There is nothing left for him to do. The ocean is an enemy too powerful to defeat and he should have known better than to try.
The fierce waves, lashed by the sudden thunderstorm and the strong current drag him mercilessly out to the open sea that swallowed his beloved. Already the coast is too far away for making it back ashore and before him and all around him is nothing but dark, wind-churned water.
It is hopeless.
He is going to leave Setauket in the same way he had set foot on it- flotsam and jetsam, one of many victims of the war, not worth a footnote. He wouldn't be missed.
Under the surface of the raging sea it is perfectly still. The water is dark and cold and he opens his mouth and drinks like it was exquisite wine. Who would have thought that such a peaceful death would be granted him? Would this final, heroic and selfless act outweigh his countless misdeeds when it came to the last judgement? Probably not, but you could always hope.
The last image that comes to his mind is of his brother. He could not save Mariel just as he could not save Percy but there's a strange comfort in the thought to die like him, now. Somehow, he had always known it would come to this.
When he comes to again, it is to the damp cold and bleak dimness of an unknown place. A tomb, judging by the rotten smell of it. The air is mouldy but it is air, and he sucks it in greedily.
He is not dead! Or is he?
The place is dark and eerie enough and he can hear faint whimpering sounds in the distance like the cries of lost souls in the forecourt of hell. But then, isn't it supposed to be hot in hell?
He struggles to sit up and peers out into the dank darkness. He can't make out more than shadowy outlines but he knows, he is not alone in here. Clearly can he feel another presence near him, lurking in the shadows like the proverbial monster under the bed.
He takes a shivering breath. "Where...where am I?"
His voice echos eerily back at him from what must be high walls. And then, tentatively: "Who are you?"
There is a shuffling sound as if something very large and heavy is being dragged towards him across the muddy floor. He hears the snapping of fingers and suddenly, a variety of lampions and torches light up and illuminate the face of the mysterious lady of the house in all its beauty, hovering above him like an apocalyptic vision.
Madame Medusa bares her rotten teeth into a malicious grin.
"Your worst nightmare."
And that is certainly no exaggeration. It is all he can do not to scream. And only because he is literally frozen in horror just by the look at her face. Not just because it is incredibly ugly- which it is- but also because he is stupefied to find himself looking at a legendary figure from an old myth.
With her enormous breasts and potruding belly she reminds him of the scary statue of a goddess of fertility his Godfather had brought with him from one of his former military expeditions to the dark continent, but from the waist down she is a giant octopus with fat, black tentacles.
Her face, framed with living, coiling snakes for hair, has the same sickly greenish grey tone as the rest of her torso and is heavily made- up like a bordello queen's.
But it is the eyes, which are the most terrifying feature about her, a vicious, inhuman, yellow glare, which makes the blood freeze in his veins and turns his flesh to stone.
Captain Simcoe( who usually prides himself on his own death stare ) wants nothing more than to escape the look from those terrible eyes, and yet he is unable to drop his gaze or even blink.
The creature curls her blood- red lips and smiles, apparently used to such a reaction at her sight.
"Welcome to my realm, Captain," she says. "Do you know who I am?"
He swallows hard, his tongue feeling like stuck to his gums." The Gorgon," he replies in a frightful whisper and as he says it, a sudden surge of relief washes over him. If this monster in front of him is truly a thing from an old story, all this is just a dream. It must be one.
Madame Medusa's smile broadens. "Not quite." She shrugs her shoulders which makes her massive breasts wobble like flour bags. "But close enough."
The smile leaves her face and she lowers her head to him so that her foul breath brushes his face. "You killed him!" she hisses in a hateful voice. "My baby, my poor little Lizardo! You cannot imagine how happy I am that you decided to follow your little hussy to my place. Your suffering will be endless, I promise you that much."
