A Creature of the Night

 

You must walk confidently, shoulders back,

like you belong in this dark night world –

because then maybe they will believe that you do.

But I know, I know,

as I step out into the dark,

with its dampened sounds and slick sidewalks,

that this is where I belong.

The wind is at my back;

the rain doesn’t seem to touch me.

Invincible is the word racing through my mind,

rushing through my body

as if it’s an element infused in my blood.

 

But that thought always comes before the fall, does it not?

That belief that nothing can harm you,

that your skin, your mind, your soul,

is impervious to all harm . . .

I suppose I will find out when the sun returns;

but for now, I will remain in the dark –

a creature of the night.

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A Pirate’s Journey: Part Nine (Epilogue)

a 3 masted sailing ship at sunset

 

 

 

 

The island prison was utterly deserted, with no humans present other than Timberwolf’s crew and, hopefully, their captain. The island itself was not large, but the prison compound covered the entire land, so it took time before they found Timberwolf.

Theo found the grizzled man, and he called for the rest of the crew immediately. “Silas, Maldir, Red – you guys, I found him!”

There were no keys to open the padlocked cell, but Silas broke the locks using a chunk of rock he found on the ground. As soon as the door was opened, the entire crew rushed in to hug their captain, shouting, “Timberwolf, we missed you!

The captain was practically crushed under the weight of all eight boys, and pushed them off so he could wheeze gruffly, “I’m fine, I’m fine. I was only kidnapped for a few days, there’s no reason to get emotional about it.” He pushed himself into a sitting position against the wall. “I have to ask though, how did you boys manage to find me?”

“It was all Silas,” Red said, pulling the first mate forward. “He led us through thick and thin, even risked his life to save all of us.”

Silas blushed. “You did a lot too. It was your idea to go to Kincade . . .”

“Ah, he’s being modest,” Maldir smiled at him. “Silas was the best. None of us could have done any better.”

Timberwolf looked at Silas appraisingly. “Well, that’s quite impressive. I’m very thankful you took charge, Silas, and I’m proud to call you my first mate.”

“Thank you,” Silas said. Timberwolf’s approval meant the world to him. “Thank you so much.”

“No, thank you,” the captain said. He tried to stand up but groaned in pain; Algreve caught him before he fell. Timberwolf shook his head, grimacing. “Well, boy, since you’ve proven yourself capable of handling a rescue mission, I’d say you should be able to run our fair vessel while I recover from this ordeal, eh?”

Silas’ eyes widened. Timberwolf was asking him to stand in as captain? That was all he had wanted from the beginning, for Timberwolf to give him more responsibility. “Aye, captain, of course.”

“Then let’s get back on the ship, shall we?” Timberwolf, with Algreve’s help, began to limp toward the door. “I’m sure your crew is more than ready to return home, Captain Silas.”

A Pirate’s Journey: Part Eight

three pirate ships on a dark, cloudy ocean

 

 

 

 

“Silas,” Red said desperately. “You don’t have to do this. We’d rather you be alive than take those chances.”

Maldir shushed Red and cheered, “Come on, Silas, you can do it! Show this rum-guzzling, captain-stealing fool why he shouldn’t mess with Timberwolf’s crew!” The rest of the crew followed suit, chanting Silas’ name and booing at Halloway.

Silas drew his sword and faced Halloway. “Do you accept my offer?”

As an answer, the short captain drew his own weapon. “Prepare to suffer.”

Their swords met with a resounding crash, and the duel began. Silas quickly lost ground as he was backed up against the railing, but he darted to the side as Halloway slashed at him. The fight took them all over the ship, Halloway using his strength and experience to his advantage, while Silas used his surroundings and knowledge of the ship to his own advantage. To avoid getting his legs sliced, Silas tried to jump onto a barrel, but lost his balance and fell to the ground.

Halloway stood over him, grinning evilly, cutlass raised high. “I suppose you had a bit too much confidence in yourself, boy.”

Silas returned the grin with a beam of his own. “I think not.” He slid between Captain Halloway’s legs and out the other side, jumping up to give him a hard kick in the back. The man turned around, stumbling, and Silas shoved him to the ground, planting a foot firmly on his chest. “I believe I have won this duel. Would you care to surrender, captain?”

Halloway glared at him. “I surrender.”

Graciously, Silas stepped off the captain and offered to help him up, but Halloway refused. He called to his own crew, “It’s over, boys.” Without a word, the older pirates retreated to their own ship.

Timberwolf’s crew cheered, crowding around Silas to hug him and ruffle his hair. After all, he had saved them.

Once Halloway was behind his own wheel, he yelled back to Silas, “This isn’t over yet, boy. We’ll be back, mark my words.”

“Yeah?” Silas called. “Maybe next time we’ll bring some friends so it might actually be an even fight.” His crew erupted in another bout of joyful yelling.

