THIRTEEN OFFERINGS - STORIES OF ITHIRIA

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THE STORM

As amused as Jonathan was by his new crewmates, being kicked awake every morning had grown tiresome. He was weary of fighting his way to a wash station filled with greasy remnants of the crew, then trudging his way into a galley to find hardly a scoop of gruel to start the day.

The crew had developed a habit of picking on Jonathan. They placed squid in his bunk, fish in his ditty bag, and urchin in his clothing. Reaching the deck every morning, the first thing thrust upon him was a mop and bucket. Though he knew he needed to earn the crew’s respect, being forced to swab the deck when he should be plotting the course for the day was infuriating at best.

"Maritime, aft cabin on the double!” Knox yelled down into the galley.

Jonathan sat stunned a moment. It had been days since he had heard the first mate call for him.

Since boarding the Persephone, Jonathan had only seen Captain McBane a handful of times. The woman kept to herself, communing mainly with Knox, her first mate. Knox seemed to be a good man but was lax in punishing crew shenanigans. The men were sure to never abuse Jonathan outright, but unfortunately, Knox was not always around.

The worst of all the crew was their boatswain— Lido. He was a small man determined to make up for his lack of stature with an abundance of bad attitude. Lido was in charge of delegating Knox’s orders, and often changed those orders to benefit himself. Nothing Jonathan ever did was good enough for the unpleasant little man. The deck was never clean enough; the ropes never coiled properly, the bosun’s locker never organized correctly. Jonathan prided himself on a reasonably meticulous nature—one had to be precise and organized when plotting routes—but even he could not live up to Lido’s standards.

Happy to have some actual navigating to do in the aft, Jonathan stopped peeling potatoes and headed for the deck.

Jonathan might have been able to handle all of this mistreatment were he still permitted to navigate. However, every time Knox called for help in plotting their course, Lido made sure Jonathan had some other matter to attend. Jonathan rarely saw the quarter deck, let alone the aft cabin where he was to check the ship logs and chart their course.

Jonathan was a slight fellow and not good for much physically—but on a starless night he could find his way, figure the direction of the wind in the slightest breeze, and sense a storm from miles away. He was made to be a navigator, not a deckhand. Jonathan tried to bring the matter to Knox’s attention, but getting the spirited first mate to slow down enough to listen proved fruitless.

Perhaps Knox would have an open ear this time.

As annoying as Lido was, life on the Persephone was still far better than his life aboard the Scurvy Wretch. This crew lacked for nothing and almost always had a favorable wind. In all honesty, Jonathan'ʹs navigation skills would not have been much needed even if he were allowed to step away from his menial chores.

It was then he heard the distant booming of a dreaded thunder. It was faint, had he not a trained ear, he might not have noticed. By the sounds of it, they were heading straight for a storm.

Jonathan was halfway to the deck when Lido’s boots appeared in front of him.

“Where d’ya think you’re going?” Lido yelled down at Jonathan.

“Knox called for me. There’s a storm coming. I need to check the charts.”

“What storm? I didn’t hear anything from Knox. His orders go through me,” the little man insisted. “Navigator or no, you aren’t getting out of spud duty."

“No offense, sir, but we’re headed south. I heard the thunder. We’re on course with a bad storm. It’ll be on us by dusk. We need to redirect the ship."

“Do you want the crew to starve?”

Jonathan knew this argument would get him nowhere. “No, sir. Please, just tell Knox four knots east should steer us away.”

“If there’s even a storm,” he scoffed. “Finish up and I’ll think about telling him."ʺ

“Thank you, sir.”

With that, Jonathan headed back into the galley. He was sure Knox could handle the situation, but Jonathan could not quell the uneasy feeling in his gut.

The thunder grew louder as the time passed. The Persephone had not altered course. The booming in the distance rattled the hull with its force. Fierce streaks of lightning quickly followed. Jonathan scrubbed the Galley floor tensely, he couldn't take this any more. The storm was unavoidably upon them now. Unless they wanted to take an unscheduled trip to Tartarus, he needed to do something.

Jonathan dropped the useless scrubbing Lido had assigned him and quickly headed aft. He got as far as the main deck when Lido caught up with him.

“What’d I tell you?” he hollered. “Get below!”

Jonathan continued past the irate little man and toward the stern. It was useless to argue, the man had no care for reason. Jonathan was nearly to the top of the quarter deck stair when Lido snatched him by the coat collar.

“I’ll teach you to listen to me!” he yelled, yanking him down.


Jonathan hit the deck hard and scrambled to his feet. “Don’t you see the storm? Are you blind? Can’t you hear the thunder, smell it on the wind?!”

Lido stood affronted, it was the first time Jonathan had actually stood up for himself. “I’ll have you flogged before the nightʹs out!” he yelled and started toward Jonathan when Knox appeared at the top of the stairs.

