There was the long ripping sound of tearing cloth as Eevin struggled face down in the boat under the pinning knee of the Boatswain.
“Stop ye squirming!” the old sailor growled grabbing the boy’s wrists with his deft hands. His calloused fingers turned the tightly twisted remains of the child’s yellowed linen shirt into a series of expert knots that bound the child’s hands behind his back.
“Please don’t drown me!” Eevin managed to blurt before a folded strip of torn linen was looped over his face and yanked backwards forming a gag between his teeth.
“Belay that blubbering,” the Boatswain said tightening the knots of the gag behind Eevin’s head while the boy tested the strength of the cloth binding his hands. He found the sailor’s knotwork like iron while he writhed and kicked.
The beady-eyed sailor grabbed Eevin by the hair and pulled him to his feet with a muscled forearm that bulged under the short sleeve of his striped shirt. Shoving the child back into Hollomon’s cold steel gauntlets, he looked to the amused face of Lord-Captain Anise.
“Beggin’ the Lord-Captain’s pardon, but do ye really think Bryne will bargain anythin’ in exchange for one of his old whorin’ mistakes? I mean my Lordship, he’s killed a hundred men or more in cold blood and—”
“—He will serve as a distraction if nothing more, Boatswain.”
“Aye, Lord-Captain… but to whom?”
The nobleman eyed the shirtless, gagged boy in the rolling fog. “If Bryne is as uncooperative with us as he was under the lash of the High Inquisitor himself, then I know a whispered arcana that will wrest whatever secrets we want from his corpse… Providing his progeny’s heart still beats as I cut it out of the whelp.”
Eevin grew still and pale as the aristocrat’s words sank in, and the old boatswain needed to look away from the child before he nodded. “Aye… Aye yer Lordship.”
The boy stood there with Hollomon’s armored fingers clamped onto his shoulders for several minutes while the bullish arms of Seaman Twitch propelled the dory across the calm waves of the harbor. The ghostly skull of tentacled mist had led the dory for nearly an hour within its fogless pocket as the Boatswain’s ears detected the sound of wave on rock and ordered the fat oarsman to slow-down.
Making his way to the bow, the Boatswain kneeled down as the barnacled hull of Kora’s Blessing emerged from the brume. They came alongside the old galleon, its fore keel shattered and wedged atop the low black rocks she’d been wrecked upon for more than a decade. The old sailor’s hands steadied and slowed the dory on the rotting timbers of the ship as the port side of the boat bobbed against the hulk.
Seaman Twitch pulled up the oars and laid them on the sides of the dory, then nodded towards two small boats moored next to a rope ladder dangling above the lapping waves. With the poke of an oar against the old ship, the neckbearded sailor assisted the Boatswain in maneuvering the boat beside the ladder where several bent and rusty spikes served as moorings pounded into the galleon above the waterline.
The Lord-Captain shot Eevin a look that told him to not even attempt a sound while the Boatswain and Twitch secured the boat. He then looked to the fog-born spirit and calmly commanded it to stay until ordered otherwise while reaching into a side pocket on his coat.
“There can not possibly be many aboard the wreck,” the young nobleman said removing an object bound in wire from his pocket.
“Aye Lord-Captain, too many comins’ and goins’ here would draw the Harbormaster’s attention. Shouldn’t be anythin’ we can’t handle.” The Boatswain then cast a dubious look towards Hollomon, “Twitch and I are ready to scale and board on yer order, but what about, eh, Chumbucket over there?”
The Lord-Captain smiled, holding up a bundle of dried seaweed bound in silver wire before tapping it on the brim of his hat.
The old man’s grin mirrored his commander’s. “Aye, the Kelpie’s Wrack! Last time I saw that charm was under your father’s command. ‘Twas one of his favorites.”
“And I am twice the wizard he was, Boatswain.” The Lord-Captain turned away from the sailor and looked into the foggy sea. “I do not intend to lose my life to the same degenerate that killed him. Board the wreck, secure the deck with Seaman Twitch, and I will send the lad and Hollomon up after an incantation.”
Eevin watched the sailors grab hold of the hanging ladder, and the old Boatswain scaled up the rope links like a monkey accustomed to a ship’s rigging. Twitch, on the other hand, lagged far behind, eventually grunting and huffing his way to the top long after Eevin lost interest and looked back to the Lord-Captain. The aristocrat opened his palm and let the bound seaweed fall into the water as he recited a practiced chant of arcane, trilling syllables. Raising clenched fingers as if he pulled a stringed puppet from the sea, an explosive gush erupted beside the boat and rocked it in its wake.
