The Sea Witch
By: Sel Vecantie

Captain Kurt Bouchard shivered as he looked out through the large windows of the Drunken Kraken tavern. While it was nice and warm inside the building, outside it was a horrible night. Driving rain had pelted the seaside town of Trizenleid for much of the afternoon, and now the sea was rising and the distant flash of lightning had appeared on the horizon, a sure sign that a powerful, and possibly dangerous, storm was on its way. Most of the town's citizens had long ago abandoned the streets for the safety of their homes, but, despite the weather, Kurt could still see a couple of brave souls hurrying through the haze of the falling rain towards the docks.

Out in the harbour itself, the ships at anchor were being tossed about mercilessly in the high seas. Only his warship, Melisande's Vengeance, was untroubled by the turbulent water. The warship, largest of all the vessels in the Müden fleet, rode the waves like a creature born to the ocean. He had still been cautious though, ordering the crew to set three anchors, instead of the usual one. Looking out at the warship now, he realised that he need not have bothered. The Vengeance barely moved at all in the swell, despite the large waves that were constantly assaulting it.

He felt a surge of pride as he traced the trim lines of his new ship. Melisande Reaversbane, captain of the Müden fleet, had given him his command personally, a high honour indeed. The Vengeance was a beautiful vessel, and one that Kurt looked forward to sailing over the coming months. The pirates of Fellport wouldn't know what hit them, and he could almost imagine the glory that was going to be heaped on him by grateful merchants when he returned from his mission.

A sudden, brilliant flash of lighting over the harbour cut off his view of the ship. The lightning was closely followed by a deafening peal of thunder, so loud that it shook the clay tiles on the roofs of several buildings. Kurt instinctively flinched, and turned away from the window, returning to his seat. He made a silent prayer to the sea goddess, Neira, for the safety of his vessel and the other ships before sitting down at the table with his officers.

Most of his men were ashore at the moment, with only a skeleton crew out on the Vengeance, just in case the storm proved more dangerous that he had originally thought. While a few had chosen to drink at one of the other dockside taverns, most of the crew were here with him at the Drunken Kraken. It was a warm and inviting tavern, with bright lights and a blazing fire, offering comfort to those who sought shelter from the storm outside.

Inside, the usually quiet common room was as intense mix of light and colour. The rowdy sailors from the Vengeance had taken over much of the room, and were just beginning to enjoy themselves. They were ordering vast amounts of alcohol and trying in vain to attract the attention of the three barmaids, who worked slavishly to keep up the constant supply of ale and other drinks to the crowd. But they were not the only patron tonight. Kurt could also see several local townsfolk, busy swapping tales and joining in the general merriment. Also there was a old man sitting in a cushioned chair by the fireplace, a plate of half-eaten ribs sitting on a table nearby, and a mug containing some sort of hot drink in his hands.

Kurt was about to dismiss the old man as insignificant, when he noticed the pale blue robes he was wearing, the traditional garb of Neira's priesthood. He was about to about to open his mouth and ask for a blessing against the storm, when the old man turned around, and Kurt found himself looking into the milky white orbs of a blind man. Then, in a deep, powerful voice the priest said, "Have patience young man. It is not yet time. Once all the players can arrive, then the lessen can begin."

Kurt looked around the room to see who he was talking to, but the only table in the direction the priest was staring was his own. "What do you mean," he asked, but the priest had turned around towards the fire again, and seemed not the listening. Kurt wondered if he was deaf as well as blind, or just pretending not the hear.

"Well that was strange," commented Delma Heinze, his first officer. The statuesque brunette was sitting across from him, while the rest of his officers were gather around the table, mostly sipping wine, or finishing their meals.

Kurt nodded in agreement, before reaching over and picking up the decanter of wine and pouring himself a glass. Unlike the rest of the crew, his officers were drinking little tonight, preferring just a few glasses of wine instead of the vast quantities of ale the crew were consuming. After take a sip of the excellent wine, Kurt leaned forward. "Perhaps the old man's wits are gone," he said in a whisper. An inner voice though, told him that wasn't true. There was something about powerful about the old man, and he didn't strike Kurt as being witless or mad.

Delma and the other officers laughed at the comment, and for a second Kurt imagined he heard another voice joining in their mirth. He glance suspiciously at the old priest, but he was sipping from his mug, so it wasn't him. Then, as he turned around again, Kurt saw a dark figure standing in the doorway, outlined by another bright flash of lightning.

