Prologue: The Letter Fated for Shore
With COVID-19 ramping up, I’ve been doing much more work from home, as we all are. This is a story I started last year and have recently found my way back to, thanks to a friend who inspired me to finish it.
It’s a Young Adult story, so a complete 180 from the inappropriate smut I normally write, but this story has been trapped in my head for so long now, I needed to get it out.
I’ll be posting a chapter or two a day for ten days and urge you all to leave comments, criticism and the sort. Because I haven’t shared this story much, I’m very curious how my readers will take it.
THE LETTER FATED FOR SHORE
“Tie yourself down boy, ’ore you go overboard!” The Captain yelled at the deckhand who had nearly been tossed into the black waters below. The scared youngster gripped onto a rusty boat hook and sank below the railing to protect himself from the spray of water. “Get that sail down! Stow the sail, you hear me? Stow that sail!” Another sailor rushed to untie the taught rope as the wind caught the canvas and pulled the rope clean from the sailor’s hands. The rope whipped in the air, thrashing about.
Powerful winds jerked the ship, throwing most of the crew from their posts. One sailor gripped onto the mast for dear life, trying to find his sea-legs again, but he only trembled like jelly.
The Captain turned to two younger lads as they rushed past. “Quit your scuffle-buggin’ and grab some buckets!” The ship heaved to the left, and then the right, tossed around in the violent sea.
Waves crashed against the left side of the ship, as a wall of water soared high into the sky and down with a thunderous crack across the already drenched deck and crew.
“It’s coming in port-side!” Someone yelled. “Steer her dead ahead and into the wave or’ she’ll broach!”
“We’re losing her!”
Lightning broke across the sky, nearly splitting it in two with all of its might. The thunder was quick to follow, sending a fearful quiver down the crew’s spines. Men stared at the sky in awe; in all of their years fighting storms, braving the bad of the bad—this was the worst they’d ever seen.
Even the Captain hadn’t seen a storm as mighty and terrifying as this one, but he wasn’t about to admit that to his men. No, they couldn’t see the fear in his eyes, but it wasn’t just the fear; a whole gamut of emotions had overcome him as the storm worsened. He feared for his men and his two sons aboard, grieved at the thought of not seeing his wife and young Junior again, but most of all, he felt inferior to the roaring storm that surrounded him.
He was just a man; no match for the beasts that lay beneath the sea.
“Where in heavens all mighty, did it come from?” A deckhand asked.
Another man stopped in his tracks, bracing for the next powerful wave to assault the ship. He shouted over the sound of pelting rain and crashing water. “This ain’t no storm.” A few others stopped to hear him. “There’s nothin’ natural ’bout this. The Gods are angry.”
The Captain knew they only had a small chance of surviving the storm. “Stop soothsaying and get back to work! Now, get that aft sail down before you doom us all!” Men jostled back and forth, doing everything they could to ensure the ship didn’t turn on her side. Finally, the prow of the ship turned into the oncoming waves. If they could face the waves head-on, they’d have a fighting chance.
The Captain reached behind him, snatching the wayward rope with a powerful yank and tied the end off when he saw the youngster heaving his guts over the side. “Get below deck son. Your mother dun’ have my hide if something ’ll happen to yeh. Make sure the cargo is stored right and proper.” The youngster peered up at him, worry plastered on his face. “Go on now.” His father ushered.
The Captain only watched the lad long enough to see him disappear through the hatch and into the cargo hold before he heaved with all his weight against the wind’s strength. The sail was almost down; it’d give the ship more stability against the storm if only they could get it down. The high-pitch whine of the pulley told him when to brace. A few more seconds…the Captain pulled the rope at just the right moment and the sail dropped.
The crew made quick work stowing the sail for now, but they still weren’t out of the worse of it.
“We’re losing speed!” the Captain shouted, running back to the helm. “Keep the rudder in the water and avoid the shore!” The helmsman nodded.
“Captain! Look!” The crew stopped momentarily, seeing a sailor pointing at something out across the water. The Captain followed the line of sight, until his eyes found another vessel.
