many times must I live this tragedy?
How many more lies will they tell me?
All I want is the same as everyone,
"The Eyes of a Stranger"
Belfry retreated to a protected alcove in front of the command cabin when the rains came. He knew that his gift was useless in the rain, so he decided to sit it out. He could sense that the storm was huge before, and based on the lack of any sounds from the ocean he knew that the whales were away, or not surfacing at the very least. He was a little concerned, but there were other storms before. And besides, this gave him the night off, and that couldn't be so bad.
Abacus knocked on Rev's door and went inside before there was an answer. "I need your help." he said. "I'm worried about Robert."
Rev looked up from his book. He had just helped seal the hatches over the stained glass window with a few others, and was content to offer prayer to help with the storm. "Is he all right?"
"No." Abacus said. "He's convinced that Silver is going to die tonight, and I can't convince him otherwise." Rev looked at the raccoon with a quizzical eye. "I know, the one person on the ship that could sell beer to the French or coal to the Welsh can't talk his mate out of his delusions."
"Are they delusions?" Rev asked. Abacus nodded his head. "To him, they're not. Tell me about them?" Abacus them related the story from the last three nights, always the same. Rev put a finger on his muzzle, nodding. Finally, he reached for his hat. "I'll go talk to him."
"Thank you Rev." Abacus said. "I appreciate it."
"Would you like to come with me?" Rev asked.
"I think I scared him off." Abacus said. "I said a few things I know I shouldn't have, and I'm just afraid that if he sees me, he'll avoid me or worse.
Rev nodded. "I'll go find him."
Yars looked out from the command cabin as the rains started. He had asked Silver and Sharpeye to stay on duty for the night, as their expertise may be needed if they get thrown off their current course. "Kyle?" he asked of his first mate. "Tell Belfry if he wants to come in out of the rain, he can."
"Yes Cat'tan" Kyle said, scampering outside into the downpour. Yars wondered if that was intentional or just how he always said it, but shook his head. It was going to be a rough night.
The winds picked up, then it began to rain. In the ship the crew had prepared as best they could. in the Howler's quarters several of the dogs were huddled together. A few were still scared of the storms, the wind and thunder hurt their ears. Others put on a brave face, and were braced for it. The Jackrats were ready too, but they were celebrating the fact that night's "Howl" was canceled. They could hear the water beating the side of the ship a little rougher.
Vermin looked up to Eric, and thought of what he could do to him. His ass was still tight, Vermin considered, and his nose was still a bit sensitive from the day's fight. That could be worth a little more pain in a good solid fucking. But an idea came to him to get even with the Howlers, Yars, and in fact most of the rest of this forsaken ship. He stood up, and announced "I need four volunteers."
Rev walked towards the unmarked door that lead to Maria, and saw Robert there. He stood at the door, his eyes closed, hand near the door handle. Rev walked up to him directly. "I thought I'd find you here."
"Why did she do this to me?" Robert asked. "I don't mean the change, I like being a cat. I mean the curse she gave me. Why can I see the future?"
Rev shook his head slowly. "I don't know." he said. "We could ask her."
"I can't." Robert said. "I can get this far, I don't want to go in there." Rev turned his head, and looked at the cat. "She did this to me, I don't want her to do anything else to me."
Rev put his hand on the cat's shoulder. "Before you came on board, did it ever happen before?" Robert nodded. "There are several famous people who had the same gift. I even know of a few who were cursed that nobody would believe them about the future." Rev placed his finger under Robert's muzzle. "When is this vision supposed to happen?"
"I don't know." Robert said, fighting back tears. "A few hours at most."
"Then we have a few hours to save Silver's life, don’t we?" Rev asked. Robert looked confused. "You know, if I asked you to remind me tomorrow to write a sermon for the weekend, I know you'd do it because it's something I asked you to do for me, as a favor. If Maria asked you to save Silver's life in a few hours by showing you what would happen, wouldn’t you do it? As a favor for her?"
Robert looked confused, then the idea sunk in. "I can change it?"
"You can change it." Rev said. "Come on, let's go find Silver."
Robert nodded. "I want to find Abacus too. I want to apologize to him."
"I'll find Abacus then, and then we'll both come to find you." Rev said, and the both of them went up the stairs to find their respective people.
The rain was pouring down harder, and lighting began to strike over the ship. Yars looked out of the open window with a hardened gaze, he could see that it was going to get thicker. "Hold steady." he mumbled to himself. "Hold steady."
Suddenly, a sound caught his attention. The sound of canvas slapping down the main mast. By the time he had gotten to the other side, the main mast was unfurled, and not tied down. The wind howled against it, pushing the ship at an awkward angle. He tried to see who had done this, but couldn't see through the driving rain and the sail. "DAMMIT!" he screamed.
