko said, coming her way.

    Magatha laid eyes on the winged being, and she also launched at her in a tremendous hug, for she knew that the angelus was the one who had brought the potion and the main person who had played a role in seeing her healed.

    “Thank you so much, Yukiko,” Magatha thanked her. “I owe you so much.”

    “It was my pleasure,” Yukiko never had seen such grace and kindness before. “I’m glad you are safe now, Magatha. Minono is right, you really worried us badly these last few days.”

    “I’m sorry,” Magatha apologized. “I didn’t mean to.”

    Several sailors chortled lowly, like Rygar and the Emilyann.

    That only made Magatha feel a little embarrassed before them all.

    A few moments later, Valegrious walked up to her, kissed her on the forehead, and told her that it would do her good if she went to the main deck so that she could breathe the fresh air and lay eyes on the land of Iviri. And Magatha did, alongside Minono, whom Valegrious sent with her. Sammy tagged along as well, jumping from a person’s shoulder to another until she reached Magatha. Sailors and warriors moved out of the way to give them room to leave, and most of them headed out from the room after them, all feeling so glad that the girl had been healed. They all had come out here just to see her get healed, and so knowing that they had realized that goal, they all felt so accomplished and happy.

    But none more than Valegrious of the sea.

    He remained in the captain’s room, for it was Jzak’s turn to be given a remedy, and he really wanted to see if she was able to be back on her feet. He, Yukiko, Emilyann and Tallinor were the ones that stayed there.

    “I am so glad your sister is well now,” Jzak Hennessy smiled at Valegrious. “From what I saw, she’d make a decent rope liner.”

    “Or perhaps a good cook,” Valegrious admitted. “She cooks quite decent meals, I’ll have you know.”

    “Hm,” said the felinum as Yukiko handed her a potion from the other side of the bed. “I have to see that for myself.”

    “Oh, I am telling you,” said Valegrious. “Abigale would have tremendous competition.”

    “Down it all,” Yukiko told Jzak. “That is, if you want to be up and about in a few hours, my good friend.”

    “The hell I do,” Jzak said and then drank the potion to the last drop. “Ah,” she savored it. “Good stuff, Yukiko. My ol’ bones thank you kindly, girl.”

    Yukiko laughed feebly at that and nodded. “It was all my kin’s work, so thank them. I’ve yet to learn how to brew these kinds of potions.”

    “I see,” said Jzak. “Then I shall thank them once we get to land.”

    “Aye, so will I,” said Valegrious.

    “Well,” Yukiko said. “I’ve yet to help several sailors heal from their own maladies. And I might as well go have a look at the other crew. I leave you all for a bit, but I will be back.”

    “Thank you, Yukiko,” Jzak thanked again, and the angelus nodded kindly at her. Valegrious moved toward the door, and there he intercepted the winged beauty before she could file out.

    “You have my most sincere thanks, Yukiko,” he told her. And without asking for permission, he gave the angelus a tender hug and pat her back. “You really did it, you know? You helped see my sister get back on her feet. You have my humble thanks. If there is ever some way I could repay you what you have done, just let me know.”

    “You brought me home, that’s more than enough, Valegrious,” Yukiko seemed happy. “And I should thank you as well for many reasons, beginning with this one: You brought me back here and I was able to find my mother alive and well after being absent for ten years. Her, and all my relatives. So no, thank you.”

    He just nodded smiling and let her go to tend to her duties.

    The sailor remained with his captain, who already was feeling better from her wounds. The pain was lessening, and some of the nasty scars were actually becoming smaller to the point of not existing.

    “Well, Valegrious,” Jzak said a few moments later. “You did it. You accomplished your goal.”

    “No, we did it,” he corrected. “We all played roles in this.” He sighed, then, and sat down on the chair, feeling quite tired and stressed. The excitement of having survived the mist and the phantom attack had made him forget about how tired he really was after having been awake for three straight days. He smiled suavely, though, because everything was fine now. They had traversed through the unsailed sea and had survived it, in small numbers but had survived it nonetheless. And his sister had even been healed even before he and everyone else that was alive had made it to land. That had been a great feat.

    “Do you think she’d be interested in the sea life?”

    He had been distracted thinking about how the entire voyage had gone, but Valegrious regarded Jzak and asked, “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

    “Magatha,” said the felinum. “Do you think she’d be interested in the sea life?”

