Title: This is the Tempest We're Fighting For: Chapter 1
Pairing/s: Arthur/Merlin (eventually)
Character/s: Arthur, Leon, Gwaine, Gwen
Summary: A ship on the distance, sailing with the horizon. Looks like salvation but Arthur can't trust his eyes. Salt water and sand can draw a mirage.
Warnings: anachronisms, free adaptation of history and piracy facts, mentions of minor injuries
Word Count: 1,061
Prompt: #210: Shadows
Author's Notes: Follows this: Prologue
The wind picks up caressing the sails and propelling them forward. The sun is almost hidden behind large, foreboding clouds, dark enough to swallow the light and turn the day into something dull and dreary. The sea below is getting angry, Arthur knows it won't be long before the skies are raging. They had managed to avoid the ships from the Royal Navy roaming the coast of Maracaibo. Barely turning away from a Spanish galleon, before it was too late. All thanks to Elyan catching sight of the ship from a distance. Arthur's trusted compass still on his grip after chanting directions for his crew mates.
The object has begun to warm inside his hand, the carving of a dragon on the brass surface itches his palm. He pockets it before unwanted memories plague his mind. Seeing the sky turn a shade darker Arthur knows he has to stay alert. Keep his eyes open. He can smell a storm coming, a sharp aroma filling his nostrils, breeze right on the tip of his tongue.
Their route and time is probably going to be affected by the rain, but Arthur's plans to keep them on route with as little damage to the ship as possible and with all of his crew as safe as they are now.
Arthur turns to see Gwaine grinning broadly at him, clutching a bottle of rum to his chest. He raises a questioning brow, wondering if it's just his imagination or the bottle's contents have begun to disappear.
"Shouldn't you save that for later?"
"It wasn't just me. We had a celebratory drink."
Not his imagination then. He should be with the rest of them riding the same wave of enthusiasm after their success on the Spanish Main. Their stores replete with tobacco, sugar cane, spices, rum and cocoa. A medium sized coffer containing gold and gems is waiting to be divided between the crew. Everything went as it should have, without a hitch or man down. Except Arthur hasn't felt up to any kind of celebration lately. His mood goes from forlorn to apathetic rapidly. The memory of losing his father still hangs heavy over him. As does his promise to honor his memory
"You should have waited for me, I'm your captain," he says, trying to sound like his old self. Sure of himself. If he fails at his attempt Gwaine doesn't mention it.
"Aye, aye. You coming then, Captain?"
Arthur wants to say yes, have a bit of fun listening to Gwaine's never ending tirade. Listen to the crew laugh because they're a bit more richer and maybe one day they'll be free to settle down on land. No more pillaging and fighting for one's neck.
"Have you looked at the sky?" He asks instead.
Gwaine's gaze sharpens, he licks his lips leaving the bottle on the deck's flat surface. "Rain is coming."
Arthur nods, feeling the first drop land between his eyes.
The ship shakes and quakes, the clouds overhead are dark, pregnant with water. Everyone is soaked, clothes stuck to their bodies. Arthur tries not to shiver but it's impossible when the freezing waters of the ocean are conspiring with the rain to drag them under.
Thunder roars loudly, and his vision is clouded by the fast falling rain. Out of the corner of his eye he can barely make out Percy and Lance trying to keep the sails in position. He's lost sight of Elyan and Gwaine. He's trying to find them when an ever louder roar comes through, it's so heavy Arthur hears it right inside his ears, he's busy shaking away the sound, blinking away water he doesn't hear Leon's warning shouts before it's too late.
"Captain! Captain! Arthur, look out!"
He coughs up salty water, spits out blood. His left hand fingers hurt when he flexes and groans in pain. Coarse grains of sand beneath him, scratching his skin, his body swaying with the tide. The last thing he remembers is darkness. Black, black everywhere. Pulling him underwater.
But this is air entering his lungs, the first light of dawn welcoming him to the other side. No, this isn't heaven, this is dry land. He's alive.
He wants to get up to asses the situation. Find out where he is and how he can get out. His movements are sluggish, taking him more than a few tries to stand on his legs, albeit shakily. He scans his surroundings little by little, palms and infinite sand are discovered. Nothing else. He's trapped in a paradise.
Arthut breathes in the morning air, a keen pain on his side digging in. In spite of the ache this the best feeling in the world.
He's still alive.
Arthur is alone. He failed them. His crew is gone. When he closes his eyes he can see them being devoured by the angry sea under the will of a capricious God.
He failed them.
Nightmares are a constant reminder of his failure, of the emptiness surrounding him. Lurk inside his head like shadows, silent, dangerous. His attempts of getting out of this god forsaken island have been fruitless, he's afraid to venture too far away from the shore. It's not cowardice but a survival instinct. His ribs hurt when he moves, the bruises on his skin are turning purple with shades of green. At least they don't look as black as they did before.
Arthur is thinking of going to search for water again—the only good thing he found was a stream of fresh water, a bit of hope among the loss—when he notices something he never thought he would see again on the coast. A ship.
He almost leaps up, ready to run and swim and hold onto something. Almost. He laughs, a bitter hollow sound. He's seeing things. Wishful thinking. His fatigued mind playing tricks on him.
But then he's feeling the end point of a sword stuck to his back. His breath quickens. His limbs aching to move and remove the threat. He's done it before.
"Who are you?"
It's a soft but commanding voice. Makes him feel safer, like this is not the end for him.
A pair of brown eyes, fierce and warm meet his own when he turns his head. Bronze skin, dark curls hidden under a hat, her hold on the sword confident.