Merlin did not expect to see the man who came through the door. Mostly because he thought him to be dead, but also because he had not expected such a man as he to run a ship with the crew that it did. It was very out of character.
Brun was humming to himself as he stepped into the room and closed the door behind him before turning back and making his way over to a table where he pulled out a draw and set a bottle of rum he found there on the surface. Merlin stood stock still, frozen to the spot and waiting for the old fisherman to see him.
Brun poured himself some of the rum into a glass, and was about to take a sip when he caught sight of Merlin, who was standing ridged in the corner.
“Oh, my goodness gracious me!” he exclaimed, dropping his glass on the floor and staring at Merlin as though he were a ghost come back to haunt him.
Merlin himself was not doing much better. He had just found a person he thought was dead! But somehow, he managed to muster the power for speech.
“How…” he cleared his throat. “How did you escape the Leviathan?”
Brun blinked several times before accepting that Merlin was real and sitting down heavily behind his desk, perching the spectacles on the end of his long nose and stroking his beard.
“Well,” he began, looking Merlin up and down, clearly wondering why the young warlock looked in such a bad way, “as I’ve always said, and as everyone has always known, I am The Great Survivalist, The Fishing King, Lord of The Sea and Emperor Over All Creatures. All I did was command the vile beast not to harm me. I’ve done it many times before, actually. There I was,” he spread his hands out before him. Merlin just stared, “surrounded by all manner of foul things, and I stood up and told them all to leave or suffer the consequences. They, being slightly brainless, I’m sure you know what I mean, sea beasties are all the same as everyone knows, just laughed, snorted, grunted and snarled, or whatever noise that particular species would utter, and came charging at me, claws, knives, tridents and flippers flashing. Of course I soon showed them all who was boss and they’ve obeyed my ever since. Rather grand, don’t you think?” Merlin tried to get a word in at this point, but Brun kept going. “So, yeah, I saw that rum old Leviathan off, and after many days drifting at sea, I finally found myself washed up on an island. There were some very talkative crabs there, I must say. Anyway, I then managed to crawl my way to a village where I recovered and set off to find a new ship, cause The Tempest was…” he sniffed loudly, “sunk, as I’m sure you know. I got myself a fare to Brinkwell and…oh, I can’t remember now…b-but somehow I-I got this ship. The thing is…” he leant forward on the desk and gave Merlin an unwavering stare, “how did you get here?”
Merlin closed his eyes and shook his head to wipe away all the madness the man had just hurled at him. After he had managed to deduce Brun had washed up on a beach and somehow got himself The Emrys, he opened them again.
“Well…err…I was kidnapped,” he said, but, suddenly, realization hit him. He was only here, on the ship and away from Camelot, by Brun’s word, which it must be, seeing as Sheridan was under the captain’s orders and in charge of the press-gangers who had abducted him in the first place. But Brun giving orders to kidnap people? That was just too out of character. What was going on here?
“You mean you were press-ganged?” Brun quizzed, oblivious to Merlin’s thoughts.
“Yes…” Merlin said carefully. “I understand it was an accident, me being taken I mean.”
“Oh, yes, I’m sure it was,” Brun said smoothly, sorting through a few papers. “How are you enjoying your stay, then? I trust it’s been pleasant?”
“No,” Merlin said sharply, “no, my stay has not been pleasant. Do you realize what Sheridan’s been doing?”
“What do you mean?” Brun abandoned the papers and looked up curiously.
About to explain everything, Merlin was interrupted by a shrill shout from above.
Merlin shot his gaze over to the sliding glass doors, which, judging by the position of the sun, showed him it was noon. The mutiny had begun. There was no time to explain what Sheridan had been doing. He had to protect Brun. But the captain had stood up and was already making for the door…
Merlin leapt into his path before he could reach it, and pressed himself firmly against the door so no one could go in or out.
“No, wait! You can’t go out there! You’re in danger!” he said, cutting straight to the point. “Sheridan plans to overthrow the ship.”
“A mutiny?” Brun frowned.
“Yes – I overheard him and the crew when I was in the brig. They’re going to get you outside and throw you over the side of the ship. You can’t let Sheridan take over!” Merlin was becoming desperate now. “You’ve got to do something to stop them!”
Brun was clearly thinking hard, and comically put a hand on his chin. Merlin bit his lip, hoping he would believe him, and waited for an answer.
“Well, what do you suggest I do?” Brun eventually asked.
It was now Merlin’s turn to think hard. He turned the situation over and over in his mind, painfully aware of the time that was slowly slipping away. Suddenly, an idea launched into his head and he snapped his fingers as a plan began to form. Sheridan and his men were superstitious – that much was clear when they had told him tales of the ghost – and maybe they would also be frightened of other things, things like The Black Spot. Merlin had heard of it once when a few sailors were passing through Ealdor. He had crouched, hidden behind a corner with Will, listening to the stories they were telling to some of the older children who sat around at their feet, quite avid to hear more. The Black Spot was told to be the most potent curse a man could put upon another – in pirate terms, anyway. If Merlin could somehow give Sheridan The Black Spot, then maybe he would think he was cursed and call off the mutiny…
Quickly making up his mind, Merlin ran over to the side of a table and grabbed a scroll and pot of ink.
“Okay, I’ve got a plan…” he said, dipping a finger inside the pot and putting it on the paper. “You stay here, and after five minuets go below deck and find those in the crew who aren’t with Sheridan. It’s only his ‘inner circle’ you need to worry about. The rest of the crew are loyal,” he put more ink on his finger and rubbed it on the scroll. “Once you’ve got enough men, come back up on the main deck. I’ll make sure Sheridan gets this…” he held up parchment that had a large, black, smudgy dot in the centre, before scrunching it up into a ball and shoving it in his pocket, “…and he’ll think he’s been cursed. Then, hopefully, he’ll abort the mutiny and you and your men can apprehend him.”
Brun nodded furiously, and Merlin only prayed that the old fisherman wouldn’t get caught when he went below deck.
Leaving the Captain in his study, Merlin snuck out the door to find himself in a long passageway. There were a few doors that led off to other cabins, and the corridor itself was filled with great, big, green potted plants. It was vastly different from the region of the ship Merlin had seen, and a good deal cleaner.
He could hear someone coming, so quickly hid behind one of the plants. Merlin did not recognize the man who passed, humming something as he rounded another corner, and disappeared. Quickly peering through the plant to make sure the coast was clear, the young wizard snuck down the corridor. A few of the floorboards creaked loudly as he gingerly trod on them, and Merlin was quite sure someone would burst out of the cabins and grab him, but no one did.
He was soon out of the passageway, and then discovered there were two more to choose from, either left or right. Choosing left, Merlin edged stealthily down the alleyway. Presently, he came to a window, and after checking to make sure no one was around, he peeked cautiously over the sill to see where he was. The deck was spread before him and he could just see a few of Sheridan’s nearest and dearest gathering in a line along the side of the ships guardrail, all shouting man overboard. Sheridan was standing a little way back from them, slouched at the foot of the stairs that led up to the door that was just next to the window Merlin was looking through.Well, this would make things a little more challenging…