After the flash and its accompanying peal of thunder had died away, the figure walked into the tavern, and Kurt could see it was a woman clad in a long cloak. The hood of her cloak hid her features as she walked across the room and took a seat at the far end of the Tavern, well away from everyone else. One of the serving girls walked over to the woman and there was a brief exchange of words, too soft for Kurt to catch above the general ruckus in the room. Then another interruption stole his attention away again.

From the old man by the fire, there came a sudden chuckle. "It is time, young man," he said to Kurt.

"What do you mean," Kurt asked, now becoming thoroughly confused by the priest's words. "It's time for what exactly?"

"You are sailors, aren't you?"

"Yes," Kurt replied. "I am the captain of Melisande's Vengeance, the big warship in the harbour. These are my officers. We are stopping over in Trizenleid before leaving on a new assignment."

The priest nodded, as if he already knew this. "So, you go to make war on the pirates of Fellport."

Kurt's eyebrows shot up. "How did you know that," he asked suspiciously. As far as he knew only Melisande Reaversbane and himself had know the details of his mission. It was supposed to be kept secret, just in case the pirates learned of the warship's approach.

"I have a very reliable informant," the priest replied, glancing towards the window. "You will not succeed, not without Neira's help anyway."

"We have already made all the donations at the temple in Saarmen," Kurt said. "The high priestess herself has blessed our ship. She assured us that we would not meet with troubled weather during our mission."

A harsh laugh, followed by a loud coughing fit, sounded across the room, as the old priest vented his amusement. Wracked by coughing, the priest quickly took another sip of his drink, which seemed to cure the problem. Then he said, "Yes, and I am sure Lady Trulacht is a fine priestess. But she doesn't have the experience with Fellport and it's pirates that I have. Before I took to the faith, and before most of you were even born, I hunted the Gorgon's fleet across much of Great Bay. Back in those days they were a real force to be reckoned with too, not the rabble they are now."

"Then we should have no trouble with them, old man," Delma cut in. "Our ship is the best in the fleet, and there is nothing sailing the Krakennauricht that can match her."

The priest's eyes flickered over to Kurt's first officer, and for a second it looked like he was appraising her, but then Kurt remembered the the old man was blind. "The Müden fleet has not lost a ship in battle against a pirate vessel in nearly two years," he offered, trying to convince the old man, although he wasn't sure why he was bothering. It wasn't as if he had to answer to this priest. Something though, seemed to be compelling him to continue the conversation.

"The fleet as only been sailing against the pirates of Grabentod," the old priest warned. "You have never faced the Gorgon's followers before, they are a different breed entirely. His sailors are strange, unnatural creatures, who would rather die than surrender. You will find them a much more difficult prospect that the cowards of Grabentod."

"What do you suggest then," Delma asked. "A donation to Neira to protect us from the Gorgon's gaze? How much would buy our lives?"

The captain though, was just beginning to realise that the priest had a point. The Gorgon, also known as the Raesene, the Black Prince, was the mightiest of the Awnsheghlien, creatures of darkness born at the battle of Deismaar when the blood of the old gods rained down on their followers. The Gorgon had been one of the chosen of Azrai at the battle, and had fought with the god of chaos against those who sort to protect Cerilia from Azrai's evil hordes. Then, when the ancient other gods had sacrificed their lives to destroy Azrai, he had absorbed much of the god of chaos' divine essence. Now, over two thousand years later, the Gorgon was no longer human, but instead a powerful stone-skinned beast of pure hatred and evil. Most people would quake at the mere thought of the terrible powers the Gorgon was rumoured to possess, and Kurt was actually contemplating going to war with the Awnsegh's fleet.

His mind suddenly conjured up the image of the Gorgon standing on the Vengeance's deck, slicing his crew to pieces with a gigantic curved sword. Kurt shivered uncontrollably, while the old priest watched him carefully, smiling when he saw that his words were beginning to get through the arrogant young captain. "You know now what it is you are up against, don't you," he said to Kurt. "Perhaps there is hope for you yet."

"You said you fought against the Fellport fleet?" Kurt asked, trying to shake the terrible image from his mind.

"Yes I did, young man," the priest said, with a nod of confirmation. "I was a lot younger and foolish back then. If I knew then what I knew now, I would never have gone near the place. But I was like you, looking for glory, and it cost the lives of many fine sailors."

