Author's Note: Okay, this fanfic may be new to some (if not all) of you, but it's actually old. It's one of my very first fanfics I ever wrote and was written in 2002 when I was highly obsessed with Horatio Hornblower. Since I didn't know anything about back then, I originally published it on my Horatio Hornblower website that I had back in those days. Just within the past few weeks, I thought it would be nice to dig it up, fix it up a bit, and publish it here on FF.n. So that's what I'm doing. Not only am I doing it so all of the Horatio fans on here can enjoy it, but I wanted a place where I can log it away and keep up with it, as my Horatio website has seriously gone down over the years and is just setting and collecting dust.
Most all of this fanfic is as original as the day I wrote it, but I've gone back and corrected a few typos and other errors I noticed. I've also taken out and added a little bit here and there to make it sound smoother too. It's a short story so all that you see on this page is the complete story (there aren't any chapters). I know it's a tad odd for a Horatio Hornblower story, but whatever. lol! That's the fun of fanfics.:-)
Disclaimer: I am only a fan and do not own anything of Horatio Hornblower!! All characters, names and anything else pertaining to Hornblower are owned and copyrighted by their rightful owners (C.S. Forester, A&E and whoever else owns them). The only thing I own is the fanfic itself. This fanfic and any of my other fanfics may not be copied, altered, edited or posted elsewhere without my permission. For those of you who may speak another language please feel free to translate my story into your native language for better understanding and your personal enjoyment ONLY, or to show to a friend that may not speak English.
Rated PG – Scary/disturbing scenes
Many legends, stories, and myths have come about, over the years, from sailors and men of the sea—those ancient tales of mer-people, evil spirits, and creatures beyond your wildest dreams. The question still haunts all of us who are enthralled by their mystery—just how many came about from true events?
"Look out, Horatio, it's coming your way!" Wellard shouted as he ran across the ship deck in pursuit of a strange rolling object. Horatio jumped and tried to catch it, but doing so caused him to hit heads with Wellard. Both men lay on the deck and groaned in agony while holding their throbbing heads.
"I'll get it!" shouted Archie. But just as he started to run, he tripped over Horatio's legs. The troublesome object, which had been the cause of this short bit of insanity, finally stopped when it hit the toe of a shoe. Archie, Horatio, and Wellard looked up. The pitiful trio, expecting to see their captain, was much relieved when they saw the puzzled face of Bush.
"What on earth are you three up to this time?" Bush asked, bending down to pick up the thing that had stopped in front of his shoe. "Great Scott," he suddenly shouted as he looked down at the bewildered three.
"Please, sir, don't tell Captain Sawyer!" Wellard pleaded, getting up and brushing his trousers off. Archie and Horatio soon followed.
"I won't tell him, but you must tell me where you got it from." Bush whispered, looking the three over.
"When the crew was sent to shore yesterday, Wellard found it buried there on the beach." Horatio pointed toward the shore as he spoke.
"It was half hidden in the sand, sir, I almost tripped over it when we were walking from the boat. I thought it was a rock at first, sir, but when I saw what it really was... I—I grabbed it and stuck it in my pocket." Wellard's voice became hoarse and he turned his head away from Bush as if he had done a great wrong and feared getting flogged for it.
"And what about a few minutes ago?" Bush asked as he, again, looked over the bright, red ruby he held.
"Oh, Archie, here, dropped it when Wellard was showing it to us." Horatio nudged Archie's arm.
Archie frowned at his friend's teasing. "It wasn't my fault. The ship lurched."
"Here, let me have it, sir, before it gets away again." Wellard reached his hand out to Bush.
"I'll take it, Wellard!!" said Archie, excitedly, reaching over to snatch the ruby from Wellard's hand. Just when Archie was about to take the stone, the ship suddenly took a rough jolt that nearly knocked everyone on their faces.
"Gracious! What on earth was that all about?" said Bush as he picked himself up off the deck.
"Archie, Wellard, are you okay?" Horatio asked, helping them up.
