Interlude 20B – Blackbeard

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Early March, 1718

Smoke, shouts, and the terrifying boom of cannonfire filled the salty sea air as the man colloquially known as the pirate captain Blackbeard stood on the very edge of his ship. The Queen Anne’s Revenge shook under the force of another round of cannon shots as several struck home. Almost simultaneously, a shout went up from the opposite end of the ship, where a second opponent had come close enough for its soldiers to toss their grapple-lines over and began pulling themselves aboard.

“Boarded, Cap’n!” one of the crew shouted near his captain’s ear. “The Bastion’s got men coming aboard. We’d best be breaking off pursuit, yeah? Let the prize go for another day.”

In response, the man they called Blackbeard turned and pulled one of five different pistols he wore strapped across his broad chest that were already cocked and primed. Pointing it at the man, he ordered, “Break off pursuit, and I break your dear mother from having a living son. Keep on!” The last words he thundered loudly above the sound of gunfire and swordplay. “If the Steady Swallow escapes,” he named the merchant vessel that they had been attacking when the Bastion arrived to interrupt, “I’ll personally make sure all you lot dance the hempen jig! Stay on that ship!”

A second crewman, since the first was too cowardly to actually speak up a second time, blurted, “But Cap’n, the Bastion’s right on top of us! They’ve got lines across. We can’t catch up with the Swallow, not when we’re towing a whole other ship behind us!”

Grinning dangerously (and some would say a bit maniacally), Blackbeard replied, “You let me worry about the Bastion and those lines. Just stay on the cannons and sails. Give me full pursuit. Stay on the Swallow, it doesn’t escape or it’s all your heads. All your heads!”

With that said, the man raised a hand to wave under his expansive beard. At the gesture, the beard literally turned to fire. A moment later, the rest of his hair did the same. His head was engulfed by flames, leaving his face only partially exposed.

It was a trick that the vast majority who saw attributed to fuses and tiny candles tied into his hair. Despite the fact that every hair on his head and face had actually turned into fire, they never saw it that way. What they saw, what they remembered, was still terrifying, yet explainable.

From where he stood, Blackbeard took three steps forward before launching himself into a leap that carried him clear over the heads of his crew and to the far end of the ship. What they saw him doing, what their brains thought it was, he didn’t know. Maybe they saw him holding a rope to swing. Whatever the lie their minds made up to explain the unexplainable, he didn’t care.

Landing at the aft end of the ship, he brought one gun up and fired off a shot that took one of the soldiers clambering aboard straight in the center of his forehead. The man pitched backward off the ship, crashing into one of his companions as he plummeted to take the other soldier with him.

Without bothering to drop the pistol, he turned to take aim at the next man that dared to climb aboard his ship. When he pulled the trigger, it should, by all rights, have done nothing.

For Blackbeard, however, the pistol was little more than a prop. It was a way of allowing those who saw him to explain away the unexplainable. And as he pulled the trigger of the empty pistol, a white-hot ball of flame summoned by the man himself shot from the end of the barrel to take the second man in the throat. He was killed instantly, a gaping hole left where his neck had been.

At the same time, another man who had already managed to clamber aboard lunged for the dreaded pirate captain, sword coming down in a wild swing that was accompanied by an equally wild scream. The thought of being the man to claim the reward by killing the one known as Blackbeard was too much to pass up. He could obviously already see himself accepting the accolades that would come with such a feat.

It was, however, a feat he would never claim. Without looking at the man, Blackbeard took a step forward and stuck his foot back while dropping the pistol he was holding. The foot caught the charging man across the ankle, sending him crashing to the deck while the pirate captain himself turned quickly to strip his cutlass away smoothly.

Before the fallen man could pick himself up, Blackbeard pivoted. From his own belt, he drew one of the two swords that he himself wore, flipping it around in his hand to drive down through the man’s back, pinning him to the deck. A quick flick of his wrist brought the sword up through the man’s neck, separating his head from his body.

Simultaneously, he gave the soldier’s own blade what looked like a careless toss, sending it flying through the air to collide with the chest of the next threat who thought to charge straight at the most infamous pirate on the seas.

It had all taken only a few seconds. Landing. Shot to the forehead of one man to kill him. Shot to the throat of a second man to kill him. Spinning to trip the incoming third man before skewering and beheading him. Toss of the third man’s sword through the chest of the fourth man. Through it all, less than six full seconds had passed.

Finally turning back to face the grapple lines that had been thrown onto his ship, he raised a hand. At his simple gesture, a wave pulled itself free of the ocean, crashing straight between the two linked ships in order to tear the lines (as well as the men clambering across them) away.

Fire and water; the man currently known as Blackbeard controlled both. His men and those who faced him in battle attributed the former to pistols and strategically-placed candles or gunpowder, and the latter to the seas smiling upon him. Freak storms carried his ships where they needed to be much faster than should have been possible, or slowed and sank pursuers. Yet even the men who witnessed the most unnatural of those events with their own eyes believed there was a truly rational explanation. Their eyes saw it, but by the time the sight reached their minds, it had become something else. They never truly comprehended just what their captain was capable of.

