|10-11-2005, 08:07 PM||#1|
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On the rising tide Chapter 8
** Disclaimer: the following is a work of fiction and in no way meant to be mistaken for reality. Inspired by real people, but purely and completely false and written without the consent of any of those people. No offense is intended to anyone. It’s all meant in good fun. I want to take this opportunity to reiterate the fact that I am not writing this with any degree of time accuracy. Phrases of speech, even references to certain events and to some songs are out of place. These things are being used to establish a tone, using the more familiar rather than trying to use period accurate language and songs which I know were written before the mid 1700’s.__________________
On the rising tide Chapter 8
No quarter, no mercy. That was their creed. Colleen had never understood just what that really meant, until they found themselves under attack. Her uncle would have given them anything of value aboard the ship, but they had killed him anyway. But they weren’t going to kill her. Not yet, at least. They’d had their share of fun taunting her with threats of what they were going to do to her first.
She’d fought. Fought harder than she ever imagined herself capable of. And now she was running. Running and hiding. Helpless. She couldn’t stand being helpless. The battle had been fierce, to be sure, and a toll was certainly paid on the pirates behalf as well, but it was clear that they would outlive her people. She was damned near broken, felt that there was no hope at all. That was when she had seen the ship looming up on the starboard side.
Colleen thought perhaps she was hallucinating, when she saw the ship appear out of the blazing sunset. Then she considered the possibility she had been killed, and that this was some strange angel of death, come to collect the souls of herself and the other dead. When she heard the pirates calling to one another that a ship approached, their dismay gave Colleen heart. Perhaps it was indeed an angel of death, but one come to collect the men who had pillaged their ship.
Almost immediately, a wave of sailors descended on the wounded vessel, demanding the pirates surrender. The battle began again, and no matter how desperately Colleen wanted to be able to close her eyes to it, she knew that she could not. The smoke was choking her, making her chest tight and her throat dry. Her eyes burned, but she kept them open.
“Is there anyone left alive?” She heard a man’s voice asking. He had a sweet Irish accent that made her want to weep.
“Yes!” She called, choking and gagging on the black smoke. “I’m here!” She forced herself to yell into the chaos, and she felt a hand on her elbow. She jumped in fear, trying to twist away. It was not his appearance which convinced her of his safety. No, he looked every bit as much of a pirate as those who had first attacked. A bit cleaner, perhaps, but a pirate all the same.
His long black hair was sweat dampened, pulled back and tied loosely at the nape of his neck. Each of his ears was pierced with a bejeweled gold hoop, and his smile was devilish. Even so, the moment her eyes met his she knew she had nothing to fear from him. Those sky blue eyes promised her that she was no longer on her own. He took her hand in his own and led the way through the smoke and rubble, as quickly as she could go. *Big hands* she thought, feeling safer for having one of them holding hers.
Suddenly, she felt a sharp, stinging pain in her scalp as she was yanked backwards by her hair. Her rescuer stumbled slightly at the sudden, unexpected stop, and she heard a man’s laughter from behind her. She felt the cold metal of the man’s blade against her throat, and her blood ran even colder than the blade.
“Where do you fink yer goin’ with ‘er?” the man behind her asked, obviously addressing her rescuer.
“Drop the blade.” The dark haired man demanded, those blue eyes shining with a depth of emotion she had not expected. Passion, that was the word for it.
“Or you’ll do what? Gonna run her through to get to me?” The pirate taunted, taking a careless step backwards, dragging her along. She felt his body jerk and tense suddenly, heard the sudden sharp intake of breath. Then she heard another voice. A softer, sweeter voice, again with a musical Irish lilt.
“No. I can kill you easily enough from here without harming her.” The new voice said, and Colleen sighed in relief as the blade sagged away from her throat and finally was released from the pirates hand to clatter to the deck.
“Good teamwork, The Edge.” The dark haired man said with a wink and a broad smile. Colleen’s heart was beating like a hummingbirds wings. He reached out to her again and she gratefully took his hand. “Don’t look back.” He told her, his voice soft but serious. Colleen had no desire to look back, anyway.
The next pirate seemed to come from nowhere, wielding a sword and moving in immediately for the kill. Colleen screamed reflexively when the blade came far too close, backing up as her rescuer did. He dodged the attack, but not completely. She saw blood on his face, her heart gripped with an icy fear that this man, too, would fall to the pirates.