She withdraws and once she turns around and her gaze leaves him, he feels to his boundless relief that he is able to move his limbs again. He has no idea what his crazy captor is talking about, nor does he want to know, and when he sees her slowly crawling deeper into the dimness of her realm- doubtlessly in order to prepare her instruments of torture- he quickly rises to his feet and searches the room for an escape route in panic. There is a high door made of bones at the far end of the room. If he could reach it before she notices, if he would just run...
And then an icy fist clenches his heart when he realizes what the monster said.
She has Mariel !
Captain Simcoe takes a deep breath in order to overcome his fear, suddenly ashamed.
What kind of man would think of escape when his beloved is in danger? What kind of soldier would he be to run in the face of an enemy- however gruesome?
Had not Perseus slayed the Gorgon? Cut her ugly head off? Admittedly, he had been the son of a demi-god. And also had the help from other gods and mythical creatures. He doesn't even have a weapon.
And still, he has to try. There is no other way.
A giant tentacle lashes back his way and rudely interrupts his musings. It grasps his ankle and tears him off his feet again, then another follows to wrap itself tightly around his waist. With a derisive laughter his captor drags him with her, helpless like a rag doll. He digs his fingers into the skin of her tentacles to free himself, but although slimy and squashy, their grip is firm and unyielding.
"Mariel," he cries out. "Where is she? What have you done to her, you monster?"
"Me? Oh, nothing," Madame Medusa turns around, her ugly face a study of incredulous indignation. "Nothing that wasn't otherwise agreed, that is."
She burns her freezing stare into his and he feels his body turn to stone once more. "The more relevant question, Captain, is, what have you done to her?"
She nods her multiple chins at his unbelieving stare. "Oh yes. All I do is abide by our contract." She sighs. "Of course, it is very sad and all that it has to end like this - but that's hardly my fault. I do like love stories and let's be honest- the best ones always end tragically- and now come," she adds, as if he had a choice and trails him behind her. "Time to reunite the unfortunate lovers for the last time."
She stops at the far end of her parlor and lights another torch with a snap of her fat, little fingers. As the flame flares up, Captain Simcoe catches his breath at the sight of Mariel who is tied against one of the high stalactite columns of the grotto like a captive on a savage stake, her hands tied behind her back and her whole body covered all over with chains which attach her to the pillar, from her naked upper body and her small breasts, only scarcely covered by her long hair, down to her feet.
Only that there are no feet. Or legs.
What he sees instead, are the shiny scales of a fishtail from her waist down.
He blinks in disbelief at this new- terrifying but, at the same time, strangely fitting-addition to his nightmare.
And Mariel is clearly as shocked to see him as he is. Her eyes grow wide with horror, before they well up with tears and she bows her head like in shame.
Madame Medusa's thundering, dirty laughter echos from the walls of the grotto. "Isn't she beautiful, Captain? " she chuckles. "You thought her not good enough to be your wife, her bloodline not noble enough, didn't you? Why, she is a princess, oh yes. Although, admittedly- not of a realm you would have heard of. Now tell me, do you still want her now that she's missing the anatomic parts you liked the most?"
He doesn't bother to answer this-neither would he have known what to say in the first place, nor does he have the time. Only just recovering from the initial shock at the transformed sight of his beloved, his eyes are already confronted with the next nightmare.
By the sound of his mistress's voice, another creature stumbles into the torchlight and he can only stare in horror when he recognizes the man he killed with his own hands.
If even possible, in death he is an even more unpleasant sight than in life. Lizardo looks every bit like a corpse in a progressed stage of decay, his dead skin swollen and burst open in several places, not to speak of the deep, ugly cut in his belly which had caused his death and from which his bowels and viscerals hang out and exhale a heavy, nauseating smell.
And still, the gruesome thing moves, in a jerky, horribly wrong looking way. He stumbles forward as fast as the rusty chain around his neck allows, which shackles him to the wall behind him.
"Oh God, dear God, no," Simcoe whispers, utterly shaken. "He's alive."