Halloway didn’t respond, only spun the wheel to turn his ship about and head back to his stronghold, defeated.

Once all the dark-sailed ships had nearly disappeared over the horizon, Silas turned to his crew. He felt extremely giddy – he had just fought a pirate with much more experience than him and lived to tell the tale. Not only that, he had won, and saved his crew in the process.

“Now, who’s ready to go save our captain?”

A Pirate’s Journey: Part Seven

 

Halloway had obviously underestimated the abilities of Timberwolf’s crew, as there were only a few guards in the passages between Silas and his mates. Silas broke the other seven boys out of their cells without much effort. However, when they returned to the caves where they had arrived, the crew found that their ship was missing.

Fortunately, Algreve mentioned that he had seen a large port around the front of the hideout when they had first sailed in. Theo had managed to snag a map of the stronghold off one of the guards, which he gave to Silas. Then, with Silas leading, Captain Timberwolf’s crew snuck off to find their ship.

With the help of the map, it was relatively simple to find the docks. The hardest part was trying not to be seen, though Silas knew they would have to go out in the open to get to their vessel. Luck was on their side, as Timberwolf’s crew managed to stay hidden until their sprint to the ship. The lookout spotted them within moments, but by the time guards had arrived to stop the boys, everyone had boarded the ship and Silas had given the order to weigh anchor.

Never before had the crew worked so quickly or efficiently to put to sea, and Silas was prouder of his mates than words could express. However, they were not out of the woods yet, because there was no doubt that Halloway would pursue them. His ship was said to be one of the fastest on the water.

Once they were underway, Silas called Maldir up to the deck to ask if he could find the island the first guard had told him about. Maldir had already located the island and gave Silas directions on how to get there. It would only take a few hours to sail to the island, but Silas, catching sight of not one but four black-sailed ships tailing them, knew there was only a slim chance they wouldn’t be caught before they could rescue Timberwolf.

That was why he had a backup plan, one that even his crew was not aware of; he hoped he wouldn’t have to use it, but if the worst came to pass, he was willing to go through with it.

After all, it was the choice a true leader would make.

.   .   .

To Silas’ dismay, Halloway had almost caught up within the hour. Timberwolf’s crew had worked furiously to catch more wind in the sails, lighten the load of their cargo, anything to help them sail faster, but now they simply stood on deck awaiting their fate. The boys, so full of hope not long ago, were now as listless as Silas had been in his cell in the stronghold.

Silas left his position at the helm for a moment to walk about his crew. “Fear not,” he told them, grasping arms and squeezing shoulders. “I still have something up my sleeve, and I assure you, everything will be fine. You just have to trust me and let me do the talking.”

He returned to the wheel and pulled the ship about abruptly. Halloway’s ship approached quickly, and it docked beside Timberwolf’s vessel. A gangplank was thrown between the two, and then Captain Halloway himself, a sallow-skinned man, appeared on deck. “Well, Mr. Creed,” he addressed Silas, squinting at the boy. “It appears that you have lost. Surrender yourself and your crew may survive.”

“No, I don’t think that is going to work,” Silas said, a hand on his hip. “What if I were to duel you instead? If you defeat me, I will give myself up. However, if I defeat you, then you must let my crew and I go, and you must grant us free passage to rescue our captain.”

Halloway smirked, and Silas was suddenly reminded of José. “I admire your valor, but are you sure you would like to suffer defeat in front of your own crew?”

A Pirate’s Journey: Part Six

 

As night began to fall, the stronghold came into view. The ship made a wide circle around the rocky structure, trying to keep out of view. Algreve, once again in the crow’s nest, sighted the entrance to the caves and directed Silas toward it. José offered to steer, claiming he had the steadier hand, but Silas ignored him and guided the ship smoothly between the rocks. He pulled up beside a crag that resembled a pier and threw the anchor overboard before disembarking, his group following close behind.

José pointed out the staircase and the four boys began to climb, Silas leading the way. He could see a wooden door set into the stone wall at the top landing. Silas put a finger to his lips, signaling for the others to be as quiet as possible as he gently pushed the door open . . . to find a group of nasty looking pirates waiting for them.

One of them wrestled Silas away from the door, while another two grappled with Maldir and Algreve. The last one nodded at José and said gruffly, “Well done. The captain will be pleased.”

“I should have known,” Silas hissed. “You always did have the makings of a traitor.”

José leered at him. “No, I am simply a good first mate, unlike you.” He turned away from Silas and began to walk down the dark hall, away from the caves, calling back, “There are two at the cave entrance, and you can find the last three on the ship. Now, take them away.”

Silas was shoved into a dank cell with no light and no idea where the rest of his crew had been taken. He sank against the wall and a feeling of absolute hopelessness overwhelmed him. He had failed – not just Timberwolf, but the whole crew – and there was no one to save them.

.   .   .

