A couple weeks ago, I gave you a story from Azure's world. This week, it's Orfhlait's world. At the end of Shamrocks of Stone, Orfhlait and Naoisi are caught up in some trouble. Here, you see more of what they are involved with afterward.
The ocean was endless. Wave upon wave from whence they came, I never knew. They came from the West, maybe God's own country somewhere in the horizon. They lifted the ship and lowered it, sending us forever forward.
We were allowed only a few moments on deck each day, but many of the slaves remained below, unable to move. The stench was horrendous, but there was nothing to be done for those who were seasick. For the others ... Well, the angels must sing over them now.
Naoisi peered over the railing. We had somehow managed to charm the sailors into allowing us to remain longer on deck. It was worthwhile, but the endless watery world was boring. Naoisi had taken to creating stories about the clouds, sea life and barnacles.
"They're attacking the evil queen," Naoisi informed me.
"Why is she evil?"
"Because she doesn't like the princess witch."
"She cannot be an ordinary princess, Orfhlait. She's been hidden away for many years, but now she has been set free and sails to her new home."
It was best, I felt, to ignore the obvious problems for the moment, and allow Naoisi is illusion. Maybe it would help him. While on board ship, we were safe, relatively speaking. Land could be seen on a clear day, but we never sailed very close to it. For the most part, I simply remained conscious of the land's changing undulations. We were somewhere off the coast of France. We spent two nights there before setting sail around the edge of Spain and into the Mediterranean Sea. We had swung up north again close to France during the last storm.
"Quiet!" The First Mate always barked. He spoke English, but nothing else. The boatswain spoke French, and the two of them told us what we needed to know. Today, however, they looked morbid. "You are all going to die," the First Mate announced.
"We will sell you as slaves," the boatswain said.
I blinked once.
"What did they say?" Naoisi asked.
I waved my hand to silence him, and waited.
Why would the English be killed?
More importantly, why were the French being saved?
Naoisi started to go towards the other English, but I held him back, and we walked to the French side. I grabbed two of the English and Irish women who had befriended us.
"What is your name?" The boatswain sneered.
He looked at Naoisi. "Ton garçon?"
"Yes, he is my son."
The boatswain narrowed his eyes. "What they say about the French must be true." He stepped to the English woman. "Name?"
"We didn't pick you up in France."
"We were in Eire on a mission of mercy," I explained.
The boatswain snorted, and moved to the Irish woman from Limerick.
I leaned forward. "She cannot hear you at all, but she is from Paris. Another sister."
He moved farther down.
"What was that about?"
"The one who speaks French said we were going to be sold, but the one who spoke in English said we were going to die. I'd rather be a slave than dead."
"Me too," Adelaide answered.
We stopped within sight of land - one of which I had no desire to enter. It looked dangerous, uninhabitable and downright inhospitable. I longed for my Irish shores, but I had no means of returning.
The English members were lowered into four boats to be carried to another ship a distance from shore, but still between us and land.
It took everyone two trips to carry all the English to the second ship. Meanwhile, we remained below, waiting. Naoisi had fallen asleep on my lap, but the others remained alert. The men talked in low murmurs while some of the women sang. Most had, by the time we began to sail again, fallen asleep. I eased Naoisi off my lap and crept to the ladder leading up to the decks. I could hear some of the sailors talking, but their voices were distant.
Up on deck, I went towards the spot where I knew one sailor remained working alone. He was related to the captain and ship's owner, he had explained, but he was a slave trained as a doctor. "Why are you here?" he whispered.
"Because I couldn't sleep," I answered. Our common language was French. "Where are we?"
He looked at the horizon. "Near Rome, I think."
"And the English?"
He shrugged. "Most likely dead. Most were men, save for the four of you." He cocked his head towards me. "You saved those two women, why?"
"They didn't need to die so soon."
"A slave might feel otherwise."
It was my turn to shrug. "I always felt living is always more important. I have considered ending my worthless existence, but my brother would remind me that even in my terrible conditions, there was hope somewhere."
"Your brother must have been a priest."
"Soldier." I leaned against a nearby barrel. "Then they live for only so long before they die?"
"On those ships, yes. The women would have been raped quite brutally, I'd imagine."
"And without proper care would have died." I shook my head. "Slavery or death - that's are only choice now, isn't it." I closed my eyes and sighed. What sort of possibilities awaited for Naoisi and me in this new land?