Madame Medusa raises a thin-plucked eyebrow. "Why, somewhat," she confirms drily.
With a jerky movement, Lizardo's head shoots out as he snarls and snaps at Mariel on her stake. She gives a whimpering sound, when Lizardo's jaw snaps shut only inches away from her face, spitting foul slobber on it before the chain tears him back.
The undead thing howls with frustration. "Brainsss" he roars in a horrifying parody of his former lisp.
His mistress frowns. "I did what I could," she says by way of explanation. "But he's completely useless as it is. All he wants to do is eat. Maybe I should let him feed on you, since you're the one who killed him, eh? Although I doubt that birdbrain of yours would keep him sated for long," she adds with a malicious grin.
"No," She turns back to him and one of her tentacles shoots out and coils around his neck and she pulls him to her. "No, I think I will keep you," she purrs in a voice that makes every hair on his body stand on end. "It would only be fair, wouldn't it? You robbed me of my loyal servant, so you can as well take his place. Wouldn't that be nice?"
She pulls him closer to her and he finds himself unable to even flinch once he is hypnotized by the gaze of her horrible eyes again.
She purses her thin, blood-red lips in a gruesome imitation of coquetry. "You're not quite my type," she pouts." Tall and well-built, I'll give you that- broad shoulders and all- but I'm more into the Latin type, you know?" She sighs. "Beggars can't be choosers, is that not what they say? And if you do well-"
He can't help himself. Despite his horror, despite the undeniable hopelessness of his situation, let alone the suffocating tentacle around his neck he feels himself shaken by a violent laughing fit.
The mere thought that this monstrous travesty of a woman could be so much as picky about a companion, is more than his overstrained mind can bear.
He laughs until tears run down his cheeks and every bone in his body hurts- and at the sight of her angry, insulted features he laughs even more.
"Well. Maybe not," the sea witch snarls, releases him from her death grip and throws him back against the wall, where he escapes Lizardo's snapping teeth just barely with a quick somersault.
"I'll have hundreds of servants soon anyway," an indignant Madame Medusa spits. "Once I trade your little whore to her father for his kingdom. You see, I have no need for you. I will have my poor Lizardo feast on you, that's the least he deserves."
She catches her breath and her features turn slowly into a malicious smile. "But first things first. No need to rush it. Where are my manners ? We're having a party here, don't we? A happy family reunion. We need drinks."
She turns and sets her body masses in motion.
Once she has turned her back on them, Captain Simcoe struggles to his feet and towards the tied up figure of his beloved where he desperately tries to tear her shackles loose with his bare hands.
"I don't know what this is all about, Mariel," he wheezes. " It's a goddamn nightmare, all of this, and I will most likely wake up any moment, but I won't leave you to this fate, I will get you out of here, I promise you this,"
He tugs and tears at her bonds, his fingertips soon bleeding at the effort to cut her loose and stops only to place random, fervent kisses on her face. "I will save you, believe me, my love," he pants. "You do believe me, don't you?"
Through her tears, she smiles and gives him a look that says as clear as words would that she does, no matter the undeniable facts which prove them wrong.
"Captain!" an urgent voice interrupts his desperate efforts.
He turns his head but can't make out the speaker. There is no one here but him, his mute love and some fish, splashing about in a waterhole near them.
And the fish talks.
"Captain," he pants again. "You will need a weapon. Check those boxes."
He spins around and searches the area but sees nothing. " NO, not here! Over there." The fish cocks his head towards a pile of boxes to his left corner.
As if it wasn't strange enough to talk to a fish, he realizes that this fish speaks with the voice of doctor Paracelsus. More than that, he even looks like him, from his huge, bloated belly up to his long forehead bump.
"Yes, yes, it's me!" the fish confirms in an impatient tone. "Hurry now. Before she returns!"
