“You’ve got to be quicker than that, Babe,” Ebony said as she watched Penelope try to fish off the starboard side.
“How do you make it look so easy?” Penelope asked of her girlfriend as she reeled in the pole. “Maybe deep sea fishing isn’t my thing.”
“We’ve got a few more hours before Maisie gets the engine back up and running. I know this isn’t the newest ship, but I wasn’t expecting the engine to go down in the middle of this trip,” I stated as I stood by the railing where Penelope was seated with her large attached fishing pole.
“I’m grateful she has these. This trip would be rather dull without some sort of entertainment even though I can’t catch anything,” Penelope replied as Ebony rebaited the hook.
“We’re faring better than Ashlin,” Ebony pointed out. “She definitely doesn’t have any sea legs.”
Ashlin was miserable being on the tugboat. She had barely left the cabin since boarding the ship, and whenever she did come up to the main deck, it was because she couldn’t hold down her food. Maisie had given her some medicine for motion sickness, but the poor girl couldn’t handle any of it.
I glanced over my shoulder at her hunched figure over the port side, the sounds of retching wafting over to my ears. At this point, I was sure there wasn’t an ounce of anything left in her stomach.
Penelope cast the line once again over the side of the boat. “Maisie said it was a loose bolt that fell out. That it was no big deal.”
“Well, she has Josh and Gabriel to help her figure out what the problem is. She brought enough provisions, so I’m not particularly worried,” I replied.
“I wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for the fact that Josh’s mother is still looking for him,” Ashlin remarked as she made her way back over to us, taking a seat on a bench.
“You think the sirens are following us?” I asked, hoping that they had lost our trail.
“And any other demon out there with an affinity for saltwater. I hate to say it, but I feel like we’re sitting ducks out here,” Ashlin revealed.
I glanced around at the vast ocean surrounding our ship. There was not a piece of land in sight. The blue sky of the day was slowly changing colors as the sun set over the horizon with nothing but the edge of the ocean kissing it. The clouds overhead were a collage of spectacular colors, and I wondered if that’s why humans believed so much in the good of Heaven because its beauty was always on display.
The wind was picking up today over the water. Maisie had mentioned a possible storm brewing in the way of our path to Civitavecchia, the port nearest to Rome. Although that particular pier was busy due to cruise liners, she had a friend who could help reach us there and get us the rest of the way to Rome and into Vatican City.
After his release, Callan had decided to stay below deck and mostly away from all of us. While a few of us still trusted him, he felt the sting of the others. He maintained his stoic Paladin façade as he tried to hide his hurt. Ebony could sense that it bothered him to be an outcast within the group once again. I pitied him even though I knew it would do him no good. Only proving himself to us would regain the trust of the others.
“I think I’m done for the day,” Penelope announced as she reeled in the line for the last time. “The wind is getting a little too strong for me now.”
“That’s for the best,” I said as I pulled away from the railing. “Ashlin, you may want to take some extra medication before that storm hits us later. This boat is going to be rocking something fierce.”
“Ugh…water is so not my forte,” she grumbled as she headed back below into the cabin.
While the others followed her, I set off for the engine room to check on Maisie and the boys. Upon entering, I saw Maisie tightening a bolt with Josh and Gabriel standing around watching her.
“You two have no idea what you’re doing,” I commented as they both turned towards me.
“Boats are a little different from cars,” Josh stated with a smile. “Honestly, I just thought it would be fascinating to watch.”
“Ashlin’s back in the cabin if you want to find her. She’s been having a rough time on deck with us,” I replied, leaning against the doorway.
Josh blew out a sigh. “Right. I’ll go check on her.”
He passed by me on his way out as Gabriel sauntered over to me, placing an arm lazily around my shoulders.
“So did my sister catch anything?” he asked with a smirk.
“Of course not, but you already knew that,” I replied.
He chuckled. “She’s the worst when it comes to fishing. We used to go fishing by this pond near our home in England, and she couldn’t catch anything there either. It was almost like the fish knew to avoid her at all costs.”
“At least she enjoys herself,” I commented.
“That she does. It’s not the activity so much as it is the company she keeps,” he stated. “Maisie’s almost finished here. We should be crossing the ocean in no time.”
“If that storm doesn’t delay us,” Maisie added over her shoulder. “There. That should do it. Let’s see what happens.”
Maisie placed her finger on a button and held it down as the light above it turned green. A clanking noise sounded from the engine as it roared to life. Maisie set her wrench back in her toolbox before heading toward us. We exited and made our way to the cockpit, where she pressed a few more buttons setting the ship back on course.