With the lines torn down by the ‘freak wave’, the Queen Anne’s Revenge was free. Pivoting back to the front, Blackbeard shouted orders to bring up the sails to catch the wind. Even then, however, he barely waited for his men to hop to follow instruction before focusing on the water itself once more. Summoning another wave, this one far more controlled, he used it to shove the ship forward in a boost that gave them a head-start at catching up with the fleeing merchant vessel. Then the sails caught the wind, and they were off.

It was a tense thirty minutes, with the Steady Swallow ahead of them trying desperately to stay ahead, while the Bastion fought to catch up. Yet between his skilled crew and the pirate captain’s own semi-subtle manipulation of the ocean itself, they steadily pulled away from their pursuers and caught up with their prey.

“Bring her alongside the lily-livered milk maids!” Blackbeard boomed, already standing atop the railing while using one hand to hold himself steady with a nearby rope. In his other hand, he held one of his pistols. “Tear right into her, the old girl’ll take it for certain!”

Following his order, the crew took the ship straight up alongside the merchant vessel. They came so close that the two ships actually collided, scraping along their sides. Most of his men were shaken to the deck, falling into one another. But Blackbeard himself remained steady, bracing himself before leaping out to land on the deck of the Swallow.

Even as he landed, the man was already pointing his pistol. Again, his finger pulled the trigger of the empty, unprimed weapon as he summoned one of those tiny, white-hot balls of heat. As the unfortunate target had his sword halfway pulled, the heat-ball tore straight through his chest. The way it seared the body in the process might have made some think that it would never be passed off as an actual gunshot wound. Yet somehow, that would be what witnesses described it as.

Beard and hair burning wildly, drawing everyone’s attention to his demonic-seeming presence, the dreaded pirate legend drew his sword and bellowed, “I be searching for one man! Owen Patrick Lock. Lock be my target. Stand aside and live for all your days, or stay in place and burn beside the coward himself!”

Dramatic, yes. But it was one way to convince those that weren’t loyal to the man named Lock to retreat, and hopefully force Owen himself into the open so that he could be dealt with before the Bastion caught up and made this entire thing far more complicated than it already was.

A sudden commotion toward the rear of the deck drew his attention that way. The sight of the man who was shoving his way two of his mates to escape up the short set of stairs there drew a smile to the old pirate’s flame-framed face. “Ahoy, if it ain’t be the man o’the hour!”

He began to stalk that way, his heavy footsteps clomping against the wet wooden deck. The other men, terrified of his visage, scrambled to get out of the way. By that point, the target had reach the top of the short flight of stairs and was trying to rush toward the aft end up the ship in order to throw himself off. Though before he could take more than a couple steps, the pirate made a subtle gesture to summon a new wave, which rocked the ship. Unprepared, the fleeing man was knocked to the deck with a grunt.

Clomping his way to a stop by the fallen man, Blackbeard reached down to grab the back of his neck before hauling the man up so that the two of them were face to face.

There it was. The man’s face was wrong. His skin was a pale green, with hard reptilian scales, while his amber eyes were slitted vertically like a snake or a lizard. The ordinary humans in the ship’s crew couldn’t see it, didn’t recognize it for what it was. But Blackbeard recognize it. He knew what it meant, just as he’d known since before he’d begun to chase the Steady Swallow.

“Heretic,” Owen Patrick Lock hissed, showing his thin snake-like tongue as it briefly flicked through the air to taste it. “You think this changes anything? You think it’ll bring those girls back?”

“I imagine,” Blackbeard began in a low, dangerous tone that rolled like distant thunder back over the ship, “that wherever their spirits be resting, they’ll have to content themselves with knowing that your damned soul burns for an eternity for what you done to them.”

“Burn–” the reptilian-creature started, before Blackbeard simply drew his saber and ran the not-man through the chest. Super-heating the blade until it literally cooked the figure’s insides, he drew it down and out before easily heaving the dead body over the deck.

There, the man–the creature who had so brutalized and destroyed those girls in port was gone. They had their justice, for what it was worth.

Turning back, he saw the rest of the ship’s crew staring at him. Fear was live in their eyes. Yet, after taking a brief moment to scan the people, he was assured that no more hidden monsters lurked among them. The rest were innocent.

Yet, even then, he couldn’t be sure that it was safe to leave them. Not yet. They had to pass one more test.

From his belt, the man withdrew a wineskin. Giving it a shake, he tossed the thing to the nearest sailor. “Take a sip,” he instructed, “And then be passing it around. All of ya drink up, steady yer nerves.”

It wasn’t the real reason he wanted them to drink, but the excuse worked well enough. Especially after he doused the flames in his hair and beard enough that only glowing embers remained. It left him a frightening sight still, yet not quite the full-blown terror that his flame-engulfed head normally invoked.

Still, he was frightening enough that none of the men dared argue. The wineskin was passed around, each man taking a gulp from it until all had drank some.

