Tristan – Elizabeth Rose

A woman on board was considered bad luck, but two women traveling as passengers on the Desperado were more than enough to drive Brody Banks mad. The squall that brewed up quickly on the North Sea only added to his anxiety. Brody did his best to hold the ship on a steady course, but they were being tossed around in the waves as if they were naught more than a toy of the powerful sea. Why the hell had he ever agreed to let his wife and the old woman come along on the journey? This was just too dangerous. What had he been thinking? His ship, the Desperado, wasn’t built for the deep sea. It was a fishing vessel meant to be used near the coast. It had been given to him by his wife’s late father on his deathbed. Brody spent years fixing up the vessel after it was nearly destroyed in the same storm that claimed Gwen’s father’s life. It was a much better vessel now, but it still couldn’t compare to the Sea Mirage that Brody had once captained. Brody was a reformed pirate so he knew how fickle the sea could become, and also how quickly situations could change for the worse. This ship was no place for a woman, let alone two of them. “Shorten the sails!” Brody shouted to his crew, trying to be heard over the high winds. “If we don’t do something fast, we’re going to capsize. Dammit, shorten the sails, I said! What in the bloody hell are you waiting for?” “We’re tryin’, Cap’n, but the winds are too strong!” Lucky Dog, or Lucky, as his first mate was called, had trouble being heard at times because of his gravelly voice. His throat had been slit while he was a crewmember of Rowen the Restless.

The man was lucky to be alive, let alone still able to talk. He and Brody were both pirates and crewmates aboard the Sea Mirage, serving under their captain, Rowen the Restless, who was one of the Legendary Bastards of the Crown. When Rowen stepped down from piracy, the ship was given to Brody. Brody moved up from first mate to captain, and then his crew turned mutinous and it was all over for him until Gwen found him during his darkest hour. That was all in Brody’s past now. He was no longer a pirate and had turned a new leaf. A married man with four children, his youngest one was only six months old. Brody was hopelessly in love with Gwen. If not, he never would have agreed to help her find her three brothers in the first place. Tristan, Mardon, and Aaron, had turned to piracy and left Gwen and her father years ago.

All she wanted now was to find the men and bring them back home where they belonged. Rain pelted down mixed with hail. Hitting the deck hard, the small pellets bounced back up, looking as if they had a life of their own. The beastly black waters of the North Sea rose up angrily, threatening to consume them all at any moment. Once more gust of wind and they might capsize, bringing about the demise of every person there. This was only a squall and should end quickly, but not fast enough for Brody. He’d been giving this trip much consideration, thinking he’d made a wrong choice. He was sure of it now. This storm was the sign he looked for to call an end to this expedition. Much to his regret, Brody would have to disappoint Gwen and her grandmother, Nairnie.

Still, as a husband and father, he felt his main job and commitment was to protect his family. The crew frantically ran back and forth, trying to batten down the cargo and keep it from sliding into the sea. A barrel of wine as well as a trunk slid across the wet deck one way and then back the other, each time the ship listed. Everyone jumped out of the way. If the women weren’t careful, they were going to get hit, or possibly pushed overboard. “The ropes are tangled at the top of the mast,” called out the old woman, Nairnie, shielding her eyes from the rain, trying to keep her balance by gripping on to a line. She pointed one boney, crooked finger upward at the massive square sail as she spoke. Nairnie was a tough old woman and the long-lost grandmother of Brody’s wife, Gwen. Nairnie was also a Scottish Highlander. She had raised the man known as the Beast of Ravenscar, after her English lover abducted her only son, Cato, many years ago.

It was only recently that Gwen and Nairnie met, never even knowing each other existed. Rowen, one of the bastard triplets of King Edward III, was the one who had brought them together. This journey was naught but a mission of mercy, but turning sour very quickly. If only Brody hadn’t made his wife a foolish promise, then none of them would be in this dangerous situation right now. Gwen’s brothers were at one time simple fisherman as well as her father, but turned to piracy. They wanted more out of life than just an occasional net of fish. They longed for riches . gold . treasure, just like any other pirate. Gwen thought she could find them and turn them straight.

