The laugh felt good, for it had not been often that Ga'briyel had found something to laugh about in the past two and a half moons. Sophyra was belowdecks, where she had stayed most of the voyage, attempting to keep the contents of her stomach where they belonged. Between the rolling of the ship and the child within her, she was miserable, which meant Ga'briyel was also miserable. Sophyra took her misery out on her husband, accusing him almost daily of putting her on this ship and not caring that she was not feeling well. She knew it was not fair to do so, but she was too sick to care. She also knew that she would make it up to Ga'briyel when she felt better, but that had not happened yet.
Adama was growing tall, even at less than two years old. The sailors and Captain Isahaka all commented on how much the boy had grown since the voyage had begun, and now Adama almost reached his father's mid-thigh. Everyone onboard knew that the son of the Sainika was Yisu's priest, and they bowed as low to him as they did to Ga'briyel every time they passed either of them. Ga'briyel had tried to stop the bowing, but the men were having none of it. Captain Isahaka had told Ga'briyel the first time the Sainika mentioned something about it that he was wasting his time. The men were in awe of the Sainika and his son, and they would not stop bowing no matter how much Ga'briyel wished it, so the Anmah might as well get used to it.
"They will follow us all the way to Esiya, Captain," he said softly, "and when we leave this ship, we lose Yisu's protection. They will fire any city we are in, and people will die. A lot of innocent people will die."
Captain Isahaka smiled. "Unless you can kill them all before we reach Esiya, Ga'briyel."
The Sainika stared at him. "And how am I supposed to do that? I cannot reach them while they circle the ship like this. I might be able to kill a few if they get close enough, but they are not stupid, Captain. Once I kill one or two, they will stay away."
"Then when we reach Esiya, we will not dock at a city, Sainika. I know of a cove in which we can anchor, and there are caves where we can take cover. They are small enough those beasts will not be able to follow."
Ga'briyel left the forecastle deck and walked toward the stairs that led belowdecks. "They can breathe fire, Captain. And their fire will reach into those caves. Or they will simply wait until we leave our sanctuary. Then you and every sailor on this ship will die a horrible death." He glanced at the captain. "I know, Captain Isahaka; I have died from their fire, and it is extremely painful." He sighed and sheathed his sword. "It takes a very long time to die from a Dirack's flames, Captain, and I do not wish that pain on anyone." Running his hand through his hair, he started down the stairs. "I will think of something, but it may take a while."
When he reached the family's cabin, he could hear Adama comforting his mother, and he paused with his hand on the latch. Then he opened the door, walked inside, removed his sword belt and hung it on a peg by the door, and sat on the bed next to Sophyra. He gathered her into his arms and kissed her tenderly. "I am sorry, my heart," he whispered as Adama moved off the bed. "I am sorry you are not feeling well. Perhaps some fresh air would help. Would you come abovedecks with me?"
"I can barely move, Ga'briyel," Sophyra spat out, hating herself even as the words left her mouth. "How am I supposed to get up there?"
Without speaking, Ga'briyel stood, picked up his wife, and cradled her close to his chest. "Come, Adama. Follow me," he said.
Sophyra rested her head on his shoulder and exhaled slowly. "I am sorry, my love," she said softly as her arms came around him. "I do not mean to be so upset with you, but I cannot seem to help the words that come from my mouth. I will try to be better."
"I do not blame you, my heart," Ga'briyel said as they emerged from the stairs onto the main deck. "I wish I could make you feel better, but I do not know how." Sophyra gasped and burrowed into her husband's chest when she saw the Dirack circling the ship. "They cannot harm us, Sophyra," Ga'briyel said softly, holding her tightly. "They have already tried, and they failed. Yisu's protection held firm."
Adama was staring wide-eyed at the Hellspawn that surrounded the ship and almost blocked out the sun. "What are they, Baba?"
"Dirack and Takosa, my son. Hellspawn," Ga'briyel said as he set Sophyra down on a barrel near the bow of the ship. He thought that the fresh air and the warm breeze would help her feel better, and indeed, as she sat and watched the Hellspawn, a little color came back into her cheeks, and she smiled at him. The smile faded when a voice filtered down through the invisible barrier, muted but still discernible.
"We will not leave, Sainika! We will destroy anyone and anything you come near! We can fly forever, and when you reach your destination, we will kill all the people you come in contact with! We will fire any town or city you stay in, and we will decimate any country you visit! No one will be safe from us!"
Ga'briyel looked skyward and saw a large, black Dirack hovering just above where the barrier ended. He growled deep in his chest, ran belowdecks, drew his sword from its scabbard, and hurried back on deck. He climbed the main mast and balanced on the very top, unsurprised when the Dirack drew back from him, and he stared at the creature, eyes blazing violet.
"Listen to me, Hellspawn," he ground out through his teeth. "I will be waiting for all of you no matter where we land, and I will kill all of you! You may be able to kill many people before I am finished, but I will make it my mission to kill every single Dirack and every single Takosa on the face of Duniya! None of you will remain, and I will make sure no more will be created, even if it means challenging Sayatan himself!"
The Dirack laughed, and flames burned in the back of his maw. "You, little Sainika? Challenge Sayatan? Impossible! No human can confront him. He would squash you like the little poka bug you are!" The creature watched Ga'briyel closely. "He may squash you anyway to pay for killing his sons. How many has it been now, little Sainika?"
"Six," Ga'briyel said with a grin. "And I will kill them all as well. One at a time if need be, but they will all die, just as you will."
The Dirack studied him closely. "I know you can no longer burn, Sainika," he said slowly, "but can you still drown? Can you still be skewered by claws or blades? There must be some way you can still be harmed." The creature looked down on the ship, and smiled. "I know your lovely wife can still die from fire, Sainika, and it will be my pleasure to be the one who kills her with my flames. It is too bad your son is protected by Yisu, but your wife is not. When you land in whatever country you are headed to, I will make sure she burns, Sainika, and you will have to listen to her screams as she does so."
Ga'briyel snarled, his eyes flared, and he held his sword at the ready as he balanced on the top of the mast. "You will not touch her, Dirack! You will die before I let you harm her! There are very few ways I can be harmed, Hellspawn! Telantes made sure of that. So come after my family if you dare, Dirack, and die for your stupidity!"
"No, my heart, I am stronger than you, and I should not take out my rage on you. I know you do not mean what you say to me." He tilted his head skyward where the Dirack had begun circling the ship again. "I will take it out on them, however, and I will kill them all!"
Sophyra said nothing but only rested her head on Ga'briyel's chest. Adama came to them and climbed into his father's lap, and the Sainika held both of them close as he continued to stare at the swarm of Hellspawn above them.