"Yeah, we're okay. What happened?"
"Haven't the foggiest idea. Must have..."
"The ruby!!! Where's the ruby??" Wellard suddenly blurted out. Everyone frantically looked around, but the ruby was nowhere to be seen.
Everyone grew quiet, and they could hear a faint rolling sound.
"There it goes!" Archie shouted, while taking off toward the direction he saw the ruby go. Wellard and Horatio started running after him, but collided with Bush, who had just made the mistake of stepping in front of them.
"Oh, for crying out loud," Bush griped, struggling to get Wellard and Horatio off him.
"Oof… ugh… get off me! Give me my leg back," Bush continued to complain as he pushed and shoved Horatio and Wellard. While the three men sorted out legs and arms, Archie returned. He threw a confused and bewildered look in the officers' direction.
"What's going on?" he asked as he came up to the tangled heap that was his friends.
"Ye don't wanna know, lad." said Bush, coldly.
"Did ya catch it?" asked Wellard, finally getting his legs untangled and bounding up beside Archie.
"Yes, and not a moment too soon. Sawyer's coming!"
As soon as Archie mentioned the name of their insane captain, everyone quickly jumped to their feet and straightened themselves up to stand at attention.
"Quick, let me have the stone!" Wellard stuttered as he fumbled for Archie to give him the ruby.
Like a big brother looking out for his younger siblings, Bush snatched the ruby from Archie's hands. "I'll take that if you don't mind."
"B-but it's Wellard's,"
"I'll keep it until tonight, Mr. Kennedy." said Bush, looking down his nose at the younger officer.
Just as Bush finished placing the stone into the pocket of his white breeches, Captain Sawyer came up to the group. His face was as cold and hard looking as it always was; able to strike fear into even the toughest and bravest men the British navy had to offer. Archie, Horatio, Bush, and Wellard were all terrified of him, but they tried not to show it when he was around. And they all knew he was crazy. It didn't take a genius to figure out that part of the old captain. Archie and Horatio could silently agree that, despite Simpson, life had been much easier when they had been under Captain Sir Edward Pellew's command.
"For goodness' sake, what on earth is going on out here?" Sawyer shouted angrily, glaring at the group. Wellard and Archie shuddered.
"N-nothing, sir," Horatio stammered.
"Nothing?!? You rampage around on my ship like a herd of maddened cattle and then tell me nothing's going on?" Sawyer yelled at the top of his lungs.
"I—" Horatio started.
"It was nothing, really, sir. Wellard, here, tripped over a loose rope. All of that's taken care of now, sir. There won't be any more noise, I promise you." said Bush, glancing over at Horatio. "The boy will be punished for his clumsiness. I've already seen to that."
"Hmm. Very well, but I'd better not catch you making noise like that again. Cause if I do, all of you will be kissing the gunner's daughter!"
Archie, Wellard, and Horatio stiffened and swallowed hard at Sawyer's words. Every sailor, old or young, pretty much knew what 'kissing the gunner's daughter' felt like. If they didn't, they knew what it involved. Poor Wellard knew all too well, and he didn't care to ever go through it again. His backside couldn't take another round of Booth's cane.
Seeing that his words hit home, Sawyer turned and walked away, stopping a few times to yell and curse at some poor sailor. The solemn group could hear him angrily shouting orders to the other crew members as he disappeared to his cabin.
"Can he really make a Lieutenant kiss the gunner's daughter?" Archie asked in concern. Horatio, Bush, and Wellard said nothing.
That night, Bush approached Wellard in the midshipmen's berth. He nervously looked around before reaching into the pocket of his breeches and pulled out the gorgeous red ruby.
"Here, I do believe that this belongs to you," Bush whispered in the softest tone he could, tossing the ruby to Wellard, "If I were you, I wouldn't go walking about on deck with it in my pocket. Something that valuable is bound to cause trouble if anyone sees it."
"Is that why you kept it?" Wellard whispered in an equally soft tone.
