Spirits

 

Chapter 14

Spirits

 

Fiona’s accounte of the adventure on the farthest island are somewhat incomplete, as her remembrance of the place is somewhat hazy and nonsensical. I have tried to question Hawk and the sailors who accompanied them on shore, but there are still gaps and odd inconsistencies in the story. So bear with me if the following comes across to be too strange to be true.

 

“I went ashore with Hawk, Jean Luc and 8 ablebodied seamen. The sailors were ordered to make camp, while we officers tooke a looksee around the island. First move was to get a good looke over the island, so we headed for the highest point. To our dismay the cliffs where inhabitet by hundreds of birds, and once again we found ourselves climbing trough birdpoo. Halfway up we heard the sound of a ship’s belle. We couldn’t telle exactly where the sound came from. We were quite puzzled by this…What the **** was a belle doing ringing on a deserted island? Moments later we discovered that the island was less deserted than we had first anticipated; some distance away a middleaged woman in a ragged green dress that certainly had seen better days (so had she…) was gathering eggs. She was very surprised and a little scared of us at first. She introduced herself as Gwendolyn and said she had been there for quite some time, and that she was all alone on the island. She said she had sailed out of the port of Brest with her father on the ship Roselyn, whom she described as her sister… We shoulde have wondered at that phrasing, but I guess being so close to the treasure made us a little careless in our eagerness. We shoulde also have noticed the looke of hatred Gwendolyn sent me, when she was tolde my name. Obviously ‘Blackwell’ held no sweet memories for Gwendolyn.

 

My fellows and I asked Gwendolyn if she knew anything about the belle or a siren (we were looking for a place ‘under a siren’s gaze’, remember?). She said she did not. Then we asked her to help us find the best way to the top of the cliff. She wasn’t much of a climber she complained, and certainly it tooke no more than minutes before she slipped and twisted her ancle... She insisted that Jean Luc should lend her a shoulder, and she deliberately dragged behind with him to chat him up. I could not abide such slow progress, so I and Hawk left the galant Jean Luc and proceeded to the top.

 

We were nearing the top when a scrawnylooking figure suddenly raced towards us chased by flying dogs. We chased them away, and then tooke a goode looke on the girl before us. She was young, a starved and neglected creature with barely a rag to cover her nakedness. At this time Jean Luc and Gwendolyn had reached us. The two women seemed less than pleased to see eachother. Obviously Gwendolyn had purposely neglected to tell us that she was alone on the island except for this poor girl. The girl did in turn looke frightened of Gwendolyn. Jean Luc offered the girl his shirt, but it turned out to be very much too big for her. I then tooke off my vest and then my shirt. I won’t even begin to describe the dirty looke Gwendolyn sent me. Apparently my brief nakedness was worse than the permenant nakedness of the hungrylooking girl. I offered the shirt to the girl and readorned my vest. My shirt was undoubtedly a better fit, though the skinny girl still swam in it. She called herself ‘Iéne’. Asked about the bell and the siren she said that she heard the belle no matter where she was on the island, but that she had failed to locate it. She said that she knew where the siren was, though she didn’t like her as she thought she was evil. I delighted at that wonderfull news, and I asked to be taken to the siren immidiately! I guess I was too exited to notice any oddness about the two women.

 

Iéne and I talked a bit on the way to the top; Iéne said she had left Brest on board The Hyena (a name she found amusing since her own name resembled the ship somewhat in pronouncement), which sailed with a figure of a woman with a hyena in her arms as figurehead. She loved sailing and hated being stranded on the island. She said she had sailed since the day she came to be, which I found unlikely; babes have no place on a ship. But otherwise I though to myself that I had found myself a kindred spirit in Iéne; someone who loved the sea every bit as much as I did. I promised her that we would not leave the island without taking her with us (coincidentally Jean Luc gave a similar promise to Gwendolyn right about then). Despite my promise and my obvious liking of Iéne, she seemed just as displeased as Gwendolyn when she learned my familyname. Granpa William had sailed these seas; that much was obvious, and he had not treated these two kindly. Well, kissing up to ‘customers’ is not in the pirate’s nature.