He watched, his careful eyes studying each of them for a reaction. The truth was that there were necromancers and other sorcerers among both the New World lands and those of the Old World. Some of those foul magical creatures were attempting to send their diseases and curses to the other continent or neighboring lands to spread their power. They did so by infecting various sailors, hoping that one would make it through and begin spreading the malady to new people.

That was the truth of why the dreaded pirate Blackbeard sometimes killed entire crews while other times letting them go. When he found a ship infected by one of the curses or magical diseases, the only option was destroying the entire crew to ensure that their infection didn’t spread. Killing the crew of a ship was better than seeing one of those creatures manage to spread their power to a new population.

That was the duty that the one now known as Blackbeard had assigned himself. He stalked the seas, searching for the non-human monsters who preyed upon the weak. And for curse-afflicted crews who were being used to spread disease to an unsuspecting populace.

In this case however, none of the crew showed a reaction to the magic-laced wine. Satisfied that they were safe enough, the pirate captain bid them a good journey and returned to his ship. Not, however, before sending his men aboard to loot the hold of half its contents.

After all, the only way he could maintain the crew that he needed to continue these operations was by ensuring that they were well-fed and given enough loot to keep them happy.

Stepping aboard his own ship once more, he paused before slowly turning. His eyes found the figure standing at the back.

“Yer not one of mine,” he rumbled in a low voice. “If ya were, the crew’d be a lot happier.”

The pale, auburn-haired beauty stepped forward with a soft smile. “Correct,” she announced. “But I had to come and see your deeds for myself before we extended our invitation.”

“I don’t need no invitation,” the man dismissed her words flatly. “And I don’t need you or whoever you represent.”

“Perhaps, and perhaps not,” the woman allowed. “Yet I believe we can all help one another. My name is Sophronia. And I represent… a collection of people not unlike yourself. We see monsters as you do. And we have worked to contain them, just as you have.”

“That right?” the heavily bearded figure replied slowly after giving the beautiful woman another brief look. How had his men not seen her? “What do you want?”

“What we want,” the one called Sophronia began patiently, “is for you to join us.”

His rough, coarse chuckle filled the air. “I ain’t been much for the joining type, of late.”

Her smile returned, brightening just a little. “Of course. We are very aware that you’ve spent… shall we say, many years laying low and not exposing yourself. You were content to live a quiet life for so long since your… initial adventures. The adventures which resulted in your…” She coughed. “… abilities.”

Lifting his chin, the man stared at her with dark eyes. “You are well-informed,” he allowed while giving her another examination. “You’re right. I found a sea monster, some volcanic beast that controlled water and fire. It killed a dozen men before I put it to the blade. Not that the blade did much before it skewered me. Suppose it left me to die then. But when I woke up, I was… like this. I had the same power it had. And I put that power to use.”

“Its blood mixed with yours,” Sophronia explained softly. “You awakened as a Heretic because its blood and yours were mixed and you survived the process.”

“Heretic,” the man repeated thoughtfully. “That’s what the monsters call me, aye.” His eyes continued to squint at her. “But the question is, how do you know so much about me? No one else does.”

She chuckled softly at that. “You’re right, they don’t. You’ve done a good job of hiding your lack of a true past. The Standers-By have no idea just how old you actually are.”

Frowning, Blackbeard looked at his crew on the other ship for a moment before turning back. “Standers-By?”

“What we call humans who don’t see as we do,” Sophronia explained patiently. “The innocents that we fight to protect, just as you do. They know nothing of your true past. The last I heard, they believe you were born in the year 1680.”

He laughed aloud at that, his large form shaking a bit. “Aye, they be off slightly in their estimates.”

“By about three thousand years,” the woman replied quietly.

“About that, aye,” the pirate captain confirmed after taking a moment to consider. His head shook. “Don’t seem like it’s been that long.”

Lifting her chin, Sophronia continued. “As I said, you were content to live a quiet life for so long after the end of your previous adventures. Why suddenly show yourself once more? Why build yourself into such a legendary figure when you showed no desire to do anything more than live your long life for the past several millennia?”

After giving the woman a long, careful look, the bearded man shrugged. “I’ve done more than you think. Sometimes I get involved, sometimes I don’t. Figure I get bored after enough time living alone. A man needs some adventure. But yer right, mostly I just… keep to myself. I earned my retirement.” Pausing then, he heaved a sigh. “But I suppose the real reason I’m out doing this now is that damned necromancer.”

“Fossor.” Sophronia spoke the name in a low, hateful voice. “I assure you, we have been doing all we can to oppose him.”

Curling his lips in a snarl, the one called Blackbeard shook his head. “I had a run-in with the monster. Found out he was one of the ones trying to send his damned blood curses into other parts of the world, spreading them over these ships. So I involved myself. But to do that, I needed a ship. I needed a crew. I needed a reputation.”

“So you built one,” the woman finished for him.

“So I built one,” he confirmed. Looking back to her, he started slowly, “If the people you represent are truly going after that necromancer, you can count on my aid. But I’ll be wanting to know more about it.”