“Well, we lost about half a day at sea,” Maisie began.
“What does that mean?” Gabriel asked as he stood beside her staring out the windshield towards the dark clouds in the distance. The sun’s glow had faded into the background, but its light bounced off the black clouds before us.
“It means,” she stated with a sigh, “that we’ll be heading into that storm around early morning. Everyone should stay alert during it.”
“No sleep. I think we can all handle that,” Gabriel commented. “Is there anything else we should know?”
“I don’t think it’s just a storm,” she admitted, turning the wheel.
“What else could it be?” I asked, taking a step closer.
“You said your friend’s mom is looking for him, right?” she asked. “You see the way the clouds roll with that hint of green emanating from them? That’s mystical, not natural.”
“You think the sirens are doing this?” Gabriel asked. “I heard that in numbers, they could create storms like this, but I thought that was a legend.”
“Legends come from facts,” Maisie replied.
“You think the sirens are here then?” I wondered.
“Not yet, but I think they’re going to use the storm to discern our location,” Maisie answered.
“How is that even possible? Can they conjure storms from anywhere—”
“Not all of them, but my mother could,” Josh interrupted from the doorway. “As soon as I stepped out onto the deck from the engine room, I knew exactly what kind of storm that was. We’re going to be in for one hell of a ride.”
“Is she trying to kill us, Josh? That storm doesn’t look like it was created only to stall us,” I stated.
Josh swallowed. “It can be lethal, yes. To all who can’t breathe underwater.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Penelope said as she and the others entered the cockpit. “I knew your mother was ruthless, but she would really kill all of us just to get to you?”
“This is an all-time low for your mother,” Ashlin commented. “She knows we’re with the Queen of Hell. She’s willing to destroy her?”
“Perhaps, Leviathan got to her,” Ebony suggested.
“No! My mother would never—”
“Save it! There’s a lot of things you wished your mother would never do, but this sadly, isn’t one of them,” Ashlin defended us. I blinked in surprise at her tone towards her lover.
“We should stay up here together tonight,” Maisie said, easing the room’s tension. “We need to know what we’re up against and save this ship.”
“Gabriel and I can place a protection spell around the ship. We’ll get to work on it,” Penelope offered as she pulled her brother out of the room.
“Will a protection ward be enough?” I asked, turning to Maisie.
She shook her head. “It’s a start, but there’s no telling how powerful that storm is. If Lorelei is working with Leviathan to get her son back, I’m sure they’ve conjured an intense hurricane from wherever they’re positioned.”
“What has the radio been saying?” Ebony inquired.
“Nothing that will help us get to the port any faster,” Maisie assured. “You see that hazy area straight ahead? It’s pouring rain over there in the distance. It’s only a matter of time before we reach it. Prepare yourselves.”
We left Maisie in the cockpit and headed out to the deck of the ship. Gabriel and Penelope were near the bow, standing on opposite sides with their hands raised in front of them. Their chanting was soft as sheer energy surrounded our boat and settled as if nothing had happened.
“What’s going on?” I asked. “Was that supposed to happen?”
“Something is interfering with our magic,” Penelope answered as she walked over to our group.
“It’s like trying to tune a radio but only collecting static. Our power is muddled,” Gabriel explained.
“But you’re witches. Is that even possible?” Ashlin asked, horror suddenly striking her. Josh put his arm around her, knowing her fear of water was starting to increase her anxiety about the situation.
“I remember studying about areas of dampened magic…” I thought aloud.
“Just like areas of heightened energy, there are areas where our magic is less potent,” Penelope reiterated. “We must be heading into a dead zone.”
“Figures,” Josh muttered. “Of course, my mother would choose an area like this. While she’s conjuring a storm comfortably outside of the dead zone, we’re in the middle of it. If we make it out of this alive, I’ll be sure to have a word with her on everyone’s behalf.”
His eyes flashed a cold blue under the gleam a lightning strike in the heart of the storm. We turned to face the rolling black clouds, lightning bouncing from cloud to cloud within. The time was drawing nearer as water droplets fell upon my skin. I glanced towards the sky as the sound of the rain became deafening around us, pelting into the black waters of the ocean.
While the others retired to the cockpit, I stayed behind for a moment, feeling the rain against my face as it slid down the length of my body. It was cool against my skin as I tried to feel for my power. Instead of the intense surge I usually felt, my power felt weaker as if it were being siphoned. It was similar to the feeling I had during my coming of age ceremony with the Melchoms.
