Dee swept Rebecca up into his arms and began forcing his way through the crowds. People tried to push back but when they noticed the fine cut of his clothes and the beauty of the dress Anna wore they thought that maybe it would not be such a good idea to push a man of his standing.
Still it seemed to take Dee an agonising amount of time to reach the pier where the galleon was tethered. “Hawkins!” Dee shouted out seeing his fellow explorer standing on the pier.
“Dee! Glad to see you could make it!” Hawkins grinned. “And who’s this beautiful young woman that you’ve bought with you?”
“My niece Rebecca,” Dee replied carefully placing her on the floor.
Rebecca blushed furiously but remembering the carefully taught manners that her grandmother had drilled into her said “I am very pleased to meet you Sir Hawkins,” and gave a small curtsy. To her pleasure Hawkins bowed deeply in return.
Hawkins grin faded when he saw the woman standing behind Dee. “Anna,” he said.
“Captain Hawkins,” she replied. “I see you’ve met my daughter.”
“Your daughter,” Hawkins stammered. He looked from Anna to Rebecca and visibly swallowed.
“I can’t believe that you did it Hawkins,” Dee said, he face turned up to the galleon, a look of wonder etched on his features, seemingly oblivious to the tension between Hawkins and Anna.
“You wound me Professor Dee. If not I then who could be trusted to bring in a Spanish Galleon?”
“Isn’t she beautiful Dee?” Hawkins said, a tone of wonder in his voice.
“Uncle, how does it fly?” Rebecca asked. She had heard tales of the terrifying Spanish flying ships that sailed the seas of the Americas but Mistress White had always told her that they were just stories told to frighten young children.
“She,” Dee told her with a smile. “Ships are always called ‘she’”
Rebecca nodded and said “Alright, how does she fly? Mistress White told me that such things were not possible. That God means that the only things that should fly are those animals that have wings and that for man to do so would be challenging his wisdom.”
Dee bent down so that he was at his niece's level. “I am afraid dearest that your Mistress White does not always know what she thinks she knows. A flying ship is indeed a possible thing. Look, it’s right here,” he told her waving his arm towards the galleon.
“She,” Rebecca corrected him with a smile.
“Cheeky,” replied her uncle, ruffling her hair.
“You want to go up?” Hawkins asked Dee.
“Oh can we father?” Rebecca said, practically bouncing with excitement at the idea.
Dee hesitated for a moment; on the one hand he knew that the only way he would learn anything about the ship would be to see it close up for himself but on the other he could not help but wonder how dangerous it would be to take his only niece up into the sky. He looked down at her hopeful expression and then glanced over to her mother. With a smile she nodded her agreement - John knew that she was just as curious about the ship as he. John turned to Hawkins and said “More than anything.”
“Joseph, throw down the ladder,” Hawkins called up to an unseen man on the ship. A rope ladder was lowered over the side.
“John!” Anna exclaimed a note of horror in her voice. “You can’t possibly be expecting us to climb up a rope?”
Anna gave him a look and waved down at her long skirts.
“What? Oh, yes. Maybe this was not such a good idea after all,” he told Hawkins as the realisation of what his sister meant sank in. His shoulders slumped slightly with disappointment.
“What do you mean… Oh I see,” Hawkins realised after a couple of moments. “Hmm, yes.”
Rebecca looked at the ladder and said “I’m sure that I could climb that,” in what she thought was her bravest voice.
“I have no doubt that you could climb it,” John Dee reassured her. “However your mother would kill me and I value both your life and mine too much to allow it. It’s far too dangerous. I will just have to be content with hearing Hawkins tale and come back another day to see the ship myself.”
Hawkins thought fast; he could see the disappointment written all over Dee’s nieces face and he knew her uncle well enough to know that he would mirror that disappointment. “There may be another way,” he told them quickly. He risked a glance over to Anna who met his gaze blandly.
“Oh?” Dee asked, hope rising within him.
“There’s a platform that the Spanish crew used to take supplies onto the boat. It won’t be a comfortable ride but we could use that.”
Dee nodded and told him “Of course! I had forgotten about that! That would do splendidly.”
Hawkins called up to the men on the ship “Lower the platform.” Slowly a wooden platform was lowered from the ship. Dee looked at it in dismay; Hawkins had not been exaggerating when he said that it probably would not be comfortable. But he knew that Rebecca was determined to see the ship and so was he.
Before too long Rebecca, Anna and John were settled on the platform. They were both sitting one the 6 foot by 6 foot wooden platform and Rebecca found herself clinging on to one of the corner ropes.
Next to her John Dee could tell that she was more than a little bit scared and attempted to distract her. “The flying ships aren’t just built to fly,” he began. “Most of them are normal galleons that have been given the ability to fly and because of this they are able to sail as well. When the Spanish need to take on supplies they usually just visit the nearest dock, mooring there as normal. But there are on occasions time that they must take on food and water in places where there isn’t a dock and that is why they have these platforms.”
