“Tell us again, boy,” Captain Raneir sneered, his hot breath reeking with the putrid scent of rot and meat, his teeth chipped, black, and full of decay. “Tell us again how the devil lass with the angel’s song tried to sink me here furner.”
The men surrounding him laughed, loud and disingenuous, causing the small cabin below deck to rumble with its power. Nicolas could hardly see them clear through the water wall stinging his eyes and blurring his vision. He braced himself against the strong hand pushing him back into the ice cold darkness. His lungs burned. His cheeks and nose lost all feeling.
“S’all true,” he shouted, between gasps of air. “Everything I said is.”
“It be me own fault,” Captain Raneir exclaimed with exaggerated disappointment. “Pickin’ up sprogs cause I can pay ’em cheap, placin’ the black spot on the lot of us. A right mad scallywag he be. Takin’ us right to Davy Jones’ Locker.”
“And meself with you?” Nicolas rushed toward the prison bars and gripped them tight. “I ain’t wishin’ for death no more than the lot o’ you. But I know what I’e seen. She controls the tide! She guards the booty! Men live or die by her hand!”
“Convenient. Ain’t nobody seen her but you.” All trace of amusement left the Captain’s face. His voice dropped, low and menacing. “Me thinks you try yer hand at mutiny.”
“Think of it, Capt’n. Think of the legends surroundin’ the Gemini. Why have we come so far when so many have failed? You’ve seen it. One wreckage after another, yet we live.”
“Not because of the song of some temptress! I’is a good captain. ‘Tis a good crew. We survive on skill and drums of grog to ease the edge. No more.”
Nicolas’ eyes widened, his heart thundering. “Careful, Capt’n. I’d not be speaking against her.”
Without warning, the ship jolted. The ocean stirred, a giant beast awakening. All at once, the men turned to look at Nicolas, as though he himself had woken the ghosts of pirates past, sleeping in the far deep. Fear entered their eyes. Fear and panic and uncertainty.
“If she be real,” the Captain shouted, “then let her have her man!” With a flick of a wrist, men surrounded Nicolas, lifting him above their heads. He kicked and screamed but they held him firm, up the stairs and onto the deck. The sky was a grey streak of angry black clouds. Lightning bounced off of the water. Thunder roared.
“Toss him overboard!”
The men swung his body, back and forth, back and forth, until there was nothing but air between he and the bitter sea.
Hands tied behind his back, he broke the surface and sunk low, lower still, until everything above became nothing but shadowed shapes. Kick, he told himself. Kick ’til ye can’t kick no more.
His head spun. The muted silence of the sea was instead chaos; the type that incurred madness. He heard her song, brilliant and menacing at once. Enchanting. Poison to the mind. He’d jump into the sea to find her if he weren’t already there.
He gasped when he suddenly reached the water’s surface. Waves moved him violently about. The ship, now capsized, looked like a wreckage of its former self, men screaming and being tossed this way and that into the ocean.
The song grew louder, reaching a fever pitch that hurt his ears, throbbed within his brain. He turned away, focusing his last energy on staying afloat. He’d tried to warn them.
“Nicolas,” a soft, musical voice said behind him. He turned, startled, falling into the heart of a manic wave, pushed deep into the water. Strong hands grasped his shirt and pulled, up, up, back toward the surface. He shook his head and blinked, as she appeared before him, a thirsting man’s desert oasis.
Hair dark and green like sea leaves. Eyes bright and blue like the calm waters of the Caribbean Seas. Skin pallid and tinted a greyish blue, scaled across the temples and cheekbones. She wore an eternity of death and destruction in her eyes, but her words were smooth like honey, a song he wanted to get lost in.
She closed her mouth, though he’d heard no sound other than his name. The tides calmed. The sky slowed to a staid calm. The ship was now a watery grave yard.
“None have been worthy,” she said, though it was more a whispered tune. “None believed, ’til now. Sleep, my love. Sleep. And when you wake it will be among a glorious bounty.”
His heavy-lidded eyes drooped until he could fight it no longer. He slept.
Sunlight accosted his senses. Warmth and light, the vague scent of salt water and wet rock. He dragged himself upright, forcing his eyes open.
Sunlight, streaming in from outside the cave opening, reflected off the calm pool of water. As his eyes adjusted to the vibrancy, he noted the beam of more reflections to his left and right.
Gold. Everywhere he looked, gold. Coins and goblets, crowns and sword hilts. Bags and chests and piles of gold in every corner of the cave.
“Gemini’s treasure,” he whispered, awed. His gaze followed the shadow bobbing back and forth in his peripheral vision.
A boat, at the far edge of the pool by the cave’s entrance.
Beyond it, a woman, visible only from the shoulders up, her green hair surreal in the sunlight. She nodded briefly, discernibly, before disappearing into the ocean.