A/N: The necessary disclaimers apply to this chapter too. This chapter goes without the kind help of the wonderful Zoop (people who read her stories know how busy she is) so the mistakes You find are solely mine.
Seven ships of the new Toron-Ryek – in others opinion Ryek-Toron – Fleet made sail two days later. The flagship of Gorban Lyalmur named Harida led them into the East. They left the harbour of the capital and headed to the Concitator-Island to join to the new Fleet gathering there. The island had been under the command of Trodar on-Shinean for more than two decades. But not for much longer.
The sailors shipping on the Harida were prattling among themselves as sailors always did… „The Warlord has taken a young, noble-born lady of Toron to wife" they whispered „Yes, he has her on board." Only few of them saw the Suessa. She seldom left the comfortable cubicle prepared for her in the bows. But the ones who actually saw her said, that her beauty matched her husband's strength.
And there were the other voices …. debating her worth, her motives, her right to be the one to share life with their Lord. However, these voices were cut short when they reached Gorban's ears on the first day of their journey. A scowl darkened his face as he planted himself in front of the crew, his hands clasped firmly behind his back. „I will say this once and only once" he began, his cold gaze drifting above the crowd. His voice was deep, very calm and very menacing „Indeed, I have marry her reluctantly. But she IS my wife now. One more disrespectful word, glance or even breath from you and I will break every single bone in your body. Slowly. Gladly."
He didn't ask if they understood the warning or not. Looking at the bowed heads and averted eyes, he knew they did.
The wrath of the sea caught up with them on the third day of their journey. The mages of the Fleet had been frowning till early morning, blinking nervously on the opalescent sky. After he had heard their gloomy premonitions, Gorban sent flag-sings to the other ships and did all the necessary precautions. The dropdoors of the cargo-bay have been sealed after hundreds of barrels filled with paraffin had been checked and double-checked. And his wife was moved from the bows into the security of his great cubicle in the pooptower. They did everything they could, yet they couldn't be prepared for what happened two hours after midday.
Angry blue clouds were darkening the sky behind the fleet, silent thunderbolts flashed through them. The colour of the sea turned from turquoise to steel-grey. The waves grew fast and white froth began to appear on the top of them. The clouds – almost black already - were getting closer and closer as the first gusts of wind caught up with the ships.
The wind became stronger with every moment, tearing away the froth from the edges of the now towering waves. The sails were streching to the breaking point, the poles and yards began to creak. The helmsmen blinked with growing distress at the huge, black-clad figure behind them, but Gorban didn't change their course. His mages had already warned him: there was no place for them to hide today. His cloak billowed around him, his white mane whipped across his face, but Gorban was standing steadily, his feet rooted to the deck at shoulders-width. The cutwater ripped the waves like a knife and they were flying. Flying above the endless depths of the sea, chased by the raging whirlwind. And Gorban stood there proudly, his broad chest challenging the tempest. And he grinned.
Later he wanted to hear the reports of the captains of the Fleet, so he called for his Prime Mage. The man who appeared on his side a minute later was skinny, pale and surprisingly young. His long, green robe clung to his body. A bold patch was shining on the top of his head, framed with rain-soked brown hair. His grey gaze rested calmly on his Lord as he waited for his orders.
„I need reports, Marcus. Captain Shirido's from the left flank first." said Gorban. The young mage nodded and shut his eyes. His mind drifted away, seeking another. When he found it in a mile's distant, silently he cast a spell and secured the connection. When he opened his eyes, it was not him who faced the Warlord.
„My Lord" Captain Shirido's distant voice coming from Marcus's mouth was hardly audible in the wind.
In half an hour Gorban Lyalmur knew everything what was to know about the Fleet. He patted Marcus's bony shoulder and said:
„Thank you, my son. Be ready, I shall need you again before the storm is over."
Marcus nodded. Life returned into his eyes as he gained back full control above his body and mind.
And then, in the middle of this mad racing the course of the wind suddenly changed. It came from slightly starboard now, instead from behind. The tempestuous waters roared and splashed the crew head to toe with icy cold water. But not only the crew. As the Harida started wobbling from left to right and back, the hungry sea reached the leeches of the lower sails. Suddenly tones of salt-water bathed and pushed the sails and booms downwards. As the swaying continued, more and more water came both sides, throwing them off balance. The danger was apparent and demanded immediate action.
Gorban didn't hesitate. He saw that they couldn't scandalize the lower mainsail the normal way. They hadn't got enough time and he couldn't send enough men to furl the stone-heavy sail. His voice thundered above the decks:
„Helmsmen, two degrees backboard! Bo'son, let down the lower mainsail immediately! Cut the rigs and down with it!"
He stood by the balustrade of the pooptower and watched his crew's struggling. He didn't even blink as the downpour began to lash his face. The frosty raindrops felt like cutting blades on his skin. The Harida began to turn, obeying the push of the rudder, but she was not fast enough. Not nearly enough.