"Yes," Bush looked around again; sure that he had heard footsteps. "Who knows what ol' Sawyer would have done if he had caught you with it this afternoon."
Bush walked toward the stairs and prepared to go back up on deck. He stopped and turned back to Wellard. "You take care of yourself." Were his last words before he turned and disappeared.
Later that same night, when the ship was quiet and a bit eerie, Bush and Horatio were suddenly and violently awakened by Archie shaking them. The young man was screaming and shouting for them to wake up, but they continued to sleep. At first, Horatio thought the whole thing was a dream, but as he opened his eyes wider he could see the fear-stricken face of his friend directly in front of his own face.
"C'mon wake up! Wake up! Something's happened!" he again shouted in Bush and Horatio's ears.
"Uhnn," Horatio groaned in a sleepy tone, "What's wrong, Archie? It's not our watch yet."
"Horatio, it's horrible!"
"What's horrible? Archie, what the devil are you going on about?"
"Oh, Horatio, Bush – most horrible thing I've ever seen in my life! Aaaaaahhhh!!!" Archie screamed like he was insane and ran toward the cabin door. He fiddled with the lock, stopped, and slid down to the floor. By this time Bush and Horatio were completely awake. They exchanged quick glances, threw their blankets off, and rushed over to where Archie lay curled up in a ball in the corner.
"Archie," Horatio grabbed hold of Archie and shook him, "Archie, what's wrong?"
Archie's face, illuminated by the soft, dim glow of a lantern that Bush had quickly lit, was filled with terror. He was still in a daze and was as pale as a ghost. His mouth moved, but nothing came out of it.
"Snap out of it, Archie!" Horatio said softly yet firmly. "Tell us what happened."
Instead of answering his friend, Archie suddenly and without warning went into violent convulsions and shaking. It startled Horatio, but it wasn't something he hadn't seen before. It puzzled him. Archie hadn't reacted in this way since they had to put up with the bully midshipman, Simpson. He'd figured that Simpson's presence was what caused Archie's sickness. Horatio continued to hold on to Archie's arms and gently placed his hand over his mouth, knowing good and well what was going to come next. And he was right, Archie started, or rather tried, to shout and scream. Thanks to Horatio's hand over his mouth, his voice didn't reach earshot of the other crew members.
"What's wrong with him?" Bush backed away.
"Epilepsy," Horatio felt pity for Archie, "He hasn't been bothered by it since we were midshipmen aboard the i Indefatigable /i ."
As quick as it had begun, it ended, and Archie quit shaking and convulsing and shouting. He looked into the concerned faces of Horatio and Bush, sweat beading on his forehead and streaming down his face.
"It's okay, Archie. Everything's okay," Horatio said softly, staring into Archie's eyes, "Can you tell us what happened?"
Archie stared back for a few minutes, an angelic look on his face that was common right after one of his fits, and then began to speak.
"I—I couldn't sleep. So I walked out onto the deck for some air. When I was standing there outside the cabin door, I saw something move over by the rigging. I—I thought it might have been a seagull at first, but then I saw something red and shiny for a few seconds. I went over to see what it was. I didn't see anything at first, but when I turned… There it was up in the rigging! It—it was huge, Horatio, and black w—with fangs. It—it lunged at me…" Archie stammered out the words before collapsing into what seemed like delirium. He continued to lay there and mumble words that made no sense.
"Bush, help me get him over to his hammock." Horatio and Bush grabbed onto Archie and carried him to his bed. Archie still mumbled as Horatio undid the buttons on his uniform.
"Want me to help?" Bush asked, concerned.
"Yes, go outside and see if you can find what it was he saw." Horatio excitedly said, maybe a little too harsh, as he took Archie's uniform off and threw it across the cabin.
"You want me to go out there and find that thing he was talking about? That… 'thing'… from the babblings of a madman? Horatio, be serious. It's perfectly clear that young Archie was hallucinating. Perhaps it was the moonlight casting shadows."
