Edwards untied Alain from the bed. He went towards the door and opened it. He looked at his first-mate, Gracht, who had been waiting outside after knocking on the cabin door. On seeing Alain standing behind Edwards, he looked at Edwards quizzically.
“Mr. Gracht, I fear this is no reef that we have hit. Send word to the crew, to get ready for battle. “, said Edwards, giving no explanation about Alain’s presence.
Gracht showed a hint of surprise on his face. But being the loyal first-mate that he was, he did not question his Captain further. He turned and made his way to the deck.
“Alain, let’s go check up on our friend Jach shall we?”- said Edwards, turning towards Alain.
Alain nodded in agreement. They made their way towards Jach’s room. Edwards drew his flintlock as they approached the door. Edwards knocked on the door.
“Jach, are you in there?”
Edwards got no response. He knocked again.
A crew member ran up to Edwards and Alain.
“Sir, Mr. Gracht needs you on the deck.” He said with a sense of urgency.
“We will be there shortly. “, responded Edwards.
He quickly added –
“Have you seen Mr. Jach by any chance?”
“Yes, he is on deck with the rest of the crew.”
Edwards and Alain looked at each other and followed the crewman hastily to the deck. Sure enough, they spotted Jach. He was looking towards the sea. To Edwards, it looked as if Jach almost knew this was coming. His face showed no surprise or fear, unlike the other members of the crew. Jach noticed the captain and Alain walking towards him.
“Ah, captain, I was looking for you. Where were you? “
Removing his flintlock, Edwards aimed it Jach’s face.
“Stow it Jach. I am onto your game.”
Jach seemed surprised.
“Game, what game? Captain, I don’t understand what you are talking about.”
The crewmen grew alert to the situation. Gracht came up behind his captain.
“Captain, what are your orders?”
“Get two men to guard him, right now.”
Gracht motioned to two crewmen standing behind Jach. The moved up next to him, one on each side and held him by his arms.
The ship began quaking again. Edwards addressed his crew.
“Men, we have braved many perils together. It is another peril that we must face right now. In a few moments there are things that are going to attack us. People that dwell in the sea. They are going to be here for blood. I say let’s give it to them. Let us make these waters a sea of their blood. Draw weapons. “
Roused by the words of their captain, the crewmen drew their weapons. Rusted cutlasses, fish pikes, and flintlocks were their weapons of choice. They were all fishermen by profession, but every last one of them, had been tested in battle before. They were no strangers to battles.
Edwards aimed his flintlock at Jach again.
“Mr. Jach, Alain has told me everything about your kind.”
Jach’s face showed genuine surprise.
“Now tell me. What have your people got to do with me? Why am I a part of this equation?”
Jach continued looking surprised.
“I really do not understand this question Captain Edwards. What are you talking about?”
Edwards’ face developed a stern look.
“Do not play dumb with me. All your friends from underwater have plans. What are they? Alain told me there is a plan.”
Jach’s face turned pale.
“Alain told you.”
He looked at Alain.
“I get it now. You are with them. You were spying on me. Weren’t you?”
Alain smiled coldly.
“Yes, I was. Captain Edwards, let me kill him now. Before the others arrive.”
Edwards steadied his aim.
“Now Mr Jach, tell me the truth.”
“Captain, believe me. I do not know what he is talking about. I only wanted to get to Veluise Islands, which is why I decided to come along with you. In fact, I did not even know the directions. Alain gave them to me.”
It was now Edwards turn to look surprised. He turned around to see a shocked expression on Gracht’s face and long-knife coming out of his stomach. The knife belonged to Alain, whose face had a devilish grin on it, baring his sharp teeth.
Edwards aimed his flintlock at Alain.
“You were the traitor, not Jach. I will kill you now. “
Alain sniggered from behind the cover that Gracht’s lifeless body provided.
“That is an astute observation, Captain. But I fear it is a bit too late now. Kill them all. ”
At that moment, a dozen dark forms sprung onto the deck from the ocean. They had moved so fast, the crewmen had hardly noticed. The deck instantly broke into a battle. The Merfolk and crewmen went at each other with all they had got. Even though the crew outnumbered the sea-men by a huge margin, their larger numbers were easily kept at bay by the amazing speed and skill of the sea-men. It was an even battle.
Amidst the frenzy, Jach broke free of his captors and made his way to the edge of the deck. Alain followed in close pursuit. Alain managed to corner Jach.
“You can stop now Jach. We have you right where we want you. There is no escape”
Alain drew his knife and started walking slowly towards an unarmed Jach. Just after a couple of steps, Alain heard a loud bang, followed by an immense pain in his stomach. He looked down to see blood pouring out of a hole in his stomach. Clutching it, he turned around to see Edwards holding his flintlock, gunpowder smoke rising out of it.
“It would seem you have nowhere to escape, fish-man. “ – Edwards said with a grim look on his face.
Alain rested his knee on the floor, the wound sapping his strength by the second. Satisfied that Alain was of no more threat, Edwards jumped back into the fray.
The battle went on for a good twenty minutes. Bodies lay everywhere on the deck. The dead lay in a pool of blood, human blood as well as Merfolk blood. The Merfolk had been excellent fighters, managing to handle such a large number of people. But in the end, the sheer numbers had overwhelmed the Merfolk. Edwards himself had slain three out of the twelve assailants. Half of the crew of The Titania lay dead. Most of the ones alive had some or the other injury. Edwards ordered his crew to make a hasty turn around.
After the ship had turned, Edwards made his way back to the semi-conscious Alain. He had fallen down, with his back to the floor and had lost a lot of blood. Edwards reckoned he did not have much time to live. But he couldn’t let him die without getting answers to his questions. He threw some water on Alain’s face and brought him back to full consciousness.
“Fish-man, I have a few questions for you and I am in no mood for long stories now. Make it quick. I want to know everything. What have your people got to do with me? Speak fast. “
Alain coughed, spitting out blood. He spoke in a breathless voice.
“All you humans are so self-obsessed. You think everything in this world is related to you. It isn’t. The truth is that you were just being used to get us to this location. Jach is one of those human-loving scum. I was indeed spying on him. He had gained information that my people were up to something in the Veluise Islands. He holds vital information about his comrades too. We needed that. So, me and my twelve soldiers, my sworn brothers, decided to capture him and extract the information from him, once he made it here. I gave him the directions to this place. That night, I was truly making sure nothing goes wrong for my men. But you intervened and took away our element of surprise. You, human were only a vessel to accomplish our goals, and we will accomplish them. What you did today, will only delay the inevitable. Your race will perish.”
Alain coughed again, and spit more blood out and lay motionless on the floor. Edwards gave Alain’s body a disgusted look.
“Men, dump the bodies into the sea. We cannot have rotting corpses on our ship. May the souls of our brothers find peace. ”
The crewmen followed their captain’s orders. They said their last words for their friends while dumping their bodies into the sea and following that, they tossed the bodies of the Merfolk. Edwards watched as the bodies sunk into the sea. With Alain’s words still fresh in his mind, he knew he had a lot to talk about with Jach.
The bodies made their way slowly towards the bottom, lending more of their scarlet hue to the blue sea, with each passing moment. The sea soon turned red, sea of blood indeed. The bodies did not sink unnoticed. Hundreds of pairs of red, glowing eyes, peering from the dark marine depths, observed the bodies and the trail of blood left by the Titania.
(The End, for now)
Image courtesy : Rudhika