 

Hawke who was not thus inhibited by chatting females reached the top first, and found a hole in the ground where the upper body of a woman could just be glimpsed. The sight was quite frightening I must admit; the woman seemed caught in an eternal scream of pain and anguish – a sirene for sure! Only when I tooke a closer looke did I see that it was a figure of wood. And I was in no doubt that the last piece of the treasurehunt was very very close!

 

Hawke was the first to climb down, and to his amazement not only the figurehead protuded from the rock, but also an entire bow of a ship! He lowered himself past it and found water – deep water – under him. Without much hesitation he dived into the water and found a locked grill at the mouth of a tunnel. Suddenly some underwater creature grabbed him and he was soon struggling for his life! Above we could hear he was in trouble, so I climbed down the rope as fast as lightning and Gwendolyn simply dived in… Dress and all! Gwendolyn saved Hawk, and after a while he was able to tell me what he had discovered. I was very exited and dived down right away to the tunnelmouthe with the fourth key in my hand and my knife between my teethe. The key fit! I opened the grate, but didn’t get far before something large pushed me against the tunnelwall so hard that my breath was knocked completely out of me. The tunnel was suddenly full of whirlpools and I tumbled around and everything went black. Gwendolyn and Jean Luc, who had joined us in the grotto, fished me out of the water and helped me breathe again. Jean Luc now pulled out the orb of light, which the Captain had lend him, and the entire grotto was alight. The walls shone and the water glinsed like emeralds, and Gwendolyn turned transparent…”

 

This is where the story turns odd; Suddenly the threesome found that all that mattered was prying loose the horridlooking figurehead and taking it with them… Fiona got into her mind that the figurehead in fact WAS the treasure! They worked the figurehead loose, but when they called to Iéne to lower the robe, it simply fell into the water before them! Fiona claims that she remembers nothing of what happened next – she only came to when she heard Hawke praying beside her. Jean Luc, who had been beside her moments before, was now topside again – she vaguely remembered being very angry with Iéne over him, but could now not recall why at all. A rope was now again hanging down from the hole, the figurehead was gone and so was Gwendolyn…

 

Hawke has told me that he believed that Gwendolyn and Iéne – certainly more spirit than flesh both of them – had been fighting over control of Fiona, Jean Luc and himself – bidding them to salvage either the figurehead or the belle. For some reason the spell over Hawk broke while they were fighting, and he got a chance to save Fiona and Jean Luc. He said that he for a moment had seen that Fiona’s eyes were milky white! He had prayed to the Light and that had broken the spirits’ spell over his friends.

 

“When I came to Hawke explained to me what he thought had happened; that Jean Luc and I had been possessed, and that the two women were not what they appeared to be. I remembered seeing that Gwendolyn was transparent. She was not the first ghost I had ever seen, and not the scariest either, but certainly the first to take control of me! I was angry by the fact that they had almost swayed me from my quest, but still somewhat intrigued by what their true nature might be. For regular spirits they were certainly not! I shrugged the weirdness off – I figured that the truth of the matter, which had already begun to find a shape in my mind, would reveal itself in due time. I was once again on my true path and brought out the fourth bottle. The fourth key had already been in use, now it was time for the fourth liquid to work its magic. I pried out the cork and sniffed the contents. I had first though that whatever was in the bottle was to be poured into the water below, but now I knew otherwise; the bottle held an elixir made from the red powder of the Vanilla Isles.”

 

As author I must now enlighten you as to what that stuff is and where it comes from; The people of the Vanilla Isles are a peculiar race. They call themselves ‘the Living’ beliving all others are in fact dead to the worlde. They are called merpeople because of their ability to dive deeply into the water and staying under water for an unusual long time without having to surface to breathe. They spice all their foode with a red powdered substance extracted from a red chorale which is only found at the Vanilla Isles. But it is more than a spice; when consumed the red powder workes strange magic on the body and mind. First of all one is able to hold one’s breathe for an extreme amount of time. Secondly everything – every sight, sound and feeling – seems extraordinarily detailed and in focus. The worldes seemes a bigger place with much more detail in it. It is supposed to be quite a wonderful and intense experience. It must be added though, that the people of the Vanilla Isles have short lives and that they sleep quite a lot of it away – that is believed to be a side effect to consuming too much of the substance. This was what was in the fourth bottle.