    “I...I’m not sure,” Valegrious was frank. “Magatha loves the land, loves living at the monastery and helping Ma take care of our brothers and sisters. But I really don’t know what she would say to that. Why don’t you ask her that yourself and see what reply you get.”

    Jzak smiled. “Once I am able to walk I will surely have a chat with her.”

    Valegrious nodded quite content.

    He remained there with the captain, but after he had talked with her for a while, Jzak began to feel like her own self and was soon back on her feet.

    Valegrious knew she was back, knew that the potion had sped up the healing process of her wounds. He was quite happy to see her standing once again after having fallen those days ago after her battle with the siren. He hugged her and let her know how happy he was to see her up again. She thanked him for the care he had shown her while she had been down.

    Later, the two came out to deck, and Valegrious led her all the way to the beak of the ship so that she could have a great view of the continent of Iviri. The felinum, who had been absent from the deck for many days, took in the fresh air and felt so alive.

    “Oh yeah,” Valegrious smiled nervously when he remembered something. “You don’t want to go to the poop deck, cap’n.”

    “Why is that?” Jzak looked curiously at him. “And dammit, Valegrious. You’re our captain!”

    “I know, I know,” the lad chortled. “Anyway, we had to deal with a fire back when we were in the mist.”

    “Hm, I thought back then that I smelled something funny. It was smoke all along, as I thought.”

    “Yes. It will take the crew a while to get that fixed, plus, we don’t have the materials onboard, else you know I would have taken care of that already.”

    She nodded at him. “Don’t worry about it.”

    “I’m sure, though, that once we make it to Iviri we’ll have plenty of time to fix that.”

    “Aye,” said Jzak.

    Those on deck were not so surprised to see the felinum out there with the captain, but some were. Word ran around the ship that she was up due to a potion that had healed her. Rubee Treeclimber, Rygar, Locke, Abigale, and Ambrossia, were sure happy to see her out there. They came her way and let her know how much they had missed her.

    “Well I’m back,” she hid a smile from them. “Get to work now, you loafers.”

    “Aye, captain!” the sailors shouted in unison and left to tend to their duties.

    ***

    The two ships finally made it close to the shoreline when night was falling. Due to shallow water up ahead, the ships’ crews threw anchor down and lifeboats were put on the water. On them, the entire two crews were able to head towards land.

    Valegrious did not wait for the boats to reach the beach. He suddenly surprised everyone when he dived into the water. The water felt a bit cold, but Valegrious cared not for that feeling. He was so happy to have reached Iviri after what had been a terrible, long, and nerve-racking voyage.

    Seeing Valegrious swimming towards the beach, others soon dived in, following in his actions. The second one to dive in was Jzak Hennessy, who said before diving, “Hell, I am swimming there too.”

    Tallinor followed in, then Emilyann, and then the sea imp, who jumped into the water from Magatha’s shoulder, where she now had been seating. Even Yukiko dove into the water, uncaring about her wings in the least, she knew they would dry up.

    “The hell are they all doing—Rawuurr?” screeched Yosh.

    “They’re glad to have made it,” Ambrossia told the lycan with a smile. “Maybe we should all do the same...”

    “A good suggestion—Rawuurr...but water is my enemy, girl,” said Yosh.

    “Oh come on, it’s not going to kill you,” Ambrossia shoved the lycan into the water. She laughed seeing how he splashed into the water, but then she was pushed in by Rygar, who told her, “Hey, no picking on my fellow lycans.”

    Minono, seeing that everyone was diving, or getting shoved into the water, also dove into the water, but not before inviting those on the boat to do the same. They did, all feeling happy to have made it. Magatha dived in after she had been left all alone on the boat. Like Valegrious and all others who had shivered with the cold water, so too had Magatha, but she swam on regardless, feeling so joyous within.

    Valegrious beat everyone to the beach as he swam towards it. Not even Kaur, who was a very fast swimmer, had caught up to him. Maybe she could have, but she agreed to herself that it was best to let him set foot on the land of Iviri before them all. It was the right thing to do, she knew, and so she swam on keeping ahead of the others.

    Valegrious left his swimming position and stood up when his boots touched wet sand underneath him, and he walked out while the water drained down from his clothes and body. He saw many angelus were waiting for him and the others, and though they were some twenty feet away, a great fire behind them, he rose his right hand in salute to them all.

