A Pirate’s Journey: Part Four

1200px-Clouds_over_the_Atlantic_OceanThere was a great deal of trepidation about leaving the port to sail to Halloway’s hideout. First, the crew had never sailed such a distance without Timberwolf; but second, most of them had never sailed so far north as to pass through the Fryst Sea. Many strange things were said to happen on the Fryst, and it was often hard to discern fact from folktale. However, every soul on board was determined to see their captain safe and sound, so they set about their duties as soon as Silas gave the order to weigh anchor.

Silas felt a sense of relief as the sea breeze began to buffet his hair about and the port started to fall behind. He felt that the hardest part of the quest had been accepting his role as leader. Now that he was no longer fighting that part of himself, he could focus on the mission at hand: rescuing Timberwolf.

It was only a few hours before the ship reached the true entrance to the Fryst Sea. A swathe of blue ocean cut between two weather-hewn columns of stone, a setup quite resembling some sort of gateway. Silas was eyeing the approaching strait when the ship’s navigator, Maldir, ran up to him carrying a stack of yellowed parchment.

“Silas,” Maldir panted. “I was looking at the maps of the Fryst, and all of them are quite old, a couple centuries or so, so this could be nothing but a superstition. However, as we’re coming up on it I thought you’d like to know –”

“Mal!” Silas exclaimed. “Calm yourself and tell me what’s wrong.”

“Sirens,” Maldir said, his face dead serious.

Silas blinked, not sure if he had heard the other boy correctly. “What?”

“Not one, not even two, but three of these maps say there is a nest of sirens just beyond this right column.” Maldir pointed at the column. “I wanted to warn you, because, well . . . it’s not unheard of for folk to go missing around here.”

“All right then, I’ll keep an eye out,” Silas reassured him. He adjusted the wheel so their course would take them as far from the right column as possible. As they sailed through the passage, both boys stared intently at the stack of stone. For a moment, Silas could have sworn he’d seen the glint of shining scales in the water next to the column, but Maldir said nothing so he figured it was a figment of his imagination. However, he knew he wasn’t imagining things when something thumped against the hull and made both of them run to peer over the railing.

In the water was a body, but it had two legs, not a tail. Maldir jumped overboard to retrieve the body, and Algreve came down from the crow’s nest to help Silas pull them up with a rope ladder. After a few tugs, Maldir appeared over the railing, half holding a sopping young man with dark curly hair. The boy was lowered to the deck, where he coughed up half an ocean’s worth of water and tried to push himself into a sitting position. Silas ran to fetch him a glass of water and a blanket, and when he returned the boy was standing on wobbly legs, supported by Algreve. The boy glanced up at Silas and gave him a grin – a grin so familiar that Silas dropped the glass of water, which shattered on the ground.

“Silas, are you okay?” Maldir asked, staring at him with a worried look on his face.

Silas darted forward and pinned the new boy against the mast, consumed by rage. “What are you doing here?”

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A Pirate’s Journey: Part Three

notorious-2Within the hour, Timberwolf’s crew found themselves in front of the far-famed Captain Kincade. She was more intimidating than any captain they had met before, with an ageless face and piercing hazel eyes that sized the boys up in seconds. Kincade was not only well-known for the sharpness of both her tongue and sword, but also for her wisdom and strategy.

Together, Red and Silas explained their predicament. Kincade’s eyebrows slowly gained altitude throughout the story, and when the boys finished, she said, “That certainly doesn’t sound like James. He’s a madman, but he wouldn’t leave his own crew – again, I mean.”

Silas and Red looked at each other, alarmed.

Kincade continued. “I fear there are darker forces at work here. May I inspect his cabin?”

The crew led Kincade back to their own ship. Upon entering Timberwolf’s cabin, she made her way to the window and inspected its frame. “Ah,” she said. “It is as I thought.”

Squinting, Silas tried to figure out what she had seen. “What is it?”

Captain Kincade tapped her finger on a small carving to the left of the window. “The initials W. H. It’s the mark of William Halloway, an old enemy.”

“Of yours, or Timberwolf’s?” Red asked.

“Both of us, actually,” Kincade replied, pursing her lips in a frown. “I believe Halloway has taken your captain.”

“Like, taken out to dinner?” Silas asked hopefully. For what were they to do if their captain had been taken hostage?

Kincade shook her head. “I fear not. You and your crew, however, may stay on my ship for a few days so that I can tell you all I know about Halloway and where your captain might be held.”

“Thank you so much.” Red smiled broadly. “You truly are a benevolent captain.”

“Don’t thank me until Timberwolf is back on this ship,” Kincade said grimly. “You have a long way to go yet.”

