Read Brimstone and Lily (Legacy Stone Adventures) Online
Authors: Terry Kroenung
Tags: #Humor, #Fantasy
The song ached me too much and I pushed my way out of the cabin and up onto the main deck and to the rail. Stars glimmered down at me in a cloudless summer sky. A soft breeze mussed up my hair just like all the adults tended to do. All except Pa, who’d never had a chance to. I knew that lots of kids had lost their fathers, especially with the awful civil war we were in. Somehow that didn’t make my situation any easier. Misery may love company, but it doesn’t provide ether to dull the pain for all those folks.
A warm wet nose nuzzled my hand. Romulus looked up with his bright eyes hidden in wrinkles. Ernie hopped across his head and stood on the rail in front of me. He didn’t say anything, just stayed there so I could see he was with me. I felt Ma behind me with my Stone-sense before she put her arms around me in a warm cuddle, chin atop my head. All of us remained like that for a full minute, just breathing together.
“We’ll find him,” Ma breathed. “We’ll get him back.”
She assumed I thought of Eddie, which I should’ve been doing. “Not that so much,” I told her, rubbing the back of her hands where they folded across me. “I just wished Pa was here. I wished he could’ve lived to see you take on those demons. Lived to see me grown-up and out in the world.”
Ernie stiffened. Romulus whimpered and backed away. I felt Ma catch her breath.
“Honey, I guess you ought to know the truth. When I said I’d lost your pa, I meant just that. Lost. As in missing. I never said he was dead. Not once. Not ever.”
The stars spun over my head. I tried to suck in air but got nothing but panic and confusion instead.
Huh? Pa’s alive? She’s kept that from me all this time? Let me think he was dead?
I pushed away from the rail and bent down to get blood to my head. Close to fainting, I looked up through my eyebrows at the feet that made a semi-circle around me. Ma’s new sailor shoes, Romulus’ great big mastiff toes, even Ernie’s plump tootsies. My stomach heaved at this news. My head pounded.
The tin cup at my waist fell off of its own accord, rolling and clattering until it stopped right in front of me. It expanded and grew into the runesword Morphageus, symbols glowing lava-red along its blade. Splitting at the point, the tip became two cartoonish feet. Matching hands flowed out of the cross guard. My magick sword stood up before me just like it’d done in that Virginia shed. Everybody else stepped back a pace at this unlooked-for action.
“If this was one of them sentimental novels that society ladies like to read,” Jasper said, “we’d call this a Sudden Unexpected Plot Development.”
Ma knelt down to meet me at my eye level. “Come inside. I’ll tell you everything I know. It’s time.”
I stood up, back creaking. Morphageus jumped up into my hand. I willed it into the shape of a metallic rag doll and clutched it hard to my chest. Ma led me back to the hatch, tender hand on my shoulder.
Jasper spoke up again. “And here I was thinkin’ this voyage was gonna be dull.”
DON’T MISS BOOK TWO
Jasper’s Foul Tongue
I needed to wash my sword’s mouth out with soap.
Sure, Jasper was just an annoying boy, more or less, and they all love
to be potty-mouthed, but still…an obnoxious kid trapped in a shape-shifting magick sword is capable of enough mischief, without me having to listen to that stuff. It’s not like I could force his nasty trap shut, him living inside my head and all.
And even if that were possible, I had enough to worry about, hovering four feet above the well-scrubbed deck of our frigate while a squadron of pelicans buzzed me. They raced at me from all sides like portly jousters, long pointed beaks lancing at my exposed bits. I tried to fend them off with bursts of magickal force from my hands, while keeping myself in the air with a Songline chant Ma had just taught me that same morning. About every fifth time I succeeded in not getting jabbed.
Boy, summer can’t get over fast enough. Regular school’s a cakewalk compared to this. Even them miserable cipherin’ sessions with Miz Finch.
The plump mouse who rode aboard the lead bird cackled as I clutched at my sore backside. In a working-class London accent Ernie hollered, “Watch yer arse, girlie!”
“Hard to miss it,” Jasper snorted. Even though he hung on my belt in the form of an old tin cup, his voice sounded loud and clear, though only I could hear it. “We may have to put you on half-rations, Tubbo.”
“And I may feel the need to eat a mess o’ that liver and cabbage you hate so much,” I said to myself, for his benefit. He felt and tasted everything that I did. “Usin’ you as a spoon. Now hush, this is tough enough without your babblin’.”
I’ll spare you his reply. Trust me, you don’t want to read that sort of language. Apparently Mr. All-Powerful Blade of Destiny had been cooped up around the tough sailors on the
for too long. Hoping it would prove to be a phase, I tried to ignore it. But sometimes it felt like trying to disregard an itch in your underwear during church.
Ernie banked his pelican in a big swoop around the foremast. He wore a tiny tricorn hat that Ma had made for him. The bird, Bob, a big brown and white fellow, bore in on my left flank. Three others came at me from low right and high center. Sweat glued my shirt to my skin as I tried to remember the chant that kept me airborne. Jasper’s prattle had distracted me so much that I’d sunk to barely a foot off the deck. With a shake of my head I focused on my lesson and on the odd aboriginal words. Ma claimed that if I learned to do this right I could use puffs of energy to maneuver myself away from danger. Not like real flying, but good enough for an emergency. The trick was to be able to block out everything except the spell and your opponents.