Before anyone could turn to see, Ironbar opened the door and slammed it shut, his fur dripping with water. "The main sail is down!" he yelled. The ropes must have given way in the winds."
"That's impossible!" Yars demanded. "I watched your men tie them!"
"The ropes gave out, Yars." Ironbar said. "Not much I can do about that."
"We need to get that sail back up there." Yars said. "Get the jackrats, they're on duty now."
"I think that's why the ropes gave." Ironbar said. Yars stewed over that possibility, it would be typical of Vermin to pull a stunt like this. "I can go ask the others for help, but most of them aren't high ropes men."
"I am." Silver said quietly. The others looked at him. "On the Jezzibelle, I was a high rope walker."
Sharpeye leaned into Silver and asked "I thought you said you were…"
"I was." Silver cut him off. "But even then I needed to earn my keep in the daytime. I ran the ropes. I'll go do it." Silver took off his vest and started to fold it up.
"We can't ask you to do that." Sharpeye said. "It's suicide to go up there in a rainstorm like this!"
"Suicide or not, someone has to do it. I just need…." Silver stopped dead in his tracks, the rain and wind howling all around them. His eyes sparkled in realization. "Sharpeye, you're brilliant!" He kissed Sharpeye on the muzzle deeply, and held Sharpeye's head in his paws.
"Brilliant?" Sharpeye asked, confused.
Silver looked directly into his eyes. "Sharpeye, if I don't make it through this, I want you to know something. I love you. In my heart and in my soul, I love you." his eyes spoke volumes, and he never broke contact. "And if I make it, I want to be your mate if you'd have me be that for you." He then kissed Sharpeye deeply and passionately as lightning flashed over the ship. They broke off the kiss, looking deep into each other's eyes. "But I have to do something first." Silver turned to the great dane. "Ironbar, get your men, we're gonna need someone to pull the sail up. I'll get the help." And he dropped his vest on a chair and ran out of the command cabin with purpose.
"Silver! WAIT!" Sharpeye yelled in vain The others in the cabin looked at him. "I had no idea…" He watched the gray fox sprint through the rain and across the main deck.
Vermin and his rats were celebrating their small victory. The sail would be ripped to shreds by morning by the wind, and the dogs would have to put it back together because they tied the sail wrong. As they were starting the celebration, the door was kicked open. Silver walked with no fear down the short staircase into the rat's lair.
"Well, what have we here?" Vermin asked. "You've got balls coming down here fox boy."
"I need your help." Silver said, dripping wet.
"YOU?" Vermin choked on his rum. "YOU come down here and want US to help YOU?"
"The main sail fell." Silver said.
The jackrats cumulatively said a condescending "awwwww". Eric raised his head up. "Poor puppies are gonna need to put it back together!"
"I need help getting the sail back up." Silver said, unwavering.
"Let the sail get ripped." Vermin sneered to the appreciative grunts of his men. "It's not our problem."
Silver took in a deep breath. "All right. That's fine." He took a step back on the staircase, then turned around. "But I'm going back up there. And I'm going to get that sail up one way or the other. I've already been told it's suicide to do that, but I'm doing it. Isn't that what you all want to do? Die a glorious death? Or do you want to sit down here and be a bunch of miserable bastards because you can't get respect from anyone?"
The silence was broken only by waves against the hull. "Ever thought of the fact that nobody respects cowards? Or that nobody respects a bunch of asses who won't lift a finger unless they get a reach around for the effort? You want to earn my respect? EARN IT." Silver spat on the ground. "I'll be on the deck, doing something that will be for the better good of the ship and all the crew. Even you bastards. You don't deserve it. If you want to show me otherwise, then prove me wrong." And Silver walked up the stairs and slammed the jackrats' door behind him.
The jackrats sat in silence for a moment, then one got up. "And where are YOU going?" Vermin demanded.
"He has a good point." Chris said.
"I didn't say you could go!" Vermin said. "I make the rules around here!"
Chris looked at the door, then to Vermin. He pressed his lips together, and stood taller than he had in a long time. "With all due respect, Sir, suck my dick." And Chris walked up the staircase.
Vermin watched in shock as Chris opened the door to leave "You leave this room you're never coming back! YOU HEAR ME?" Vermin demanded. "YOU have no home outside of here! You're NOTHING!" Chris let the door close behind him. Other jackrats looked around with uncertainty at each other, silently. "Well, go on, have your pity party. I hope you get what you deserve!" Vermin said in disgust.
Silver was walking back up to the main deck when a tabby cat stepped in his path. "Don't."