"But you survived," Kurt said.

A painful look crossed the priest's face. "Yes I did," he said. "But my crew and my ship didn't. Everyone else was lost, and we never even came close to destroying our enemy. They are dangerous waters, and without a guide you would be lost in the fog. The pirates love to lure you onto the rocks, and many a ship has been lost by following a Fellport vessel too closely. Their galleys have a much shallower draft than your ship, and they can make it over rocks that lie hidden just beneath the surface, while you will find yourself holed and sinking."

"What do you suggest then?" Kurt asked. "Do we stay here and leave Fellport free to harass our merchants?"

"No," the priest said. "There is a way you can succeed. There is an agent of Neira who can help you, but only if your faith is strong. She is here tonight, out there somewhere." The priest stopped speaking for a moment and waved his hand in the direction of the window. When he continued his voice had changed, becoming clearer and stronger. "This is indeed a powerful storm, but when it passes not a single vessel will have been damaged, and not one sailor will have drowned. The storm is a sign from Neira, a warning that you are sailing into trouble. Only with Neira's assistance will you survive your journey, without it you will fall as so many other have fallen."

Around the room, the rest of warship's crew had begun to take notice of the conversation, and had drawn closer, eager to hear what the priest had to say. It seemed as if everyone in the room was beginning to hang of the old man's words, as if they were caught up in some spell. The only one not effected was the cloaked woman at the back of the room. She just watched, observing the others.

"Can you help us then?" Kurt asked. "Tell us how to survive."

The old priest nodded slowly. "Yes I will help you," he said, pulling the comfortable chair closer to the cheerfully blazing fire. "I will tell you the story of the Sea Witch, of how she became the protector of all those who worship Neira. With her help you will make it back again, without it you will fall prey to the Gorgon's many servants. She will guide you through Fellport's defences, if that is really where you wish to go."

After a signal from the bartender, one of the serving girls hurried over with a full mug of ale and placed it in the priest's hands. He took an sip of the pale amber liquid and then let out an appreciative sigh. "There is nothing like a good drink to quench an old man's thirst," he said, resting the mug on his knee. "Now gather round everyone if you want to hear my tale. My old lungs aren't as strong as they once were, so move closer so I don't have to shout."

There was a general shifting of chairs and tables as most of tavern's patrons moved within hearing range of the priest. When all of the sailors and locals had gathered around he began. "It all happened a long time ago, before most of you were born. I was a much younger man then, full of life and spirit." He reached up and touched his face. "I even had my sight then."

The priest paused, and looked towards the window with his sightless eyes, just as another flash of lightning arched down from the sky, briefly illuminating the troubled seas of the harbour. "It was a night very similar to this one. But, unlike you folks, I wasn't lucky enough to be warm and comfortable in a nice tavern. Instead, I found myself captaining the fastest warship in the fleet, pursuing a galley loaded with Fellport pirates and stolen gold...."


Captain Erin Bernard ducked as an arrow hummed past his ear, embedding itself in the dark wood of the main mast behind him. He glanced over at the pirate ship and then his brow crinkled in annoyance as he noticed that the much smaller galley was beginning to edge away from his powerful warship. Ahead was a bank of thick fog, common along the coastline of Jogh Warren province. If the pirates made it there, his vessel would have a considerably harder time catching them. Cursing under his breath, he looked towards the stern and shouted, "Hard to port."

The crewman at the wheel nodded in his direction and quickly spun the ship's wheel around. Despite a loud groan of complaint from its planking, the warship soon followed, shifting its course to match that of the galley. The wind had finally picked up again, and with the course change the sails filled, carrying the Müden's Glory closer to its prey. Bernard nodded in pleasure and resumed his journey back towards the stern.

From the bow there came a loud twang as the forward ballista fired, hurling its huge ironwood bolt towards the pirate galley. Bernard paused for a second to watch, with some trepidation, the huge bolt's steady flight. Unlike previous attempts, this time it sailed truly, but luck did not seem to be with the Glory's crew today. Somehow the bolt missed the low hull of the enemy vessel and sliced through their small, square sail instead. The canvas of the galley's only sail was holed right through the centre, a tear that quickly spread across the entire sail, leaving only a few tattered strips to flutter in the strong breeze.