Sophronia nodded. “Anything you want to know, of course. But first, what do I call you? Blackbeard seems a little… dramatic. The Standers-By believe your name is Edward Teach.”

“Teach, Thatch, suppose I couldn’t make up my mind when I was telling ‘em who I was to start with,” the man replied dismissively. “Teach is good enough. It’s a fine name. Edward Teach.”

“I suppose that means you don’t wish to be known by your birth name?” the woman asked with a raised eyebrow.

His head shook then. “Nay. It’s been far too long since I was that man.” Pausing then, he gave her another look. “But you don’t ask for my convenience. You ask because you don’t know which one I am. Not for sure.”

She nodded then, echoing his words. “Not for sure. We know that you’re one of them, just not which one precisely. Are you–”

“It doesn’t matter,” he interrupted. “They’re all gone now. I’m the only one left. The only one who survived.

“I am the last of the Argonauts.”

*****

Present Day

“You seem distracted, Edward.” Sophronia Leven stood beside the man she had helped to recruit so long ago. The two of them were alone (for the moment) in the Committee’s meeting room. “Are you thinking about the past, or the future?”

He paused, gazing out the window for a moment before replying, “A bit of both, I suppose. Remembering the past, dreading the future.” Turning slightly, he eyed her while adding, “We can’t stop this vote, you realize. They’re going to push it through.”

“Maniacs,” she retorted, her expression cross before the woman sighed. “But you’re right. They’ll be here any minute. The vote itself is a formality. The warmongers have the numbers.”

Head shaking, Teach asked, “I don’t suppose the Garden people might acquiesce.”

Snorting in disbelief, Sophronia replied, “No, they won’t. They’re not going to give up just like that. They’ll go to war first.”

The man made an annoyed growling sound deep in his throat. “That’s gonna complicate… everything.”

“They’re all stubborn asses,” Sophronia confirmed. “Every last one of them, on both sides. Some of them wanted this excuse, any reason to lay out a demand. Gaia pulling in that Garden Heretic to teach classes just made the hardliners think they had to do something to make this confrontation happen.”

“They voted to allow that,” Teach pointed out with an annoyed growl. “We voted on it, majority ruled in favor of letting Gaia hire him.”

Sophronia nodded. “But you saw how close the vote was. Some of our… colleagues think that with Hisao here, Eden’s Garden can be… bullied more easily.” Pausing, she amended, “Maybe bullied is too harsh. They believe that with a closer connection, we have to establish ourselves as the dominant party, not an equal partnership. So, they want to use this excuse of Ruthers’ to make the demand and hope that Garden blinks first.”

Her expression darkened then. “Of course, there’s others who were afraid we were all starting to get along too much. Can’t have that, so they have to manufacture a new reason to fight.”

Pressing his hand against the window, Teach breathed in long and slow before letting it out. “They’ve got their excuse now, flimsy as it is.”

“Maybe we can delay them,” the woman suggested. “Try to make them give Garden more time to comply. Or give someone more time to find a way to stop this whole thing.”

Shrugging then, Teach replied, “We can delay as much as we want. But eventually,  Ruthers and the others are gonna decide the only way to get what they want is to get nasty.”

Sophronia sighed once more. “How are they going to explain why she’s important?”

Head shaking, the man lowered his gaze while muttering, “They’ll make something up. They’re good at that. But whatever they tell people, the fact remains, Ruthers has convinced enough of the others that it’s too dangerous to leave her out there, out of our custody.

“So if Eden’s Garden doesn’t hand over Abigail Fellows, there’s gonna be a war.”

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44 comments

  1. Whelp, there’s your look at the past of the man we know as Edward Teach. I hope you guys enjoyed seeing that, just like I hope you enjoyed the rest of this past arc. Next time, we’ll see the start of the next arc. Which, shall we say, should prove to be quite… interesting. Particularly now that we know at least one of the people who is spying on Flick.

    Thanks for reading! I’ll see you guys soon for another chapter. And today’s tags are: Cue A Bunch Of People Looking Up The Argonaut Crew List To Try And Figure Out Which One Is Blackbeard, Edward Teach, Just In Case You Guys Thought The Whole ‘Abigail Staying At Eden’s Garden’ Thing Was Totally Settled Forever., So Much For Blackbeard Being One Of The Youngest Committee Members, Sophronia Leven

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Woah! Blackbread’s one of the Argonauts?!

    Also, he’s much nicer then usual incarceration.

    What are you doing Ruthers?! Wanting to start a war with Eden’s Garden?!

    That’s the last thing you should be doing right now (Then again, I’m glad you don’t know everything you waste of a thing).