Rebecca listened, fascinated by her uncles words. “I didn’t know that you knew so much about them,” she told him, her fears about dangling up in the air gone.
“I saw lots of them when I was on the expedition Princess Elizabeth sent me on,” Dee told her.
Rebecca nodded. She wanted more than anything to quiz her uncle about his expedition but her grandmother and Mistress White had always told her that to question her elders was bad manners.
It did not take very long for them to the lifted up to the galleons deck. With Hawkins help Rebecca, Anna and Dee stepped off the platform and onto her deck for the first time. The girls momentarily forgotten Dee could not help himself rushing around the ship; he wanted to look at everything, examine every nook and cranny of her fascinating design. He reached into his pocket and drew out his ever ready note book and started scribbling down his thoughts and making hasty sketches of the ship.
“Well Miss Dee, what do you think?” Hawkins said to Anna.
“It’s very big,” she replied. She watched as her brother rushed around the ship and she knew that he was completely absorbed in her work; she had seen him like this before and knew that right at this moment there was little else in the world for him other than trying to figure out how the ship worked.
Rebecca wandered over to the side of the ship and looked over the railing. All of the dock was spread in front of her and it was a beautiful sight.
“They look so small don’t they?” Hawkins said from beside her.
“The people down there. You’re very lucky you know, the number of people who get to stand on a galleon like this is tiny; most of the people down there cannot even begin to imagine what it would be like to fly.”
“Fly? We’re not going anywhere are we?” Rebecca asked. She was more than a little terrified at the thought but at the same time she had to admit that the thought intrigued her.
“No, probably not today. We have little enough of the the rock and it would not do to waste it.”
“The rock?” Rebecca asked confused. “What rock?”
“Has your uncle told you nothing of his expedition?” Hawkins asked in surprise.
Rebecca shook her head sadly. “We see very little of Uncle John, he’s often away in London and I’ve always been told that I should not ask too many questions. Men do not like nosey women. Or at least that is what my nurse has always told me.”
“And has your nurse much experience in the way of men?” Hawkins asked with an arched eyebrow. Behind him he could hear Anna choke down a laugh.
“No!” Rebecca exclaimed, shocked at the thought of Mistress White having anything to do with men. “Mistress White has never been married.”
“Ah I see. Well personally I like my women to be curious about the world but then I am only one man and I cannot hope to rival an unmarried spinster in her knowledge of my sex in general.”
Anna shot Hawkins a sharp look but he blandly ignored her.
“Hawkins!” Dee exclaimed, practically running over to them, brimming over with excitement. “This ship is incredible! When do you take her to London?”
“Tomorrow hopefully, if not then then the day after. I sent word to the queen a couple of days before I wrote to you and I hope to hear from her or her court soon.”
“She has not replied?” Dee asked in surprise. “That’s odd, she should have received your letter by know and I’m surprised that she did not reply at once. This is a matter of the utmost urgency after all.”
Hawkins nodded in agreement. “Yes, I’d have thought that the capture of a ship like this would be bought to her attention at once.”
Rebecca listened to their words in puzzlement. “I thought the queen was ill,” she told them.
“What! Who told you that?” Dee exclaimed.
“It’s common knowledge at home, Lady Mercer told us when she visited last week. She heard it from a cousin who has a friend at court.”
“Womens gossip,” Dee said dismissively.
But Hawkins looked worried. “I wouldn’t be so quick to disbelieve my friend. There’s been many times that womens gossip has been proven right; gossip tends to travel quicker and further than real news and women who have nothing better to do than write letters tend to write a lot.”
“Stop this, stop this now,” Dee hissed. He looked around them furtively and said in a low voice “Do you not realise how dangerous what your saying is? To even think it is treason.” Dee tried to keep the panic out of his voice; the time that he spent in prison suspected of plotting against the Queen was still fresh in his mind and the last thing he wanted was niece to face the same fate.
Hawkins understood Dee's nervousness at once. He nodded and said “You’re right Dee, such things should remain unsaid.”
Somewhat placated Dee changed the subject to one that was more comfortable. “Rebecca do you want to see how she flys?”
“Oh yes Uncle!” Rebecca exclaimed, letting him change the subject unchallenged.
Hawkins lead them to the middle of the deck and to what Rebecca had assumed was a small stove.
“What is it?” she questioned, curious about how the ship was able to do the impossible.
In reply Hawkins opened the side of the stove. “Look,” he said waving towards it with his hand.
Rebecca bent over and peered inside. She had expected to be met with heat but there was none; instead there was a faint smell, not unpleasant but it had a slightly coppery tinge to it. In the middle of the stove was a large reddish coloured stone.