It was a dark serpent rising and streaming with water. Eevin gazed wide eyed at the oak-sized thing as the Lord-Captain gestured at him with a hand that grasped the empty air. The giant mass snaked down, spilling buckets of seawater into the dory as it swung toward the boy held fast in Hollomon’s grip. Eevin tried to scream at the monster’s approach, but the gag largely muted him as slimy branches of cold kelp slithered over him.
A moment of shock passed, and the boy realized that what he had mistaken for a sea-serpent was, in fact, an entwined mass of animate seaweed wrapping around both he and Hollomon.
With a giant’s strength, the worming mass hefted the pair out of the boat. Eevin’s legs struggled as the pair was lifted along the side of the dilapidated galleon and crested the railing of the ship’s deck twenty feet above the water.
The kelp serpent arched down and deposited the stiff Hollomon on his feet, where he remained rigid while the seaweed withdrew its slimy grip and sank back down past the deck. Eevin remained in the armored man’s grip, dripping and still bearing strands of wrack, when the top of the Lord-Captain’s tricorne rose moments later above the deck-rail.
He swung himself over the railing onto the deck, and the Boatswain’s leathery face smiled as the young man strode across the slanted deck of cracked timbers.
“I’m proud to see the father’s talents alive in the son, Lord-Captain.”
The aristocrat withdrew a cutlass from under his longcoat. “And I will be proud to avenge him.”
Hanging in a window of Kora’s Blessing’s aftercastle was a swaying, lit lantern as the supposedly abandoned wreck groaned on the rocks under her keel. The Lord-Captain pointed it out and Twitch unsheathed a serrated cutlass with a basket hilt. With a motion and whispered command from the aristocrat, Hollomon turned and handed Eevin to the Boatswain.
For an instant, Eevin thought that he might try to kick and run, but the sinewy old man’s arms were not to be overcome. The Boatswain then placed the cold edge of his rigging knife against the boy’s jugular vein, convincing him to cease further struggling.
Hollomon grabbed the flanged mace dangling off his belt, hefting it one-handed as his shorter Lord-Captain stepped aside to let the armored man lumber into the lead. With a grimace and point of his cutlass, the Captain and his men rushed the cabin door.
Boatswain let out a bloodthirsty boarding cry, and while the sailor ran Eevin flinched as the rigging knife rose and fell in a series of loops barely missing his nose. A moment later Hollomon slammed his mace into the door with all of his considerable strength, smashing it open to lurch into the cabin amid flying splinters. The remaining men poured into the room from behind the tall man before Eevin jerked to a sudden stop in the Boatswain’s arms like the others.
The sight was not what they had expected.
Sitting so wide and girthy that a barrel was required for each of his thighs, was a giant man with his bare back to the door. He was nothing less than a sheer wall of stacked hairy muscle, fat and tattoos… And even planted on his seat his bald head nearly reached the ceiling. Turning a neck that was a wad of muscle, the ogre cast an annoyed eye at the interlopers behind his brutal shoulders.
Almost overlooked beside the brute was a bearded tattooist standing on a stool to reach the back of the giant’s shaven head. Clad only in breeches, the tattoos and a copious scars across his own naked back shook as he waved an angry tattoo pick at the sailors behind him and his client.
“Hoy ye bastards! Sit down an’ wait yer own dammed turn!” he shouted without looking away from his work.
The ogre turned his head away from the intruders indifferently, and Eevin watched the tattooist strike in a few more details of ink into the man’s skin while the Lord-Captain exchanged confused looks with the two sailors beside him.
The blond young man finally spoke with a look of disgust under his hat. “I am here to find—”
“—Nay-nay! Now wot did I say?!” the tattooist growled over the Captain’s voice.
The aristocrat raised his cutlass and puffed out his chest as Eevin watched frustration redden his fair face. “I am here to—”
“—I be here to finish the tits o’ this mermaid! An’ if yer interruptin’ makes em’ lop-sided, the captain here is goin’ to be pissed! ”
The young man sneered. “So is this the infamous Captain, Hakbutt Bryne?!”
Eevin had just enough time to see the Boatswain holding him shake his head vigorously to the young Lord-Captain’s question before the room shook with a booming shout.
