|Chasing Blue: The Final Saga
Author: Scriber08 PM
"There is a storm coming. And we are walking right into it. It is funny how we are too blind to see the things brewing underneath the surface until it is too late. I just hoped I was on the right side when it hit. I hoped I was ready." I've already fled the wrath from home but I found myself running into another storm. All I wanted was redemption but I got something more...Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Suspense - Chapters: 28 - Words: 109,314 - Reviews: 10 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 05-12-13 - Published: 12-20-11 - id: 2981035
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter 11: "Pursuit"
Those were the sounds of tangled roots and vines twisting against my feet. I kept my head low, my ears tuned to the slightest sounds. The sound of birds cooed up above in the canopy of the treetops ahead. Sweat dripped against my long eyelashes, the salt stinging my eyes. There were footsteps along this footpath. Someone else was here. I followed Danaeus' lead as the three of us men trailed the footsteps until they stopped at the top of the hill, where the ground turned gravely and the trees were replaced with shrubs.
Then we saw a man coming around the other side of the hill to meet us. We all held our breath hoping it was Cyphus. The man was lanky in build and even wore the same beige tunic…but it was not him. I watched Danaeus fiddle with his sword in his back sheath.
"Who are you?" Danaeus called out warily to the man as he kept coming closer to our group. The man remained silent as he quickened his pace. His face remained stoic as he edged closer.
"Do not take one step closer, until you tell me who you are," Danaeus warned as he pulled out his long silver sword at the man's chest. I sucked my teeth, not wanting to respond to Danaeus hasty actions.
"You do not belong here," the man said in a cold tone. His hands perked slightly up in surrender fashion as he slowly backed away to the edge of the hill.
"What do you mean we do not belong?" Danaeus retorted as he motioned the sword towards the man's arms, which by now found their way behind his back. I glanced at Danaeus' look of confusion and dismay. Suddenly the thinness of the air had become tighter; wrapping around my neck.
"If you come to plunder our village, leave now, because you men have already caused too much damage," he hissed. "I am not scared of death," he said coolly as he quickly whipped his sword out on Danaeus. The sharp iron blade pointed a few inches from the knot in his throat. Danaeus took one step back while keeping his sword aimed at the men's heart.
"I do not know who you are, or what you are saying but you are harassing the wrong men. We are not here to plunder anything. Do we have an understanding now?!"
"What Danaeus means is that we come in peace," Marius said, plastering an uneasy smile. I watched his palms tremble as he stared back into the stranger's intense coal eyes. "We are here because one of our crew is missing. We were wondering if you saw a lanky fellow about this tall. He had short brown chestnut hair like you, and he had a mole on his left cheek," Marius explained. "His name was Cyphus." Marius sheepishly motioned for both men to put their swords. I watched as the two men were locked in a vicious staring contest before the other surrendered.
"I have not seen such a man before. But if you men claim who you say you are, then you need to leave while you still have a chance."
"Why?" I blurted aloud.
"There are reports of pirates raiding the ports of the island and they are going along the coast of Malta," he uttered sternly. "They are coming for new loot to steal," he replied in an eerily calm voice. "And if you resist they will cut your throat. They are coming. They are coming…"
"You men leave now to the boat. I will stay behind with this man until he tells me where I can find Cyphus," Danaeus ordered.
"Danaeus, you should come too," Marius croaked. Danaeus shook his head no.
"I can handle myself," he muttered. "Now go!"
"Come on Troy, we have to go," Marius said patting me on the shoulder. The momentum came in our steps as we rushed down the hills, through the maze of shrubs and trees. I could feel the tear in my ankle as I brushed past thorns and looping branches. I am almost there. Just hang on. Then in a small clearing in the brush I could see the boat still wading along the coast. We were almost there. I did not look back; even to see if Danaeus or the other fellow was behind. As I brushed past the overhanging brushes and shrubs, I did not notice the scrapes and scratches that marred my arm and exposed skin of my thighs. It did not matter at the time…
Other footsteps trailed from behind. Marius was to the side of me as he dodged the trees. As I made it back on leveled ground and ran through the beaches, the anchors were being already being yanked.
"Hurry, fellows!" Theseus shouted. "There are men behind you!" My heart froze in that moment. Somehow my feet slowed in the sand as I seen five men pursuing Marius and I in the corner of my eye.
