Disclaimers: Not mine, no moneys made. And this is technically a crossover, but realistically, it's more like a sideswipe. Written for the hl_flashfic secondary character challenge. Character, Rebecca Horne; prompt -- sea. Also, crossovers100 prompt #1 -- beginnings.
The ocean rose and fell before Rebecca, slow and steady now with scarcely any sea foam to be seen. Debris covered the sand, scattered over the dunes as the sand itself was scattered far past its usual boundaries in damp fans that extended over the dunes to the foot of the cliff she'd climbed down to this bay.
The night had been full of thunder and lightning, growling skies and odd images lingering in one's sight after the flash and crackle. She'd found a long-abandoned priory in the last light before the storm broke overhead, but even those thick stone walls had shuddered under the winds. Rebecca hadn't even tried to keep the fire going, only banked it in wait for the eventual return of day.
She woke into stillness and a sense that there was light again.
It took all her strength and patience to work the door open. Damp, sandy earth rolled over her feet in clumps when she finally shoved the hand-thick wood far enough open to squeeze out. She emerged from the cellar into a morning wavering silver-gold between the fading remnants of storm clouds and the burgeoning traces of sunshine through thin clouds. The sea lay almost calm again, grey-green and breeze-rippled until the surface looked fish-scaled. The motion of the water made the waves look like flexing muscles waiting to lift a ship up or haul one down; Rebecca found herself singing an old propitiatory hymn to Poseidon in relief that she'd survived this night and in pity for those who had not.
Ship spars littered the beach in jagged remnants still water-logged and heavy. Faded blue and crimson stripes marked a ship's sail rippling under the water, partially weighted down but slowly being tugged back out by the tide. Some boxes which were still intact bobbed in the bay, too heavy to be easily dragged back by the ebb but too heavy to be easily shoved ashore, either. The breakwater had caught more cargo and bitten into it, trapping some crates and destroying more as she watched.
Rebecca contemplating the riches on offer, weighed the risks of retrieval and too much visible wealth against the nagging insistence of her nerves that something important lay in wait here. The last time she'd been so sure, she'd found the Methuselah stone down an abandoned well. She put aside the question of what she was looking for this time and went to retrieve her pack and scout the priory for useful tools.
Leather gloves sufficed to pull the wood farther up the beach and keep it safe from the retreating water's pull. A shovel worked well enough to lever the fallen pottery off the sailcloth, although the sodden fabric was much heavier than the wood. Rebecca lifted and hauled surviving boxes because they were there and would help pin down the fabric, although none of it so far was what she sought.
By early afternoon, Rebecca had finished the easier parts of the job, so she stopped to eat and plan the remainder of her search. The tide was turning, which would make it easier to ease the jetsam over the breakwater, and reduce the chances of being pulled out to sea. If that riptide caught her, she'd probably be pulled halfway round the island before she had any chance to break free. Even if she got loose of the currents, she'd face a swim through rocks, a climb up a cliff, a hike back to the priory and her supplies, and bloodied hands and feet in the process -- although not, thank the Mother, sunburn on top of those.
However, the cement pilings would protect her as well as the harborage. Rebecca had rarely been grateful for Roman engineering when Rome ruled the world, but now she smiled to see how well it had endured. What they built did tend to last, although she suspected they hadn't anticipated this breakwater would outlive their empire. She ate the last of her bread, cut the green from the last crumbles of cheese in her pack to eat that, and washed it down with watered wine as she plotted.
She found herself walking into the water almost before she'd properly finished eating: knives strapped to her forearms and calves, shovel tied across her back, string bags tied to her waist, and her hands rough-braiding her hair out of her face. She cursed her own curiosity as she waded into the water again, resigned to the masses of seaweed stirred in by the storm and the muck brought with it that would make the deeper water harder to explore. The storm had pushed the deeper currents in from the sea to the shore, leaving the water colder than it had been the day before.
The breakwater tugged her to itself as a court pulled the power-hungry, as the ebb tide tugged boats and sailors from the shore. Rebecca waded out towards it, forcing her gaze away to the rest of the bay as she went. The water chilled her legs; seaweed slipped under her feet. When the water reached her ribs, she ducked under and forced herself to breathe it in.
Rameses always could do this as easily as he charmed women. Rebecca had to use all her discipline not to surface in a coughing, wheezing panic as her lungs filled and her body remembered how to breathe water. Shifting back to air would be no more pleasant and she tangled her hands tightly while she tried to cough water out and air in, and counted to one hundred as slowly as she could. Finally her lungs accepted the changeover.