He doesn't need to be told twice. He spurts towards the boxes and rummages through them until he brings something to light which looks like a heavy, mediaval broadsword, tarnished and rusted, but a weapon nonetheless. And once he holds it, he feels whole.
Admittedly, the sword is much heavier than the bayonet he is used to but as he wields it by way of trial he is delighted at the way it cuts through the air, and he hurries back to Mariel to cut her bonds, but too late.
Madame Medusa is back already, a tray with glasses in her hand, her massive torso blocking the way to his beloved. "Now, now, Captain," she sneers in a mocking voice. "Have you found yourself a little toy to play with? "
She sighs like a benevolent mother. "Boys- all the same."
"Get out of the way, you monster" he snarls. "Or I swear, I will cut my way through you."
"Don't look her in the eyes," the urgent voice of the fish, who looks and sounds like Paracelsus, implores. "Avoid her gaze at all costs!" Remembering the old myth, he nods.
"Enough," the sea witch hisses and drops the tray.
From the corner of his eye, he sees one of her tentacles lash out for him and he strikes out and is rewarded with the clash of metal on flesh and a shrill shriek of pain.
But before he even has the time to enjoy his triumph, another of her tentacles shoots out in a flash, grabs his ankle and throws him to the ground, where his head hits the floor hard and to a pain which makes him almost lose consciousness and he barely manages to cling to the sword as he falls.
"You're a wild one, aren't you?" the sea witch hisses in an angry tone. "I think, I will keep you after all. It will be fun to break you, oh yes,"
She slashes out once more and her tentacle hits his face with a hard blow, splitting his lip and the skin of his cheek. The searing pain and the taste of his own blood in his mouth fills him with rage, stronger than his exhaustion.
Staggering, he rises to his feet, sword still in his hands, closing in for the kill.
The sea witch laughs at him. "Cute, really. You're such a warrior. My little toy soldier. Oh, how much fun we will have together-"
And in a sudden flash of inspiration, he knows what he has to do.
He cannot defeat her. She is too strong, too mighty and he is no demi-god, he's only a man.
His arms shaking with the effort of it, he lifts the sword over his head once more, and just when he sees her furious tentacle shoot out at him , he turns around to smash the chain which holds Lizardo to the wall.
The tentacle hits his face and he hits the ground.
For a moment the undead creature seems to be dumbfounded at his sudden freedom, but then he stumbles forward and instinctively concentrates his attention on the fattest booty available.
"Brainsss" he roars again, staggering towards his mistress, his bony arms outstretched as if to hug her, and then he is upon her, buries his teeth deep into the soft, flabby flesh of her belly, finally able to eat his fill.
Madame Medusa gives a deafening cry of pain and frantically tries to shake off her former servant, who is burrowing deep into her flesh, smacking and grunting in delight.
Captain Simcoe, his face smeared in blood, every bone in his body feeling broken, rises to his feet one last time and with a blood curdling cry he wields the sword over his head once more and decapitates the monster.
A fountain of acid, pitch- black blood bathes his face, when her head is cut off her neck and he takes a second to wipe his eyes before he lunges out again, still screaming, and does the same to Lizardo who is too busy with eating to offer resistance.
"And now stay dead!"
The hero of the hour sinks down on his knees, drops the sword and picks up the two disembodied heads to present them to his beloved like the most distasteful marriage gift imaginable.
"I did it, Mariel," he gasps out. "I told you I would, didn't I?. Just- please- don't let me do that again.-"
Then his eyes roll backwards and he collapses on the floor when he loses consciousness in earnest.
He doesn't even wake up when the grotto is shaken by a heavy thunder and the embodiment of another ancient God rises up at its entrance, nor to the deafening, thundering voice who asks once more: "What's going on in here?"
Poseidonius, King of the Atlantic Realm, his imposing sight hidden from eventual blasphemic views, crouches behind a cliff near Setauket's coastline. The storm has ceased and he watches the beach, and on it, the particular piece of jetsam he had placed there with his own hands- the outstretched figure of a tall, broad- shouldered man, his crown of unruly auburn curls half covering his pale, long-boned face, apparently unconsious.