    Thanks for updating and please turn this into a Netflix show. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I was kind of disappointed we weren’t going to get back to the story this chapter… and then I read it. Blackbeard controls fire now? Somewhere Ace is rolling in his grave…

    I can’t possibly remember all the Argonauts’ names… and thanks to your dastardly tag I can’t look them up because that would mean you win. So I’m going to go ahead and rule out the ones I can remember: not Atalanta for obvious reasons, I feel like Heracles and Orpheus would have a different powerset, and he doesn’t seem douchey enough to be Jason himself. Hm.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. “Clomping his way to a stop by the fallen man, Blackbeard reached down to grab the back of his neck before hauling the man up so that the two of them were face to face.
    There it was. The man’s face was wrong. His skin was a pale green, with hard reptilian scales, while his amber eyes were slitted vertically like a snake or a lizard. The ordinary humans in the ship’s crew couldn’t see it,didn’t recognize it for what it was. But Blackbeard recognize it. He knew what it meant, just as he’d known since before he’d begun to chase the Steady Swallow. ”
    Me: So this Owen Locke fellow is actually an Alter. Not too surprising on examination, I suppose, since Blackbeard is a Heretic and at least some of his piracy raids are actually hunts…
    *reads on*
    Ah, my guess was close to the mark.

    “Not that the blade did much before it skewered me. Suppose it left me to die then. But when I woke up, I was… like this. I had the same power it had. And I put that power to use.”
    “Its blood mixed with yours,” Sophronia explained softly. “You awakened as a Heretic because its blood and yours were mixed and you survived the process.” ”
    Me: Well, his age made it a gimme that he started out as a “natural” Heretic.
    *Reads*
    Wait, wut? He was born around 1500 BC? Good God.

    ““It doesn’t matter,” he interrupted. “They’re all gone now. I’m the only one left. The only one who survived.
    “I am the last of the Argonauts.””
    Me: well then, a man of Legend at least twice over.

    “Head shaking, the man lowered his gaze while muttering, “They’ll make something up. They’re good at that. But whatever they tell people, the fact remains, Ruthers has convinced enough of the others that it’s too dangerous to leave her out there, out of our custody.
    “So if Eden’s Garden doesn’t hand over Abigail Fellows, there’s gonna be a war.””
    Me: Those total fools. There are bigger issues out there to deal with that take precedence over egos and/or factionalism. I wonder what threadbare excuse they are using re: Abigail Fellows.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me: Well, his age made it a gimme that he started out as a “natural” Heretic.
      *Reads*
      Wait, wut? He was born around 1500 BC? Good God.

      Yeah, he’s a little bit up there. Still not as old as Hisao, but still.

      Me: Those total fools. There are bigger issues out there to deal with that take precedence over egos and/or factionalism. I wonder what threadbare excuse they are using re: Abigail Fellows.

      Yeah, as I mentioned below, Ruthers is essentially bluffing. He wants Eden’s Garden to think he’s crazy enough to push for a war over the issue and hand Abigail over. He’s playing chicken.

      Like

  5. The threat (the second “break”) in this sentence is very awkward sounding “Break off pursuit, and I break your dear mother from having a living son. Keep on!” How about “Break off pursuit, and I break the part the ladies laugh so hard at. Keep on!”

    Like

  6. All of the ships’ names should be italicized.

    Also, if you have two “phrases” (I forget the actual name of the term) in a sentence and no conjunction, you should be using a semi-colon, em-dash, or a colon to separate the two, not a comma.

    Oh, and if their goal was to stop Fossor from spreading his plagues to the Americas, they kind of failed spectacularly. Something like 70-90% of the population was wiped out by them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He was trying to stop _magical_ diseses from crossing the Atlantic (in both directions), non-magical diseases are another thing entirely.

      Like

      1. Given that the Black Death was a magical disease in this series and a non-magical one in real life, it’s possible that the plagues which devastated the Natives of the Americas in the 1600s were also magical. Maybe it’s just that the Heretics didn’t notice what Fossor and his ilk were doing until they’d already successfully launched a few and then went into damage control mode.

        Like

    2. All of the ships’ names should be italicized.

      Right, right, I thought about that but neglected it. Thanks. 🙂

      Also, if you have two “phrases” (I forget the actual name of the term) in a sentence and no conjunction, you should be using a semi-colon, em-dash, or a colon to separate the two, not a comma.

      Can you point out where I did this?

      Oh, and if their goal was to stop Fossor from spreading his plagues to the Americas, they kind of failed spectacularly. Something like 70-90% of the population was wiped out by them.

      Imagine how it would’ve been if they hadn’t been trying to contain things.

      Like

  7. Well, Blackbeard is a lot older than we thought he was.

    And Hisao is *still* the oldest character featured on screen, since we got that WoG after the interlude that showed us Blackbeard for the first time.

    (I segue into Hisao because what the fuck why would you fight a war with Eden’s Garden you colossal idiots. That’s the opposite of what you should want to do. Goddamnit it, Ruthers).

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “So if Eden’s Garden doesn’t hand over Abigail Fellows, there’s gonna be a war.”

    Wow. I mean…wow. Wasn’t their whole justification for using a blood plague against the rebellion that a civil war between Heretics was severely weakening their ability to deal with the real threats?