Despite the successful hit, Bernard knew that the battle wasn't over yet. From the stern of the pirate vessel a hail of arrows was launched, forcing his crew to take cover. One sailor wasn't quick enough and with a gurgling scream fell overboard, clutching at his throat. The Captain didn't even pause to look down, knowing already that the man was lost. Even if he hadn't been struck by the arrow he would have been dead before anyone could rescue him, the swell of the fierce seas drowning him in minutes. Besides he didn't have time to turn the ship around to look for the lost man.

For a moment there was chaos of the decks of the Glory, and that moment was all the enemy vessel's crew needed. The galley's ruined sail was quickly lowered, and its crew extended long oars. Although slower over a long chase than a sailing vessel, the oars would allow it a quick burst of speed that might just prove decisive. Bernard knew that beneath the decks of the enemy ship were probably a hundred of more slaves, once free sailors like himself, but now chained to the oar. It wasn't a fate he would have wished on anyone, but he wasn't about to spare the galley for the sake of a few slaves.

"Fire at will," he shouted to the weapon crews. "Ten gold each for the crew that stops that ship. I want them on the bottom of the Krakennauricht before the hour is out."

That bought a quick response from the crews and they all hurried to reload their weapons, eager to claim the reward he had just offered. The Captain watched them working, but knew that it was probably already too late. The pirate ship had begun to accelerate away from the warship, heading for the cover provided by the thick fog bank. In less than a minute they would be hidden in the fog, and he would have almost no chance of finding them.

Not for the first time on this voyage, he cursed the luck that had bought him here, to the very edge of the Gorgon's Crown. He wished now he had taken his mother's advice and entered the priesthood, instead of choosing the life of adventure on the high seas. Not that he hadn't done well in his career. After less that ten years at sea, he had already achieved the rank of Captain, high praise indeed of his abilities. Few others had ever done so well as he had, but right now he would prefer to be anywhere than here. Even chasing down the pirate hordes of Ulrich Garben would be better than the fate that awaited him if he was captured in this mission. At least they would ransom him back to his family, instead of the fate that awaited him if he was taken prisoner by the Gorgon's monstrous servants.

Although he didn't like to speak of it often, Erin Bernard was in fact one of the blooded. In the distant past one of his ancestors had stood on the battlefield of Deismaar and had absorbed a portion of the dying gods life blood. Within him flowed a portion of the divine essence of the ancient gods, and although his bloodline was only very weak, it was still enough to attract the attention of the Gorgon.

Ancient and powerful, the Gorgon had actually been present at the battle of Deismaar, as one of the champions of the dark god Azrai no less. In the centuries since he had carved an empire of hatred out of the mountains just north of here. It was his pirates that Bernard was chasing, and if the Captain was captured he knew that he would be dragged before the Black Prince himself, probably in the dark fortress of Kal-Saitharak. There the Gorgon would kill him, committing the act of bloodtheft that allowed one blooded individual to steal the bloodline of another, and thus become all the more powerful.

The Gorgon had done this many times over the centuries, becoming stronger and stronger with each act of Bloodtheft. There were even some that said he was close to becoming a god, and that soon a new powerful force of evil may rise from Kal-Saitharak and sweep across the world, just as Azrai had done all those centuries ago. Bernard didn't really want to find out. He preferred the Gorgon as the dark villain of story books, not up close and personal.

A sudden shudder running through the deck interrupt his musings and Bernard looked back at the bow, realising that the main catapult had just fired. He followed the ball of burning pitch as it sailed through the air towards the enemy galley. Like every previous shot though, it dropped short, falling into the water with a loud hissing sound. "Damn," he muttered to himself, slamming his fist against a nearby railing in frustration. "Keep firing," he yelled towards the bow.

He was about to resume his journey back to the command deck when a soft, feminine voice interrupted him. "Captain, I must speak to you."

Bernard turned around to frown at the speaker, recognising the voice at once. Usually the superstitious sailors would frown on the idea of having a woman on board, but a priestess of Neira, the sea goddess, was always welcome. The Captain though, found her more of an annoyance than anything else. There certainly wasn't any sign of her goddess helping his men here today. Still, despite his other feelings, even he wouldn't snub the priestess for fear of of offending the powerful goddess.

