Decision at the Edge of the World Part Three
by Rob Wieland

   The surgeon dipped his hands in the cloudy water. He sighed as he scrubbed under his fingernails and the pads of his palm.

   "Now, was it really worth losing all those teeth?"

   The sailor behind him muttered incoherently. He gingerly rested his purple jaw on his hand.

   "Simon, if you are going to pick a fight with a man over snoring, be sure it isn't Jaime Espejo. I've seen him hit men with cannons. The belaying pin he broke over your jaw is a friendly greeting."

   The sailor muttered something else.

   "The pain? That's the one good thing. You have doctor's orders for double the rum ration until that swelling goes down."

   The sailor's eyes brightened. He shook Luis Rioja's hand and bounded out of the makeshift sickbay of the Corazon del Castille.

   Luis eased himself onto the top of an empty powder barrel. He wished he could have done more for him, but medical supplies seemed to be the last thing on Captain Orduno's mind when she restocked in Eisen.

   A low chuckle drew Luis out of his thoughts.

   "He seemed pretty happy for a man that kissed the side of a 10-pound cannon," said Joseph Gallegos from the doorway. As usual, his face was smudged with soot and the faint scent of brimstone seeped into the room.

   "He now has a license to drink at will," said Luis. "If the quartermaster can understand his request."

   "I have a request for you, Doctor."

   Luis chuckled. "Come now, Joseph. We both have the same...alma mater. No need for formality."

   Gallegos nodded and sat on the examination table.

   "I wish to field test something I've been working on. For the College. I need something of yours."

   "Of course. Building some other monstrosity of firepower for Ricardo Ramos to tinker with?"

   Joseph leaned closer. "I think I have a concoction that may put Senor Granjero's humors at ease."

   "A sleeping potion. Well, Joseph, I must admit I would find that even more useful to administer to men that have been badly wounded."

   A strange smile came over Gallegos's face. "Not a salve. A cure."

   "By all means, sir. Take what you need."

   "I just want that," said Gallegos as he pointed to the rough basin that Luis had washed up in.

   "Of course. That one is filthy, though. I'll tell you how I made it. A man of your craftsmanship should cobble one together in no time."

   "No, I want that one," Joseph said as he walked slowly over to it.

   "But the water inside is mixed with the blood of half the men on this ship."


   "Permission to speak freely?"

   "Of course."

   "I think you're as crazy as Granjero is, Captain."

   Margaretta straightened in her chair. Augusto de Augustin was known for his boldness, but even she was not prepared for him to insult her in her own quarters.

   "I came back to help you get Granjero. Consider it repaying a debt I owed you from San Cristobal. Sailing out West is bad enough, but not even stopping in Castille to tell Good King Sandoval what you are doing with his ship?"

   Margaretta placed her palms on the captain's desk. "Every day we sail," she began.

   "Is another day he dies," finished Augusto. "I've heard Felipe's song as well."

   "I'm sure Sandoval would agree with me. If there is land to the West, like the Explorers believe, Castille would benefit greatly from the resources found there."

   "And if your husband happens to be there, oops, what a happy coincidence."

   "Captain, I've known men to challenge me knowing full well they will die at the end of my sword. They are men without honour, or family, or anything to live for. They wish to die. It's a wish I am able to grant. Whenever you mention your husband to me, I see that same look."

   The door to the cabin burst open. Manuel Dejavez stumbled in.

   "Sail ho, Captain," he said breathlessly. "Port side."

   The trio made their way on deck. Felipe stood at the ship's wheel, unmoving.

   "Manuel," she said quickly, "your spyglass. Then get back top quickly. If she's unfriendly, we'll need to manoeuvre this beast as best we can."

   Margaretta snapped out the spyglass and peered into it. Augusto watched as her face contorted for a few moments. She collapsed the glass and stuck it into her belt.

   "Right full rudder," she bellowed as the ship began to lurch. "Wind at our back. Full sails!"

   "Full sails?" asked Augusto. "Isn't it a bad idea to expose your sails to an enemy vessel."

   Margaretta turned to the aft of the ship and began moving quickly.

   "Manuel didn't see a sail," she said without turning around. "It was a fin."

   "He is not a fiend. He is one of the greatest minds the College has."