    I don’t think “making something up” is going to cut it for why Crossroads is demanding Abigail. They know she wasn’t a Heretic–she was just a wounded Bystander before they gave her an Apple to make her into a Heretic. She’s Seller’s descendant, so Eden’s Garden would have every right to keep her. Furthermore, Crossroads never laid any claim to her before now, so them suddenly doing so (under threat of war) is EXTREMELY suspicious. And if “making something up” applies to how the majority of the Committee attempts to sell declaring war against Eden’s Garden out of nowhere, I don’t think that’s going to fly either. Not when half the school staff know it’s bullshit and won’t stand for it. Hell, all it would take is one of the Committee members opposed to the war leaking the truth (that the public story for declaring war was bullshit and just an excuse to have a war with Eden’s Garden) to fatally undermine morale and unit cohesion among Crossroads heretics. And since Eden’s Garden will be the clear victim in this (to the citizens of Eden’s Garden)–and they’ll be on the defensive–they’ll have a big morale advantage to start with. Whereas Crossroads would probably splinter and divide under such strain, Eden’s Garden’s citizens will put aside their differences to band together for collective defense against an unprovoked, unjustifiable war of aggression.

    How far is the Committee prepared to go for its goal of capturing or killing Abigail? Is it prepared to invade Eden’s Garden itself, with all of the horrific consequences that implies? Is it prepared to throw away so many of its own Heretics for a cause that will pretty much immediately become highly doubted by many of Crossroads’ citizens? Is it prepared to mobilize for total war? Is it prepared for Eden’s Garden to drag Crossroads’ diplomatic standing among the other Heretic organizations through the mud (easy to do; just tell them that Crossroads threatened to declare war over such a sudden, ridiculous, suspicious, and nonsensical reason, and then actually declared war when Garden rejected the ultimatum. Suddenly, Crossroads starts looking like an unstable, untrustworthy, and unreasonable power)?

    Frankly, I’m surprised that the Committee has the authority to declare war on a simple majority–it’s such a small governing body (with no oversight, I might add), and most of its members clearly don’t bother to keep Crossroads’ population informed of ongoing events. Declaring war against another Heretic organization without some big, obvious, and publicly known/believed reasons goes rather strongly against the official narrative that Crossroads teaches–the whole “Heretics cooperating against the monstrous Strangers to protect humanity” thing.

    Either way, a war over such a suspect and ridiculous reason would blacken relations between Crossroads and Eden’s Garden for a very, very long time.

    On a separate note: has Flick told Sands and Scout the truth about their father yet? What is she waiting for, exactly? Does she want to risk them confiding in their father, only for everything to fall apart exactly as it did the first time?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t worry, as I stated elsewhere, Ruthers isn’t actually crazy enough to go as far as starting a war over the issue. He just wants Eden’s Garden to believe he is so that they hand over Abigail. He’s bluffing. But it says something about how he normally behaves that these two see it as believable and in-line with his normal actions that he’d actually go that far.

      Basically, Ruthers is all-but panicking over various problems with Abigail, including his shady dealings coming out, the threat of the Fomorians getting hold of her now that she’s been turned into a Heretic, JOSELYN getting to her, etc etc. So he’s playing his ‘bluff about just how crazy I am and make the other guy blink first’ card.

      Like

      1. Basically, Ruthers is all-but panicking over various problems with Abigail, including his shady dealings coming out, the threat of the Fomorians getting hold of her now that she’s been turned into a Heretic, JOSELYN getting to her, etc etc. So he’s playing his ‘bluff about just how crazy I am and make the other guy blink first’ card.

        including his shady dealings coming out


        Say what now? Has that startes happening? Are his colleagues asking questions he’d rather not answer about how he “beat” Joselyn back in the day?

        That bit about being worried about the Fomorians getting to Abigail is also notable. It says a lot about how little he must think of EG to think that she’s more at risk there than her siblings and daughter are at Crossroads.

        The fact that ‘bluff about just how crazy I am and make the other guy blink first’ is one of his cards also says a lot.

        Like

      2. Say what now? Has that startes happening? Are his colleagues asking questions he’d rather not answer about how he “beat” Joselyn back in the day?

        Pretty much.

        That bit about being worried about the Fomorians getting to Abigail is also notable. It says a lot about how little he must think of EG to think that she’s more at risk there than her siblings and daughter are at Crossroads.

        Indeed. It’s basically, “But if she’s HERE, I can put my people on keeping an eye on her and she’ll be safe. …. Pericles, what’s a Pericles?” 😛

        The fact that ‘bluff about just how crazy I am and make the other guy blink first’ is one of his cards also says a lot.

        It does.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Every time I think Ruthers has hit the limit on his stupidity/irrationality/standards, he goes and proves me wrong. Every single time. Wasn’t he one of the people going on about how they couldn’t afford another war? *face palm*

    Anyway, Blackbeard was an Argunaut. That’s pretty kickass. This probably means he’s met one or two of the “gods” and might still recognize them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Every time I think Ruthers has hit the limit on his stupidity/irrationality/standards, he goes and proves me wrong. Every single time. Wasn’t he one of the people going on about how they couldn’t afford another war? *face palm*

      To be fair, HE doesn’t actually want a war. He wants Abigail because he’s paranoid about what’s going on with her, and he’s playing Chicken against GARDEN not wanting a war over it either.