Rebecca was even colder now, both within and without, but her clothes awaited her on the shore, dryer than she was, and the last sunlight would still be there if she hurried. She swam out to the breakwater wondering what she was hunting amid Roman ruins.
A shoal of hake flickered around her as they fled and the glint of light off scales made her twist around as quickly as possible underwater. She'd been sure for a moment they were her prize; they weren't, but at least she now knew to look for something that glittered. The last clouds had fled before noon, but the bay faced northeast; cliff shadows were reaching into the bay and slowly impeding her hunt.
Rebecca collected a rusting length of chain, a pair of knives, and a mostly intact crate of steel blanks that she moved up the breakwater to a spot that should be mostly out of water by the turn of the tide. The site she had in mind looked suspiciously irregular for a Roman-built landing; once she was breathing air again, Rebecca intended to come back and see what the head of the order might have hidden here.
Somewhat to her surprise, Rebecca realized she was making plans to move to this isolated peninsula, to a place connected to the mainland only twice a day now that the old Roman bridge had long since been destroyed. As she hunted through the water for anything shining, finding a few coins trapped amid the rocks and coral grown up inside the breakwater, Rebecca found she was turning over arguments for renting it from the abbess and debating how best to revive the garden gone to seed in the lee of the priory's walls.
Her hands worked with her eyes, independent of her thoughts so long as what she found was not what she sought: a woman's hand carved from stone, extended in dance or warning; a sealed jug whose faint slosh indicated that it was still airtight and in fact held some air in addition to the other contents; an old-fashioned iron pulley with a surprising lack of rust; a single bronze cymbal.
Rebecca turned from moving the latest load to her collection point -- growing more and more exposed from the water, more difficult to reach without breathing air -- to a flash of light off gold inlay. A small black box squared off and trimmed with gold was bobbing over her head. Someone had tied a leather cord to it as a lanyard; as she watched, the cord snagged again on a branch trapped between the stones.
Rebecca reached up and wrapped her own hand around the box and the compulsion holding her to this search fell away as if it had never driven her here. In its place was a by-now familiar compulsion to guard this thing until she found the right person to hand it to, or the right place in which to secure it. She wrapped the box's cord snugly around her own wrist and straightened up to cough water out of her lungs.
Returning to air was always as bad as returning to water, all hacks and gasps and gagging on saltwater flowing back out until she wondered if she was going to end up coughing out bile with the water. When she could breathe properly again, Rebecca stood there with water still pouring down her back and chest from her hair and carefully unlatched the box... only to stare at it, perplexed.
Why in the names had she gone to all this trouble to retrieve a compass that couldn't even point north?
She tightened her grip on it, watching as the compass spun, far too long and too rapidly, and felt her skin prickle and chill. Whatever this tool did, it was still trying to work.
Rebecca carefully latched it shut, settled it into a string bag of its own, and tied that tightly shut before securing it to the rope around her waist. That done, she waded back to the beach, wanting dry clothes for the extra warmth against the rising breeze and the extra protection for her skin before she began hauling items to the priory.
Tonight would be soon enough to decide if she still needed to stay here now, or if she could safely take the compass back to England. From that decision she could then sort out all the other details of how to hide and guard this compass until it was needed. She'd managed with the Methuselah stone, and she could manage with this. Rebecca sighed and pushed wet hair away from her face, beginning to wonder if she didn't simply have a gift for finding odd items in need of assistance.
Not that the Fates ever let one trade, but she'd far rather have Corwin's knack. Trouble he found was at least comprehensible.
~~~ finis ~~~
Comments, Commentary, & Miscellanea:
Comments, Commentary, & Miscellanea:
For the curious, here's one translation of the Homeric Hymn to Poseidon.
The Romans used both concrete and cement. 'Cement' and 'mortar' both date back to Old French; concrete as a noun seems to be much more modern.
Rameses: one possible name for Ramirez, who could in fact breathe water and assumed Connor MacLeod could, too.
Henry II styled himself King of England in 1133.
Yes, that is Captain Jack Sparrow's compass. Rebecca found the Methuselah Stone and distributed it for safekeeping (per "Legacy"); that might not have been all she ever found. Other immortals have odd and sometimes inconvenient knacks -- why not?
Cory Raines' first name was Corwin o' the Green; he's the bank robber from "Money No Object."
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