"Don't go." Robert said "Don't do it."
"Do.. you mean the rigging?" Robert nodded. "Why not?"
"I saw you die, in my visions. Don't go." Robert was on the verge of tears.
"I have to." Silver said. "Someone has to do it."
"You're going to die if you do!" Robert said, pleading.
Silver stopped for a moment. "What did you see?"
"You're alone on the rigging." Robert said. "Lightning flashes, you fall to the ground, dead."
Silver took in the thought, and was about to say something when a jackrat ran up behind him "He's not alone."
Silver looked at him. "What, Vermin changed his mind?"
"No. I did." Chris said. "I get to control my life, not him. Come on, we gotta go tie up the rigging."
Silver shrugged, and looked at Robert. "I'll be careful. I promise, but it needs to be done."
Robert closed his eyes, then looked at Silver like he was wounded. "You promised." Silver hugged the cat, and with a nod went up to the main deck.
Outside, the wind was screaming past harder than it had been. Silver looked at Chris. "This will NOT be easy!" he yelled over the weather.
"I know!" Chris said "Isn't it great!" Silver nodded. "We need someone to pull the rigging up!" Silver pointed behind Chris, and Chris could see a group of dogs coming up from the stairwell. Chris laughed to the sky, letting the rain pour down his body. "You're a piece of work! Let's get up there!" he shouted.
The dogs picked up the ropes as Silver and Chris climbed up the netting, up to the top. After a few minutes, a dozen or so more jackrats came out of the holds and began to climb the netting without saying anything. At the top, they spread out and began to pull he sail back up.
In the command area, Yars looked out with Sharpeye. "I'll be." Yars said. "He got them to come out."
"Not everyone." Sharpeye noted. "But the right ones."
Yars nodded, looking at Ironbar's men as they pulled the wet ropes as hard as thy could. Most of them used their claws, their backs, and more than a little pride to pull the slick ropes with all they had. The rats on the top rigging did the same, along with Silver, until the sail was mostly up.
Every crack of lighthing, every roar of thunder, Robert cringed in the doorway, looking up at Silver. "no…. no….no….no…" he kept on repeating. Soon he felt a pair of arms around him, and looked back to see Abacus there.
"I'm sorry." Abacus said quietly, holding the cat to him. Robert squeezed Abacus's paw, and kept on looking up at Silver.
Vermin eventually came up from below with Eric. He was disgusted at his jackrats that went up topside like scared children, and he hoped that by going up himself he could make them come back down. He didn't plan this revenge to have these morons muck it up by putting things back to normal. Vermin motioned to Eric, and they both walked into the hard rain and near the main mast. Vermin looked up, hoping to make eye contact with one of his jackrats to force them back down.
The rats were too busy keeping their footing to notice, and after ten minutes of extreme hard work, they got the sail back up, and began the process of tying it off. Chris was next to Silver, and watched him make his ties. "Why are you doing it that way?" He yelled over the wind.
"It's what my dad taught me!" Silver said. "I learned the ropes when I was five!"
Chris nodded. "Unorthodox, but it looks good! I'm going to send my boys down then! Get them off of here!"
"Good thought!" Silver yelled. "I'll finish the last few tie downs and be off here in a minute! Call off the dogs too!" Chirs nodded again, and whistled once. The rats began the slow climb down.
Robert looked up in horror. Silver was alone on the mast. "Not now!" he mouthed. "No! Get down! Get down!"
The jackrats got to the deck, and Chris ran over to Ironbar "We're clear! Silver's finishing off the last one up there! You can release!" Ironbar gave a signal to his men, and they released the rope, and started to tie them off.
Silver wiped his eyes through the streaming rain that ran down his fur. He held a rope in his teeth while tying off another one, working as fast as he could. Down below, Eric and Vermin were standing by the main mast, waiting for Silver to come down. They had ordered the jackrats back to the doorway that led down to their den, and decided to wait on the fox. Vermin figured that he'd get his revenge nice and fast this time, and do it personally. Eric was looking up at the fox, and something clicked. Nobody tied knots like that, except one other that he knew from the Jezzibelle.
Silver finished the last tie, and steadied himself on the jackstay. He then felt the fur on the back of his neck standing up. And in the back of his mind, he remembered what the tabby said to him. He didn’t bother looking up, he just reacted. He pulled himself up from the long rope under the pole that the sail was tied to. "don't look down don't look down don't look down don't look down…" he said to himself as he sprinted to starboard on all fours. His balance was uneasy as he dug his claws into the canvas material to hold himself on it.
"What is he doing?" Vermin asked.