 

“Hawke and I each tooke a swig of the stuff, and when Jean Luc soon after joined us, he drank too. He left a little which we later used for fun… We each tooke a deep breath and then dived into the water and swam through the tunnel. The vortex was not so strong anymore, but it was still a long swim – one we could not have made without the stuff from the Vanilla Isles. Hawk was the first to break surface and I followed with the orb of light. We surfaced in yet another grotto of enormous proportions holding the wreck of an entire ship – the original Hyena! In the mast was the ship’s belle that we had heard earlier. Hawk climbed the mast nimbly and found in the belle a small chest with the Blackwell crest on it. Jean Luc and I, I must admit, were still in awe of the effects of the stuff, and played around in stead of paying heed to our task. When Hawke returned we forced ourselves to concentrate on the thing before us. I studied the chest thoroughly, but could not open it. I tried the fourth key and though it did click in the lock, it didn’t open. We brought the chest with us and on a whim also the belle – it just seemed like the right thing to do… This grotto opened up into the open, and elated that we needn’t swim back through the tunnel we climbed out that way. We wanted to avoid meeting the two spiritwomen again.

 

But the two spirits were not so easily discarded; once out of the grotto Hawk, Jean Luc and I once more attempted to open the chest but still to no awail – it was locked and nothing we tried could open it. We didn’t dare use violence on it remembering Grandpa Blackwell’s tendencies to use acid. Then Gwendolyn and Iéne appeared – though still a little transparent at the edges - and declared that they knew how to open it; they had wittnessed Grandpa Blackwell locking it. They woulde tell us if only we would bring the figurehead of the Siren and the belle of the Hyena with us aboard The Fortuna. I would not willingly let ghosts aboard any ship I sailed on and catagorically denied them leave to come aboard, regardless of my previously given promise to Iéne. Jean Luc however, the noble guy that he is, was less willing to go back on his worde. Nobility must be such a curse sometimes! Then Gwendolyn and Iéne decided it was time to declare their true nature to us; They were both spirits of ships that my grandfather had borded and sunk. It was his fault that they had been stranded here for so long. Gwendolyn was the spirit of The Siren – a mechantman - and was embodied in the figurehead, while Iéne was the spirit of the original Hyena – a privateer brigantine – and was embodied in the ship’s belle. Their terms for telling how to open the chest was to be brought back to civilization and remounted on ships similar to those they had given soul to. My liking of Iéne resurfaced, I must admit, and I struck a deal with her; I would commision a brigantine in Brest build after the drawings that Iéne carried with her. Where she carried them is to this day a riddle to me; she was still only wearing my shirt... But she had them, I’ve still got them, so I can prove it! The belle would be remounted and I would captain her. A prober contract was drawn up between us and duely signed.

 

As Jean Luc and I felt compelled to take a closer looke at the island – we had seen some lovely lagunes from the clifftop that we decided to investigate while still under the influence of the Vanilla Isle-stuff. Hawke brought the ladies back to the camp. The men were surprised that we had finished our business so fast, but even more surprised at seeing two women returning with Hawke – they were no longer transparent at this time. But later when we left the island, as the two embodied object had been brought on board the boat, the two spirits slowly dissapeared (and my shirt with them!). We saw nothing of them after that, but we felt certain that they were there!”

 

So now you know why Fiona never fought Alejandro for La Querida though she was entitled; she had befriended a better ship.

 

“As it turned out all four keys were needed to open the chest – one for each heir. In the chest we found a cylinder in a goldchain. In the cylinder was a crucifix (an odd thing in Blackwell-hands!) and a red Blackwell seal with a nick made with a knife on one side. Obviously this was the seal to be presented to the bank in Ravensmeer – the nick made it unique and impossible to copy. Now all that we had to do was to sail to Ravensmeer!

 

The belle and the figurehead we stored in separate ends of the cargohold. They were not friendly with eachother, and we dared not risk any trouble caused by disatisfied female spirits!