.  .  .

The next day, Captain Kincade requested an audience with Silas, saying she wished to speak with the first mate. She told him that Timberwolf was most likely hidden away in Halloway’s stronghold, which was situated all the way across the ocean. Unfortunately, Kincade was unable to go with them, as she had her own agenda to follow, so she told Silas that he should be the one to lead his crew.

Silas shook his head vigorously. “No, Red should be the one to lead us. He has known Timberwolf for longer, and the crew listens to him.”

Kincade laughed. “Boy, why do you doubt yourself so? Timberwolf obviously trusted you a great deal if he made you his first mate.”

Yet Silas still declined. He had thought he was ready to be leader, but when it came down to it, he had no idea what to do.

At supper that night, he told his crew where Timberwolf was being held and announced that Red would be the one to lead them on this journey. There was a great deal of cheering at the second announcement, which relieved Silas; and though he didn’t want to admit it, made him rather envious.

However, the next morning Silas awoke to unpleasant retching noises. Red had gotten a stomach illness of some sort, and between bouts of emptying his stomach, he managed to politely decline Silas’ invitation to be stand-in captain. “Already,” Red choked out, “it’s going to be difficult enough for me to come along.”

So, Silas had no choice but to lead his crew on their quest. The truth was that while he wanted to prove he could take on the responsibility of captaining the ship, he was deathly afraid of failure. He took up the mantle of captain with more than a little bit of reluctance.

Silas gathered his crew from their various places around Kincade’s vessel and thanked the captain for her help and hospitality. Then Timberwolf’s crew returned to their own ship and prepared to set sail immediately.

A Pirate’s Journey: Part Two

Young pirates

It wouldn’t have worried Silas if they hadn’t already walked through most of the ship and seen no sign of the captain. Timberwolf tended to wander around, but that was when he wasn’t ill. When he was sick, he stayed locked up in his cabin all day, except when he was yelling at one of the boys to ‘fetch him some chicken noodle soup, for Calypso’s sake’. Not to mention that he always left a note before wandering off, especially if he would be gone for a while. It was completely unlike Timberwolf to just disappear.

“Silas, what’s wrong?” Red asked. He had known the captain for the longest time out of any of the boys.

Silas realized he was blocking the entire cabin from view. He turned to face his crew, trying to keep his fear from his face, but he gave himself away with the quavering of his voice. “The captain isn’t here.”

The crew broke into worried chatter. “What do you mean he isn’t here? Where is he? Did he leave us?”

Silas found himself helpless to quell their fears. He had wanted more responsibility, but not for the captain to be entirely gone.

Thankfully, Red stepped in. “Hey! There’s no way Timberwolf would just leave us. There must be some sort of explanation. Maybe he had an emergency meeting with another captain.” He looked around at the crew; they had quieted down and were listening to him intently. “Why don’t we wait until morning and see if he’s back by then? If he isn’t, we can deal with this then, but everything looks better after a good night’s sleep. Right, Silas?”

“Yes,” Silas replied, very unsure of himself. He was jealous of how Red could command the crew’s respect with such ease. The other boy was acting like more of a first mate than Silas. “It’s late and there’s nothing else we can do tonight.”

With only a few quiet mutterings and complaints, the rest of the crew went to ready themselves for bed, Red following close behind. Silas was left alone, staring at Timberwolf’s empty cabin and wondering how he’d ever be able to fall asleep.

.  .  .

The next morning, after a thorough search of the ship (very thorough – Timberwolf had once been found fast asleep in a barrel in the hold), the crew gathered on the main deck. No one had found any evidence of the captain, and worry was once again starting to weigh down on the young men.

Silas had barely slept, so preoccupied he was with trying to figure out how they would even start to search for the captain. He had feverishly scoured Timberwolf’s cabin for any clues it might have held about the man’s whereabouts. Even with all the time spent thinking and searching, he only had one idea that could possibly help them hunt Timberwolf down.

After the crew had shared the fruitless results of their search, Silas turned to Red. “Is there anyone we could ask who might know where Timberwolf is? Maybe point us in the right direction? Or at least some direction?”

Red frowned as he thought. “I’m not sure. The captain had a few friends, but he wasn’t all that close to anyone . . .” His eyes lit up as he realized something. “Well, there is someone . . .”

“Who is it?” Silas asked, leaning forward.

Fighting back a grin, Red said, “Captain Katherine Kincade.”

“Kincade?” Silas echoed. “She’s legendary! She’s friends with Timberwolf?”

“I wouldn’t say friends, but of anyone, she would have the wisdom to help us.”