“Bryne? BRYNE!?” the giant shouted. “You DARE to think that I’m that washed up piece of dead sharkbait?!”
The ogre rose from the paired barrels he sat upon, toppling them with heavy thuds that sent the tattooist and his stool sprawling amid a torrent of his salty curses. “Nay! I am Captain BORKGUTTO of the Zacian Lion! ” he bellowed with a blast of spittle past tusked canines.
Picking-up a broad, double-sized cutlass, the ogre snorted as he turned and stooped beneath the ceiling. He stomped towards the quartet of intruders, the planks of the cabin floor warping and groaning under thunderous footfalls. The Lord-Captain stood like a child as Borkgutto’s fanged and leering face looked down upon him. A waft of the ogre’s sweaty, rotten odor reached Eevin’s nose, and the boy caught sight of Twitch’s fearsome serrated cutlass shaking in his hand. The neckbearded seaman’s face was a chain-reaction of spasms.
Eevin felt the Boatswain’s grip slacken, but the rigging knife quivering under the child’s chin again convinced him to wait for a better opportunity to escape. Instead he watched the Lord-Captain stand resolute before the ogre with the unwavering Hollomon at his side, mace at the ready.
The young man sheathed his cutlass. Removing his black tricorne, he placed the hat over his heart and bowed. “I have made a terrible mistake. Truly, I am a fool for mistaking such magnificence as yourself for a foul degenerate like Bryne.”
Borkgutto smirked and chuckled as he lifted his massive cutlass. “Tis Fine. Your pretty little head will look nice hanging off o’ the stern.”
“So superior are you simply to look upon, that just by the sight of you, I wish to extend the contract and venture I sought to offer Bryne to you instead.”
The great sword was lowered and stayed in the ogre’s ham-sized hands. “Be it known that Captain Borkgutto is… open to parley… Should his price be met.”
Eevin watched the Lord-Captain reach into the breast pocket of his longcoat and withdraw a large gold coin, the likes of which was never found outside of a king’s counting house. “I offer this Royal Albine Guilder, and nine more just like it upon completion of the contract.”
Borkgutto snatched the guilder and held it up to eyes that widened at the coin’s luster behind his pug nose. “Aye… Aye that’ll do just fine.” He then looked over his shoulder to the tattooist lying on the floor under an overturned barrel.
“Sorry, Squid… Looks like yer on yer own with this one…” the ogre captain said before biting the edge of the coin between his fanged teeth.
The Lord-Captain flashed a wicked grin behind the giant’s back. Lifting the tricorne over his heart to shield his face, the guilder exploded in Borkgutto’s mouth and his head disappeared in a flash of fire, smoke and crimson.
Eevin flinched at the noise and shallow prick of the Boatswain’s knife into his cheek as both were startled. The gag in his mouth could not completely silence the boy’s scream as he pinched his blue and green eyes shut to block out the gruesome death of the ogre. But even with them closed Eevin cringed feeling several warm droplets fall onto his face, and the bounce of a fragment that could have been tooth or bone.
He opened his eyes at the sound of the Lord-Captain’s nasally laughter, and watched him sidestep the decapitated, smoking corpse as it fell to the floor. The body crashed chest first into the planking and the whole wreck of Kora’s Blessing seemed to jump at the impact. As objects fell and rolled around them, the blond put his boot-heel on Borkgutto’s headless corpse and re-donned his hat.
Eevin watched Twitch shake a chunk of grey-matter off his boot while the Boatswain retightened his grip on the boy’s waist. “The old ten-counts-from-the-palm-boom, right Lord-Captain?”
The aristocrat’s tricorne nodded in affirmation. He then smirked surveying the body and the sunken outline of bowed and broken boards around it “Glamoured lead coins paired with explosive sigils are so much fun, I shall never be without a pair in my pockets!”
“Oh hardy-har!” the tattooist said pulling himself up on the leg of an overturned table. “An’ o’ course the big bastard had to stick it in his mouth an’ blow his blood and brains all over me proprietary!”
Still smiling, the Lord-Captain cocked his head and regarded the sinewy, middle-aged man wiping the remnants of his client from his beard. “A priceless moment, indeed.”
“He hadn’t paid yet. I’ll have yer hand if ye don’t square up his bill…”
Copyright © 2016 by Jason H. Abbott, All Rights Reserved.