"Hey, I know him!" Eric said. "That’s"
Lightning struck the main mast just as Silver pushed off the pole. His silhouette frozen in the intense light as the massive explosion of energy smashed into the mast. All hands on deck took cover as the thunder pounded the air around them. Silver pushed his hands in front of him and straightened out his legs in air, expecting to hit that invisible wall. The Mast suddenly exploded from the inside near the deck, sending wood shards and liquid flying in all directions. Eric took the brunt of it, as he and Vermin were sent flying by the explosion.
Silver's body moved on instinct. He threw his arms in front of him, and balled his paws into fists as he crashed into the water. The sudden silence contrasting the chaos just over him. For a moment, Silver lost his sense of direction, floating silently in the water, but soon he kicked his way to the surface. With a loud gasp for air, he looked around him. He could see the Maria, her main mast crashing to the port side into the water like a grand tree. As it fell, the main mast pulled free the netting and several of the ropes and pulleys with it. "Oh my God." Silver whispered, treading water in the rough seas.
Robert watched, never wavering his attention. "He's alive!" he whispered. He then looked at the two rats who were thrown clear across the deck. "Oh no!" Robert ran out of the alcove he was in, leaving Abacus behind. The raccoon looked at where the cat was going, and realized what was happening. Vermin was injured. Badly. He ran after Robert, braving the rain and wind.
Mutt sprinted to the port side to grab the mast, trying to save all he could. Chris was close behind him. Then, without a word, the other rats and the dogs were working side by side, working from instinct more than rational thought. They both tried to save as much as they could before the sea claimed it. Ironbar saw a paw reaching for the rail, and ran back to the starboard side.
As he reached the railing, a soaking wet paw was slipping, losing it's grip. Ironbar grabbed Silver by the wrist, and hoisted him out of the water. "Are you all right?" Silver nodded. "We're trying to save the sail!" he yelled.
"I'll get on it sir!" Silver yelled over the winds. He ran to the port side with Ironbar. "Who can swim?" he shouted. A few dogs raised a paw. "IN THE DRINK!" They all stopped what they were doing. Silver growled to himself, and dove overboard. The others looked at him with disbelief as he started to swim to the sail. Mutt took the initiative, and dove in after him. And soon, more than a few dogs were in the water, untying the knots the rats just secured.
Ironbar looked at the dogs in the water in disbelief but pulled himself together. "Don't just stand there boys! GET THAT SAIL!" The crew snapped out of their delirium to get the material from the swimming dogs. As they pulled it on board they could see the black scorch down the middle of the sail where the mast had been. "Lay it down and throw them a rope!"
Silver was trying desperately to hold the mast over water, and losing the battle with the waves. Mutt waived to Ironbar, who threw a coil with all his might. Mutt caught the rope in his teeth, and took the mast from Silver. He tied a knot around it, and the crew pulled with all they had. Soon the cadence "One TWO HO! Three FOUR HO!" had the crew working in unison. In minutes, the mast was next to the ship.
"Go back!" Silver told Mutt. "I'll make sure it's secured!"
"Forget it!" Mutt yelled. "You already fell off this boat! You go back on deck! I got this one!" Silver nodded, and started to climb the netting still attached to the rail.
Robert knelt next to Eric. He had wood shards and holes through his body, and he was covered in a black, oily substance. His breathing was labored, and he was bleeding from what seemed like everywhere. Robert looked over the rat with a concerned eye, and tried to move his arm.
"AAHHH!" Eric yelled. "It's broke!" Eric said with a gurgle in his voice. Robert tried to hold his arm down, and readjust Eric to a more comfortable position. "Don't bother, I'm done." Eric said.
"NO!" Robert cried out. "You can't die! You can't die on this ship!"
"I'm done." Eric said, forcing ut his words. "But there's one thing I gotta do."
"Name it." Robert said.
Eric, pointed to the nose ring. "get this… off… me." Robert nodded, and found the clasp. He unbuckled it, and gently pulled it off. Eric looked relieved. "Now…" Eric smiled weakly. "Shove it… up Vermin's ass for me." Eric let out a weak grin, then collapsed, his chest making gurgling noises. His blackened eyes wide open, Eric's blood washed across the deck slowly as Robert watched helplessly.
Abacus walked up behind Robert, and looked down in shock. One of the jackrats was not moving, and Vermin was in a bloody heap himself. Vermin was trying to move, but screamed in agony as he tried. Abacus knelt down next to the rat. "Don't move." Vermin was about to spit something out, but as he turned his head pain shot through his whole body. "I told you not to move!" Abacus said with a measure of pleasure. "I'll get you some help."
"Why?" Vermin panted out, blood trickling from his muzzle.
