When last we left our nemesis, we learned that Mister Coble, the head of her majesty’s Ministry of Objective Sciences was more than he seemed… in addition to hunting the Mythstalkers, he’s directing an opera based on the works of Freddy Mercury and keeps his iPhone on a desk charger a hundred years before it was invented. But now, we return to our heroes, as they continue to pursue…
Four explorers sat eating luncheon in the Korais cafe, an open air restaurant in Heraklion overlooking the Mediterranean. Kenneth, Lord Marston, kept getting up and pacing. He was not looking forward to the next leg of the journey. There was something about large bodies of water and the likelihood of falling into them that he wasn’t keen on.
Colonel Durant strode in, his white hair matted to his head by the humidity.
“All right,” he said, “I’ve asked around and there’s a fisherman willing to rent us his boat. It’s got enough space below decks for us to transport the beast back once we’ve captured it.”
He looked directly at Mrs. Chatterton in her purple hat. “Captured,” he repeated.
“Oh, yes. Apologize, he said,” Cassandra muttered to herself.
“Are… are you certain we need a boat?” Lord Marston asked.
“Yes,” Durant said.
“Crete is an island,” Victor Terranove said.
“I was certain that Crete wasn’t an island,” Lord Marston insisted in denial.
“It’s an island,” Cassandra said.
“The Labyrinth we’re looking for is beneath Knossos, the ancient palace of King Minos,” Sir Charles chimed in. “The ruin is about three miles inland, so its not like it’s a particularly coastal site. That, uh, might be why you’re confused.”
Kenneth paced some more, as if thinking deeply on Sir Charles’ words. Finally he turned back to the others.
“Are you sure it’s not a peninsula?” he asked hopefully.
“Damn it, man,” Colonel Durant said. “You can’t be that afraid of the water!”
“It’s not the water so much as the falling in and drowning beneath it,” Lord Marston said.
Eight hours later, he sat in a chair on the deck of a wooden fishing boat named the ΠΟΥΚΑΜΙΣΟ ΚΟΚΚΙΝΟΣ under the full moon, wrapped in a blanket purchased that day at the agora. It was little comfort. Everywhere he looked, the still sea reflected moonlight like some kind of irregular carnivorous mirror, waiting to swallow him up. Like a child a-feared of the monster under his bed, Lord Marston had placed his chair in the very center of the deck, equidistant from every edge.
“I… I suppose this isn’t so bad,” he muttered to himself.
As if taking umbrage at his weak confidence, the Mediterranean Sea began to roil. Kenneth gripped the arms of his wooden chair in a tight fearful grip.
“H-hello now, what’s this?” Lord Marston asked no one in particular.
A fog joined the rocking waves, and the full moon above blurred into a luminous spot then disappeared into darkness. Lord Marston knew that weather didn’t move this fast. This was obviously the sinister doings of the ocean.
Out of the mist, a dark shadow grew. A huge, ship shaped shadow. A shadow moving directly towards the small fishing skiff Lord Marston was trusting to keep him from sinking into the sea below.
As it came at them out of the fog, Kenneth could hear the shouting of his comrades, as if from a far distance.
“We can’t turn in time!”
“Damn sea is against us!”
The ship that emerged from the unnatural fog was a two-masted topsail schooner of a sort that Lord Marston thought unusually archaic. The sails were tattered and ocean-stained gray and the hull was splintered in many places. Gazing down at Lord Marston as she towered towards him was a figurehead of a beautiful woman with long hair and a hole in her chest where her heart should have been. Instead, a ghostly lantern filled the hole, lighting the foggy night with a somber green glow. It flew a pirate flag, a man and a skeleton facing each other kneeling. The skeleton was tossing a pair of dice between them.
Emblazoned in brass letters along the side of the ship was its name: The Cheated.
Figures stood on the front of the ship, just before the imminent bow. Pale figures.
“Oh,” Lord Marston said finally, answering his own question. “That’s what it is.”
The Cheated hit the fishing vessel with a cacophony of breaking wood and angry sea. Lord Marston found himself unable to move.
In the ocean, Sir Charles desperately swum towards a piece of wood, his compass-like device under one arm. Colonel Durant and Victor Terranove were nowhere to be seen.
Strangely, neither was the ship. It had vanished as mysteriously as it had appeared, and slowly the sea mist was parting overhead, the moon once more sovereign of the midnight sky.
Kenneth, Lord Marston, sat, safe and still. The part of the deck beneath his chair had miraculously stayed together and floated like a raft in the middle of the wreckage. The chair balanced at the center, unperturbed by the destruction of the boat around it. Lord Marston’s blanket had gotten wet, though, so he lifted it off.
“There’s my luck,” he said.
The moonlight was bright enough that he could see Mrs. Chatterton, treading water not five feet from his floating promontory. Carefully, one hand holding fast to his chair, he stood up and kneeling, reached out to take her hand. While the makeshift raft leaned precariously as Kenneth pulled her up, it did not capsize.
Sir Charles had clambered onto his own floating wooden mount, and, one arm tight around his navigation device, pointed into the distance with his other.
“Look!” he said. “An island!”
“Let us find something to use as an oar, then,” Mrs. Chatterton said. “If only there were some loose timbers nearby.”
Sir Charles had awkwardly rolled from his plank onto the raft and offered the board to Mrs. Chatterton. Her look was enough to remind the inventor that ladies did not row, so he began trawling the board through the stilling ocean himself.
“I say, this is just like in Three Men In A Boat,” Sir Charles said.
“Except without the boat,” Lord Marston muttered.
“And only two men,” Mrs. Chatterton pointed out.
The sea had returned to the moonlit mirror, and as they slowly made their way towards the island, Lord Marston could see Durant and Terranove in the distance, clinging to their own buoyant wreckage and heading in the same landbound direction.
“Maybe,” Lord Kenneth mused aloud, “maybe this whole water thing isn’t quite as bad as I made it out.”
That was when the wave hit them.
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.