“What is going on—” Knox cut himself short at the sight of Jonathan. "There you are, Maritime! The Captain may think you’re some brilliant navigator, but you’re bloody worthless if you can’t be found!”

“Sir?” Jonathan couldn’t keep the confusion from his face.

“There is a storm coming, boy! If you haven’t noticed we’re heading straight for it. I’ve been trying to steer us out of these currents for the better part of an hour!"ʺ

“That’s why we haven’t turned?”

“Every time I sent for you, Lido reported that you were indisposed! Irresponsible, Maritime!”

Jonathan glared back at Lido. The little pitbull of a man backed away, clearly unprepared to abuse Jonathan in front of Knox. Now would be the perfect time for revenge, but Jonathan refused to waste more time.

“I kept trying to warn you about the storm. It’s fierce, I can tell by the thunder,” he told Knox as they headed to the aft. “Have you found an alternate course?”

“No. I can read the weather like the back of my hand, but charting has never been my forte. These things read like Sanskrit.”

It had been merely raining when Jonathan had last come onto the deck, but the closer they got to the storm, the lower the barometer dropped, turning the rain to hail.

“Please, allow me,” he told Knox calmly.

Jonathan pored over the charts, checked the compass, and scanned the ship’s log. The Persephone was several miles off the nearest coast and heading straight into this beast of a storm. Jonathan saw they’d missed their last chance of escape more than ten nautical miles ago. Digging his fingers into his hair, he kept his head bowed to the charts, convinced he’d find a way out of this tempest. He calculated every angle and route. They had one chance: a deep cross current which ran across the Persephone’s path just a few short miles away.

If they didn’t make that, they would be in serious trouble.

“The gale is miles wide,” he told Knox. ʺThe winds alone will tear off our sails. If we turn east, we can catch the cross current out, skirting the thing. It’ll be rough waters, but we can get out with our skin. That is, so long as we're not pulled back in.”

Knox cast a suspicious look at the instruments.

“This isn’t an exact science,” Jonathan continued. "A storm like this can create a whirlpool effect that could pull her back in. Even a bad wave could ruin our chances of escape. We have to be careful and we have to act fast.”

Knox nodded and hurried to the helm where he announced their heading to the crew and instructed them to attach their lifelines.

Immediately, they went to work.

Knox nearly had the ship on course when the wheel jerked to a stop, the hull and stays creaking in protest. Jonathan hurried to help, taking the other side of the wheel, but even with their combined efforts, it would not turn.

“The currents have the rudder! They’re too strong,” Knox yelled over the wind.

It was then that Captain McBane ascended the stair to the helm and looked out at the storm. “What is this?” she yelled, as if scolding the skies would stop the hail now pelting her crew. “Knox, report!”

“Just a spot of rough weather, Captain,” Knox replied, struggling with the wheel.

“Storm’s been on the horizon for hours. Why didn’t we sail around?”

“Been trying, Captain. It’s massive. Currents have been keeping the boat on course with it.”

“Maritime. Have we plotted a new course?”


“I, uh—sort of.”

“Sort of?” Her voice was colder than the hail rattling around their feet.
 “I haven’t been allowed up to the aft cabin for most of the trip, Captain, but I think I might be able to pull us out of this," Jonathan stuttered lightly.

“Weren’t allowed to the aft cabin? Who wouldn’t allow you?” McBane’s voice was steel.

Jonathan looked to Lido, who was now backing down the stair to the main deck.

McBane immediately turned to the little man.

“He just joined the ship. He needs to learn his place,” Lido explained, continuing backward.

Learn his place? You have been with us nearly as long.” Even in the dismal light, Jonathan could see the color flaring in McBane’s cheeks. “He is our navigation expert. What, exactly, do you feel he needs to learn?”

As Lido stammered his response, an odd bluish glint came to his eye.

As the captain glared on, the man before them began to shift and alter. Thinking at first it was a trick of the hail and the wind, it took a moment for the crew to realize what they were seeing: Lido’s skin took on a pearly opaqueness as hair sprouted thick and bristly in a spiked helm over his head and down the back of his neck.

The captain’s sword was at Lido’s neck in an instant. “What are you?” she demanded.

Lido lowered his head, eyes fully blue now, no whites to be seen. “You do not tread in my lord’s water. No matter who you sail under." His voice rippled in and out, as though he spoke from underwater. His message delivered, he lunged for the railing and leapt from the deck into the icy waters below.

Jonathan and Knox ran after Lido, but there was no trace of him in the dark roiling depths.

Jonathan stood shocked—not by Lido’s sudden leap but by the way the man’s skin had glistened like the sea itself before plunging to his grave.

“What in the name of the god’s was that?" Jonathan could not tear his eyes from the edge of the ship.

“The gods being troublesome,” McBane replied and ran back up to the helm. "Knox, we’ve been sabotaged. Man the helm!” she commanded a nearby crewman. “Maritime, are you with us, or do I have to navigate us out of this storm myself?”