      Basically, he’s using political cards to make himself look more crazy than he actually is, in the hope that the Victors blink first.

      Like

      1. Okay, that makes more sense. But my only knowledge of the situation comes from that conversation at the end, and they seem pretty convinced that he’s being serious.

        Honestly, I anticipate the inevitable Ruthers interlude as much as I dread it. It’ll piss me off, no question about that. But it should also make it easier to guess at his thoughts afterwards.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Okay, that makes more sense. But my only knowledge of the situation comes from that conversation at the end, and they seem pretty convinced that he’s being serious.

        Oh absolutely, understandable reaction. I debated about whether or not to say that much, but figured it doesn’t spoil TOO much to say ‘yeah, he’s not actually that crazy.’ And we’ll get into his actual thoughts eventually.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Huh, so Blackbeard was an Argonaut. I actually thought he might be Sinbad or something since he was the only other legendary sailor I could think of. I actually don’t know that much about the Argonauts apart from what little the Percy Jackson books mentioned. Is there a place to read about the stories?

    Also, this reminded me, did we ever get an explanation of how “natural” Heretics abilities get affected when they get powers through the Edge? Do they lose their previous abilities for the ability to get more powers from kills?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Also, this reminded me, did we ever get an explanation of how “natural” Heretics abilities get affected when they get powers through the Edge? Do they lose their previous abilities for the ability to get more powers from kills?

      Nope, they keep their previous powers and add on the ability to get more power from kills.

      Like

      1. Also, I don’t know if it’s because I’m on mobile but the usual previous chapter link at the top is not there.

        Fixed, thanks for pointing that out. 🙂

        Like

  11. Not quite what I expected Teach’s backstory to have been, that in fact, he was one of the original Argonauts, and over 3,000 years old, alternating between being active and not depending on how bored he was and how much of problem Nocen were being, though he did seem to be a bit out of the loop as far as Heretical society went.

    Not surprised that the exploration and colonization of the Americas would bring a lot of the Nocen on either side of the Atlantic out of the woodwork with the possibilities of new places to make problems, and that’s what brought Teach out of retirement in the early 18th century, to become the Dread Pirate Blackbeard to hunt down and eliminate as many of these Nocen as he could, though he had to kill a number of the crews who had been turned into living bioweapons because of those Nocen, with Fossor rearing his head by playing around with a blood plague.

    Then flashing forward to the present day, damn, Ruthers really wants to get Abigail back from the Garden to the point where he, and the other hardliners are willing to risk a war, even though they don’t really have much of a claim to her, which begs the question why. Does his paranoia about Joselyn, combined with the link between the Atherbys and how to unblock the Formorians really extend that far, or are the Seosten messing around because they feel the Heretics could use a trim?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Wait… time out… I was under the impression that the Committee allowed Hisao’s appointment. Am I wrong about that (IE, there was no vote and Gaia just acted) or did some of the warhawks think they were poaching Hisao? Otherwise it’s really weird that some of them must have voted for Hisao to stay only to turn around and vote to start a war with EG.

    Also, I’m curious as to what excuse the Committee will give their subordinates and the Heretic “nobles” about why this woman is worth going to war over.

    Like

    1. They did indeed allow it via simple majority vote. Which should tell you how close this issue is. Hell, the majority of those who are FOR extending the demand for Abigail believe that Eden’s Garden will hand her over. They’re not for the war, they’re for the DEMAND. There’s a good chance that if it went that far, the important couple of votes would shy away and back off.

      Basically, they’re playing political football. Make the demand expecting the other side to say ‘Okay, sure. We don’t want to go to war over this’

      Again, the fact that the vote went to allow Hisao to be taken on AND that these two are afraid the vote will go toward making the demand to Eden’s Garden should show how close the whole issue is.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Once again, that makes more sense. But also once again, Blackbeard and Sophoronia’s conversations gives the impression that it’s a lot more certain than that.

        I don’t know, maybe I’m just off my game this week. I know I was this weekend.

        Like

      2. Once again, that makes more sense. But also once again, Blackbeard and Sophoronia’s conversations gives the impression that it’s a lot more certain than that.

        I don’t know, maybe I’m just off my game this week. I know I was this weekend.

        Don’t worry, the reason I don’t mind explaining this much like this is that it’ll be cleared up with most of what I’ve already said in the next chapter thanks to Wyatt. So it’s less ‘giving away spoilers for some far future event’ and more clarifying ahead of time before the next chapter actually does the same. So it’s not really a big deal.

        THAT SAID, I felt like fixing up their conversation a little. I was kind of in a rush at the end yesterday. So, I edited it. Don’t worry, no huge story-changing edits or anything like has happened before. Just… clarification and better explained the point of what I was trying to do (as I’ve been saying in these comments).

        Old version:

        “They’re all stubborn asses,” Sophronia confirmed. “Every last one of them, on both sides. Some of them wanted this excuse, any reason to lay out a demand. Gaia pulling in that Garden Heretic to teach classes just made the hardliners think they had to do something to make this confrontation happen. They were afraid we were all starting to get along too much. Can’t have that, so they have to manufacture a new reason to fight.”

