[An extract from my Novel – Tanith of Gold]
“And now to business.”
Frederick gestured for them all to be seated but he remained standing and his quiet but incisive voice filled the cabin.
“The dark forces have invaded the Pope’s spirit and he is openly waging war on me with every devious means he can find.”
He paused and looked at them carefully.
“We are gathered here to safely fetch Michael Scot, who is bearing news from Montsegur. The Pope has heard of our mission and has assembled a fleet of ships aided by phantoms. They are not far away and draw closer even as we speak.”
Tanith was standing opposite the Count of Malta and saw the red fire around his shoulders when Michael Scot’s name was mentioned. A sneer moved his mouth but he said nothing. He did not seem to be able to look directly at Tanith so she began to lose her fear of him.
Mustaq said to Yousouf, “Prepare the men for a mighty battle. We will not bow down to the enemy today.” To King Frederick he said quietly, “How many ships and men?”
The King frowned and walked to the window, saying as if to himself, “He has cloaked everything in darkness but I see many ships and men. Let us prepare, we may have little time.”
He dismissed them with a smile and gesture as if to be left with his thoughts and retired to a dark corner of the cabin. Tanith could feel his concentration but she excused herself quietly and walked out to the deck. The Count of Malta called his men and expertly guided them back to his ship.
The clouds were low and black and there was a stillness on the water so that Tanith could hear the creak of both ships and the water slapping against the stationary hulls.
She stood against the railing, straining her eyes to the eastern horizon. She was just turning to see if Michael was awake yet, when she saw him walking towards her. Her heart skipped and she felt a warmth reach from her belly to her cheeks as he looked at her with an already familiar glance and small smile. He wordlessly reached for her and they enfolded in an embrace which seemed to have no end. He had been far away but he felt as if he had returned.
Michael had awoken completely fresh, and, unlike the previous occasion he remembered all the details and feelings. He felt very powerful and walked towards Tanith with the feeling that he was beginning to know who he was. Tanith told him of the meeting and they turned to look out to the horizon, both driven by a sudden dread. Michael felt a sinking in his belly as he realised that he could not lose Tanith and yet it seemed possible that they were outnumbered and would be slaughtered at sea.
They saw the sails on the horizon – ten ships moving with supernatural speed. King Frederick and Mustaq had joined them and they stood in grim silence. Even if every warrior on board fought like a hero the enemy ships were no doubt packed with foul mercenaries who would make short work of them. The enemy ships formed abreast and headed towards them in a straight line – their sails cracking with a wind which ran contrary to the natural wind. Mustaq and the Count had brought their ships about to face the enemy. Yousouf’s fighters were prepared and silent.
Tanith became aware that the King had moved behind her and Michael. She felt his bearded face against her ear and she felt his hand on the back of her neck as he murmured some Persian words to her. He then did the same to Michael, stepped away from them and gave them a push between the shoulder-blades.
Instantly the world in front of her changed. The sounds of the sea and wind faded but colours brightened and changed hue slightly. The sea became a green opaque surface which allowed her to see into the depths. She was aware of vast shapes undulating. She and Michael, hand in hand, stepped over the edge of the ship and floated down to the surface of the water. She had a moment’s surprise when she looked back to see her other body still standing on the deck, motionless, but instantly recognised the duality. The surface of the water was spongy and they took huge strides on it. Without any volition she saw that they were heading towards a small raft floating on the sea. On the raft was an old man standing waiting for them patiently.
As they stepped on the raft the old man reached out and helped her up the last step. She felt the rough planks beneath her feet for a second and then even in her altered state gasped with fright because in an instant the raft was hundreds of feet in the air. Far down below were their two ships and alarmingly close were the straining masts and scudding hulls of the enemy.
The old man chuckled, “I am wondering whether it is worth waking up my sleep.” He gestured down to the sea and they saw the gigantic form of a sleeping man shape under the sea. He seemed to stretch from one horizon to the next. The old man’s eyes twinkled, “I don’t normally take sides in man’s petty affairs but I don’t like those sea-slugs polluting my water.”
He yawned and stretched out his right arm and before their disbelieving eyes the gigantic form below reached out a vast arm, column of water which towered as far as they were in the air. The water bulged with muscular life and formed a colossal fist, which fell with indescribable force across all ten enemy ships.
The noise and concussion threatened to swamp their two ships but the old man formed a cupping gesture with his hand and the maelstrom passed in an instant. The old man made a sweeping gesture and all the floating wreckage sank out of sight until there was no sign of the menacing fleet.
The old man straightened up and was clothed in golden robes and in his right hand was a trident. They were in a throne room clustered in jewels, “Tanith of Gold we have met before in one of your incarnations. I loved you well for a year and we have a son in another time and place.”
Tanith had an agonising instant of warm recognition and a remembrance of a golden palace on an island before it faded like a forgotten dream.