Brody knew it was going to be damned well impossible after this long. The only thing he knew of that could turn a man away from piracy was falling in love with a good woman. Just like what happened to him. As a child, Brody had been abducted and raised by pirates. Because of it, he knew only too well the dangers involved in purposely seeking out the scupper class of the sea. But love makes even the toughest man vulnerable to the wishes of the woman he adores. As much as he’d wanted to deny her request from the start, Brody hadn’t been able to tell Gwen no. For nearly seven years now, Brody managed to stall the trip, hoping his wife would change her mind. When Gwen never stopped asking, Brody eventually gave in. They’d left from Cornwall on their journey nearly a fortnight ago.

Even after making many stops at ports along the way, and asking lots of questions, they hadn’t had much luck in finding out the whereabouts of Gwen’s brothers. The last fisherman they’d spoken to told them the pirates they sought normally raided the area up near the North Sea. So that’s where they’d headed. This trip was turning into a suicide mission quickly instead of a rescue mission, and it was time to call it quits. “I’ll do it. I’ll untangle the lines,” called out Gwen eagerly, holding on to whatever she could to keep from falling as the ship veered back and forth. At one time, she was deathly afraid of storms but, through the years, Brody had helped her to overcome that. Her long, blond hair whipped around her in the cold breeze. Quickly tucking it back under her hat, she continued toward the main mast, trying not to slip on the rain-covered slick deck. Through the years of being on the fishing boat with her father, she’d mastered crossing the deck of a rocking ship with ease.

Still, she hadn’t been out on the water much in years now and her sea legs weren’t as reliable as they used to be. The ship listed again, the waves crashing over the sidewall even harder now, soaking them all. This damned storm threatened to dump every one of them overboard. “The hell you will, Gwen!” Brody growled, scolding his wife from atop the sterncastle as he tried to steer the ship. He couldn’t let the mother of his four children risk her life like this. He had to stop her! Gripping the helm tightly, he desperately tried to keep things under control. It was the middle of the day, but the dark, foreboding clouds made it seem like midnight. Thunder boomed overhead and lightning streaked across the turbulent sky. The smell of the sea rose up and filled his senses, reminding him of the unyielding power of nature. “Lucky, get up here and take the helm,” Brody yelled, ready to strangle his wife for even offering to climb the rigging in this weather.

Gwen had given birth to their fourth child, Katlyn, only six months ago. She didn’t let the birth of her babies slow her down but, still, she shouldn’t be climbing up a mast right now, especially in this kind of weather. Their other children, Breckon, Geneveve, and Eric were all under the age of six. These past years of their marriage had been very busy indeed. Brody wasn’t about to let his children end up as orphans – the way he grew up. They needed their parents. His good friends, Edwin and Marta, were watching their children right now, and he wanted nothing more than to keep his promise of returning home soon. This insanity had to stop and he was the only one who could put an end to it. “Aye, I’m comin’ Cap’n,” called out Lucky, scaling the stairs of the sterncastle quickly, taking the helm from Brody. The rest of the crew rushed around the deck, doing all they could to secure the ship and help them make it through the squall without capsizing.

Canvas coverings flapped wildly in the wind, and loose items spilled over the rail into the sea with each wave that crashed upon the deck. Nairnie’s voice could be heard over the wind as she shouted orders to the men, commanding his crew as if she had the right to do so. The scrappy old woman could put the fear of God in anyone, even a pirate. Brody decided he never wanted to be on her bad side. In a way, he almost pitied Gwen’s brothers if they ever really found them. A storm at sea was nothing compared to the storm that was brewing within Nairnie. He could only imagine what she’d do to her grandsons for turning to piracy once she found them. “Gwen, Nairnie, get below deck. Fast!” Brody commanded, taking hold of the ratlines and climbing as quickly as possible to untangle the main mast. “Be careful, Brody,” shouted his wife, peering up at him through the rain, doing nothing to heed his warning.

Her concerned, blue eyes watched him like a hawk, making him feel the same way he did the day she and her father first fished him out of the sea. God, he hoped he wasn’t about to die today, the way he almost had when his crew committed mutiny and threw him overboard. All he wanted was to hold Gwen and his children in his arms once again. He wanted to forget all about his past – and all about this blasted mission. Brody no longer wanted anything to do with goddamned pirates! Quickly and nimbly untangling the lines, his fingers stiffened in the cold air. Any man with a lick of sense knew not to purposely travel on the North Sea unless he had to. The weather was too unstable and the sea too unforgiving. This storm only reminded him that no matter how comfortable he was on the water, in the blink of an eye, everything could change. That is, he could lose the woman he loved forever. “I’ve got it,” he called out, fixing the lines and starting his descent.

