Authors: Lexie Stewart
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Out of the corner of his eye, Lance saw the blade coming for his throat and he knew he wouldn’t be able to parry it in time, but then, from out of nowhere, there was a blur of silver as a second blade shot through and deflected the first blade.
Lance swallowed with the throat that had nearly been slit.
“Thanks,” he said to the youth who had sprung up at his side.
“My pleasure, Cap’n!”
Lance ducked and grabbed Curry and dragged him between himself and the youth.
“How you doing, Curry?” he said.
“Fine, Cap’n!” said Curry. “ ‘Tis but a scratch!”
Lance didn’t recognise the youth beside him. He was a slip of a thing with a moustache in need of trimming, clothes that were too big and a woollen cap pulled so far down his face, Lance didn’t know how he managed to see. Where did they come from? Orphans and runaways, the lot of them!
“What’s your name, son?” said Lance.
“Sailor Joe, Cap’n!” cried the youth.
Sailor Joe had an interesting fighting style. Not only did he use the blade and knuckle guard but he also used his feet and elbows. It was his knees, however, that did the most damage and left many of his opponents moaning on the deck, holding their privates.
Suddenly, a wall of sound fell upon the world, bringing the fighting to a standstill.
It was music, but music unlike anything the pirates had ever heard before. A full orchestra and a soprano pushing her incredible vocal limits flooded Ripple Thief’s deck.
Bewildered, the pirates looked at one another for answers. They looked at the sea and the sky as if they expected birds and mermaids might be responsible.
Captain Bloody’s men winched a boat up to the rails and Captain Bloody stomped onto the deck.
Everything he wore was black, from his boots to his eye patch. His waistcoat was studded with a thousand glittering gems and his baldric was heavy with countless pistols.
His beard was fuller than usual, as if it had been brushed and teased for the occasion and his one eye swam in its socket like a mad, black fish trapped in a cup of stagnant, yellow water.
Ten pirates- five on either side- flanked him like body guards. They were big, stone-faced men, fancily dressed and heavily armed.
The entourage stopped and one of the bodyguards put a CD player on the deck at his feet.
“Behold ya new captain ye unworthy dogs!” yelled Captain Bloody. “Me!”
The soprano hit a high C that threatened to shatter glass and pierce eardrums.
Captain Bloody threw up his arms as if he was controlling the voice.
All over the deck, pirates dropped their weapons and fell to their knees.
a god!” said one.
“He makes the sirens sing!” whimpered another.
“Stop it!” yelled Lance, pushing his way through. “Get on your feet, you lack-witted joltheads! There’s no magic here! It’s just one of his tricks!”
“Kneel, Cap’n,” pleaded a pirate, tugging at Lance’s sleeve. “Afore he turns ye into a turtle or somethin’!”
“Don’t be so fool-” Lance stopped. He was suddenly yelling on a quiet deck. The music became fainter and fainter and then there was a ‘click’ and the music was gone altogether.
Captain Bloody looked rather silly now, standing there, hands thrust up into the air, conducting silence.
He dropped his arms and his head rolled sideways. He saw Sailor Joe, squatted down beside the CD player, retrieving his hand too late not to be caught.
“You’ll be a payin’ for that, boy!” Captain Bloody growled.
“See?” said Lance, “It’s just a toy!”
A murmur swept across the deck. The pirates didn’t look so awestruck anymore.
The skin around Captain Bloody’s eye went sunburnt red and his beard bristled with the electricity of his anger.
“This man isn’t a god you barnacle-brained louts,” said Lance. “Look at him! I’m sure deities aren’t that hairy!”
There was laughter. Lance grinned. He was winning them back.
“Did you know,” he went on, casually leaning against one of the bodyguards. “his ship’s bilges are rat free? Even rats have their standards!”
There was more laughter, whoops, whistles and feet-stamping from the pirates. They did enjoy a good roast.
Captain Bloody was speechless with rage. He was spluttering so fervently, he was frothing at the mouth. White flecks of spittle sat on his beard like greasy snowflakes.
“I know he wears an eye patch,” said Lance, “but he’s so damned ugly, he should wear a face patch!” He paused for the laughter. “Now, gentlemen, I ask you, is this specimen of maggot-infested, flipper-footed, tavern-scum, really worth scuffing your knees for?”
“You dare doubt me?” screamed Captain Bloody. Blood vessels were visibly bursting in his eyes, leaving squiggly red worms of blood. “I’ll show yers what kind of a god ya be dealin’ with!”
He struck his right elbow with his left hand. The smell of petrol filled the air and flames shot from his outstretched right arm and engulfed a pirate, turning him into a screaming fireball.
The pirate leapt overboard with a splash.
“Throw him a rope!” yelled Lance.
“I blast the next scurvy dog who dares move!” yelled Captain Bloody.
The pirates looked from Captain Bloody to Captain Breakheart. There was silence and then one voice spoke up.
“You may be a god, right enough,” he said, “but Cap’n Breakheart is still a better man than you.”
A murmur went across the deck.
“Aye!” cried a pirate.
“Aye, Aye!” cried another and then they were all yelling it and chanting Lance’s name.
There was a lot of shuffling and scraping as Lance’s men picked up their swords and got to their feet.
Captain Bloody bellowed with rage and raised his hand to strike his elbow again. As he was looking around for his next target, he saw that Sailor Joe was pulling up the pirate who had fallen overboard.
“You!” bellowed Captain Bloody and grabbed the youth by the throat.