"What is it," he asked, the frown fading when he noticed the nervous look on the priestess' attractive face. One slim hand was clutching her holy symbol, while the other played nervously with the silver belt that she wore around her pale blue robes. Her blue eyes still held the defiant spark that had made him hire her in the first place, but there was also a new element of worry that crept into her gaze.

"You must not pursue the pirates into the fog," she implored him. "If you do, then the lives of all the men on this ship are in jeopardy."

"Did Neira tell you this," Bernard asked sceptically, eyeing the young priestess' face to try and determine the truth behind her words. One of the side effects of the godly power running through his veins was the ability to see beyond the outer appearance of a person and determine their true character. Before, Bernard had always been able to tell at once what sort of person he was dealing with, but for some reason this ability failed with the priestess. He had heard of others who had bloodlines descended from those who fought at Deismaar possessing the ability to cloud their thoughts and emotions, but the young woman in front of him did not appear to one of the blooded.

Still, for some unknown reason, he was unable to pick up anything solid the dark-haired girl standing before him. It was frustrating more than anything. For all his life, since his eighteenth birthday when his power had first manifested itself, he had relied on his blood ability to see into the heart of those he faced. It was one of the things that had enabled him to rise so high in rank. That, and his skill with the rapier.

"I have had a vision from the goddess," the young priestess confirmed. "I saw the death of this vessel on a fog shrouded shore. Neira has informed me that If you follow the galley into the fog, then all but one of this ship's crew will perish."

Bernard glanced around the deck, noticing that several of the nearby crewmen had heard what the priestess had said, and were looking at him expectantly. Most seaman were a superstitious bunch at the best of time, and while he did not really worship any of the gods in particular, a warning from Neira would create quite a stir among the Glory's crew. "Very well," he said, with a defeated sigh. "We will heed the warning of the mistress of the sea, and turn back. I only hope that my superiors back in Müden look kindly on my actions. But, I wasn't too keen on following them in there anyway. There are hidden shoals and reefs all along this coast, and no-one has ever mapped them properly."

"Trust in Neira, Captain," the priestess replied. "She will insure that all is well. But you must hurry, the fog grows ever closer."

The Captain followed her gaze and swore as he saw how close they were to entering the fog back. Turning away from the priestess, he started up the ladder leading to the command deck. Taking the steps two at a time he quickly hurried up on top of the stern castle. The first mate, a man who had served Bernard for nearly five years, saluted as he approached.

"I was just about to order silent running, Captain," he told Bernard as the Captain reached his side. "They will be making a lot more noise than us with their oars, so we might stand a chance of catching them."

"Let them go, Garth," Bernard ordered him.

The first mate looked confused by the sudden change of plans. "But, Captain," he argued. "There is over a ton of stolen gold on that ship. If we let them get away, the High Captain will have our heads."

"If we don't turn back now, then we will just as dead," Bernard explain, pointing to the figure of the priestess on the main deck below. "Our new crew member has had a vision from her goddess. I might not believe in these things the way most sailors do, but the crew overheard her. We don't want a mutiny on our hands do we now."

He left unsaid the fact that if there was a mutiny because he ordered the crew to disobey the warning of the goddess, then it would be the first mate that would be leading it. Garth Boerman was one of the most devout sailors he had even known and had been instrumental in the decision to hire the priestess in the first place. "A vision, Captain?" he asked.

"That's what she said," Bernard confirmed.

"Then we should..."

The rest of the Garth's words were cut short as his chest suddenly sprouted a long, feathered arrow. It was the first of many, as the pirates took aim at the command deck. Nearby, the crewman at the wheel also fell, an arrow in his shoulder, and even the Captain felt a sudden burning pain in his leg. Looking down, he saw blood running from a gash just above his knee. Fortunately the arrow has only grazed him, cutting through the though cloth of his uniform, but not causing any major damage.

Every one left alive on the command deck immediately ducked down behind whatever they could find as the hail of arrows continued to rain down. The enemy vessel had by now slipped away into the fog, but somehow the accuracy of their archers had only improved. On the main deck below, the Glory's own archers quickly began to return fire, but without a target to aim at they were shooting blind.

Crouching down behind a barrel of drinking water, Bernard began to wonder if the pirates didn't have a wizard with them, so accurate was the aim. He quickly dismissed that idea though. All the intelligence on the Gorgon's army suggested that he used his wizards sparingly. Considering the rarity of true wizards on Cerilia, it was a valid military tactic. With less that two hundred wizards known to exist on the entire continent, no ruler would waste their talents guarding a simple pirate ship. However, there was still something uncanny about the pirate's aim.

