This is rather short, but then it's meant to be! And I promise, this is the last set of people I've got to introduce. Will bear all comments and suggestions in mind and include all plausible ones! (ludi and minnaloushe – am still working on a way to include Rogue…;))
20 miles off the coast of Virginia, 5th April 1609
The storm had been terrible. It had chased the ship for hours, foreshadowing its arrival with gusting winds and drizzling rain, before finally falling upon the vessel. Thrown about by the waves and the gale, the sailors fought for their lives. Ropes were grabbed, wrestled and restrained; sails were furled to protect them; two men attempted to manage the madly spinning wheel. The captain himself stayed on deck, screaming orders and flailing his arms when he could not make his words understood. No one suggested retreating below decks for safety. They had learned to fear that enclosed space more than the storm.
In their cabin, two of the passengers braced themselves against the next lurch of the hull. Between them, a lamp swung madly from the ceiling, shifting the shadows around them.
"We should put that out." The woman said.
"And sit in the dark?" Asked the man.
"It would be better than burning to death." She told him, reaching out to extinguish the flame. As she did so, the ship rocked again, throwing her across the room and into the man's lap. He steadied her for a moment, hands firm on her waist, before depositing her on the bench next to him. She glared through fallen red hair.
"Allow me." He reached out a long arm and plunged them into darkness. They sat listening to the ship creaking and their own breath rasping in their throats.
After a while, the woman asked,
"Will it disturb him more, do you think?"
"I don't think so." Her companion replied. "The draught I gave him should keep him for hours yet. We have a little peace for the moment."
Despite the darkness, the woman nodded. The worst tempest of the year was raging above their heads, the ship was groaning like a woman in labour and they were sitting in the dark in a stuffy cabin, yet, for them, this was peace. While their companion slept, they could relax their guard, ready to raise it when he awoke. The floor tilted again and she was pitched against the man, who caught her arm and held her steady. His grip was not that of a lover or a brother, but of a guard, cold and hard. He steadied her, bracing his feet on the floor and his free arm against the wall. When the ship rolled back, he released her arm and pulled her against him so they could use each other for support. Despite the intimacy of his hand against her hip, the woman felt no indignation or delight. All the finer emotions had been driven from her over the past seven years of constant vigil, so that only the hard core of her being remained. This man now embracing her had entered this fiery trial three years ago and they had reached an understanding for their mutual protection. If one of them gave way now, all would fall apart.
The woman gripped the bench beneath her, bracing herself against the next plunge of the ship in the storm, wishing she had a god to pray to for deliverance. Beyond the cabin, in a dark corner against the hull, she could hear their companion sleeping. His breath came in hollow, metallic gasps, uneven and shallow. He was never at peace, awake or asleep, and the only hope for any of them was that the prize they were chasing would bring them all the rest he sought.
A Beach, Virginia, 5th April 1609
The sand stretched for miles. When Thomas looked to shore, all he could see was a golden glow, spreading as far as the eye could see. It was beautiful. He drank in the clean air, at peace at last after the gales and storms of the crossing. One of the sailors swore he could smell a storm, not thirty miles off. All Thomas could think was that he was grateful not to be in it. The sight of shore had put the crew in a better mood and the passengers had been allowed a certain amount of freedom. They had slept on deck the night before, away from the humid air of their cabin, and the sudden acquisition of space had even improved Cain's mood a little. They stood in the bow, as usual, and watched the faint glow become gleaming sands, and finally the coast of the great country.
"We stop here."
Thomas turned to see the Captain behind him, hands on hips and head thrown back.
"What?" Thomas held his temper for now.
"We stop here. You've made me push this crew harder than dogs and the ship needs to rest. We need supplies – water, food and wood for repairs. We'll put you ashore to make your way while we make ours back home."
"Ashore." Cain repeated, drawing out the two syllables. "It will take nearly twice as long to cover the ground on foot."
"That's not my problem. We were hired to bring you here, no more than that. No-one said anything about chasing phantoms or traveling up the coast. My ship is tired. My crew is tired. We'll wait a day or so for what we need, then we're headed home."
"And nothing will make you change your mind?"
If the Captain had been a brighter man, Thomas's gentle tone and silken voice would have put him instantly on his guard. He would have ordered the pair of them clapped in irons and thrown overboard. He would have drawn his cutlass and forced them to climb into a longboat. He would have saved himself time and trouble and had them both shot. Instead, he folded his arms across his chest and tried to look resolute.
"Nothing. I am firm in this."
"Very well, Captain. I will not attempt to change your mind." Thomas turned to Cain, who stopped rumbling under his friend's glare. "We will wait aboard until you have sufficient supplies then take our leave of you. I trust that is acceptable?"
The relief of victory flooding through him, the Captain nodded. "Quite acceptable. Good day, gentlemen."
The passengers watched him return to his duties, shouting at the men to hurry.
"I will not walk." Cain said.
"Peace, my friend." Thomas stroked his beard. "You will not have to."
"But you said-"
"I said you need not trouble yourself with this. Concentrate on finding what we seek. I will see to transportation."
"Each moment it moves further away." Cain turned his head north, as though he could see beyond the horizon. "We must follow soon or we will lose it."
"I know." Thomas soothed. Cain had been more irritable since they had sighted land, but his head dropped more and more and there were dark circles under his eyes. His lack was beginning to tell on him and it grieved Thomas to see his friend so diminished. "I will get you what you need. Trust me."