The hull of the Hope crashed against the waves, the sea growing more restless by the minute.
“That storm looks like its coming directly at us,” one of the shipmates said. “Its odd to see an easterly at this time of year. Perhaps we should turn aside.”
The captain looked outwards from the bow, into the darkening horizon. He pulled something from his coat and glanced at it before stuffing it back inside, ensuring that nobody saw. “There will be no course adjustments while I’m captain of this ship.”
“Sir, there’s no reason to rush head long into the storm. Maybe we could sail north and let it pass by us.”
“Absolutely not!” he yelled, loud enough to get the attention of other crew members. “If we sail north or south we’ll be caught in it longer. Our best way is to maintain our course and sail right through and if I hear any more from you I’ll leave you here and you can swim north.”
The shipmate was silent for a moment, the sea slapping the hull as the ship rocked back and forth. “Yes, captain,” he muttered before leaving the bow. There was no arguing with the captain, especially in one of his moods.
The captain turned from the bow to the main deck, addressing everyone. “You’ve all been particularly rebellious as of late. There will be no more of it. I don’t know what superstitious mothers you were raised by, but the world is a big place. Strange things happen that don’t mean anything. Just trust your captain and everything will–” He began to walk down the stairs of the bow, but a particularly large wave slammed against the boat and he was thrown off his feet.
He landed on the deck with a dull thump, and he wheezed as all the air was knocked out of him and something flew out of his coat, sliding down the deck.
Struggling to get air back in his lungs, the captain rose to his knees and saw a few of the crew members looking at what he had dropped.
He cursed and hastened forward, lunging for it.
“What in the…” the sailor that held it said, stepping backwards and out of the captain’s reach.
“What is it?” somebody asked. Everyone knew about the thing the captain hid. It wasn’t uncommon to have a lucky charm.
“It’s a compass!” he replied, holding it up to show the crew.
“Oh, for pete’s sake,” one of the mariners yelled. “What a letdown!”
“It says we’re pointing north,” he continued.
The clamor on the ship died. The captain cursed under his breath, unsure of what he should do.
“I knew there was something wrong,” the original shipmate said. He pointed to the storm they were still heading towards. “That storm’s not an easterly at all!”
“Strange things happen, eh?” the sailor asked the captain. “Strange like lying to your crew about what bloody direction we’re sailing?”
“Alright, alright,” the captain said. “Let me explain.” He managed to swipe the compass away from the sailor, and tucked it back into his coat where it belonged. “But first, back to your stations, we have a storm to brave, and we’ll all die for sure if you all sit here lollygagging.”
As if on cue, rain starting dripping onto the deck. Most of the men were unsure, but with a few harsh looks, many went back to what they had been doing before. “You three,” he pointed to the mariner, sailor, and shipmate. “I’ll tell you.” They moved closer to hear the secret. They all stood on the center of the main deck as the boat rocked. He nodded after a moment, assuring himself of what he was about to say. “We’re going to the Inverse Crescent.”
The shipmate gasped in shock. The mariner and sailor cursed. Nobody went to the Inverse Crescent. Nobody ever returned from it.
“You’ve killed us all!” the mariner spat.
“Tell me, does anyone know what the Inverse Crescent is?”
“It’s a landmass shaped like a waning moon,” the shipmate said. “Filled with cannibals that attack outsiders on sight.”
“I heard it was a giant whirlpool that flowed the wrong way,” the sailor contradicted.
“No, no! It’s the lair of an enormous beast with a crooked fin! It eats ships whole!” the mariner supplied.
The captain held his hand up to silence them, then used it to push his wet hair out of his eyes. Miraculously, he had regained control of the situation. “It is none of these,” he explained. “Nobody on the mainland really knows because nobody has ever been there. They are all too afraid to find out for themselves. No, it is not a death sentence as you all would be lead to believe.”
The reason so few people ventured was because of all the superstitions around it. There was no debate that the Inverse Crescent existed. It was on every map. People just didn’t know what it was because it was just past the Point of No Return for any ship that could venture out that far from the mainland.
“And you would know? You’ve been there?” the sailor said, suspicious.
“As a matter of fact, I have,” the captain lied. “I can tell you it is a paradise unlike any you have seen. If our true destination had been revealed to you sooner you’d have mutinied.”
“We still can mutiny. I think we should turn back,” the shipmate suggested. “I don’t like any of this, and I especially don’t like being lied to.”
“Agreed,” the sailor said. “If the Crescent is as good as you say, you’d never have had a reason to leave.”
“We can’t go back now,” the captain said. “We don’t have enough food to make it all the way back to the mainland.”
“You lied to us about that, too?!” the mariner shook with anger.
A flash of light, and thunder crashed some distance away. Water from the rain and the sea flooded the ship, crashing onto it and flowing back out the sides. The Hope had found its way into the thick of the storm.
“Our only option is to keep going as I’ve said,” the captain said, unconcerned. “The only land we have any hope of reaching is the Inverse Crescent. You can mutiny all you want. Tell the entire crew that I’ve lied to them. But either way, your best chance of survival is to push us straight through this storm right now and get us there.”