   "Joseph," Luis said, jutting his finger into Joseph's chest. "You will not give Felipe a draught made of the blood of the sailors of this ship because you THINK it will cure his madness. And you certainly won't try any of Arcinega's mad theories on one of my crew."

   "Your crew? You are the ship's doctor," sneered Gallegos, "and not even a well-respected one. They've given you sawdust to work with. If he cut him off from his madness, we get to go home. Don't you want to go home?"

   "To what? A quiet country practice? Hardly."

   The deck rocked sharply. Both men tumbled to the ground.

   "Are you sure you wouldn't opt for the quiet life now?" snapped Gallegos.

   The beast was coming around for a second pass. Margaretta stood on the cannon deck.


   The beast cut through the sea like lightning. It's dark blue skin shimmered in the sun.

   "Almost there..."

   "Captain," shouted Ramos.

   "Not yet..."

   She saw its eyes on the top of its head. They were the size of a port hole. The creature was shaped like a Crescent dagger.


   The cannons roared and the sea sprayed up in a tangle of smoke and mist.

   The beast roared through it.

   "Brace for--" Margaretta shouted.

   The ship lurched to port hard as the beast crashed into it. The deck was almost completely vertical. Orduno saw a few men scream and fall into the sea or onto the hard skin of the creature. It slipped under the keel of the boat and the Corazon settled, momentarily.

   "Damage," she shouted.

   "We lost half the cannons," shouted Ramos. "The rest won't fire until we dry them out."

   "Not that it did us any good," muttered Augustin as he pulled himself up against the rail.

   "Captain," shouted Dejavez. "She's on the starboard side. She's making another run...."


   A cold hand clenched her shoulder. Felipe's voice came into her, softly. It drowned out the screams and the din of battle.

   "Turn the ship straight at her. Hold the course steady. Augusto, you're with me."

   Felipe headed toward the front of the ship. Augustin shot a glance at Margaretta, then followed suit. Margaretta dashed to the wheel and wrenched it to the right.

   "She's coming in faster, Captain," shouted the topsman.

   "What are Felipe and Augistin doing?"

   "Felipe has...drawn his sword..."


   "He's...oh...brace! Brace!"

   Margaretta repeated the order as quickly and as loudly as she could. The ship lurched forward. Margaretta heard the splintering of wood, the screams of more men, and sank into blackness as her head struck the wheel.

   Luis winced as he unwrapped the bandage.

   "How bad is it?" asked Margaretta.

   "I'd hate to see the other guy," he said. Margaretta managed to chuckle.

   There was a knock at the door. Before either could answer, Alicia came into the room.

   "You shouldn't be seen in court until that heals."

   "From what I understand," said Luis as he packed up his bag, "Captains with handsome scars are desired by noblewomen."

   Alicia laughed loudly. Luis did as well, leaving a small vial on Margaretta's desk. He left and shut the door behind him.

   "How are the repairs?"

   "The cannons are still damaged. We lost the Spear of Theus to the eye of that beast. Felipe cut the last rope right as it hit us. It was an amazing plan. Augusto is upset we couldn't take the thing back with us to prove the story when he tells it in taverns."

   "He thinks we're going back then, eh?"

   Alicia's face froze. "You can't be serious."

   "Of course we're going back," Margaretta said. "The question is: Will we be setting out again?"

   "Why wouldn't we?"

   "After the wounded we suffered today, Luis Rioja and Joseph Gallegos came to me with this." She held up the vial. It contained a dark blue liquid.

   "What is that?"

   "They claim is can cure Felipe of his madness. Permanently."

   Alicia's face lit up momentarily.

   "But if we cure him," she said as her smile faded, "he won't be able to lead us to Enrique."

   Margaretta nodded grimly. A few moments of silence passed in the cabin.

   Margaretta handed the vial to her sister.

   "It's your decision, Alicia. You can be sure you have your husband back."

   Alicia smiled and stood. She made her way to the door with the vial in hand. She looked back at her sister.

   "Unfortunately, it's not. If Felipe were to come back to me, and he knew what we sacrificed to bring him home, he would never forgive any of us. He'd probably attempt to take a rowboat out West to find Enrique. I never thought I'd get to say this but, you're wrong, Margaretta."

   Alicia Granjero threw her husband's salvation out the porthole.