Silas stood up. “That’s better than nothing. Come on!” He beckoned for the others to follow him. “I saw her at the Alliance meeting last night, she might still be docked here.”

A Pirate’s Journey: Part One

Photo of pirate ship at sunset

I’ve found myself in a piratey mood after my long absence from this blog . . . so please enjoy this longer-than-my-usual-blurb tale of Captain Timberwolf and his loyal — though far from perfect — crew.

.  .  .

Heroes are often born of fire and ice, chaos and tragedy, and unfortunately, Silas Creed was not an exception. His parents had been pirates, though in their case, a pirate could be defined as one who might occasionally sail on the wrong side of the law, as opposed to a vicious cutthroat. When Silas was only six years old, his parents and their crew had a violent encounter with a band of such cutthroats. It ended tragically, with the vessel a blazing wreck and every man and woman aboard brutally slaughtered — though not before a young Silas and his infant brother were set adrift on the frigid sea.

A decade later, Silas found himself sailing with the eccentric Captain James Timberwolf, along with his younger brother Daniel and six other boys of varying ages below twenty. It was uncommon, but not unheard of, for a captain to have such a young crew; the famous Captain Katherine Kincade had a crew composed entirely of young women, widely known as one of the best in the realm. The greatest problem with Timberwolf’s crew was simply that they barely had enough members to manage the ship properly. However, with the help of the captain, the ship ran quite smoothly, despite the youth of the crew and the fact that they had only worked together for a few months.

Silas served as Timberwolf’s first mate, which he felt was more of an honor in theory than in practice. When he had sailed with another captain, all he had wanted was to ascend the ranks and become second-in-command. Now that he was first mate, however, he didn’t find it half as glamorous as it had seemed before. Silas hadn’t expected to have as much power as the captain, of course, but he did wish the rest of the crew would treat him more as a leader. At times, he felt Timberwolf didn’t give him as much responsibility as a captain would normally give their first mate, and he wondered how he could show the captain he was ready to truly be second-in-command.

To Silas’ great joy, an opportunity to prove himself presented itself in the early spring. Timberwolf had been invited to a gathering of the Pirate Alliance, but the captain himself was feeling unwell, so he asked Silas to take the crew in his stead. Silas had readily agreed. So, on the eve of the gathering, Silas disembarked with the crew and led them to the great hall.

Sometime past midnight, Timberwolf’s crew returned to their ship. Giddy with exhaustion and the excitement of going to the meeting on their own, the crew stampeded down to Timberwolf’s cabin to tell him all about the gathering.

However, when Silas stepped through the captain’s open door, he knew immediately that something was very wrong.

The captain wasn’t there.

 

Sonnet No. 1 – The Fighting Sonnet (Part Four)

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“Thy face itself, it puts me in a rage.

I must hold myself back with all my might,

Or else I’d call thee out right up on a stage.”

The bard looked up a few lines in and found Oswalt staring up at her in confusion, brow furrowed as if he were angry but wasn’t sure why.

“What is it about thee that irks me so?

Am I the only person who can see?

Now, foul wretch, prepare thyself for a blow,

For here comes a smackdown for thee, from me.”

Oswalt’s face had turned an unpleasant color like a raspberry a few stages past ripe. “How dare you call me a wretch?” He lunged at the bard, but she skipped backwards out of his grasp and continued.

“Thou art devil spawn, a child of Satan,

Horrid, ancient evil straight from scripture.

Thou would not be loved by gods most pagan;

Of things corrupt, thou’d be the victor.”

The towering man roared senselessly, scrabbling at the rock before him in an attempt to reach the bard. She hoped desperately that the mage would make his move soon, because she only had two lines left.

“I shall not call you out by thy crude name,

Return to the depths from whence thee – “

There was a bright flash, and then Oswalt’s roars were cut off abruptly. The silence was so complete that the bard could hear creaking, like that of falling tree, as Oswalt keeled over, revealing the slight frame of the mage.

” – came,” the bard finished, eyes wide. She grinned at the mage, who lowered his upraised hand and returned the grin with one of his own. Folding the sonnet up and stuffing it in her pocket, the bard dropped off the boulder and crouched to peer at the fallen giant. “Wow. What did you do to him?”

“Just a stunning spell amplified by three.” The mage stared down at his hands as if taken aback by his own power.

“He’ll be fine if we leave him? I mean, he was trying to harm us, but I don’t want him to be eaten by wolves or anything like that.”

“I imagine Oswalt will be awake before dusk has totally fallen, but just in case . . .” The mage flicked his wrist, and a few specks of light floated down from his fingers to Oswalt. “There. A simple protection spell.”