A moment later a huge wave emerged on starboard. The tide rose and towered above them with gut-clenching slowness. When its height almost reached the point where Gorban stood, it washed over them. The noise was deafening, it absorbed the scared cries and helpless moans of the sailors. The wretched men were caught up and swept away like leaves in a hurricane. Gorban froze for a moment and only watched them find their watery grave. But then a choking howl left his lips. He saw something different disappearing in the cruel abyss. It seemed to be a cloak. A white, feminine cloak.
With all his might he dashed over the staircase leading down onto the middle deck.
Rebeca huddled up against the outer wall of the pooptower under the staircase leading up to the top. She was there ever since the swaying of the ship had begun. She had to leave Gorban's cubicle, she felt like suffocating in there. It was not much better outside, she had to admit. Her teeth were clattering, her white cloak soaked to the skin. The wind was so strong that she could hardly breathe. Slowly she was stumbling toward the staircase, almost tumbling down on the slippery deck. She managed to grab the stairs and hold her stance.
The tidal wave washed over them when she tread on the first step. The churning water hit her with the force of a charging bull. It pushed all air out of her lunges and ripped her cloak off of her. She would have been swept away if her feet hadn't got nipped between two steps.
Rebeca wanted to scream, but only a pathetic little whimper left her mouth. Her stomach lift off to her throat as the deck was pulled from under her feet. Coughing she desperately clung to the newel. Slowly she regained her balance and looked up.
Above her, on the top of the stairs she saw Gorban. He was literally flying downwards, his feet not even touching the steps. His face ashen, eyes wide with horror.
Then he registered the woman standing in his way. His hands grabbed the balusters instantly. With a squealing sound his palms broke his momentum within a yard, leaving a trail of blood behind on the wet wood.
Gorban stopped before her almost toe-to-toe.
„What the hell are you doing here?" He growled through gritted teeth. The fear or concernor whatever he had felt before was gone now, his eyes narrow with fury. „Go back inside!"
„Please, no! Could I not stay … with you? I am so ….." she faltered when Gorban's hands grabbed her shoulders and shake her with brutal force.
„Are you mad? Enough of your stupidity and get out of my sight! Now!" He pushed her away so roughly that she almost tumbled. Ignoring her welling up tears he turned to leave.
Rebeca stared at his back for a long moment. His vise-like grip caused her pain of course, but it was his resentment, contempt and almost-hate what hurt the most. Without a word she turned on her heels and headed back to the cubicle.
She couldn't take two steps before the next wave-monster beat the decks. This time there was nothing she could grab and at that moment she lacked the will to fight. With a clear consciousness she let the sea drift her beyond the strake.
As she dove under water the surface hit her head hard. The world suddenly became silent and blurry and comfortingly cool. Rebeca sank slowly, her body and mind were completely languid. She watched apathetically the last bubbles leaving her mouth. Everything began to fade away. Suddenly a huge, black and white shadow broke the surface. It approached her fast. An orca? Or a man perhaps? She didn't care. Silence…. Blur…
Gorban hit the water with soles first, his spine straight. The pain was excruciating for a moment, as if every bone in his body had been broken. But he didn't mind. He had to follow the girl. Three hundred pounds of muscle and stubbornness dove into the ice-cold water. Clouds of silvery bubbles swirled around him. He spreaded his arms and slowed his sinking. Scanning the depths for Rebeca felt like smoldering needles stabbed into his eyes.
He found her almost immediately. She was not too far from him, floating slowly. When he reached her, he wreathed his left arm around her from behind, just below her armpits. Her body was so limp, so helpless… As he kicked themselves toward the surface, his stomach knotted. He felt something painful, something he …. well, he never had felt before, except once. Not ten minutes ago, when he thought he had lost her. The feeling was unfamiliar, inexplicable and uncontrollable. It was panic.
He could use only one of his arms. The weight of Rebeca and his water-filled boots was almost too much. The water was so cold, that his heart froze. He needed all his willpower to not to breathe. In a minute he felt his lungs burning with live coals. Gritting his teeth he fastened his eyes on the shadow of the Harida and ignored everything else.
Two more minutes – each one as long as a lifetime – and his face finally broke through the surface. They were forty yards behind the Harida. Gorban gasped for air, his body shook with raspy coughs. He yanked Rebeca upwards. The rough movement of his stone-hard arm pressed the water out of her lunges and she came round with a choking sob. Gorban had never heard such a beautiful sound before.
He turned onto his back and embraced the girl tightly to his chest. Rebeca's head was resting on his shoulder, her eyes closed. Gorban tried to hold her face above water as he wrestled the tempestuous waves and sneaky maelstroms. His mind reached out for Marcus with the silent Mindspeech.
Almost immediately a magic-guided rope splashed into the water next to them. Gorban grabbed it, twined it around his wrist and at the next moment they were lifted into security.