Fortunately the Glory must have soon drifted out of range, and the hail of steel-tipped arrows soon halted. Bernard climbed back to his feet, trying to keep his footing on the blood-slick planking. Glancing around, his gaze fell on his former first mate, who stared sightlessly back at him. The arrow that had struck Garth, still poked out from the first mate's chest, and a thickening pool of blood had formed beneath his body.

Angry at himself and the pirates for the death of one of his oldest friends, Bernard reached down and tore the arrow out of the first mate's body, tossing it across the deck. Then, he looked around at the rest of the ship, surveying the damage the assault had caused. Fortunately, no-one else appeared to have been killed. The crewman who had been manning the wheel was lying on the ground moaning in pain, but at least he was still alive.

Then, he noticed that the Glory had followed the pirates into the fog. With its course set toward the pirates, the ship must have continued on after its pilot had been wounded. Spotting the bosun picking himself up from the other side of the deck, Bernard shouted, "take the wheel."

"What course, Captain," the Bosun asked as he gripped the heavy wheel in his large meaty hands.

"Get us out of this mist," Bernard told him. "We are sitting ducks in here. I want us clear of the fog. We can run along the edge of the fog bank and hope we catch up them that way. It is too dangerous in here."

Bernard didn't mention the priestess' vision, but he didn't want to spend any more time than necessary shrouded in this chilly fog. Visibility had dropped considerably, and for some reason the normal noises a ship made seemed to be absent in this cold mist. The creak of the masts, and the general hubbub of voices from the crew were deadened and all that he could here was the faint noise of the ropes humming in the wind.

Then, out of the mist a song drifted to his ears. It appeared to float with the wind, constantly shifting and changing. He couldn't make out any words, but despite this the song was strangely enchanting. Bernard felt a calmness come over him, washing away his worries and responsibility. Suddenly, the pirates no longer mattered. As far as Bernard was concerned they could go, he just didn't care any more. All that mattered now was getting closer to that heavenly voice. It seemed to call to him, asking him to come closer, while at the same time promising ecstasy beyond imagination.

"Captain," a strong voice suddenly called out, breaking the spell the song had cast over him. Bernard blinked twice, as if clearing the fog from his mind, and then her turned to look down at the face of the speaker.

It was the young priestess of Neira again. She stood by the railing, looking a little like a drowned rat after being repeatably dunked by the waves that were crashing over the ship. However, despite the swell, she still held her footing, barely even moving as yet another wave crashed over the deck. Then she looked up at him, and it felt as he were looking into the heart of the storm. Her eyes seemed to hold a hidden power, drawing him in. "We have to go, Captain," she said firmly. "There is not much time, you have to hurry."

"Where," he replied, unsure what she was talking about. Then he looked around, and noticed the dazed looks on the faces of the crew. "What is wrong with them," he asked. "We have to help them."

"It is too late for them," the priestess replied. "I can save only one person, and I have chosen you. Now come with me, we need to get off this ship."

"I am not leaving my vessel," Bernard cried, trying to wrest the ship's wheel out the hands of the bosun, who still held it firmly in his hands. But, although the bosun was caught in the spell of the beautiful song, just like the rest of the crew, he resisted Bernard's efforts with all his strength, eventually throwing the captain aside. Bernard landed with a heavy thud against the railing, narrowly avoiding splitting his head open on the solid wood.

"There is nothing you can do, Captain," the priestess said firmly, her gentle voice reaching Bernard despite the roar of the wind through the sail. "The song has them. Your only chance is to escape."

Then, out of the mists, a great wall of rock suddenly appeared directly in front of the ship. Bernard stared for a second at the cliff face, before he realised that the warship was going to plough straight into the rocks. His heart ran cold as he realised that in only a few seconds time both he, and his crew, were going to be thrown into that cliff, probably ending up crushed to death against the rocks below.

He glanced down at the priestess, and saw that she had climbed up onto the railing. She glanced back at him with pleading eyes, then turned away and dived off the railing into the turbulent maelstrom of white water below. He hesitated for only a second, before he followed her lead and leapt off the ship into the sea. He had a brief glimpse of the warship rearing up on the crest of a wave, and then everything went black as he plunged into the cold waters of the sea.