Poseidonius frowns and turns to his companion who paddles next to him in the water. "Is he dead?"
Paracelsus shakes his head. "I don't think so, your Majesty. He's a tough one."
The king deigns to a nod of reluctant respect. "He must be to slay the sea witch. A human, who would have thought...? Almost like in the old stories. At any rate, I'm glad to be rid of this unbearable, devious woman."
"And he saved Mariel." Paracelsus ventures to add. The king nods again. "Indeed. I should reward him for that."
He thinks for a moment. "My treasury is full of gold and diamonds from their sunken ships. All humans crave gold, don't they? Choose some and fill a box or two for him, will you?"
The surgeon fish doesn't reply but turns his long-nosed head towards the other figure, who is watching the unconscious man on the beach from her cover of a rock near them.
Mariel- although in possession of her voice again, since Madame Medusa died and her spell had been broken- had hardly uttered more than a dozen of words after the incident.
Poseidonius follows the gaze of his subject and sighs. "She's sad, isn't she?"
"She'll get over him in time- presumably-hopefully-" Paracelsus tries to convince his King as well as himself but his thin, doubtful voice gives him away.
About to shrug shoulders he no longer has, he sighs as well. "But as for the reward," he says at last, "Wouldn't the hand of the king's daughter be the more- appropriate gift? Very traditional, too. For the man who slayed the monster-"
The king snorts and slams his palm against the rock. "A human man! And it is his fault it came to this in the first place!" he growls.
"But he didn't know, so you can hardly blame him" Paracelsus says softly. "And still he risked his life to save hers."
His ruler looks back at the unmoving figure before him, then to his daughter, who is too far away to make out the expression on her face, except that her eyes never leave the man on the beach.
He sighs again. "So you say, he's a good man then?"
Paracelsus grimaces in evident discomfort.
"He tries," he says at last. "He is a human, after all, a warrior, yes, but not a monster. I think, at this point in his life he can turn out either good or bad, depending on who's with him."
He peers up expectantly to his king from the corner of his pop eyes.
"And you think, Mariel will make him a better man?" Poseidonius snorts. "She's not really the soft and gentle type herself, wouldn't you agree?"
Paracelsus suppresses an amused smile. "So you might as well say, they deserve one another" he replies.
Poseidonius watches him attentively for a moment. "Very well," he says it last. "I guess you wouldn't say all this if you weren't positive about the matter."
He shrugs his broad shoulders. "I love my daughter but I have seven more to care for-and may the abyss swallow me if I want to see that long face of hers for the rest of my life-"
He rises from the water to his full height and aims his trident in the direction of his daughter, but then he pauses.
"She will need someone to look after her," he announces in a cunning tone. "I'm not entirely convinced that human can do it."
"A splendid idea, your Majesty," the surgeon fish agrees. "Do you have someone-specific in mind already-?"
But the king gives no answer, instead he wields his trident and slams it at the water's surface next to him.
A flash of silvery lightning travels across the waves towards the figure on the rock, wraps itsef around her fishtail and transforms it into its human form once more.
Mariel stares in disbelief, before she lets out a cry of joy and darts her father a look of utter gratefulness and love. Then she is in the water and quickly approaches the unmoving figure on the beach with vibrant swimming strokes.
Captain Simcoe opens his eyes to the sight of his beloved, who cradles his head in her lap and looks back at him from bright, tearful eyes and sighs in utter relief. He feels awful, beaten up and shivering with cold, but he manages a blissful smile.
"Thank God, Mariel," he says through shattering teeth. "Hold me. I had a terrible dream."
Mariel holds him closer and shares her bodily warmth with him until he stops shaking.
He sits up, moans in pain and blinks at his surroundings in the early light of dawn. "What - what happened?" He shakes his head. "I'm sorry, I-I cannot remember how we got here."
