Alexandros: Ch. 11byJoeBarnosky©
Alexandros Manuscript Page 68
The island didn't have a name. Captain Marcello was given the coordinates and told without them we would never find it. I was curious about that and wanted to learn more about the Mediterranean Sea. I figured who better to ask than an experienced sailor.
"You'll find many things in the world are hidden Spartan," she said to me. "This island is only one of them."
"How can someone sail these seas all their life and never find something?" I asked unbelieving.
"It is just the way of the world, Alexandros. There are forces beyond you and me. Sometimes there are those things that aren't meant to be found or only meant to be found when time or circumstance allows for it."
"What do you know of this island?" I asked deciding it was time to change to subject.
"Nothing," she said simply.
She laughed loudly at my reaction. "Yes, absolutely nothing."
"And you're taking us into this blindly?" I stood up and over her.
She looked up at me for a moment and opened her mouth as to say something. She suddenly changed her mind and looked back down to the book lying open in front of her. "In a sense I am, but I have seen much in all my years on these seas to prepare me for anything we may run across. For that which I will not be prepared for or not capable of handling, I have you. Everyone aboard this ship is going into this with the knowing and expectation they may not make it out alive.
"I don't expect you to understand my motives and I will not have insubordination. I am your captain and I am more than willing to answer questions until you begin to question my orders. You decided to remain here aboard this ship accepting a fate equal to the rest of the men and I expect you to follow orders and take the lives of these men into your hands and do this mission."
"I apologize ma'am," I said lowering my head. "I only had concern for these men."
"It is a good sign of a good leader. Remember Alexandros, being a leader doesn't mean you stop learning or you know all. It simply means you have taken one more step toward a higher greatness.
"Now you have learned that you have to make sacrifices and put the lives of others along with yours on the line in order to get the task at hand accomplished."
Our conversation was prematurely cut short. We arrived at our destination and I am sorry we never were able to finish it. Captain Marcello bolted from her seat, slamming her book shut and rushed to the door. I followed right on her heels.
"Alright men, this is it!" She yelled as she slammed open the door. Every man on board stopped and gave their attention to her. Silence fell on the ship. The only noise was that of the howling wind coming up and over the bow and back onto the sea. "We are going to drop anchor here and head in to the island in two groups. Half of you will go with me and the other half will be lead by Alexandros. The fortress holding Count of Rhodos' daughter lies in the center of the island. Not much is known about the island other than rumors of strange creatures. Regardless of what dangers awaiting us, we will prove victorious. We will lead a direct assault from the north while Alexandros strikes with a sneak attack coming from behind from the south. These criminals have demanded a ransom, so we shouldn't need worry about the girl's life being in danger."
"How can we be so sure sir?" a crewman asked.
"Because they think their fortress that sits on an island that is hard to find unless you know where to find it, is impregnable and guarded by fearsome creatures that even a battle hardened warrior would be afraid of. Besides, why go through all the trouble of kidnapping her and demanding ransom if you only plan to kill her?"
With the crew divided in half and using three boats for each group, we set out. I had the faster members of the crew. Since we'd have to go around the island, I would need fast people in order to make up for the time lost. Otherwise Captain Marcello and her group would be hard pressed in the attack.
I dressed in my armor for the first time since leaving my home on Sparta. It felt good to wear it again. I was a bit hesitant to reveal where I came from, but I had to take lead of the men and I knew they would have more confidence when lead by a Spartan.
"Get the boats in the water!" I yelled as I stepped onto the deck. The crew gave me a brief look before doing as commanded. "We must complete our task or we leave the captain to hang!"
The crew let out a cheer not breaking momentum. Equipped in full armor the men had the boats loaded with weapons and dropped into the water in a matter of minutes. We set out leaving behind only a skeleton crew. Captain Marcello and her crew had set already set out ahead of us.
We arrived on the southern shore faster than I anticipated we would. The moon was high casting its glow along the shore. Silently we pulled the boats onto the sand and grabbed the weapons. I ran ahead of the group and lead them on a path and into the forest.
Darkness enveloped us instantly upon entering. The trees overhead were so thick the moon light could barely penetrate. I could see from the look on the men's faces that they were disturbed by this, but it didn't deter us from our task. For the first few minutes all seemed well until the first of the men fell. A scream went up into the night then was abruptly cut off. I turned to see the men beginning to spread out.
"Hold together!" I yelled.
A shadow flew from the tree line along the path grabbing hold of one of the men and disappeared into the opposite side. I could feel eyes setting upon me. I gripped the handle of my sword withdrawing it. I spun holding my shield high. A creature smacked into it forcing me to dig my feet into the ground to brace myself. Without missing a beat I thrust my sword deep into the creature. Blood spurt from its back as the sword pierced through it back. With a groan the creature went limp.
I withdrew my sword and turned back to my men. I was down four more in just the little time it took to slay that foul creature. I ran into the center of the chaos. If I didn't get these men focused this attack wouldn't end well and we all were going to be dead. "Form up with me! We need to form a circle!" I caught the attention of the men. A few of them met with me, but most had the look of uncertainty on their faces.
"Form up on Alexandros!" one of the men following my lead said.
Another attack came from the tree line. Like a blur, the creatures shot out quickly grabbing two more men. Between the last attack and the cooperation of the other men, I was able to get my men grouped around me.
"Stay close and do not present an opening!"
We huddled close leaving enough room to use our weapons to attack and parry. I could see the men shake with fear. No one spoke as they gripped tightly on their weapons. It was a strenuous few minutes before the next attack came, but it felt like forever.
The attack was focused unlike the previous hit and run attacks. The creatures were smart and adaptive changing their tactics the moment we changed ours. All at once the creatures struck. There were many but we were still twelve strong.
Two of the creatures came at me. I was just able to put my shield between myself and the two creatures. The force of the impact was enough to force me back. My back pushed against one of the men holding us both against each attack we faced. I slipped my sword past my shield gutting both the creatures.
A splatter of guts fell to the ground. The pressure against my shield let up allowing me free movement once more. I instantly turned to the man at my right and struck out slicing the creature's head off. He turned to nod his thanks when a look of warning flashed across his face.
I spun to face my new attacker but I wasn't quick enough. Half way into my turn the creature slammed into me. In the fall the man I aided was knocked down as well. The voracious creature leapt from me and onto the other man. I started to get on my feet when the creature lashed out with its tail. It hit me across my chest, knocking the air from me and sending me reeling through the air. The man didn't stand a chance as the creature turned its attention back to him. It cocked its head as if confused, then bit down on his head, killing him instantly.
I landed in a backward roll coming to my feet. My reprieve wasn't long lived. I sensed them before they attacked. Dropping into a crouch I held my sword straight out and spun. The attackers halted their advance giving me the opportunity to use their alarm for my own purpose. With quick succession I cut into two of the beasts, dropping them like stones. Taking my momentum in the direction of the men, I leapt toward the final one of the three taking its head cleanly off.
I ran toward the beast responsible for throwing me. It had one of the men held in the air ready to strike. I jumped through the air striking down, slicing the creature in two. The man landed on his feet at the same time as me. I took a moment to look around and gauge the battle. The remaining twelve of us were now down to five, but the creatures were slain and the plan could still be accomplished.
I felt guilt at the loss of the men under my command at that moment. I put them through drills and exercises in order to prevent this from happening. Guilt could be consuming and can hinder the finest warrior. I thought back to the brief conversation with Captain Marcello and shoved my guilt to the side. Now wasn't the time for this. We had a mission to do and I intended to accomplish it.
"Gather what weapons you can carry and use. We have to reach the top and assist Captain Marcello at any cost!"