"So you'll owe me one someday." Abacus said with a sadistic grin. "And for that pleasure I'll fix you up myself." He got up and walked to Robert, who was crying over the other one.
"He's dead." Robert said, feeling numb. "The vision didn't come true. It wasn't Silver."
Abacus knelt with his mate. "No, it wasn't. You did all you could." Abacus hugged the cat gently. "We will mourn later. Right now, Vermin needs help."
Robert turned with a look of horror. "Vermin?"
The crew on deck managed to tie the main mast to the side of the boat with the ropes they had on hand. All the dogs came back on board, and looked around them in some shock. The only sound being that of the rain on the deck, the wind through the remaining masts, and the waves still pounding the side of the boat. The rats looked at the dogs with the same amazement as the dogs looked at the rats. Chris broke the tension with a laugh, and he was joined by Mutt, and the two embraced each other. And the other rats shook hands with the dogs, hugged them, and offered peace with them.
Silver looked around, and saw Robert with Abacus on the other side of the deck. He walked over to them, and saw Vermin bleeding and motionless on the deck. Robert was tearing his shirt and grabbing some of the larger shards of wood to splint Vermin's arm. Silver turned back to the others and whistled once. Ironbar twitched his ear, and looked over. Silver waived him over as Robert tried to stabilize the rat.
Ironbar looked over Vermin's bloody and broken body. "Well I'll be fucked." he said.
Some time later, the storm died down, and the rain was only drizzling down. Silver was back in his quarters with Sharpeye. He was only wearing a blanket, sitting up in their bed. He had only stopped shivering, and was sipping on some tea Sharpeye made for him. There was a knock on the door. "Yes?" Sharpeye asked.
Yars walked in, and walked directly over to Silver. "I want to tell you, that was the most foolhearty, insane, and suicidal thing I've ever seen anyone do on this ship."
"But I was…"
"I'm not done." Yars said sternly. Silver shut his mouth. "It was also the most brave, the most promising, and the most diplomatic thing I think I've ever seen happen on this ship in all the time I've been aboard the Maria. I still don't know how you got the jackrats to help, but I'm grateful you did. I only ask one more thing of you for today."
"Yes Captain?" Silver asked, sipping his tea.
"When you're running this ship someday don't do that. Send an apprentice to do it for you. A dead captain is worthless." Yars said with a smile.
"I'll remember that Captain." Silver said with a weak smile. "Thank you."
"But I also have some bad news." Yars said, sitting down on their bed. "I talked to Rev, who already went down to check on Maria." Yars took in a deep breath. "The lightning that hit the ship damaged her badly. It's why Silver and the others could dive off the ship. It seems that Maria's protection is gone. For how long is anyone's guess."
Sharpeye looked at Silver, then himself. "So if Silver missed the water and hit the deck by accident, he would have died?"
"Rev seems to think so." Yars said. "And looking at Vermin's wounds, I believe it. Tomorrow morning, we need to plan a route to take us to a shore, so we can do repairs to the ship. At this point, however, we need some rest. The day has been long, and until we can make landfall it will be a long journey."
Sharpeye thought a moment, and took down a book off the floor where it fell in the storm. He opened it up, and looked at a map. "We should be around here." he said pointing to a point. "If we head due east, I know Maria showed me some islands here." he pointed to a place on the drawn map that had nothing but water. "It's a small island, but we can certainly do repairs there ourselves. No reefs to worry about, and the water should be calm enough after a storm like that."
Yars contemplated it. "Agreed. Tomorrow, we'll get our bearings and find it. Maria will help us all she can, but we're on our own for food and water until we make landfall. How long do you think we have to sail?"
"A day at full strength." Sharpeye said. "But without the main mast, probably three days."
Yars nodded. "We start in the morning then. Sharpeye, thank you. And , Silver, thank you too." Yars left the two to themselves.
After a long moment of silence, Sharpeye closed his book and looked at Silver. "Did you mean what you said earlier?"
"Every word of it." Silver replied, without hesitation. "I never said it before because, well, It was all so sudden, but I know that it feels right to me. And I'll say it again. I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life as your mate. If you'll have me, I mean."
Sharpeye pulled up a chair next to Silver, and held his paw. "If?" he asked. "If you'll have me, I would be honored to be that for you."
The two of them looked into each other's eyes, and leaned into each other for a long, pure kiss. Their first kiss at mates.
Last Chapter (The Calm)
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Being a work of fiction, none of the characters herin
are based on a real person (Save the narrator and one other person...)
And similarity to any person alive, dead, undead or unalive is coincidental,
totally. However, if you see yourself or someone you know in a character
be honored. You've been immortalised.