The Snake and the Mirror

From Distant Shores

 

The clouds began to part, the bright sun shining down as the Flying Dutchman passed over the waters of the world, finding itself once more in the brilliant blue waters of the Caribbean, far from the cold waters of the battle against the Naglfar. The dragons had departed and the ghost ships had returned to the bottom of the sea where they belonged, now only the Dutchman remained.

Jormungandr had not reappeared since it had sunk beneath the water, the great black ship Naglfar held in its jaws. Though according to Ophidia, it had sent its approving rumbles through the water, and the great serpent was going back to sleep until the days of Ragnarok truly arrived.

“A bit ominous” Noemi had said as the Dutchman made sail. Ophidia had retaken her humanoid form, now a full head taller than Noemi, dressed in a long cape of brilliant white scales matched by her feathered white hair.

“It is the way of things, Noemi. Some things must happen as is Fate’s design.”

“Maybe” Noemi said “What about Tezcatlipoca’s empire? Was that meant to happen?”

Ophidia’s brow furrowed. “You know that is something I cannot answer.”

“Yeah I know.” Noemi nodded “But I’m not going to worry about fate, about the things that do and don’t have to be. Come hell or high water I’m going to topple a God-King.”

“And you know I shall be with you all the way” Ophidia said.

 

The mist streamed from the Dutchman’s hull, dissipating in the warm air as it evaporated in the sun, leaving the ghostly ship to sail across the clear water as the sea around them gained more clarity. In the distance, they could see the familiar shape of the shore rising from the seas.

“Here we are” Jonah announced as he walked along the deck “Right where I picked you up, not too much worse for wear.”

“I appreciate the ride, Captain.” Noemi smiled.

“Pleasure’s mine” Jonah said, smiling back.

“Any chance we’ll see you again?”

“Probably shouldn’t hope to” Jonah said “I still have a job to do and if you find the Flying Dutchman in your wake it’s likely not a good omen.”

“Fair enough” Noemi nodded.

“That said…” Jonah added “There’s a lot of ghost pirates in these waters, it’ll take some efforts to clear them all out, might be sticking to the Caribbean for a while. Though as the new captain of the Flying Dutchman I’ll have to meet a few of my fellow marine dignitaries.”

“Like who?” Noemi asked.

“Oh you know, Atlantis and the like. They need to be kept abreast of the supernatural critters wandering the seas.”

Noemi stared at him for a long second, a hardened look on her face.

“…you’re pulling my leg aren’t you?”

“Not at all!” Jonah said hurriedly “I really do need to stop by Atlantis!”

“Is it full of, like, mermaids?” Noemi asked.

“No…well not entirely.” Jonah said “The natives aren’t but there’s a lot of-”

“Trust me, Captain, wooing a mermaid ain’t worth the effort.” They were interrupted by Ronny’s arrival on deck. “ ‘Sides all the best parts are fish.”

“Is that right?” Jonah asked, turning to her “No point chasing mermaids then?”

“None.” Ronny said, hands on her hips.

“Well then maybe I’ll have better luck with elves.” Jonah said, casually turning as he walked towards the helm.

“O-oi!” Ronny shouted after him “What’s that supposed to…rrr…” She finished with a growl as he walked off.

“Heh, so where are you headed, Dread Pirate Ronny?” Noemi asked.

“I think I’ll stay aboard the Dutchman for a while.” Ronny said “Jonah’s an immortal ghost now, and still more man then spirit. He’ll need company other than the dead.”

“Oho” Noemi grinned “Want to share your company with him, all through those cold ocean nights?”

Ronny’s face turned a delightful shade of red as she rounded on Noemi “Watch it Red, I’m just doing what’s best for the sea. Dutchman’s no good if its captain is half-addled and stir-crazy.”

“Agreed” Noemi said before adding with a warm smile “Take care of him, Ronny.”

“Aye I will, and what about yourself, Red? Gonna kill yourself a God-King?”

“It’s on my to-do list.” Noemi nodded “First things first I need to start spreading Ophidia’s cult back to the mainland. Need some divine power to fill the vacuum once Tezcatlipoca’s conquered.”

“No easy thing.” Ronny said “But you did pretty respectably here on deck. I’m not one for gods general, but I have faith in you, and the snake-feather lady.”

“Heh, thanks, Ronny.”

“Thank you, Rhonwen.” Ophidia appeared beside them, half-causing Ronny to jump.

“Eesh…well, anyone who can scare the undergarments of Morgan le Fay is not to be trifled with in my book. That Western god doesn’t know what’s going to hit him.”

“Agreed” Noemi said.

 

It was late afternoon and a small rowboat from the shore had come to pick up Noemi. When it was close enough to see in detail, she was delighted to see that there was no rower, merely Junko resting as the boat propelled itself towards the Dutchman, pushed along by the water spirit.

With a single spirited leap Junko had moved up over the gunwale to join them.

“Afternoon, Boss” She did a mock salute as she greeted Noemi before a smile of relief broke across her face. “Glad to see you’re okay.”

“It’ll make a hell of a story, Junko.” Noemi smiled “Let me say my farewells and we can ship off.”

Noemi gave her farewells to Ronny, teasing the elf one last time before moving to the helm. Jonah was there, leaning on the wheel as she approached.

