There was another surprise awaiting me when She Who Rules the Waves sent word back. Around the south side of the island, between here and the next one over, floated seven ships. They were just off-shore, an easy row boat trip from dry land, and they were in perfect condition.
My mending had reached as far out as the wrecks in the saragossa. Imagine my glee as I took a hand-picked crew out to examine our finds. Seven ships, along with the three that had come here to find me, and the Hand ship we’d commandeered, we now had more ships than we had crew to manage. Even with those who had been freed from the Galleon.
Of the new ones there were two carracks, two xebecs, two galleys and a caravel.
Adeline was mesmerized at the state of them. Each appeared as if they’d just been made. Even the carvings on the wood shone without grime or salt build up.
“These are beautiful,” she said as we climbed on board the caravel.
It was smaller than the Rasa, but more maneuverable, if you can imagine it. Now that I say it, I don’t know if you have any real understanding of sailing ships, Father Mulcahy. Have you ever been on the open sea?
For the rest of the day, Adeline ferried crews out to the ships and sailed them into the bay where the Rasa was anchored.
“With a castle nearby, fresh water, plentiful game and plenty of woods, we can make this a regular base of operations,” she said.
I squinted, thinking. I had lifted the curse, and the shark wives seem to have either all been killed, or moved on to fresh hunting grounds. She even liked my idea of a watch tower with a ballista on top to overlook the bay.
We laid plans for fortifying this island and spent the majority of the day culling the prisoners. Any who could or would join our ranks, we accepted, with a bit of help from shrewd observation and a little divine weaving. Dorn could spot a liar at thirty paces, and I had the ability to create a circle within which no one could tell a lie.
Of the eighty-two prisoners, sixty-eight not only volunteered to join us, but seemed relieved to be out from under the Hand’s thumb. As I said, many of them were kids and young adults who had been conscripted against their will.
When we had those who would join us separated, news began to spread about the deeds of some of the crew; hideous murderers and torturers; vile individuals of all stripes. Eighteen were confirmed by more than one source, and Adeline suggested we feed them to the sharks.
Three tried to make a break for it, knocking over one of those on guard duty, and stealing her cutlass. Before they could use it, they were cut down by crossbows. The rest went to their knees, arms behind their heads. They were experts at this, having commanded many to do the same.
I gave them a choice, these fifteen murderers and thieves. They could choose the rope, the sharks, or exile. Fourteen took exile without hesitation, but the fifteenth chose the rope. Adeline hung him herself while others watched. I sent three boats full of armed men and women with the remaining fourteen and left the on the island with the cannibals. I let them take daggers and a skin of water each, with the admonishment if they ever left that island, they would be hunted down and killed.
I didn’t watch the hanging — wish it hadn’t come to that, but I’m not the supreme leader of anyone. I have no authority to dictate how each should feel. Anger is a powerful force, one reason I try to keep it at bay.
Around dusk, Bob came back with Old One Eye. Neither of the other gods returned to us. We three went to the Rasa and found Bob’s and my armor exactly where we’d left it in the trunks near our hammocks. This proved a greater relief than I had anticipated. Bob said a prayer, thanking his mistress Kithri for his life and the gifts she bestowed upon him. Then he asked her to accept his support of Old One Eye. This made the old god maudlin for a time.
He caught us both off guard by suggesting he take the rings from us. You recall the ones Thunder Jack had given us, to seal the bond between us? Old One Eye said while the rings were powerful artifacts, that they would prove to be problematic in the long run. The positive aspects were frequently overshadowed by the negative aspects of their magic.
We talked about it and agreed in the end. We needed no rings to define our love. That would not be tarnished by time or distance.
After the full fall of night, he took the rings from us. There was a moment of dizziness as they slipped off our fingers, but we both agreed we felt lighter without them. Old One Eye said we were a new generation, with an unusual view of the world that he hoped would prevent us from repeating the sins of our forefathers. Then he blessed the both of us, called us faithful stewards, and faded out of this world. At first, I thought he’d died or something, but Bob assured me that he could feel the god’s presence. To be sure, I called the divine, seeking out his specific threads and found them stronger than they had been since I’d added him to my pantheon.
In the end, we divided the Hand conscripts across five ships. Angelo took over the galleon, which he dubbed the Raging Bull. He actually said that with a straight face, and I didn’t challenge him.
Emad got his own ship, with a few folks from the Leaping Tadpole and Battle Toad to help the new crew to get acclimated. He chose one of the xebecs as he had the most experience with the Rasa. Borcus gave the Leaping Tadpole to his second in command and took the remaining xebec as his own. Again, crew was divvied up to make an adequate contingent to sail the ships.
Two carracks, and two galleys were left in the bay. The would be for when Adeline or one of the other captains had enough crew to split across more ships. She had a mind to build a full navy and challenge the Hand fleet everywhere she could find them.