That’s when something caught his eye in the distance. He saw lanterns of another ship out on the water. He’d been a pirate long enough to know that it wasn’t a trade ship or a fishing vessel this far out. Then he saw the black sails that were the markings of a pirate ship, and this one looked familiar. He immediately got a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. They were sailing right into the eye of a storm and it had to do with more than just the weather. He’d seen this vessel many years ago, he was sure of it. It was the Falcon, and also the ship that carried Gwen’s brothers. “Damn it!” he spat under his breath. This was the last thing he wanted to see right now.

He’d just made up his mind to turn around and take the women, his crew, and his ship safely back to Cornwall. If his wife discovered that her brothers were this close, she’d never let him leave. Suddenly, he wondered if it was all worth it. Even if they did find her brothers, what was to say they wouldn’t all end up dead by the hands of the cutthroats? After all, they were pirates. “B-Brody? W-what is it?” cried Gwen, holding on to a rope and peering upward to see through the pouring rain. “D-did you spot s-something? A s-ship perhaps?” Her teeth chattered together as she spoke. She looked so cold and tired that all he could think about was taking her home and tucking her into a nice warm bed. Yet everything she’d been hoping for was finally right here within her grasp, and Brody was the only one keeping her from finding her brothers now. Struggling with his conscience, he remained silent. He just couldn’t tell her.

If he did, Gwen would want to sail further into the storm to approach the pirate ship to find her brothers. Right now, that was the last place he wanted to go. They didn’t know what to expect. Could they reason with pirates, or would her brothers only want to pillage and plunder his ship? It had been years since she saw them. While she swore they wouldn’t give them trouble, people changed over time. When fishermen turned to piracy, there were no longer morals involved. Only one thing was for certain. Whatever was about to transpire, it wasn’t going to be good. “Get yer skinny arse down here before ye fall into the drink,” shouted Nairnie. “I dinna want my granddaughter bein’ a widow at such a young age.

” Before he could move or even reply, lightning struck the bow of the ship. Brody felt the bolt of energy go right through him. His stiff fingers could no longer hold the lines and he fell face first, landing on the deck right at Gwen’s feet. Gwen screamed and hunkered down next to him. Brody lifted his head. His eyes shot upward, half-expecting to see the mast falling next, like it had in the past. This certainly seemed like history repeating itself, and that worried him. Thankfully, the lightning had only hit the bowsprit. There was a small fire, but nothing that couldn’t easily be extinguished, especially in the rain. “Fire on the bow!” Brody pushed up to his hands and knees, feeling as if his shoulder were broken.

“Put out the flames and turn this godforsaken ship around anon!” he commanded his crew. “Turn around?” asked Gwen, confused and sounding shocked. “But we haven’t found my brothers yet.” “And we’re not going to,” he told her. “Not now. My only concern is for your safety. These are bad omens, Gwen. It’s a sign and I will not ignore it. We’re turning around and going home, and I won’t hear another word about it.” He thought he heard a muffled scream just as the ship listed in the opposite direction.

A wave washed over them. Brody reached out, holding on to Gwen with one hand and the lines with the other as his wife’s feet slipped out from under her. When the ship rolled back the other way, Gwen coughed up water and looked behind her. “Nairnie?” she cried. “Grandmother, where are you?” She jumped to her feet, slipping, running to the sidewall. “Gwen, get back here before you fall overboard!” Brody’s shoulder felt on fire as he hurried after his wife. “Nairnie!” Gwen screamed with tears streaming down her face. She looked over the side of the ship, searching for the old woman. “Brody, I think she fell overboard. We have to save her.

” “Gwen, we don’t know that for certain.” “Look!” Gwen pointed to a piece of clothing floating on the surface of the water. “There’s her wimple. She fell in, I know she did.” Quickly scanning the water, Brody searched the area, but didn’t see the old woman anywhere. “Sweetheart, I’m sorry. It’s too late. She’s an old woman and cannot survive a fall from the ship. If she fell overboard, the sea has already claimed her. Now get below deck before the same thing happens to you!” He pulled her with him toward the door of the hold, having a hard time keeping his grip on her since the squall was not yet over.