“Guess this is where I get off.” Noemi said “Thanks for everything, Jonah.”

“Ah before you go, Noemi.” He said, rising from the wheel “There is…one last thing I  wanted to tell you.”

“Oh?” Noemi looked at him, curious.

“The girl you were looking for. You said her name was…Gisela?”

“Yeah, Gisela Silva.” Noemi said. “Why?”

“Well here’s the thing…I know most of what Davy Jones knows. I know the name of every ship, monster, and lost soul at the bottom of the sea…but I also know the people who escaped him. A few years ago, there was a girl who was thrown overboard in these waters during a pirate attack and should have been claimed by him, another drowned soul to be sorted to the afterlife by the sea…but she was snatched up by something else.”

“…what are you saying, Jonah?”

“I’m saying Gisela Silva is alive, or at the very least she didn’t drown at sea.” Jonah said “And she’s under the protection of…something. Probably a local god.”

“Do you know where she is?” Noemi spoke rapidly, closing the distance between them, her hands shaking in her gloves. “Do you know if she’s alright?”

“N-not specifically!” Jonah said hurriedly “S-somewhere in Europe. She managed to cross the Atlantic, and then crossed Gibraltar later…”

“Europe…” Noemi stared for a moment towards the horizon before her face split into a smile. “Mmm…so she made it.”

“Wait…you’re alright with this?” Jonah asked.

“I am” Noemi smiled “I…I know that she escaped, and that’s enough for me…thank you, Jonah.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t bring it up sooner.” He said “I wasn’t sure how you’d react…though I will say I’m a bit surprised. That said…If she’s anything like you, I think she’ll be fine.”

Noemi smiled and pulled him in for a tight hug.

“Safe travels, Captain.” She said.

“And to you, Noemi.”

 

Noemi spent most of the trip to shore and the evening going over the details of the battle. The people in the shore, the members of Ophidia’s growing cult and the townsfolk all staunchly opposed to Aztlan’s spread were delighted to see the return of Noemi and their white-haired goddess. Until long after the sun had set, Noemi was enthralling them with the story of the battle between the ocean’s greatest magic ships, the thundering guns of the Flying Dutchman against the chains and iron hull of the Naglfar, the arrival of the host of dragons, Ophidia’s defeat of the powerful witch, and the World Serpent delivering the blow that sank the Naglfar.

The moon was high in the sky and most of the people had gone to bed when Noemi found herself on the shoe, the water painted silver by the moon and stars as she looked out towards the sea.

“You were right, that’s quite a tale, boss.” Junko said, slipping from the shadows to stand beside her.

“All true, swear on my life.” Noemi smiled. “How’ve things been here?”

“Dull in comparison” Junko sighed “A few attempted raids, none succeeded, and the jungle spirits are making sure Aztlan can’t figure out where this place is. Most of the incidents have been dumb luck on their part. Made a few pirate friends as well, not all the seas are safe for red sails anymore.”

“Good” Noemi nodded. “We’ll need all the help we can get.”

“…Hey boss?”

“Yeah, Junko?”

“I overheard what you and Jonah were talking about.” She said “About your friend, Gisela.”

“Mmm…”

“I thought you’d be gearing up to sail across the Atlantic to find her again.” Junko said “Isn’t she what all this is for?”

“Not really.” Noemi said “All this…this is for you, for the people here, for everyone Aztlan has victimized and sacrificed. It’s for Ophidia, and it’s for Anton. I can’t…keep running after every stray rumor I hear about Gisela. All I know is she’s in Europe and even then that’s only a maybe.”

“Right…”

“Did I ever tell you what Tezcatlipoca said to us?” Noemi asked “At the end, when she let us escape?”

“Not really.

“She told us that she wanted us to run. That she wanted us to run as fast and as far as we could, to spread fear of him to every corner of the continent, telling us that no matter where we went or where we hid, the Night Wind would be at our backs.”

“Ah…” Junko fell silent.

“And I realized…that’s what I’ve been doing.” Noemi said “not exactly, I haven’t been running from Tess all this time per se…but I have been running. I’ve been running from my fear, from the things I had to do, and most of all I was just running after Gisela…hell I might have just been running after the ghost of her, the part of her I wanted to remember.”

“And now?” Junko asked.

“Now I’m not running” Noemi smiled “I’m digging my heels into the sand and staring Tess in the eye. I’m not scared of her warriors or her pirates or the Night Wind.”

“And that is why I know you will succeed, Noemi”

From out of the woods the great serpentine form of Ophidia slithered into view, abandoning human shape to take on her aspect as a colossal feathered serpent.

“Because I know you will not crumble You are the pillar upon which my power was built.”

“Thanks, Ophidia” Noemi smiled.

“Hey boss” Junko said “How do you think she’s doing? Gisela, I mean. Jonah said she had something looking out for her.”

“Well…while I hope she’s got a good god on her side like I do” Noemi said “I know Gisela…better than that I think I know who she can be…I like to think she’s not running anymore either. In fact, I’m sure she isn’t.”

Noemi put her hands on her hips, looking out across the sea “She’s my sidekick, I know what she’s made of, and I know that I’m going to see her again one day.”

 

 

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The Cities Eternal©2017, Evan Murdoch, Ben Sousa

 

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