Lance leapt to his defence but was blocked by the bodyguards.
“Put the kid down, Bloody,” said Lance. There was no mirth in his voice now. His jaw muscles were clenched and his eyes were blazing. “This is between you and me. Let’s finish it, man-to-man.”
When Captain Bloody’s beard shifted, he appeared to be smiling. He dropped Joe, spluttering, onto the deck and turned to face Lance.
“Man-to-man?” he growled. “God to mere mortal, more like!” He ripped his sword out of his scabbard and screamed at his men to stand aside.
The two captains faced each other. There was nothing between them now but their blades.
Lance was tall and well-built but Captain Bloody dwarfed him. Slowly they circled each other, swords hovering, eyes blazing.
The pirates fell silent again. They barely dared to breath.
Captain Bloody struck first. With a roar and a grunt, he lunged at Lance and brought his blade crashing down on Lance’s skull, slicing his head in half.
At least, that’s what was supposed to happen, but, Lane wasn’t there anymore. He had neatly danced aside and now, while Captain Bloody was off balance, he made his own attack.
Captain Bloody’s many layers of clothing provided him a degree of protection but Lance’s blade found his meat.
Captain Bloody’s eyes narrowed and with a mighty roar, he swung his sword like a baseball bat.
Their swords clashed and they were locked together.
Lance gave a grunt of pain and when they parted there was something sticking out of his neck.
He retreated beyond the reach of Captain Bloody’s blade and plucked the thing from his neck.
Captain Bloody made no effort to close the distance between them. He just watched, smiling.
“Lance!” cried Joe. The youth took the sharp thing from Lance’s hand and gave a moan of despair.
“It’s nothing,” said Lance.
“It’s a tranquilizer dart,” said Joe.
Lance gave him a look of incomprehension.
“It will knock you out,” said Joe.
Lance shook his head but already his vision was blurring.
Captain Bloody stretched an arm out rigid in front of him, fingers splayed.
“See?” he yelled. “See how I control this man you think so mighty?”
“It’s not magic!” cried Lance. “He’s not… a god. It’s just… a drug…” His words slurred and he slumped backwards.
Joe tried to catch him but only managed to get dragged down with him.
Captain Bloody’s boots stomped towards them. Laughter rolled around inside him like thunder in a barrel.
“Looks like there’ll be a plank walkin’ tonight!”
Walking a wobbly plank of wood barely two feet across, protruding from a ship rocking up and down and swaying back and forth is not easy.
Especially with an audience of jeering pirates.
Lance, still groggy from the dart, and Joe were taking the walk together.
“ ‘Tis a shame you be leavin’ so soon, Captain Breakheart!” said Captain Bloody, his one mad eye spinning gleefully. “But ye needn’t worry. I’ll take good care o’ yer ship, matey!”
“I’m gonna hunt you down!” said Lance.
“Are ya now?” said captain Bloody. “And what will ya be doin’ then?”
“I don’t know,” said Lance, “but it’s gonna be really bad.”
It was a lame threat but Lance wasn’t at his best. Joe’s fingernails were digging into his arm hard enough to draw blood and the further out they went, the more wildly the plank bounced.
“Look out fishies!” sang Captain Bloody. “Dinner’s comin’!”
At his word, the pirates prodded with swords and boarding pikes, pushing the captives out along the plank until they stood on its very edge. Some of the more impatient pirates drew pistols.
“Can you swim, Sailor Joe?” asked Lance, his gaze set on the distant shape of an island.
Lance and Joe swam to the island and dragged themselves ashore.
The island was breathtakingly beautiful. It had white sand, sapphire blue water and lush greenery.
It looked like a postcard people on holiday send to their friends back home to make them jealous.
There was, however, nothing to eat or drink, just sand and a few trees and that was it.
Joe and Lance stood dripping and panting, taking in their new home while the water lapped at their feet.
“I’m sorry it’s come to this, lad.“ said Lance. “You fought like a tiger!”
“Tigress,” said Joe.
“You mean to say, I fought like a tigress.”
“Josie?” said Lance in amazement.
He stepped forward and removed the woollen cap from her head. Josephine’s dark hair fell down over her shoulders.
Lance touched the moustache she’d created from hair she’d pulled from the hairbrush. He pinched one end and ripped it off.
“Josie!” he cried and swept her into his arms. Remembering himself, he stepped back and held her at arm’s length. “I told you to stay in my cabin!”
“You didn’t tell my alter ego Joe to stay in your cabin.”
“Well, lass, I can’t see there’s much point in squabbling about it now.”
Lance walked out of the water and sat down on the sand. Josephine plopped down beside him. There was little point in exploring the island. They’d seen it all from where they stood.
“I’ll be honest with you, Josie,” said Lance. “If I must be marooned on this island, I’d rather be here with you than Joe.”
“Oh, yeah,” agreed Josephine brightly, “this is my ideal romantic getaway. We can starve together, dehydrate together, get cabin fever together…”
Her sarcasm was wasted on Lance. He was staring at her.
“Why did you do it, Josie?” he asked quietly.
“To get the Lightning Circle and save Katie, of course,” replied Josephine, but in her heart of hearts, she knew that wasn’t the only reason.
“There’s so much I want to tell you,” said Lance.
“Then you’d better tell me now,” said Josephine, eyeing the pitiful raft he’d made. It was hardly a raft at all, just three logs tied together and a crooked branch for an oar.