"Runnnnnn!" Jason shouted who was already on deck. My heart sank as the last anchor was ripped from the bedrock. The plank that was used as a boarding ramp was simply pulled up by Hyros. How dare he at a perilous time like this?!
"We need to get on the ship!" I shouted exasperatedly. Then Hyros threw a long rope out over the edge of the ship as the first waves began to pull the ship from the rocks. Sweating with fatigue I clung onto the rope as Hyros and Theseus pulled me overboard. My sweaty fingertips made it harder to grasp on as I clinched on with the bits of my fingernails.
"Hold on, Troy," Theseus assured. I nodded weakly as I realized I could barely climb anymore. The other men assisted in pulling me over. I held on tight as my body dangled over the lapping waves. As I got to the railing, Theseus helped pull my legs over onto the other side. As the other fellow beside me was pulled to safety I looked down at the beach below. What about Marius?
"Throw in more ropes," Theseus shouted. Another cord was thrown over the boat for Marius. As he neared the coastline, Marius tripped over a rock and landed head first in the tide lines. Get up. He cannot hear you. As Marius tried to pick himself up, one of the pirates grabbed Marius by his tunic and threw him head first in the sand bank. The bandit placed his left muscled leg over Marius before he kicked Marius in the head with his hard black leather sandals.
"Let him go!" Hyros shouted. "Let me have a go at them!" Hyros snapped. He braced himself to jump over the edge of the ship.
"Stop!" Theseus hissed. "You will get yourself hurt. We cannot afford to lose more men to these cowards."
"If we do nothing we are cowards!" Hyros snapped. I watched helplessly as Marius fiercely rolled away and scrambled to get back on his feet. As the bandit tried to grab hold of Marius, he butted the bandit in his small forehead causing him the young bandit to clutch his squared head in pain. The bandit faltered as he began chanting something to the other men that were descending on the beach.
"Keep the ropes steady for Marius!" Theseus commanded. "Men grab whatever sword or bow you possess and stand your ground on this ship," he replied emphatically. There was a mad scramble of the crew to find whatever weapon they could find. I looked in horror as more men poured out from the bushes, coming after the boat with torches and swords. Marius waded through the water before finally catching hold of the cord. Soggy and doused in sand, Marius weakly tried to climb onto the rope.
"Pull!" Hyros shouted. As Marius was being hoisted anther bandit jumped onto the rope with Marius. I watched the young bandit who was no more than twenty years of age try to cling on, pulling on the weight of the rope.
"Get off!" Marius shouted. The bandit tried to muzzle Marius.
"Owwwww," a scream came from the bandit as Marius bit his hand. Drops of blood stained the rope as the bandit relinquished his muscled grip, plunging to the shallow waters below. Another bandit shot an arrow hitting the side of the boat. I backed away from the edge of the ship as I watched Marius slowly being pulled on board.
"Can this ship go any faster?!" Philemon hissed angrily.
"I will get men on steering the masts," Theseus answered in a strained tone. I watched as some men were ordered to climb the tops of the mast to adjust it so as to catch the sailing winds. Meanwhile Hyros and the others were standing on deck, arrows and swords braced for whatever may come. I helped hauled the ropes inside the boat, as I kept thinking about the people we left behind and who may never ever return with us. As the bandits madly dashed into the waters, trying to cling to the boat, I could not help but find Clitus running to the underbelly of the ship. I followed him inside the heart of the ship, the only last place they would look to find us.
As I accidentally bumped into a piece of stacked lumber, I saw Clitus' face in the shadows grow pale. I watched him, with a knife in his hands, trembling…just trembling.
"It is okay Clitus. It is me. I am not the pirate," I answered, swallowing my own nerves. Clang! Clitus dropped the knife abruptly, only inches away from his exposed toes. He knelt down to pick it up. As he placed the knife in his sheath he looked at me with scared big hazel eyes.
"Are they g-gone," he stammered. More chants bellowed from above as sounds of arrows cut through the air like knives.
"I do not know. But we are safe here. For now at least," I said, sounding so unsure of myself.
"This reminds me when they raided my village when I was five," he said, clearing his throat.
"Clitus… I had no idea. I can only imagine how scared you felt," I whispered in the tense air.
"I watched my father get killed in front of my eyes by monsters.
"Was your mother captured too," I answered softly, already afraid I knew the answer.