Her rescuer was not particularly graceful. In fact his movements reminded her more of a beast of burden like an ox than like a swordsman. He charged forward into the fray, using that passion she’d seen in his eyes to overwhelm and defeat his attacker. Soon they were moving again, over charred rubble, through the smoke and past the fighting men. When they finally neared the starboard side of the ship and the Jacob’s ladder which led down to a small dinghy, she wanted to kiss him she was so grateful. The man helped her over the side and she awkwardly managed to lower herself to the dinghy below, where an older man waited. There was a friendly air about him, even under the circumstances.
“It’s all right now, dear. I’ve got you.” He told her, helping her into the boat. She had barely stepped inside the dinghy when they heard a scream above them, and almost faster than she could see what was happening, it was over. Her rescuer plummeted from the deck of her sinking ship, hitting the water just a few feet away. He hit the water hard, the waves tossed the boat wildly and knocked Colleen off her feet.
She scrambled to the side of the boat to search the water for him, holding her breath until she thought her lungs would burst. Surely, he could not stay under this long and survive, she thought. But still she would not draw a breath, her eyes searching for him. As suddenly as he had fallen, he surfaced, gasping for breath and yelling a string of obscenities that no man had ever dared utter in her presence.
“Bono!” The man in the boat with her was calling. She could hear the name being called from above as well.
“I’ve got him!” The man beside her called up, rowing quickly to the man’s aid. “Someone above is looking out for you, lad!” He announced as he held a hand out for the man.
“Not very fucking well!” The man retorted. “Then again, I can not believe I didn’t break every fucking bone in me body.” He said with a sigh as he was hauled into the boat beside them. He sprawled out on the floor of the boat, his head resting on the seat beside Colleen’s lap. He wiped the water off his face with one of those big hands, but he kept the other pinned tightly to his ribs. He was injured from the fall, though perhaps not as badly as she had feared.
He blinked the water from his lashes and let out a quick breath to clear his lips of ocean water before finally turning his eyes up to meet hers.
“Shite.” He muttered, staring at her for a moment before wiping his eyes again.
“What is it?” She asked, her heart filled with worry.
“I’ve died, then, haven’t I?” He asked, and she shook her head emphatically.
“No, no!” She assured him, reaching out to touch his forehead and then his cheek, tenderly.
“How is it that I’ve come to be in the presence of an angel if I’m not dead?” He asked, the corner of his mouth twitching up playfully. She couldn’t understand how he managed even that tiny smile when he was clearly in pain.
Colleen’s cheeks flushed shyly and she hid her smile behind one of her tiny hands.
“He’s fine.” The other man in the boat announced, rolling his eyes.
“What’s your name, luv?” The dark haired man asked, still watching Colleen carefully.
“Colleen O’Neill.” She replied politely.
“This fine man here is Paul McGuinness. He’s the first mate of the ship you see there.” He told her.
“You can call me Bono.” He told her, those penetrating blue eyes still searching her face.
“Bono.” She repeated, and he smiled as if he liked the sound of her voice saying his name.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me?” He said, turning calmly to face the other way and letting out a scream like a banshee. His body was trembling and he had grown terribly pale.
“Is it your shoulder, or your chest?” Paul asked as he continued to row them toward the rescuing ship. Bono winced, his face twisted up in a mask of pain.
“Shoulder.” He managed to reply.
Colleen didn’t know how to help but wanted to, desperately. She slid off her seat to the floor and cradled his head in her lap. The folds of her skirt at least provided some cushioning for his injured arm. She smoothed his hair away from his face, murmuring softly to him in a soothing tone.
“We’re going to need some help down here!” Paul called to the men still aboard the aingeal. “Ropes, some canvas, and some muscle!” He added. “You can go ahead, miss, if you please.”
“No.” She told him shaking her head. “I’ll stay here, until you’ve gotten Bono safely aboard.”
“It may take some time, in order to keep from hurting him much worse. You can’t be comfortable sitting there that way.” Paul prodded, but Colleen looked up at him, her deep brown eyes as serious as death.
“I’ll not be going anywhere until I see he’s been taken aboard safely.” She told him firmly, and Paul’s eyebrows shot up in surprise at her determination.
“Suit yourself.” He told her, his eyes turning eastward, toward the sinking ship, and wondering how Carra was faring.
“Is he alright?” Larry called to Edge, who had nearly gone over the side of the ship trying to catch Bono when he fell. Edge called out for him frantically, desperately.
“I’ve got him!” Paul called back up, and Edge sighed with relief. He could see that Bono was alive as Paul hauled him onto the dinghy.