“Kas?” Gabriel shouted after me through the heavy rain.
I turned around and followed his voice back to the boat’s cockpit as the winds picked up, the waves crashing against the sides of the ship feverishly. The clouds swirled as thunder resounded angrily around us after each crack of lightning. The boat tilted threateningly to the side as a wave pushed us off course. Maisie grabbed the wheel of the ship, trying to keep it steady against the onslaught.
“We’re definitely in a dead zone!” I shouted over the thunder.
“Your powers are affected as well?” Penelope asked as she slammed into the wall of the cockpit against Ebony. Ashlin was turning green from the motion.
“Yeah, and there’s no telling how large this dead zone is!” I yelled, the sound of the rain pounding on the roof rising to a crescendo.
“Well, while you two are trying to figure it out, mind giving me a hand?” Maisie grunted as she struggled to keep the wheel from veering to either side.
Callan and Gabriel rushed over to help Maisie easing her discomfort. The waves grew taller outside as the ship rocked violently from back and forth. Water rushed over the deck, spilling out onto the other side as it flooded the bow. The tempest showed no signs of mercy.
“If this keeps up, the water will eventually flood the cabin and lower areas of the deck. There’s a chance one large wave could tip the ship!” Maisie bellowed from her position behind the helm.
As this was said, another wave crashed over the deck, leaving three dark figures in its wake. I leaned closer towards the glass, trying to see the shadows through the opaqueness of the rain. The glass in front of my face cracked, spidering outward from the center, as three metal prongs punched through.
“Stand back!” Josh yelled as he pulled me back.
“What the hell was that?” Penelope reacted as she made sure to lock the metal door to the cockpit.
The weapon was pulled from the glass by one of the figures as they continued to try and punch their way through. Josh pulled me behind him as he crouched into a protective stance in front of us while Maisie and the others tried to maintain the wheel.
“It’s a trident,” Josh said as he started to shift into his siren form. I watched as the others around me began to take on their natural physiques.
“What’s happening?” Ashlin asked as she stared at her hands, turning into claws.
“We can’t maintain our human form with our magic!” Maisie shouted over her shoulder, her skin transforming into a pale green color.
Penelope glanced at Ebony, who had morphed into a solid black mass in the shape of a person. No features were visible, giving her kind the nickname of shadow people. I glanced down at my hands, but my form was still intact, the dark pulsating liquid within my veins nowhere to be seen.
“I’m not transforming,” I said over the sound of breaking glass.
A trident pierced through the windshield and buried itself in the back wall near Ebony. All sounds ceased as blind rage took over me. No one was going to threaten my friends and get away with it.
I pulled the weapon from the wall, broke away from our formation, and opened the door, slamming it behind me, averting the shouts of protest. Outside, the rain battered my body as I swept up a weighted net from over a barrel by the door, moving cautiously around the cockpit. Once I was near the corner, I stepped out and threw the net over one of the sirens as its friend charged me.
Its trident thrust towards me as I leaned back, hitting the guard rail behind me. Rolling away, a wave tilted the ship, sending the siren slamming into the rail where I had just been. As the ship righted itself, it came at me again. I jumped on top of a bench as it swept the ground with its weapon. Taking the higher ground, I leaped over the siren and thrust my trident downward towards its body.
It caught the prongs within its own weapon and spun me towards the ship’s bow, losing my balance and my trident in the process. It stabbed towards my throat, but before it could pierce me through, I caught the edges of its trident with my hand, holding it fast. The siren leaned against the staff, trying to ram it into me, but I kept it steady with what strength I had left.
“No!” a screech from behind us shouted, causing the siren to glance away for a mere second.
I pushed the trident to the side and scrambled away, picking up my discarded weapon. The siren turned back to me to charge while I was still on my knees. As it did so, I held out the trident and shoved it through the siren’s stomach. It gave me a look of shock as it dropped its weapon and grabbed the staff of the trident still in my hand. I released it, and it stumbled back, falling to the deck dead. Its body disintegrated into seafoam and was washed away by the rain back into the ocean.
My gaze turned to the voice I had heard and saw Josh being held captive by the other siren with its weapon across his body. Another siren was a few steps in front of them in a protective stance. I slowly neared them as they backed up closer towards the railing.
“You can’t have him,” I snarled.
“It is his mother’s wish,” the siren in front of me spoke.
“And Leviathan’s?” I questioned as their bodies stiffened. That was the only confirmation I needed to know that Josh had been marked for death along with everyone else who chose to aid me.