Like a shot, Jonathan took off up the stairs, across the quarter deck, and down into the aft cabin after McBane and Knox.

“It appears Lido has been keeping our new navigator from the charts so we would end our days in the thralls of this cursed storm,” McBane told Knox. “Let’s see if he can keep us from going belly up in this trap.”

Quickly, Jonathan scanned the charts. They had not yet missed their last opportunity to avoid the storm. “In two miles we need to tack and head east."

“Tack in two miles?” Knox scoffed. “Are you crazy? She’ll capsize.”

“No, look at the waters,” Jonathan directed. "They are flowing toward the storm. We can still turn into the cross current ahead. If we catch the winds at the right moment, we can use our own wake to break the course.”

“And if we don’t?” Knox asked.


“Well, capsizing is as bad as it gets. Right?”

“One would think,” McBane glowered as the wind whipped at the sails, challenging the lines which held them fast.

“There it is!” Jonathan pointed to the churning line of water ahead.

“How could you possibly see that in this weather?” Knox yelled over the storm.


“It’s what I do,” Jonathan replied. The ship swayed and jerked as hail pummeled the deck, but he stared ahead, barely blinking. “Now!” his shout came at the exact moment their wake met with the cross-flow.

The sails flapped like thundering birds as Knox and McBane cranked the wheel. The ship moaned in protest, but they forced her off the turbulent waters and into the deep current.

The Persephone shifted, leaning precariously so the whole crew clutched the railings to keep from sliding into the treacherous depths. As fingers began to slip and feet to scramble on the slick deck, the groaning ship hit her own wake. She shuttered terribly, launching several men overboard. Lines snapped taut as the wind tore sails from their stays, shredding them to tatters. The crew was sure she’d be shaken into driftwood—when suddenly, she righted herself.

The current slowly led them away from the storm and out to calmer seas. Pulling in the lines of their mates thrown overboard, the crew grimaced as more than one severed and frayed rope was pulled back. Those who survived were worse for wear, but still able to pull breath. McBane removed her hat and bowed her head. The crew followed suit and silence encompassed the Persephone as her crew grieved.

Slowly the rain ceased, the wind died, and the sun rose above the ominous storm clouds.

“I must thank you for leading us away from the storm in one piece,” McBane told Jonathan. "Your new quarters will be in the aft cabin.” She turned to her crew. “If I catch anyone keeping crew members from their duties, they will answer to me. Now, thank your navigator for keeping the ship and her wretched crew afloat!”

The men all cheered and Jonathan stood stunned. No one had ever cheered for him.

Once the applause died away, the crew went about repairing the ship and Jonathan found himself swamped with thankful crew mates. Nodding and clasping many clammy, blistered hands, he caught sight of McBane heading to her quarters. He extricated himself from his shipmates and stopped the captain just short of her door.

“I am sorry I could not help in time to save everyone.”

“You did a brave thing,” she assured him. "The sea takes whom it pleases. They are not the first casualties of the Persephone and I dare say they will not be the last.”

“Might I ask, what happened with Lido? You seemed unsurprised when he dove into the waters. What did he mean when he said he does not care who we sail under? Who do we sail under?"

“The sea is a strange place filled with many anomalies. This will not be the last bizarre sight you see. In time you will learn our purpose, Mr. Maritime. When you do, you may again choose not to sail with us.”

Jonathan gaped in surprise. Again? This was the first time she had addressed their previous encounters.

“Until then, go about your duty,” she said briskly and disappeared into her quarters.

Jonathan bit back the urge to pester her with more questions; she was the captain—despite their past. He dare not overstep his bounds.

The next morning, he awoke to the sound of the roosters they kept for supper—instead of a boot in his ribs. When he reached the galley, there was a fresh pot of porridge and loaves of bread. In lieu of scorning, his fellow crewmates offered more praise for his heroics of the night before.

When he began his day, the aft cabin was ready and waiting. The cabin boy had laid out his charts and polished his instruments.

Finally, Jonathan Maritime was home.


The mist cleared from Banon’s eyes as the final shreds of the sea creature’s hairs smoked into vapor.

“Your navigator seems a very adaptable creature,” Patrick commented.

“He has more strength than even he admits. The man has recently moved on to a...less-hazardous crew, but Jonathan was a great addition to our ship and his tales continue. I have several more.”

“Delightful,” Patrick replied. "I envy your travels on the sea. You inspire me, Brother. Perhaps I’ll take a vacation soon, travel more of the lands.”

“Let me know how that goes. I could use a break myself.” Banon laughed.

“Who’s next?” Angus asked the small group.

“If I may.” Killian pulled a small hand, carved from stone, out of his coat pocket. "I offer the downfall of a beautiful and innocent creature. A creature doomed to a desolation reserved for the foulest of transgressors. I present this once-living flesh, turned by the eye of the cursed gorgon herself.”

Killian placed the hand upon the table where it began to gray and crack.


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