“He’s alright!” Edge called back. He turned to see that the pirates were retreating now, fleeing to their ship. He released a deep breath, greatly relieved to see it. He hated fighting, killing. No matter how much he knew it was necessary, in times such as this against men such as these, it never set well in his conscience.
“Let’s make a final sweep, look for any survivors.” Larry suggested once the pirates were sailing away. Edge nodded and followed Larry’s lead.
“We should salvage what we can.” Edge suggested, collecting several of the fallen men’s swords.
“You’re probably right.” Larry sighed. “Though I feel no better than the pirates, taking things off the dead.”
“Still we, might need these for our own defense.” Edge pointed out. Larry agreed silently.
“You search the starboard side, I’ll take port.” Larry said finally. “Take command of any of the aingeal’s men you find, tell them to salvage but not pillage.” Edge nodded his agreement, not letting the surprise show on his face. He was honored by the authority he was given. It took most men several years to gain a captains trust so completely.
He did as Larry had asked, but to his disappointment he came across no survivors. It wasn’t long before the boat shifted, the waterline nearly over the stern. It would not be long before the ship would be pulled under. The time had come to abandon ship.
“I feel as if we should say a prayer. Something.” Edge said as he and Larry were the last to row away. The aingeal had been kept at a distance for safety’s sake. The suction created when the wounded ship went under would be strong, and they were taking no chances.
“We will. Let’s see to our own men first, then we’ll hold a service before we depart.” Larry told him, both men looking at the wreck feeling as if their hearts were sinking with it. Edge turned back toward the aingeal and began to row again. There was no sense in looking back, he told himself. Always, always keep your eyes on the path ahead of you. It was the wisest thing his father had ever told him, and true in every situation he’d encountered.
“Were there any survivors?” Larry asked, turning to look toward the aingeal as well.
“One, that I know of.” Edge told him. One was better than none, he wanted to say. He knew how hollow the words would sound, in Larry’s ears. He was not the sort of man who liked to lose at anything. Nearly an entire ship had been lost. As precious as each life was, it seemed like cold comfort at the moment.
Once they were back aboard the aingeal, Edge’s first concern was Bono’s welfare. He was directed to Paul’s cabin, which had been quickly converted to a room for the injured. He could hear his friends wailing well before he got to the door. He picked up his pace a little with each step; he was at a full run by the time he reached them.
“What in bloody hell is going on in here?” He demanded. Carra stood on the bed over Bono, his left arm held tightly in her hands. Adam held tight to a sheet which had been wrapped around Bono’s chest, and was leaning back, pulling it taut.
“We’re trying to get his bloody shoulder back into the socket. Would care to give it a go?” Carra asked sharply. Edge could see that she had worked up a sweat and was out of breath, and he had to wonder how many times she had attempted to yank the mans shoulder back into the proper place.
“Yes, I would.” Edge told her calmly, and Carra climbed down from the bed.
“Have at it.” She told him with a wave of her hand. She picked up the bottle of rum that sat beside the bed and took a swig before offering one to Bono. Bono accepted gratefully, then asked for another as Edge positioned himself above, getting a firm grip on the man’s arm.
“You’d better get it in one fucking try!” Bono warned, and Edge smiled at his friend.
“Adam, are you ready to provide counter pressure?” Edge asked, and Adam took tight hold of the sheet again before nodding in agreement. “On the count of three.” Edge said, shaking his head slightly at Adam and mouthing the word ‘four’.
“One!” Edge called, feeling Bono tense up, preparing for the pain. “Two! Three!” Bono’s entire body flexed as he braced himself for the pain which never came. Edge felt his friends body relax as his eyes opened and he looked up at him in bewilderment.
“Now!” Edge called to Adam, who pulled the sheet tight to keep Bono from coming up off the bed as Edge yanked hard on his arm, pulling it straight upward until the man’s arm bone fit back in the shoulder socket where it belonged. The sound of the bone moving and then settling back into it’s proper place was something none of them would forget anytime soon. A sort of grinding and then a pop, loud enough to turn their stomachs. Bono groaned and rubbed his shoulder with his right hand.
“It’ll still going to hurt quite a bit.” Carra informed him as he rubbed the swollen shoulder.
“It’s not that… I’m just glad he didn’t pull it clean off!” Bono said. “Jaysus, The Edge, you’re stronger than you let on.” He said, as Edge climbed down and took the bottle from Carra.