Mariel smiles at him, gently brushing the damp curls off his pale brow. "There was a storm," she says softly. "I fell into the water and you jumped after me. You saved me, John."
She can clearly see valid doubts on his furrowed brow fighting against male vanity, until, unsurprisingly, the latter wins.
He smiles but then his face goes white and he stares at her wide-eyed. "You talked !" he whispers and clutches her shoulders. "You're no longer mute!"
Mariel nods, smiling. "And you're no longer blind. Quid pro quo."
"I think, the shock of the incident must have somehow-somehow restored my ability to speak, " she explains.
Simcoe returns her smile and pulls her close to cover her face with fervent kisses. "So I saved you," he says, pleased.
He withdraws and looks her over, with her long mane barely covering her nakedness. He raises an ironic eyebrow. "But, as it seems, I didn't save your clothes."
He looks around, finds his uniform jacket lying on the ground next to his boots and weapons and gathers it up to wrap it around her.
"Well, madam," he says in a mocking parody of his usual gentleman manners. "It seems, I brought yourself into a quite indecent situation once more. And I would heartily beg your pardon, had it not been necessary to- well, save your life. But as matters now stand," he lowers his head to her and his crystal blue eyes sparkle in amusement. "I think I must strongly encourage you to reconsider my proposal."
Marielle sighs and shrugs her shoulders. "I'm afraid, I'll have to," she replies, imitating his feigned formal tone. "And since I have nothing else to offer to repay your kindness-"
His smile turns into a grin. "Oh, I can think of quite a few things to start with," he murmurs in a throaty voice.
He pulls her close to him and into a deep kiss, which could not be misinterpreted by any force, natural or otherwise.
Then he lifts her up in a swift motion, ignoring the pain in his muscles in favour of a way more urgent feeling that grows inside him and makes it suddenly very necessary to get back to his room in the tavern and out of reach of eventual prying eyes.
Mariel ( who retrieved her voice, but apparently not the memory of her former life ) becomes Mrs John Graves Simcoe in July 1776.
Judge Woodhull himself marries the couple- and in rather indecent haste, for a child, as rumour has it, is already on the way.
Major Hewlett and Anna Strong serve as witnesses, a favour which they would return one year later when Hewlett and a by then divorced Anna walk down the aisle themselves.
Mariel's unknown heritage turns out to be less of an issue than John would have feared- not only is Admiral Graves surprisingly happy about the marriage, but also the lack of a dowry is solved in a mysterious way, when just in time, on the date of their wedding day, two huge wooden boxes full of coins and fine jewelry happen to be washed ashore on Setauket's beach, her name written on it and a true- to- life miniature portrait of her amongst the treasures, which clearly confirms her as their owner.
In a first, official marital act, Mariel teaches her reluctant husband how to swim, which ends in furtive lessons at the pond in warm summer nights- and takes much longer than intended, due to the fact, that he constantly insists on extended breaks during which he would teach her lessons of a different kind in reverse.
On the occasion of Simcoe's promotion to commander of the Queen's Rangers they soon move to a big house in New York.
Their first child, a son who bears his father's name, is born on a cold February morning. A very indignant doctor Paracelsus, who wouldn't understand why it is considered indecent for him to assist at a childbirth, at last settles to heavy drinking with the prospective father all night long, so that the same in the next morning, his face bathed in tears of pride and joy, is hardly able to stand up and hold his son and heir.
Just like he had feared, little John is the first of seven children, following in annual sequence, all of them- and to their mother's secret delight- cursed with his unruly shock of auburn curls.
Doctor Paracelsus ( who would later come to a certain fame for his -not undisputed, yet much-noticed in medical circles- publication of a work upon the harmful effects of seafood ) takes over the godparentship for each of them and tends to them throughout various childhood ailments.
None of them ever suffers from summer fever.
--- The End ---