Horatio turned to Bush and gave him a stern look. "Go out and look!"
"Alright, alright," Bush stormed out as quietly as he could without rousing the whole ship.
"Red and shiny, red and… shiny. It was red, Horatio, and it was shiny…" Archie continued to mumble deliriously as Horatio sat on the floor beside him, his mind whirling with questions.
"Red and shiny," Horatio repeated to himself. "My goodness, Wellard!"
Horatio jumped up from the floor and, forgetting where he was, crashed into the beams above him. He groaned a little, rubbed his head, and then he proceeded to go out of the cabin.
"Bush! Bush! Come here," Horatio stuck his head out of the cabin door and whispered as loud as he possibly could at Bush, who was standing over by the rigging.
"What is it?" Bush asked in an irritable tone as he approached Horatio.
"Go down to the midshipmen's berth and see if Wellard's okay. If he's awake, bring him and his hammock up here."
Bush looked at him in a puzzling way.
"Well, go do it, man!"
"Alright, if you say so," Bush started to walk off. "Are you sure you aren't the one who's suffering from delirium?"
Horatio scowled at Bush's words, but quickly changed the subject. Now was not the time for any arguments. "By the way, did you find anything?"
"No, not a thing. Everything is as it should be. No sign of any kind of disturbance that I can see."
When Bush walked away, Horatio walked over to where Bush had been standing and looked out over the side of the ship. The night was calm except for the ocean water that splashed against the ship's sides, sending a cool spray and mist over Horatio's face. The silvery moon overhead was bright and crisp, its light glittering like diamonds on the waters. It also succeeding in casting eerie shadows all along the ship's deck, which looked like unexplainable figures and creatures moving along in the darkness.
Horatio thought he saw something move a few times, but it turned out to be the shadow of one of the ropes. With a shudder he turned to go back to the cabin, but something caught his eyes. He walked up to the rigging to inspect some of the ropes and found that one of them had been—
"Cut," he said to himself as he fingered it in his hands. At that moment, Bush reappeared from below deck and walked up to him. A sleepy Wellard followed, his hammock drooping over his arms.
"Well, here he is. Fine as can be, aside from losing a good sleep." said Bush, smugly.
"Thank you ever so much, Bush. Would you mind getting one of the crew to come over here and fix these ropes? Thank you! Come, Wellard, let's go." Horatio grabbed poor Wellard by the arm and took him into his cabin, which was barely big enough for himself, Archie, and Bush. Horatio fixed Wellard's hammock for him and as soon as the bed was hung, the young boy rolled into it and fell asleep.
"Wellard," Horatio gently shook Wellard, "where's the ruby?"
"Huh? Wha? Oh, it's in my pocket, here, why?"
Without an answer, Horatio grabbed Wellard's trouser pocket and took out the ruby that was about the size of a good sized lemon. He took it over to where Archie lay and showed it to him.
"Archie, is this what you saw out there?"
Archie slowly turned his head toward Horatio and the ruby.
"Ahhhhhh!" Archie screamed and fought to get away from the jewel. "Keep it away! Keep it away!"
Horatio quickly hid the ruby under the blanket.
"There, there, Archie. It's okay. It's gone now. Rest," Horatio patted Archie's shoulder, trying to sooth him. He got up and walked over to where Wellard, now wide awake, had been watching. He only hoped that Sawyer hadn't heard Archie's yelling.
"What's going on?" Wellard asked as Horatio came up to him.
"I don't know," Horatio looked hard at the ruby before giving it back to Wellard, "I just don't know."
The next day was the same as any other day. The crewmen busied themselves with operating the ship and the sun poked through the grey clouds that dotted the afternoon sky. No French ships were in sight, which was a relief to Archie. The epileptic seizure left him a bit nervous. It was something he hadn't felt in a long time. And whatever he had seen that brought on the seizure was something that still lingered in his mind. Could it have been a dream? Could it have just been shadows? A chill swept over him. And it wasn't a chill from the coldness of the ocean spray that constantly fell over him.