"She was captured too in the raid. The last thing my mother said to me was 'run boy, run! Run as fast as you can find for mummy.' I could not run fast enough no matter how hard I tried. I failed her. I was caught by bandits. I thought they would kill me just like they did to everyone in my family. But they did not. Scared is an understatement…terror is more like it," he uttered softly. "This is like reliving a horrible nightmare over again but you cannot wake up out of it," he answered in his usual calm tone. I caught my heart pounding against my chest. I tasted his words, I lived his words. I felt sick knowing I supported the bondage of humans. I finally understood Clitus. I understood the waking fear he lived under. When the nightmares ruled my world I had to coax myself that things would get better. Things will get better. They have too. An eerie silence followed.
"Wait here, Clitus while I check the deck. I could not imagine what I would see or if I was risking my own life by stepping foot out the hull. I sucked my warm breath and braced myself for the worst.
"We won!" that was the cries on deck as I ascended above the deck, scouring the scene with cautious eyes.
"Those ruthless men do not scare us," Jason muttered. He then stopped to stare at me as I tried to close the floorboards where I came from. "It is over, Troy. It is over," he said at last. I looked around the deck. Men were cheering and taunting the pirates who had turned back to the shorelines were they crawled from. Their defeat was our victory. Then the cheers were interrupted by moaning noises from the tip of the boat. Jason and I looked at each other before running to the noise. My worst fear was realized. Someone was hit. Philemon. He lay crumpled on the deck with the red arrow stuck in his lower abdomen. I almost gasped aloud as I seen Philemon mutter cursing under his breath, the arrow still clutched to the side of his left abdomen.
"I am hit," he croaked bitterly. Soon the rejoicing was turned to an awkward silence, as the crew huddled around his frail body. Red moist blood oozed out his abdomen, staining the wooden floors. Tears began to flood Jason's eyes as he tried to hold Philemon's head upright.
"We need help!" he shouted. In the corner of my eye, I saw Clitus walking from behind the circle of men. Clitus and another fellow by the name of Crispus who also doubled as a physician for the crew quickly pushed his way through the circular throng. He sternly directed Clitus to gather some more cloths to apply pressure to the wounds.
"You men take a step back, so the physician can perform his job. Jason I need you and Hyros to help lift him and prepare a place for Philemon in the hull," ordered Theseus. Hyros eyes widened but went before Theseus at once as he, Jason, and the Clitus helped carry Philemon's body to the hull. The silence turned to low murmurs, murmurs of worry, over Philemon… inquiries of the other men's welfare. I hoped the best for Philemon. I would not wish his ill fate on anyone, not even my worst enemy. But he was no longer an enemy. He was our leader, a crew member. He was still a man.
The days past swiftly like the autumn breeze. The days were gradually growing shorter and the nights were growing longer. It was over a week since the brush with the pirates. Philemon was doing better but was still weak from the loss of blood when the arrow was finally pulled out. I went to visit him every day even if I barely uttered a word. He appreciated it even if he did not say a word. One day while I came to visit him in his makeshift cot in the hull, I came by to count the food supplies.
"I counted seven bushels of grain, and about two clusters of figs. I keep thinking there are more figs. Maybe you seen one I missed," I laughed.
"You have young eyes, you should be able to see it," he replied matter of fact.
"Oh ok," I replied awkwardly. "I suppose I have 'young eyes.' "I should be able to. But sometimes the things you are looking for you may not see right away," I stated, as I scanned the wooden shelves built along the hull buttresses. I smiled with delight as I found another sack of flour on the bottom rack.
"I used to have young eyes like you," he continued from the makeshift bed, only paces away where I was standing.
"I suppose our eyes grow dimmer from age," I answered.
"You have no idea how good you have it," he answered sternly from behind. "I would do anything to go back in time to be your age." I took a step back from the curved walls.
"Step closer," Philemon beckoned. I walked closer to his makeshift bed which was along the wall. He lifted his head to the head post behind the narrow bed sheet. For a moment his small eyes narrowed in concentration with each step I took. The floors so hollow I could hear every step with precision. I watched as he held his ears out to listen to the steps.
"I can see you much better," he said softly, his mouth curving upward across his dimples. That was a rarity.
"Hopefully you will get better," I asked sheepishly with a smile. His smile began to fade. A knot then clung to my throat.