But I felt like a well-wrung washcloth. Magick’s tiring at the best of times, especially when you’re only twelve and just learning it. This Songline stuff, though, made the miracles I did with Jasper seem like nursery school. The earth’s energy ran through you like signals through a telegraph wire, thrumming along your bones and threatening to tear you apart if you couldn’t control it. And this wasn’t even real heavy-duty Songline witchery, which required contact with solid ground. What we were doing on the ship was a hollow imitation, only made possible because the frigate had been doctored with be-spelled soil from all the continents as an experiment. That permitted a sort of weak Songline for a few minutes at a time. A little like the actual thing, but not really. Kind of like those icky desiccated vegetables the government gave to our soldiers, the ones the troops called ‘desecrated’ vegetables.
Gritting my teeth and narrowing my mind to a pinprick of intention, I jammed my will onto the deck and imagined myself a big red-haired spring. With a
in my ears I shot up to the yardarm fifteen feet above my head. I clung to it with both hands, the mainsail whapping me in the face.
Whoa! Hope somebody can catch me if this goes bad.
Right where I’d been floating a moment before the four pelicans thumped together in an explosion of feathers. Indignant shouts stung my ears. Ernie shot off of Bob’s back and toward the starboard rail like a fat furry cannonball. I feared we’d have to send a bird to rescue him from the sea, but just before he passed the point of no return an elegant hand with black lace at its wrist plucked him out of the air as if he were a tasty peach.
“Miss Verity, the Equity doesn’t have a surplus of Marshals,” said Commander Aloysius Pitcairn, squinting into the morning sun as he looked up at me. “It would truly be a shame to so casually toss this one over the side.”
Ernie wriggled free of his grip and ran up his arm to stand manfully on his shoulder. Hiding amongst Pitcairn’s long brown curls, the mouse proclaimed, “All just part of her trainin’, gov! I had meself in total control, don’t you worry.”
A high frothy giggle came from around Pitcairn’s knee. Peeking around the skirt of his long plum-colored coat, five year-old Freya pointed up with a stubby finger and said, “Mister Ernie, you’re silly!”
Our rodent ally sagged, his belly paunching out like a fuzzy gray balloon. “If anybody needs me, I’ll be in the galley, drownin’ me inadequacy with cheese.”
“Does this ship carry that much cheese?” Jasper snickered.
As Ernie scampered down Pitcairn’s brocaded garments and disappeared down a hatch, the pirate captain held up a pair of dainty smallswords, their points covered with leather buttons. “When you’ve found your way back down and rested a bit,” he said, “it’s time for your fencing lesson. Today we’re covering the fine art of the prise-de-fer.”
Before I could respond to that, bare feet slapped across the deck in a big hurry. Fergus, out of breath and waving a spyglass, panted and announced, “Sorry, Cap’n! School’s out fer now.”
Pitcairn took the telescope from him and aimed it aft, where Fergus pointed. “Hmm, that’s a trifle annoying.”
“What is it?” I asked, seeing nothing as I struggled to hook a leg over the yardarm and sit up.
“Harpies. A whole flight of Merchantry harpies. And it looks like they have…muskets.”
“Hope you enjoyed your rest,” Jasper chuckled.
Books don’t write themselves (okay, at times I could swear that Verity and Jasper hijacked my keyboard, but the rule generally holds true). So even though I spent a few months holed up alone in my dismal chamber, pecking away with a single finger, other folks helped birth this monster.
Yes, Janet, beloved and long-suffering spouse, you have to share the blame. If you hadn’t insisted that I could write a goofy kids book that adults would also like, none of this would have been inflicted on an unsuspecting public. Thank you, Honeybunch.
Thanks to Alaena Prince and her expensively-acquired graphic artist skills for aid in creating the cover. It’s no small task to respond to every selfish “suggestion” from an author with Asperger Syndrome while herding 3 toddlers around one’s computer terminal. Alaena also gets credit for managing to get my adorable granddaughter Freya into costume to pose as Verity while also keeping her rascally baby brother Jasper out of the shot (you careful readers may notice a theme here).
I also appreciate the readings and encouragement from the students and staff at my day job at Niwot High School. Your patience with the butt-ugly early drafts, waiting forever for something good to arrive, was worthy of Homer’s Penelope (if you don’t recall who that is, stay after class and clean the erasers).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
teaches literature at Niwot High School in Colorado, where he also inflicts his Shakespeare impersonations and love of Eeyore collectibles on tomorrow’s leaders. An Advanced Actor/Combatant with the Society of American Fight Directors, he owns more swords than any sane human has any need of and spends countless hours choreographing fights with his students (thus, the gray hairs and nervous twitchings of his poor principal). As unplanned preparation for writing
Brimstone and Lily
he has served as an U.S. Army infantry officer on the East German border, a Confederate Civil War re-enactor in Virginia, and a pirate at street festivals. The youthful cigar smoking and whiskey drinking resulted in just as much misery as Verity feels when indulging.
The smart-ass dialogue comes naturally, alas.
He can be contacted at his website:
or at the
Brimstone and Lily