I waited for the wave to hit us from their side of the ship as they stumbled towards me. I grabbed the trident’s staff in the hands of the first siren and spun it out of the way towards the railing behind me. The siren holding Josh had been shaken loose by the wave tilting the ship. Josh spun around and knocked the siren down to the ground, kicking its weapon towards me.
Sliding across the deck to pick up the instrument, the other siren struck out at me as I shielded myself with the trident’s teeth and flung the demon over my head. It crashed into our supply barrels behind me. Regaining my footing, I rushed over to it and held the trident far above my head, screaming as I plunged it deep into the siren’s throat. It gurgled as seafoam escaped its mouth before finally disappearing.
Spinning around, I saw Josh grappling with the other one. They had clawed at each other with their webbed hands, their eyes an icy ocean blue. He drew upon his strength and managed to push it backward, catching it off balance.
“Josh!” I shouted as I threw my trident towards him. He caught it was ease, for a moment looking like Poseidon himself.
Josh plunged the weapon into the siren’s chest and pushed with his might, effectively sending it, and the trident overboard into the furious waves below. He was heavily panting as I approached him, placing a firm hand on his shoulder. Josh turned to face me, his expression one of pride and sorrow at being forced to destroy a member of his own kind. It was a feeling I knew all too well.
Another wave sent us gripping the handrail, as the water pummeled over the deck towards us. My feet were swept out from under me as my body flipped overboard. Grasping the railing for dear life, Josh reached down to grab my hand, struggling to pull me up and maintain his balance as another wave struck us.
I felt my fingers slipping as another hand darted down to grab mine. I saw Gabriel’s eyes as I looked up through the rain. He grunted as he and Josh pulled me up and back over the railing. I fell to the deck and flipped over onto my back, my breath catching in my throat. Hands were pulling me upward as another wave landed. This time, we were all holding onto each other, trying to make our way back to the cockpit. Gabriel opened the door for us, and we obliged, heading back inside, water dripping down our bodies.
“We’ve gotten rid of the sirens, but we still have to weather this storm,” Callan said from the helm.
“What if more of them come back?” Penelope asked.
“They won’t,” Josh explained. “I might have a voice of gold, but I can also hear my kind very well. They’ve retreated. They’re hoping this storm will take care of the rest.”
“But you’re still on it. Didn’t they do this for you?” Ashlin inquired.
“It was for Kas and me, but after killing one of my own, I’ve disgraced the sirens,” Josh explained. “They wouldn’t have me back now.”
“That sucks and all, but we need a plan!” Callan shouted once again.
“Kas!” Penelope exclaimed. “You’re the only one who still has some magic. You were able to retain your human form, so that must mean something.”
“She’s right,” Gabriel offered. “This zone affected our dark powers, but you have powers from your celestial side.”
“I don’t know how to control them yet,” I stated.
“Kas, you have to try. We’re counting on you,” Gabriel replied, his hand touching my cheek.
Grabbing his hand, I gave him a fierce look and stepped back through the cockpit door towards the bow of the ship. Steadying myself, I held my hands up towards the sky, listening to the storm rage on around me. Rain dripped down into my mouth as I tried to breathe deeply.
“This power is mine to yield how I see fit. If you’re listening God, I won’t back down, and I will save my friends,” I yelled into the sky.
My eyes opened wide as I felt my spine straighten, and a slithering sensation crawling upwards. My veins glowed a light blue as the power spread throughout my body. I buckled over and grabbed the rails of the bow on either side as pain shot through my being. Staring into the water below, I could see my shadow self smiling as another image appeared next to her. This one resembled me with a brilliant halo of light surrounding her body.
She smiled warmly at me as she held the hand of my inner demon, her blue flaming wings spread behind her as she reached for me. I bent down to my knees and reached down over the rails towards her. The tips of our fingers touched, and as they did, my strength returned, and the pain immediately faded away.
Looking up, I felt my wings spread behind me as I straightened and held one hand towards the sky. A soft glow emanated from around me, as lightning struck down from the heavens. It entered through my hand as sparks burst around me, igniting the darkness. The clouds started to disperse, allowing a ray of sunlight to pierce through its wall. The rays shone all around onto the black waters as the rain finally ceased.
The last of the storm clouds faded as the dawn revealed itself, the waves calming. I heard the others step out of the cockpit behind me as I turned around to face them. They walked onto the deck cautiously while Callan was the first to fully approach. As he did so, he placed a fist over his heart and knelt before me, bowing his head. It was a sign of the utmost respect coming from a servant of God. And in that moment, I felt that perhaps, I had a higher purpose.