“Nay! Let go of me,” cried Gwen, fighting him, accidentally hitting his injured shoulder. He bit back the pain. “We can’t let her drown. We need to go after Nairnie.” Brody spoke through gritted teeth now, having no more patience this day. “Gwen, that’s enough! She’s gone, and we have to move on without her.” “Nay, Brody! She can’t be dead.” Tears mixed with rain washed down her face. “Get below deck and stay there,” he commanded. “I’ll not lose you, too.

” Yanking the door open to the hold, he shoved her inside, closing and locking the door behind her. “Let me out!” came her muffled scream as she banged with both fists upon the wood. “I’m sorry, Gwen, but it’s for your own good. I can’t focus on anything else unless I know you are safe.” “Cap’n, is everythin’ all right?” asked Big Garth who had once been the cook on the Sea Mirage. “Aye, what is it?” Odo, another of his old crew, limped over the deck, making his way toward them. “We’re turning the ship around and heading for home,” Brody instructed. “Are the women in the hold?” asked Big Garth, looking at the door as Gwen continued to pound on it from inside. “Just my wife,” he told them. “I think the old woman fell overboard.

” “Overboard? Shall I go up the lines and see if I can spot her?” asked Odo. Brody hesitated a moment, weighing out the consequences. If they stayed there to look for the old woman, there was no telling how many more of them would die in the storm. And if Odo climbed the lines, he was sure to see the pirate ship and announce it. Brody couldn’t allow either of those things to happen. “Nay, don’t climb the lines, it’s too dangerous right now. Just scan the water for the old woman over the sidewalls. I’m sure it’s too late since she could never endure the fall at her age.” It hurt him to answer this way, but they all knew what he said was true. Plus, it was his duty to see to the safety of the entire crew.

He couldn’t endanger them all just to look for one old woman. It could be no other way. “Tell Lucky to turn this ship around and get us the hell out of here.” “So there’s no chance of savin’ Nairnie?” asked Big Garth, challenging his decision. The entire crew had become fond of the old woman since she acted like a mother to all of them. He couldn’t blame the man for trying. Brody would miss her, too. “If you see her, let me know, but don’t get your hopes up. I’m telling you, there is no chance she could survive the fall,” said Brody. “Now put out that fire because we are heading home.

” “Aye, Cap’n,” said Odo, and the two men turned to go. Barely able to tolerate the pain, Brody was sure his shoulder was broken. Even if he wanted to continue this mission, he couldn’t. He’d be of no use to anyone now. In his condition, he’d never be able to swing a sword if Gwen’s brothers decided to board the Desperado and attack. Nay, Brody would not be able to defend his wife, and this didn’t sit right with him at all. Gritting his teeth to bear the pain, he headed to the sidewall and looked down into the water once more. Nairnie was nowhere to be found. “I’m sorry, Nairnie, but I have to get Gwen to safety,” he said under his breath. “I’m sorry you’ll never be able to meet your grandsons even though I know how much it meant to you.

But at least now you’ll be with your son, Cato, in the afterworld.” While he didn’t see Nairnie, he did see the pirate ship in the distance and it was getting closer. Hopefully, his crew would be too distracted with turning the ship around to notice. However, if he could see the Falcon, then that meant their captain could see the Desperado, too. This was his last chance to get Gwen home safely. Bid the devil, he would do it, even if it meant breaking his promise to her. It was for her, and also for their children. Aye, this was the right thing to do. “Do ye see Nairnie, Cap’n?” called Odo from the deck. “Nay.

She’s gone,” he called back, knowing they had to leave right now. His head told him to acknowledge the other ship, since this was the goal of their mission, but his heart told him otherwise. If Gwen hadn’t been along, he might reconsider. But now, after already losing Nairnie, he realized there was no decision to be made. It could be no other way. He had to protect the mother of his children. “Take us home, Lucky,” he called out from the deck, climbing the stairs to the sterncastle. “Get us the hell out of here because we’re aborting the mission.” “Are ye sure ye want to do this?” Lucky asked in confusion. “That’s right, I do.

” Brody sighed and nodded slightly, once more looking out to the angry sea. “I’m taking my wife away from this godforsaken place. She’s going home where she belongs. If her brothers are never found, I no longer care. All I’m concerned about is my wife’s safety.”

.

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