“Keep that in mind the next time you try to cheat me at cards.” Edge replied with a smile. The group all chuckled slightly, all relieved after the ordeal.
“Is he going to be alright?” They head a soft voice ask from outside the door.
“He’ll be right as rain before long.” Carra replied. “Come on in, Colleen.” She added, and a pretty young woman with chestnut brown hair and deep, dark brown eyes stepped into the light of the room.
“It’s my angel.” Bono said softly, smiling a slight, almost shy smile. The woman looked down at her hands, smiling as well. Edge couldn’t help but smile, thinking that only Bono could charm a woman while in so much pain. “Edge, this is Colleen O’Neill. Colleen, this is my mate. We call him ‘The Edge’.”
“You call me The Edge.” He replied with a laugh. “Everyone else just calls me Edge.” He told the woman who smiled and nodded politely. She had obviously already been introduced to Carra, and Edge wished he could’ve seen that.
The women were about as different as night and day. Carra was a blazing beauty with her bright red hair and green eyes, her fair skin covered with freckles from spending so much of her time under the sun in the open sea air. She was dramatic curves wrapped up in a working man’s clothes, her emotions always written clearly across her face.
Colleen, on the other hand, had smooth, fair skin which was complimented by her rich dark hair and eyes. She had a quiet elegance about her, even with the blood and soot which stained her dress. For her to be so calm and proper after all she’d been through that day, Edge suspected she was capable of keeping a lot of things hidden behind a polite smile.
“Oh, Adam! Did I forget to introduce you?” Bono asked, jumping slightly when Adam cleared his throat, as if he’d completely forgotten that he was there in the first place. Edge wouldn’t have been surprised to learn that he had forgotten there was anyone in the room but her. “Colleen, this is Lord Adam Clayton.”
“Pleased to meet you, Miss O’Neill.” Adam told her with a genteel smile and a nod.
“Lord Clayton!” She said, her eyebrows rising with interest. “Your reputation precedes you.” Edge had to laugh at this, wondering just what she’d heard of the young lord.
“Well, I assure you whatever you’ve heard, it’s all a malicious lie.” Adam joked, winking playfully at the lady, who smiled politely. Her eyes were dancing, though. It was as if she was learning to have the cool English reserve, but her emotions were still close to the surface.
“Are you ready to have that chin stitched up, then?” Adam asked Bono, who sighed and nodded reluctantly. “Let me go and get Finn. He has a talent with a needle and, I suspect, he has a gentler touch than anyone else aboard.” Adam excused himself and slipped out the door.
“Are you unharmed, Colleen?” Edge asked, offering the lady a chair, which she graciously accepted.
“I’m quite well, thank you.” She replied. Again, Edge wondered if that were the truth or a programmed response. “What of the others?” Edge flinched at the question, not wanting to be the person to tell her that she was the sole survivor. His eyes met hers and without a word, she knew. He could see the realization take her. Her brown eyes shimmered in the lamp light, like liquid gold as the tears built.
He heard the ragged breath as she drew it in, squaring her shoulders and hiding once more behind that cool façade. She had an Irish accent, but someone had taught this lady to hide all emotions, which was by no means an Irish trait. Edge’s natural curiosity had him speaking before he thought better of it.
“I’m sorry, there were no others found alive. If it’s not too bold to ask, where was your ship bound?” He asked.
“The colony on Antigua.” She told him on a ragged voice. She cleared her throat, forced back the tears and continued. “I was going to meet the man I’m to marry. He’s stationed there, though he hopes to have his papers soon to go back to England.”
“Were your parents…?” Edge asked, fearing the question.
“No.” She told him softly. “I was with my Uncle. My parents had not yet departed Belfast.” She informed him, her face hidden behind her dark hair as she bowed her head to say a prayer for them. “I wonder – do you think it’s possible those pirates knew, somehow?” She wondered aloud a moment later.
“I’m sorry? Knew what?”
“That I’m betrothed to Captain Murphy.” She told him. “That’s what he does, arrests pirates, smugglers and fugitives. Sees to their execution. He’s – “ Her voice broke here, though no one in the room was certain if the sorrow was for her shipmates or for herself, being engaged to marry this man. “ – he’s known for fighting pirates with their own creed.” She told them.
“No quarter, no mercy.” Edge concluded, and she nodded.
“It’s exactly that sort of policy that drives pirates and thieves to such levels of violence.” Bono said, surprising them because they had all suspected he had passed out, he’d been lying there silent for so long. “Blimey bastards think they’re going to scare the pirates and rebels straight? They’ll scare them all right. Scare them into not leaving any witnesses. Turn them all into blood-thirsty monsters. Turn themselves into monsters at the same time.”