“And look, more of ’em.”
From a distance, six ships circled around the epicenter of the storm. The sky above them was void of color—a black emptiness as the ocean reared up which was unusual. The eye of the storm was the safest place to be. The sea grew angry, throwing two of the ships into each other, obliterating them both beyond repair. The sound of splintering wood carried across the distance as the crew witnessed their fellow sailor’s fates. The Captain pulled out his spyglass, bringing it to his eye as he watched the events unfold more clearly.
Devoting a life to the sea was a dangerous job; a deadly one if not for the right skill and dedication, but in all his time, the Captain had never seen anything quite like it. Through the curved glass he had witnessed the most unimaginable. “Holy Saint Nicholas.” He uttered the words with a tremble and crossed his heart before turning to his crew.
How could he tell them? Was what he was seeing even real? Perhaps it was a figment of his imagination, brought on by stress and worrying over the storm.
For what he saw couldn’t have been real. He’d heard the myths, the legends. Every sailor knew them long before they got their sea-legs. But they were just that, stories carried down from generation to generation to keep the unruly lads in their place and to keep ‘em from goin’ overboard.
“Lieutenant.” The Captain turned to his second. “With me. Hurry up.”
The two men walked back into the Captain’s quarters, but it was clear, the Lieutenant was impatient to know what was going on. It was only a matter of time before the crew saw it too.
The Captain ushered, a bit callous. “Shut the door Everett.” The Lieutenant did.
“What is it? What did you see?” Everett urged the Captain to explain, but the Captain wasn’t listening. He busied himself with pulling a sheet of paper and fountain pen from the desk. Leaning over, he scribbled the date on the parchment. The Captain rushed to finish the letter, signed it and sealed it in a bottle with a cork. “I won’t jeopardize the crew anymore than necessary. Take the boats and make for shore.” He instructed. “Everyone. We’re only a few miles out; head for shore. You hear me?”
“What about you?”
“It’s my ship; I belong on it. I’ll give you as much time as I can, but if that thing is what I fear it is, our fate is already sealed.
“No Sir. I won’t leave you here! And what about the cargo?”
“Leave it boy!” The Captain shouted. “Now get everyone to that shore. Take this.” He handed the bottle to the Lieutenant. “Warn the town. They need to know the truth. Tell them; Tell them what we saw here.”
“Captain, I’m not sure what I saw.”
“Go on. We’ve got precious little time.” The Captain ushered him toward the door as he watched from the wrought iron window. He couldn’t see the shore, but he knew it was there. Sending his crew off the ship in the small boats was a risk; the chances of being capsized were high, but he hoped he could distract the thing long enough for his sailors to get to shore. “And watch over my boys, will you?”
The Lieutenant lingered in the doorway, but nodded, “Of course, Sir.”
Twenty minutes later, the crew was beyond terrified, the petrified looks on their faces told the Captain, they had all seen it too. The small boats were lowered, most of the crew already seated. The Captain leaned down, kissing the forehead of his second youngest’s son. “Mind your brother. And your mother. She’ll need strong lad like you to watch after her.” The boy, fighting off the tears nodded, holding onto a tattered stuffed walrus.
He was ten, but he didn’t care if anyone saw Mr. Walrus; he needed the comfort in that moment.
Turning to the older boy, the Captain told him, “You go straight for shore. Ride the waves as best you can and don’t let anything hamper with your mission. Understand? Don’t let anything stop you and hold on to your bother.”
He bid the boys a last farewell as the Lieutenant lowered them into the last dingy and dropped the boat into the roaring waters below. With his boys having the best fighting chance, the Captain did the best he could managing the ship and turned toward the eye of the storm.
The Captain watched as another ship was torn to pieces by the creature; only three remained now.
“Saint Nicholas, Protector of the Seas—hear my prayer. Give me the strength to endure, the courage to face wickedness, and protect the souls of those lost here today, for I fear my fate will soon match theirs.”