    Most angelus saluted him the very same way and started heading his way.

    When all those Ivirians got to him, other sailors were already standing behind and to the sides of Valegrious. One of them was Minono, who grabbed his arm and remained standing next to him.

    “Welcome everyone,” Mizzifus welcomed them all with a grand smile. “You all are friends of my Yukiko, so feel right at home.”

    “Thank you kindly,” Valegrious was the one who spoke and bowed respectfully, knowing he was the one in charge to do that. “We hope not to be too much trouble.”

    “I am sure you won’t be,” the kind angelus replied. “Would you be the one responsible for having brought me back my Yukiko?”

    Valegrious looked over at Yukiko, who had just managed to stand to his left side, and she nodded slightly at him.

    “Yes,” he replied. “But I did not do it alone. Yukiko and the rest of us are here thanks to the help and sacrifice of so many others who fell along the way. The idea of coming here was mine, merely to see my sister healed from a terrible illness. That goal has been accomplished thanks to Yukiko and all you good folk, who furnished the potion. In the name of all my friends, both those who stand here with me this night and those that fell out there, I thank you humbly.”

    “And you have my humble thanks too, good man,” said Mizzifus. “And of all our village as well. May I?” she extended her arms out, hug-like manner.

    “I don’t see why not,” smiled Valegrious, who easily knew why the angelus wanted to hug him.

    Mizzifus hugged him and thanked him for having brought her daughter back to her.

    After they let go of each other, the village leader invited everyone to the village.

    “Come,” she said. “I am sure you are all exhausted after the long trip. We’ve got food and shelter ready for you. You’re all going to love it here.”

    Valegrious nodded at his girlfriend and at everyone else to do so, to go on and attend the humble invitation.

    “Valegrious, come,” Minono invited.

    “You go on ahead, Minos,” he spoke sweetly to her. “I will catch up soon enough. I need a few minutes alone, if you don’t mind.”

    She understood and smiled at him.

    “Please don’t be long,” she begged him.

    “I’ll be with you before you know it. I promise, honey.”

    Satisfied with his words, Minono gave him a kiss on the right cheek and then followed the group.

    Valegrious remained behind, then. Jzak saw him, but though she had wanted to go speak to him and ask him what the matter was, she knew that he only wanted to be alone for a while, so she went along with the others knowing that he was alright. Even his sister Magatha asked him to accompany her forth, but Valegrious told her to go ahead, that he would soon catch up to them.

    “I have something I need to do,” he told her. “Alone.”

    “Alright,” Magatha understood. She left his side and followed the others.

    And Valegrious walked back close to the water and remained staring afar where the ships had moored. The salty water from the waves wet his boots, but he did not care. He sighed heavily and thoughts began to fill his mind. He and part of the great crew that had left Port Goodweather more than a month ago had made it. They had successfully crossed the unsailed sea. Valegrious still felt so bad for the heavy losses of life they had suffered out at sea, and he knew he would be bothered with that thought for a long time to come. Tonight though, as he stared up at the sky in tears that he began to shed then, he decided to believe that those that had fallen were actually staring down at him. He chose to believe that they were happy and proud that they had made it after all the troubles and had accomplished their goals.

    He thanked them in silence, as he thanked his gods as well for having allowed him to see his sister healed. Then, when he reopened his eyes and stared at the ships, a gentle breeze came out of nowhere and licked him completely, tossing him a step back. Then it was gone just like that.

    The lad then remembered about the deal he had struck with the pirates. Valegrious knew that he would be keeping his word to them. Few had been those that had survived, but regardless, Valegrious was glad that they had survived. He would be true to his word, he would be letting them go free in the coming days.

    Feeling as good as he had never felt before, Valegrious turned around, more than willing to be reunited with the others. As he went walking towards the village, he was already thinking about the return trip back home, where his family and friends awaited their return eagerly. He knew they would be taking the long route back, so it would be many months before he and everyone else were able to see their loved ones again.

    “Soon, you all,” the sailor promised himself, and then he smiled when a thought crossed his mind as he came closer to the village. At least Yukiko was back with her loved ones. Valegrious really felt so much happiness knowing that. One day, he knew that he, Minono, Magatha, and everyone else, would be able to be with their loved ones again. He, Valegrious of the Sea, would take them back, or he would die trying.


    ***The End***
    Last edited by Mega Gobli; 7th September 2014 at 6:17 PM.

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