He stood near the side of the ship and peered out over the water, half expecting Bush or Horatio to come up and start asking him questions. To his surprise, nothing more was said about the events that happened. He continued to stand and stare into nothingness, pouring over events and thoughts and questions in his mind. Bush, seeing him, walked up to him.
"Look lively!" he said, "You don't want Captain Sawyer to catch you looking like last week's mop water, now do you?"
Archie broke a half smile before quickly turning it into a worried frown again.
"Are you feeling okay today, Mr. Kennedy?"
"Yeah, I'm fine, sir." Archie looked up into Bush's face and forced a smile.
"Maybe you should take a rest. You're starting to look a little peaked."
"Probably from not getting much sleep last night."
Bush silently nodded in agreement.
Nothing more was said about the startling events—until that night. Horatio, Bush, and Wellard decided to bring up the subject in the privacy of their cabin, away from the prying ears of the other crewmen and, especially, the captain. They were seated in their cabin, having dinner and talking about the events that still haunted Archie's mind. All of the hammocks had been taken down and placed in a corner and a small makeshift table sat in the middle of the cramped room.
"Tell us, Archie, what it really was that you saw." said Bush, taking another swig of his drink.
"It was just as I told you. It was huge, black, and had fangs."
"Did it have a shape?" asked Horatio.
"I don't know. It all happened so fast that I can't really say. It was like a dream, but yet—real. All I remember was looking up and seeing it hanging onto the rigging. The next thing I knew it was lunging at me. I threw my arms up to shield my face and waited for the pain, but then… it—it was gone." Archie looked around at all the puzzled faces after he finished. Bush held a half eaten sea biscuit to his lips, the other half of it still lingering in his jaws. A skeptical look crossed his face.
Horatio broke the silence, "You said that it was hanging onto the rigging?"
"So it had feet?"
"I guess so. Why?" Archie was wondering why Horatio was so interested.
"I don't know," Horatio was lost in thought.
"Maybe it was all a dream." Bush suggested.
"Yeah, perhaps," Horatio mumbled.
"Oh, Wellard, must you keep letting that thing run loose on this ship?" Bush groaned as he watched the ruby suddenly roll past his plate.
"Uh, sorry," Wellard turned pale, watching the jewel roll completely off the table and into Horatio's lap. Horatio picked it up and set it on the table between his arm and Wellard's arm.
"Can't understand how it happened to get here." said Wellard under his breath, but loud enough for everyone to hear. Every eye in the room focused on him.
"Honest! I—I left it in the midshipmen's berth. After Bush told me not to carry it around and after last night, I hid it in my sea chest." Wellard's voice was about to crack as he spoke.
All was quiet for some time as everyone stared at the ruby. Bush was next to break the silence. His voice was soft and low.
"Are you telling me that this ruby, here, is not yours?" his face turned a little pale too. Wellard nodded. "Where did it come from, then? Yours is the only one on this ship and it certainly did not walk from the midshipman's berth to here."
"I—I don't know, sir!" Wellard looked at everyone. "Honest, I never saw that ruby until Bush said something about it rolling toward his plate."
"There's something strange going on here. The ruby, what Archie saw—" Horatio took a deep breath, "I think that they are somehow connected with the ruby Wellard found."
"Aw, go on. You aren't serious are you?" Bush laughed.
"I don't know," Horatio reached for the ruby, but stopped.
"It—it's gone! The ruby—it's gone! I placed it right here between me and Wellard!" Horatio jumped up from his seat, nearly knocking his head on the beams again.
"Maybe it rolled away," Archie said as he bent over to look under the table.
"Nope, it's not here." said Horatio.
"Now do you believe me?"
Bush and Horatio eyed each other.
"I—I think I do." Bush finally replied, under his breath.
Suddenly, a shout from the deck above them broke the mysterious air.
"What in the world's going on?" Archie looked up then at Horatio.