“I’m sure he means no offense to your betrothed, m’lady.” Edge said, scowling a warning at Bono.
“Tis the rum talking, I suspect, more than the man.” Carra added.
“Bollix! I’m not so drunk as to not know what I’m saying.” Bono complained, giving their scowls right back to them. “And I won’t be told to be silent because it isn’t polite. Fuck polite! Everyone dancing around trying to not offend the English upper class is the reason nothing ever gets done to make the problems better.”
“Perhaps I’ll need a bit more thread.” Finn said as he entered the room. “To sew shut your lips, for your own protection.”
“I do not share Captain Murphy’s attitudes, and so I am not offended by anything Bono has had to say. So there’s no need to be concerned for his welfare where I’m concerned.” Colleen told them, standing and smoothing her dress. “If anything, I dare say, he’s right. Unfortunately, as a woman I have no say in what my husband does.”
“I’m sorry.” Bono said, his pain and rum drowned mind catching on to the reason for the others concern. “I get flapping me lips and forget sometimes…”
“It’s really no problem.” She assured him. “I just wanted to be sure you were well. If you’ll excuse me?” She said nodding to the men in the room before gliding out the door as gracefully as she’d entered.
“Hold still. This isn’t going to feel good.” Finn warned Bono as he wet a strip of linen with the rum and then wiped the dried blood away from the slice on his chin. Bono drew in a sharp breath through his teeth and pulled away, cursing the boy and his entire family.
“I told you it was going to hurt.” He said, reaching out and wiping at the wound again. “It’s not bad. Four stitches, maybe five. Should make for an fine scar.” Edge excused himself as well, convinced that Bono was as safe as he could possibly get.
Darkness had descended on the sea and the air had cooled dramatically. Edge wished he had thought to pull on his heavy coat There was debris floating on the water for as far as Edge’s eye could see, but that was the only sign of the tragedy that had taken place there just hours before.
He had forced himself in the hours since the battle to keep busy; caring for the wounded or making room for the recovered cargo from the other ship. Anything he could to keep his mind occupied. He was fine so long as he didn’t have time to think about it. Dinner had been served and now all there was left for him to do was wait. Wait for the worship service. Wait to get the ship back underway. Just wait, and think.
*Molly.* He thought, staring up at the starry sky. *Are you looking at the same stars, at this very moment?* he wondered. *I wish I could be there, beside you. Holding you in my arms, keeping you safe where you belong.* His heart ached for the woman he’d fallen in love with years ago. He missed her quick wit and observant mind. Nothing ever got past her, that was certain. She was bright. She also had a good heart, and a love for God. She was going to be a wonderful mother for his children. At the moment, he wanted to hold her so badly that he wondered why he had left her in the first place.
The others were gathering on deck, thankfully, taking his mind off his loneliness. Larry took the front and center position, gesturing for Edge to join him. Bono was the last to arrive, his arm suspended in a sling and swath. Larry’s eyes scanned the deck to be certain no one was missing before he began.
“Psalm 46: God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.”
After the reading of the psalm, the crew remained completely silent while Paul rang the bell, one strike for each person lost in the attack. The ringing seemed to surround them like a physical presence, envelope them like a fog, and it felt as if it went on for much longer than it actually did. Each strike of the bell was felt by the sailors as if they had been struck themselves, and the echoes went on long after the bell was done ringing.
“In the name of the Lord our God, I commend these souls to the deep until the day of the resurrection, when God himself will come to judge the living and the dead.” Larry intoned, his head bowed as he led the men into the reciting of the Lord’s Prayer. “Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”
Before they had even lifted their heads, Bono’s voice rang out loud and clear, lifted in a familiar Irish song of praise which tugged at the heart of every man on the ship.
“Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart, be all else but naught to me, save that thou art; be thou my best thought in the day and the night, both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light…” Any heart which had remained untouched by the bell or by the blessing finally gave purchase to the power of Bono’s voice. The passion in his voice had never been more pure. “High King of heaven, thou heaven's bright sun, O grant me its joys after victory is won; great Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, still be thou my vision, O Ruler of all.”
|10-11-2005, 08:39 PM||#2|
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SG, great story I love it!
looking forward to the next chapter
|10-12-2005, 01:27 AM||#5|
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Another great chapter, as always SG!! Looking forward to the next part.
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