Captain Blacktail

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The impact of flaming shots puncturing the ship’s hold was deafening. Just moments before, the vessel had swayed silent and alone. Now somewhere in the darkness, a predator stalked the lonely vessel.

“I told you,” an elderly sailor yelled, “these be cursed waters!”

In an instant, the pale blue light of the night sky had taken on a new warmth. Hungry flames licked at the ship’s mainsail, as white-hot embers danced on the ocean breeze.

“Return fire, starboard side!” a stout and hardy chimchu captain bellowed.

A flash of light momentarily turned night to day as the ships’ cannons gave their response. Balls of red-hot metal tore like comets, through the sky searching for a target.

“Miss!” yelled the first mate, squinting at his eyeglass.

Without warning, another barrage roared from the darkness, crashing into the damaged ship. Wood splintered and buckled under the impact. A well placed shot ripping through one of the ship’s masts, sending the flaming sails overboard.

“Port side, we’ve been flanked!” screamed the captain, his calm demeanor lost. “FIRE! FIRE!”

Again their shots cut a trail through the thick mist, before being lost to the ocean’s depths.
The third impact was different to the previous, shards of ice crashed upon the deck instantly freezing five sailors where they stood.

“Now they’re behind us,” cried a sailor. “Nothing moves that fast.”

Then, silence. Nothing but the crashing of waves against the worn and broken vessel.
“It’s a ghost ship,” whispered the first mate, rubbing bloodshot eyes.

“Tusker dung, there are no phantoms,” called the captain, pulling his sword from its sheath. “Just thieves and cowards, hiding in the darkness.”

The fog grew thicker, billowing through deep holes in the ships broken hull, leaving a light vapor on everything it touched. The terrified sailors stood silent, swords drawn ready for the next attack.

“They’re coming,” replied the captain, cutlass in one hand and a pistol in the other.

“They’re here!” called a voice from above.

A blur of feathers leaped from what remained of the ship’s tangled rigging, landing firmly between the captain and his first mate. A jagged and worn blade easily found a groove just below the captain’s beak. In an instant, every able sailor had their weapon trained on the intruder.

“Take the gold,” croaked the captain as the cold steal pushed against his throat. “Take it all!”
The blade pushed harder into his throat as the assailant whispered to him, “this is about nothing so trivial. Your word is your bond, and yours has been broken. Your sentence is passed.”

The startled captain’s eyes opened wide. “Blacktail, no, it’s a mistake. I was on my way…”

“Goodbye, Ironclaw.” Blacktail’s taloned foot pushed hard into the captain’s back, sending him tumbling into his weary crew.

Ironclaw stumbled from the deck, his blade swinging furiously, but Blacktail was gone; in her place sat a small, tightly wrapped bundle. Approaching the package, he slowly lifted it from the ground. Cautiously he unraveled the tattered cloth, a small bone falling into his trembling hand.

“What does it mean, captain?”

Then the sound of the cannons echoed once more.

“Death,” he replied.

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