Silas wasn’t sure how much time had passed since he was thrown in the cell, but he knew it hadn’t been more than an hour. In that time, Silas had been sitting listlessly on the ground; there was no point in trying to escape because he never would be able to do so anyway.

Silas choked back an angry sob and threw a punch at the wall. He gained nothing but bloody knuckles and a sore hand. It was all his fault. Sure, José had betrayed them, but Silas had been the one to trust him in the first place. He had wanted to lead the crew, but had led them toward nothing but their own imprisonment.

A sudden sound startled him out of his stupor. The sound was faint at first, but it grew in both volume and proximity until he could recognize it as a voice. It sounded like a guard talking to himself as he made his rounds. Moments later, a flicker of torchlight on the wall confirmed Silas’ guess, and with the short burst of light, Silas was filled with a strong determination to escape and save his crew; no, his family. He remembered Kincade’s faith in his ability to lead the crew. He remembered Maldir standing up to José without thinking twice about it. He remembered Red looking to him for confirmation when the other boy was the one taking charge.

Silas had so many people who believed in him, and he was determined not to let them down.

As the guard passed by his cell, Silas called out to him. The pirate stopped to sneer at the boy. “What do you want, scum?” Silas muttered something under his breath and the guard moved closer to hear him. “What?”

Quick as a diving sea eagle, Silas’ hand shot out from between the bars of the cell door and grabbed the man’s shirt, pulling him against the metal bars. Halloway’s guard struggled to get away, but the boy had a grip of steel.

“Let’s make a deal,” Silas growled. “You let me out and tell me where they’re holding Captain Timberwolf, or I’ll figure out how to kill you from inside this cell.”

The pirate, of course, chose the first option. He unlocked Silas’ cell, then told him that Timberwolf wasn’t at the stronghold. The captain was being held at a prison on a nearby island, with little security because of its utter isolation. After thanking the pirate for his cooperation, Silas took his keys, locked him in the cell, and went to rescue his crew.

A Pirate’s Journey: Part Five

 

“Nice to see you too, Silas.” The curly-haired boy’s grin changed into a smirk, amused despite the other having him by the throat.

“Whoa, mate.” Algreve pushed Silas away from the other boy. “What’s going on?”

How did one introduce the person who had made him feel insignificant for nearly half his life? Silas tried his best. He explained that the boy, José, had been the first mate of Silas’ old crew and that they had been nemeses for years. Everything Silas did, whether it was mopping up the deck or sparring, José could do better, and he would rub it in Silas’ face to no end.

“What are we going to do with him, then?” Algreve asked, looking down at José disdainfully.

“I can help you,” José responded in a matter-of-fact fashion. He went on to explain that he knew of their quest to find their captain, and that he could help them sneak into Captain Halloway’s stronghold.

Silas was very suspicious as to how José knew all of that, and said as much to his face. “Are you working with him?”

José said, “Yes, I was, until he threw me overboard and left me to the sirens.” He gave a bitter laugh. “So now I’m looking for revenge.”

Again, Silas grabbed the front of José’s shirt and shoved him against the mast. “Why should I trust you?”

“Well, how else are you going to get in? Knowing you, you don’t have any sort of plan.” José’s smirk grew as Silas’ face fell.

Maldir stepped toward him. “You should back off, mate. We can still throw you back in the ocean.”

Grateful that Maldir had stood up for him, Silas weighed his options. They could throw José back to the mercy of the waves, but he could potentially prove himself useful, if he was telling the truth. Could they trust him? He realized Algreve and Maldir were watching him, waiting for him to decide; this was his first test as stand-in captain. He only hoped he would pass it. “José, you can stay, but only if you agree to help us.”

The boy gave him yet another smirk as Silas released him. “I already did, didn’t I?”

. . .

By the next afternoon, the rest of the crew had been introduced to José, and they were all on deck as the new recruit spoke of his plan to storm the stronghold. He had only been to Halloway’s hideout a few times before, but he could recall there was a hidden back way that ships could sail to get into the caves underneath the stronghold. They could hide the ship in one of the caves and sneak in to the dungeons using a secret staircase, which was where they could find Timberwolf. If there were any guards, José would distract them while the rest of the crew could escape; he assured them he could take care of himself.

Silas thought it sounded far too easy, but it was the only plan they had. José could easily be taken out of the equation if needed, and if he attempted to double-cross them, well . . . Silas’ sword wasn’t just for show.

“Maldir and Algreve, you’ll come with José and me to rescue Captain Timberwolf,” Silas said, pointing at the two boys. “Gunnar and Angel, you two will keep watch at the entrance of the cave. Theo – you’ll watch over Daniel and Red, and keep the ship ready to leave at a moment’s notice.”

“Aye!” The crew shouted back, and even José gave him a small salute.

A strange feeling came over Silas, and he realized that his crew truly believed in him and in this plan. With that belief carrying them, the scheme might actually work.

 

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?”