"I am afraid I am not going to get better," he replied regretfully.
"The wounds are not healing properly?" I asked aloud.
"They are but not the vicious headaches. Crispus tells me if the headaches keep continuing I might lose all of my…um," he choked. He pointed to his dimmed eyes. The glimmer of light was no longer there. His eyesight was growing dim but I failed to realize how bad it had gotten. I never felt so bad for Philemon in my life. He was losing his sight.
"I did not want to tell anyone," he croaked. "I was too ashamed to admit something I was not even ready to accept," he sniffled. Tears welled in his brown eyes, as I watched one slowly escape his eyelid and slide down his rosy cheek. "I am afraid of going blind," he said clearing his throat, as he briskly rubbed his eyes. That was the secret that Philemon held inside. Did anyone else suspect he was losing his vision? I assumed Clitus knew and maybe Theseus. But whenever I brought up the question of Philemon's health he would give me a general statement of, 'he is hanging in there.'
"You can leave me here. I do not wish for you to see me like this," he sighed. I bowed my head low. As his wounds were healing from the side of his abdomen, one wound would never heal.
I lost track of how many days since we left Crete so I did not bother writing it down. I will I have never been so grateful to see another day of life. I often wonder though about Cyphus who strayed too far or the bravery of Danaeus to stay behind and find Cyphus. He did not have to stay behind. After all Cyphus is a grown man. He could have fended for himself. And now Danaeus and Cyphus are left with the pirates. I shudder to think what had become of them now. Thinking back our crew almost lost everything in Malta. But I could not place the blame all on him. Most of us are still alive. Our ship is still intact. We even have most of our goods even though we left behind some of the tents in a hurry to escape. Anyways, Theseus says we should be passing the strait between Sicily to the mainland. It is only a matter of days before we get closer to shore. However today I noticed a small object that appeared to be a vessel floating in the water. It filled me with awe yet fear in my heart. I do not know whether it is coming closer but I will keep on the watch nevertheless.
Today, I awoke a bit stiff from my afternoon nap. For some reason I felt off. I briskly rubbed my eyes taking in the dimmed sunlight before it disappeared in the looming mass of clouds. I gently rubbed my ankle which by now had healed. I slowly picked myself off my itchy straw mattress and observed Hyros and some of the men staring at the vessel out at sea.
"That is the same vessel that I saw yesterday," Hyros snorted. "I feel like it is following us or something." I was scared to think it…pirates. Maybe there are other ships out there like us. I should not think of things to scare myself unnecessarily. But yet I had an eerie feeling about the vessel. This was the 2nd day it was following us and we were well into the 2nd week out in sea since the "incident" back in Malta.
"I suppose we are not alone in the seas," I sighed aloud. Hyros stared at me with wide eyes.
"So you finally decided to speak to me," he asked sarcastically.
"You are not all bad and deceitful," I said, giving him a coy smile. "I never did thank you for pulling us to safety. That was really nice of you. I finally wanted to thank you." I replied solemnly. Hyros slowly nodded in agreement, shaking his loose mop-like tresses that sometimes covered his eyes.
"You are welcome, friend. So…what do you think about the vessel?" he asked, shifting the conversation.
"I do not know. I just hope they come in peace," I answered wistfully. Swoosh! As sudden as it came a strong gust came from the west. The mast flapped madly in the breeze as the birds that were once settled comfortably on it were left scattering into the heavens.
"Never mind the vessel. I will have Theseus or you keep an eye out on it. I need to watch the mast," Hyros muttered as he scattered to the middle of the deck. The warm air was quickly replaced with a chill that left me shivering in my thin tunic that clung to my knees. Against the brisk winds that rustled my curls and slapped the folds of my garment, I braced myself against the edge of the wooden railing. From the distance I could see the white crests of waves coming, closer…and closer…devouring the smaller waves until it became one huge line of waves. The crest of the waves grew higher as it picked up speed towards our vessel. I watched the neighboring vessel bobble like a toy as it swayed from side to side. By now the birds in the skies were nowhere to be found. Not even their songs and cries could be heard in the distant. In a just a few minutes the weather was changing rapidly. In the western horizon, I saw the dark menacing clouds, creeping amongst the white fluffy ones that hung low in the skies. The waves were restless, the winds were picking up…a storm was coming. And we were running to it!