“The Blood of the Wind,” her father said in an almost reverent tone.
“It’s what the natives call it. The Blood of the Wind, it comes from a mine hidden in the rain forests of the New World. It what makes her fly.”
Dee hesitated and said “We don’t know. It needs an extra element to make it work; the stone by itself is just a stone but together with the catalyst it gives off an aether that lets her fly.”
“What’s the extra element?”
“The natives won’t tell us,” Hawkins told Rebecca. “Or rather they won’t tell the Spanish. They sell them the stone already active.”
“How long does it give off the gas for?”
Hawkins shrugged, “Five, six, ten years. Maybe more.”
“What happens when the gas runs out?”
Hawkins smiled ruefully, “well, you’d best hope that you’re close to land.”
“You mean the ship crashes?” Rebecca asked shocked.
“I’m not sure I’d call it a crash. It more falls out of the sky.”
“Hawkins!” Anna said sharply. “I’d rather you didn’t tell my daughter things like that.”
“Sorry Miss Dee,” Hawkins said abashed.
Annoyed Anna wandered over to the the side of the ship and leaned against the railing. She listened vaguely while Dee and Hawkins explained to her daughter more about how the ship worked but could not make herself concentrate on their words. Instead she brooded. As she had told her brother it had been years since she had seen Hawkins and she was surprised by just how much he still affected her. After all that had happened, after all that they had been through you would think… No, she thought, pushing such musings aside. What was in the past could stay there. She looked over at Hawkins standing next to her darling little girl and thought If only…
Turning away from the pair of them and back towards the port her attention was caught by the sight of a group of men pushing their way through the crowd. That in itself was not unusual; however what was was the fact that they were obviously, and heavily armed.
“John,” Anna called out, trying to get her brothers attention. She turned around to see that he was so absorbed in examining the ship that he paid her no attention. “John!” she called out again, louder this time.
“Yes Anna, what is it?” John questioned, irritation evident in his voice.
“There’s something happening down there,” Anna told him, her eyes fixed on the group of men who were drawing closer to the ship.
“Yes, I think you’ll find that there’s always something happening somewhere,” John replied facetiously.
“John, stop being such a pain and listen to me. This is important. There’s a group of armed men coming towards the us.”
“Soldiers?” Hawkins asked rushing over to join Anna.
“No, I don’t think so. They’re not in any uniform that I recognise.”
“No, I don’t know them either. Alright men,” Hawkins said turning to address the small compliment of men who were aboard the moored ship. “I’m not expecting trouble but I also won’t be surprised if it comes. Joe, I want you to be prepared to cut that tether if need be.”
“Hawkins, you can’t seriously be planning to leave,” Anna hissed at him, grabbing his arm.
“I’m not; I just don’t like it when heavily armed men come my way. I just like to be know that if someone chooses to attack us that we can choose to leave.”
Anna nodded only vaguely reassured. She knew that if fighting were to start that she wanted both her and Rebecca to be as far away from it as possible. But she had little faith in the reliability of this Spanish built abomination; it was not often that she agreed with Mistress White but in this one instance she was right - man was not meant to fly.
As the men drew closer Hawkins called out “Ho friends. What can I do for you?”
“We are here to reclaim this vessel in the name of King Phillip,” one of the men called out in heavily accented English. Now that they were closer Hawkins could tell that they wore clothes of the Spanish style.
“Your King has no authority to claim anything,” Hawkins replied easily. “This ship belongs to Queen Mary and not to the husband who abandoned her.”
Anna gasped in surprise; for a man who did not want trouble Hawkins seemed to be inviting it.
“No longer. Your Queen is dead and all that belonged to her now belongs to King Phillip.”
The words of the Spanish men clearly carried to the crowd who responded with shouts of denial. There may have been little love for Queen Mary but there was even less for the foreign King that she had married and then been abandoned by.
“No,” John shook his head. “No, she could not have been that ill, we would have heard…”
“It looks like some of us did,” Hawkins said nodding over to Rebecca who was sat by the ‘stove’ oblivious to the chaos beneath them.
“We demand that you disembark from that vessel at once,” the man who appeared to be in charge was saying. “You are hereby charged with piracy and will be sentenced immediately without trial.”
“Joe, now!” Hawkins barked. Without hesitation Joe cut the one thing that was holding them to the ground.
Anna watched terrified as the Spaniards lifted their muskets and started firing at the ship. Hawkins grabbed her arm and pulled her down towards the deck as a bullet whizzed past her head.
“What do we do now?” Anna asked Hawkins.
Grim faced Hawkins watched the ground beneath them growing smaller and smaller. It looked as if there were a full scale riot going on in the dock and he knew that they would not be able to turn there anytime soon.
“I don’t know,” he was forced to admit. “Anna, I just don’t know.”