        Pressing his hand against the window, Teach breathed in long and slow before letting it out. “They’ve got their excuse now, flimsy as it is.”

        “Maybe we can delay them,” the woman suggested. “Try to make them give Garden more time to comply.”

        Shrugging then, Teach replied, “We can delay as much as we want. But eventually, Ruthers and the others are gonna decide the only way to get what they want is to get nasty.”

        Sophronia sighed once more. “How are they going to explain why she’s important?”

        Head shaking, the man lowered his gaze while muttering, “They’ll make something up. They’re good at that. But whatever they tell people, the fact remains, Ruthers has convinced enough of the others that it’s too dangerous to leave her out there, out of our custody.

        “So if Eden’s Garden doesn’t hand over Abigail Fellows, there’s gonna be a war.”

        New Version:

        “They’re all stubborn asses,” Sophronia confirmed. “Every last one of them, on both sides. Some of them wanted this excuse, any reason to lay out a demand. Gaia pulling in that Garden Heretic to teach classes just made the hardliners think they had to do something to make this confrontation happen.”

        “They voted to allow that,” Teach pointed out with an annoyed growl. “We voted on it, majority ruled in favor of letting Gaia hire him.”

        Sophronia nodded. “But it was a close vote, and you know how some of our colleagues can get. Some of them think that with Hisao here, Eden’s Garden can be… bullied more easily. Maybe bullied is a harsh term,” she amended. “They believe that with a closer connection, we have to establish ourselves as the dominant party, not an equal partnership. So, they want to use this excuse of Ruthers’ to make the demand and hope that Garden blinks first.”

        Her expression darkened then. “Of course, there’s others who were afraid we were all starting to get along too much. Can’t have that, so they have to manufacture a new reason to fight.”

        Pressing his hand against the window, Teach breathed in long and slow before letting it out. “They’ve got their excuse now, flimsy as it is.”

        “Maybe we can delay them,” the woman suggested. “Try to make them give Garden more time to comply. Or give someone more time to find a way to stop this whole thing.”

        Shrugging then, Teach replied, “We can delay as much as we want. But eventually, Ruthers and the others are gonna decide the only way to get what they want is to get nasty.”

        Sophronia sighed once more. “How are they going to explain why she’s important?”

        Head shaking, the man lowered his gaze while muttering, “They’ll make something up. They’re good at that. But whatever they tell people, the fact remains, Ruthers has convinced enough of the others that it’s too dangerous to leave her out there, out of our custody.

        “So if Eden’s Garden doesn’t hand over Abigail Fellows, some of our ‘colleagues’ are going to try to go to war over the whole damn issue.”

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hmm. Well, as long as you made the changes because you wanted to.

        My personal issue wasn’t really with the conversation itself, I thought it worked and “sounded” strong. It’s just that it was the ONLY source of info we have on the situation. Now it’s more clear, but at the same time some of it seems a bit… clunky. Particularly these bits:

        Sophronia nodded. “But it was a close vote, and you know how some of our colleagues can get. Some of them think that with Hisao here, Eden’s Garden can be… bullied more easily. Maybe bullied is a harsh term,” she amended. “They believe that with a closer connection, we have to establish ourselves as the dominant party, not an equal partnership. So, they want to use this excuse of Ruthers’ to make the demand and hope that Garden blinks first.”

        Her expression darkened then. “Of course, there’s others who were afraid we were all starting to get along too much. Can’t have that, so they have to manufacture a new reason to fight.”

        “So if Eden’s Garden doesn’t hand over Abigail Fellows, some of our ‘colleagues’ are going to try to go to war over the whole damn issue.”

        Those bits just don’t seem very natural to me.

        Jeez, I’m being a real pain in the ass today, aren’t I?

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Those bits just don’t seem very natural to me.

        Jeez, I’m being a real pain in the ass today, aren’t I?

        lol, no worries, man. Don’t feel bad about trying to make the story better. That’s a good thing, nothing to apologize for.

        That said, I touched up that first paragraph just a little, but the others I think work okay. I think that’s down to a matter of personal preference. Looking it over, I don’t really see anything that stands out as completely unnatural or wrong.

        Like

  13. So he was born roughly 1300-1400 BC? My Greek legends are a bit rusty, but that seems like it would be roughly 500 years or so before Jason’s voyage (assuming it took place during the early days of the greek city states power). Were you going for him being a heretic prior to the voyage, or just a mistake reguarding the dates? (Not trying to be a pain, it’s actually kinda unclear)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. According to Wikipedia: “The Argonauts (Ancient Greek: Ἀργοναῦται Argonautai) were a band of heroes in Greek mythology, who in the years before the Trojan War, around 1300 BC,[1] accompanied Jason to Colchis in his quest to find the Golden Fleece.”

      Which, you know, could still be wrong. But that’s what I went off of. Easily fixed if there’s been a mistake (likely on my part).

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