Here is an audio narration:
“Are you quite finished?”
I looked away from my stained hand to see Zedekiah, chin raised, staring at my manic behavior. The cigar twitched slightly as he worked his jaw. I flexed the arm not lashed to the railing of the ship, and took in my surroundings. The moon, no longer red, and a pale fraction of its true size, shone down on the same still sea, but the moon was aft and the Bridge of Souls loomed in the near distance. The Zebedee made good time toward the monstrosity. The fog that permeated our journey of nights had dissipated and the bridge lacked the otherworldly shadow it possessed only… How long had it been? Hours? Days? Years?
“Skipper, what happened?”
The old man kicked the chains coiled neatly next to the wheel. “You communed with Luna and she granted you an audience with Oberon.”
“The…” My mind waded through a thick soup, trying to recall the events that transpired. “The King of the Fae People?”
Zedekiah shook his head and made an odd sound with his lips. It was a cross between a sputter of indignation and a thoughtful murmur. “What you know of Fae lore has been filtered through the lens of your society.” He paused, taking in the salty air, a satisfied smirk punctuated by his cigar.
I spread my free arm to indicate a lack of knowledge and turned to work my bound limb. “My society?”
Zedekiah sighed, as if I were a student unable to grasp the most basic elements of mathematics. “Oberon is merely her consort,” he adjusted the wheel and stared ahead to the Bridge of Souls. “And it was Luna, not Tatiana, who wed Oberon.”
I looked up, rubbing the rope burn on my wrist and forearm.
“Luna is the benevolent master of the Fae.” He shifted his cigar from one corner of his mouth to the other. “You challenged Oberon, and in his defeat, you became Luna’s consort.”
“The Ultimate Invincibility?”
“Aye,” he nodded. “Luna grants it to her consort to follow her across the night sky. The two of you are inexorably linked to dance across eternal night.”
I looked back to see the sad, small moon hanging against a starless sky. “I survived? What about your dire prediction? You said I would die at the Gates of Time.”
Zedekiah killed the engines and walked to me, the Zebedee slicing through the water. “Lad, you did not survive.” A tear glistened in the moonlight, turning his craggy features to shadow. “After your fall in the drink, you were of two souls, one Steve and the other Abraham.”
He looked up at the underbelly of the massive stone edifice and placed a hand gingerly on my shoulder. “Luna allows only a single soul to be her consort.”
I looked down at my hands, one stained, and the other swollen. I ran my hands over my body, feeling for something different. Steve really had died, I thought. I am Abraham reborn.
“Try again, whelp!” Zedekiah’s laughter boomed in the still air. He reached out with a spryness I’d seen again and again, but seemed to keep forgetting he possessed and seized my wrist. I felt his viselike grip squeeze and he forced me to the deck. “Resist, boy!” he bellowed. “Prove yourself worthy of the gift bestowed on you by the renegade King!”
I tried to pull my arm away, but his grip tightened. His knee found the small of my back and I was shoved deeper against the briny deck. I was overwhelmed with the stench of the ocean and rotting fish. I kicked my legs and clawed at my numb hand, tears clouding my vision. I squeezed my eyes closed and had a sudden feeling of déjà vu. My mind flashed back to my encounter with Luna, but this time my eyes weren’t closed to protect them from the light, it was me, protecting the old man from the light in my eyes. A blinding fury I could only feel the edges of. I opened them and willed myself free. I rose like the phoenix from the ashes of my former self and cast off the salty dog as if I were heaving a net into the sea.
Zedekiah staggered back and fell over the rail into the sea.
* * *
Jezebel looked from Zedekiah to me. “Is it done?” she asked.
“Aye,” he whispered, still wet from his brief swim. I couldn’t believe he still chewed that disgusting sodden cigar. He looked at me, winked with a conspiratorial grin, and spat the cigar at Jezebel’s feet.
Jezebel stared stoically, and produced an elegant box. The intricate woodwork emblazoned with figures and embellishments I only barely discerned as an ancient language. She opened it with a wave of her hand and Zedekiah reached in and smiled as he procured a fresh cigar from within. He snapped his fingers and a sputtering of flame erupted from his fingers. He inhaled deep and burped a puff of purple smoke. He nodded in satisfaction and for the first time since meeting Jezebel, she smiled.
“Let’s defeat the Master,” a voice said. It took a few moments to realize it was my own voice.
Zedekiah punched me in my shoulder. “That’s the spirit, lad!”
Jezebel made a tut-tut sound. “Your spirit may be willing, King Abraham, but you are not,” she intoned. “The voyage to the Nahr al-Urdun river is a long one, and you have much training to fulfill before we arrive.”
The smell of ozone filled the air as electricity snaked away from her hand. Miniature lightning strikes lashed out at anything metal, and an impressively powerful bolt struck the coin in my pocket. She pushed her hand towards me and a ball of pure electricity struck me in the chest and threw my body against the wall like a dog playing with a rag doll. But, instead of rebounding off the wall, my limp form smashed through the bulkhead and plunged toward the choppy water. I tumbled; the Bridge of Souls filled my vision, followed by the Zebedee, moored to Jezebel’s ship and her fleet beyond. Water and sky traded places as I prepared myself to strike the water, but didn’t. I floated back to the breach and through it I saw Zedekiah crouch as if he were bearing a great burden. He clutched the imaginary burden to his chest and I sailed through the air effortlessly, deposited at Jezebel’s feet. Zedekiah fell on his ass, his burden released, gasping for air.
“Much training indeed,” she declared before she turned and walked away.