Still beaming, the bard turned to the mage and held up a palm. “We took this guy out. Teamwork for the win!”

The mage high-fived her. “Yeah, that was pretty awesome. And speaking of teamwork . . . we should probably fetch our other team member.”

They turned away from Oswalt and began to walk to where the mage had hidden the warrior.

“Do you think Oswalt will come after us again?” the bard asked.

The mage shook his head. “No, I think he’s finally learned not to mess with us.”

A voice came from the grass a few yards away, startling the bard. “Because you don’t mess with the Three Musketeers if you know what’s good for you!”

The mage led the bard off the path to where the warrior was curled up like a fawn in the grass. He grinned up at his companions, eyelids fluttering under the weight of sleep.

“I’m pretty sure that name has already been taken,” the bard told him. She bent to help the warrior clamber to his feet. “But I bet that between the three of us, we can come up with something just as catchy.”

“That should be a task to keep you awake for a few more hours, right?” the mage teased. “We need to reach Kulreach before nightfall if we want to stay on schedule.”

“I’ll give it . . .” The warrior blinked sleepily. “. . . two hours before you two are outright carrying me. . .”

With the warrior stumbling between the mage and the bard, the three companions retrieved their belongings and picked up their journey right where they had left off. But the bard, though she did not yet know it, had only just started her own journey into using words as weapons of her own.

 

Sonnet No. 1 – The Fighting Sonnet (Part Three)

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“Ooo, a performance!” The warrior laughed delightedly. “Break a leg!”

“Or don’t,” the mage advised, and then the two disappeared into the gently rustling stalks of grass.

The bard rummaged through the mage’s bag for another moment before finding what she had been searching for – a crumpled, worn piece of paper. “Here we go . . .” she muttered under her breath, unfolding the paper and squinting at the words scrawled across it in purple and black ink. “Oh, yeah. This is perfect.”

What she held in her hands was not a spell of any kind, though a grimoire would certainly have been helpful (the mage would be a lot more useful if he had a way of guiding and expanding his talent). It was a sonnet of her own making from before she knew much about the form. Thus, it was certainly not the best she had ever written, but she believed – or at least hoped – that it would properly enrage the giant Oswalt.

At that point, Oswalt was quickly drawing nearer to the bard. When the warrior had originally caught sight of the man, he had been perhaps 500 yards away; now, the distance had shrunk to 100 yards. The bard realized that she did not want to face Oswalt on level ground. Projecting her voice would be easier from an elevated surface . . . and the man wouldn’t be able to step on her and squash her like a bug. So, she kicked her and her companions’ supplies into the grass where it would be hidden and set off down the path the way from which they had come, searching for a cluster of rocks she’d seen a few yards back.

Once Oswalt the Enormous Viking Man had finally caught up to the bard, she was sitting crosslegged on a medium-sized boulder that reached above the man’s shoulders. The bard gave him a bored look as if she’d been waiting for a long time. “There you are. I was beginning to wonder if you had gotten lost.”

The man stared at her flatly from the shadows of his helmet. In a voice that was nearly subsonic, he growled, “Where are they?”

“I think I know who you’re talking about, but you might have to be a bit more specific.” She imagined that the warrior would be rather proud of her for being sarcastic even in the face of this terrifying giant, who looked as though he could snap a full-grown tree like it was a twig.

“The one who can throw light and the golden one with the sword and the attitude.” Oswalt shifted from foot to foot, much like a bull would before charging. “Tell me where they are.”

“Oh, yes. They wanted me to give you a message.” The bard rose to her feet and shook out the piece of paper she held to unfold it. “Of course, being a bard, I had to take some creative liberties. So be aware that while the words are mine, the meaning behind them is one hundred percent from my two companions.”

“I have no time for this,” the man thundered. He took a step back, shielding his eyes with a forearm; the bard had wisely positioned herself so the sun was at her back. “I am not interested in your games.”

“This isn’t a game,” the bard retorted, seeming rather offended. “One might even argue that it’s a work of art. Just let me read it to you. Then I’ll tell you where they are.” She held the paper up, and in a clear, strong voice, read out her fighting sonnet.

“Good sir, I must ask: dost thou wish to fight?”

To Hear You Speak

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I love words

And the only thing I love more than devouring them

By the handful

Is creating them.

Sometimes I throw them together haphazardly,

Sprinkle them wildly about myself;

Other times, I piece them together as carefully

As if I were assembling a living thing,

Each one a delicate cell with its own important purpose.

 

I love words,

So is it any wonder that I want to see

What you do with them?

I do not know much about you,

But I think

To hear you speak

Would tell me everything I need.