"I don't know, but let's go find out!" Horatio grabbed his cocked hat and got up from where he had been sitting, careful to bend with the deck beams. The others followed him as he made his way toward the door. It was absolute chaos as Horatio, Wellard, Bush, and Archie appeared on the main deck. Sailors ran here and there, screaming and shouting like madmen. Captain Sawyer was standing somewhere in the midst, shouting orders to everyone that was in hearing range. The flashing of cannon fire lit the night's darkness, followed by the loud booms and explosions. Pistols popped and sparked, and the air was filled with the familiar scent of gunpowder and smoke. Buckland just happened to run by and Horatio grabbed his arm.
"What's going on? Who are you shooting at?" Horatio yelled over the din, "Is it the French? Pirates?"
"Dunno, sir. Someone shouted that he saw something out there on the water. We all heard something, and then the cannons broke out."
"Horatio, there it is! That's what I saw!" Archie screamed in Horatio's ear as he pointed toward a huge black mass hovering toward the ship.
"Good gracious! What is it?" Bush gasped.
Everyone stopped what they were doing and stared at the black beast that slowly rolled in like an evil fog. It had no shape, but in a way it had an appearance of a black tiger with grey stripes. Its eyes were two huge shining rubies, much like the ruby Wellard found, and it had horrible fangs sticking out from its top lip. What appeared to be the front legs had three black, dagger-like claws that glistened in the moon's light. When it opened its mouth, blue flames poured out like smoke. It let out a hair curling scream then began to speak in a voice that was powerful, deep, eerie, and had an obvious echo.
i ( ( ( Someone aboard this ship has taken the forbidden Tiger's Eye. I demand to know who it was! ) ) ) /i
The beast snarled and looked around at every man that stood on the ship's deck. Wellard swallowed his fear and stepped forward.
"Wellard, are you mad?" Archie whispered.
"No," Wellard turned to Archie and looked him in the face, "I don't want anyone getting hurt because of me. Go get me the ruby." Before he could say anything else, Archie took off running toward the midshipmen's berth. Wellard turned toward the looming figure of the tiger.
"I—I don't know who you are, but I'm the one who took your stone." Wellard gulped when he realized what he was doing.
The tiger turned an evil gaze to Wellard. It began to open its mouth, but stopped when Wellard started to talk again.
"I'm sorry if I caused you any trouble. I didn't know it was yours. I found it buried in the sand on the beach." Wellard was about to cry from fear as he stood and looked the creature in the face. He couldn't move. No matter how much he tried, his feet would not move from the spot in which he stood. He heard the fast running footsteps of someone approaching from the back, but he had no idea who it was until he heard Archie's voice calling out to him as he stopped beside him and handed him the ruby.
"Is this it?" Wellard stuttered and shakily held up the ruby.
i ( ( ( The Tiger's Eye! ) ) ) /i The creature screamed as it turned away.
The creature opened its fiery mouth and lunged at Wellard. Wellard screamed and fell onto the deck. Before anyone knew what had happened, there was a bright flash of red light and the creature vanished, leaving nothing but a huge mound of black sand that looked like soot.
"Are you alright?" Archie grabbed onto Wellard and helped him up.
"Y—yes, I think so. What happened?" Wellard rubbed his head.
"I think the ruby killed it." Horatio said, walking up to his friends. "It came looking for the person who took the ruby because it was afraid that whoever had it would seek him out and destroy him. He lunged at Wellard hoping to kill him, but before he could," Horatio looked around, "The ruby put an end to the creature and saved Wellard's life."
Archie looked around the ship deck. "Where's the ruby now?"
"Who knows? At least this whole thing is over with finally." Bush sighed.
"But what happens if that thing comes back? If it was just made of sand, there might be more of them out there." Archie pointed to the pile of sand that Buckland was digging through with the toe of his shoe. He bent down, ran his fingers through it, and pulled out two huge shiny red stones.
"Ah—hah! Look what I found!" Buckland held up the rubies and grinned.
Bush sadly shook his head. "Oh brother, here we go again."