Scjouraan woke to pained groans and choked sobs. When he tried to get up, pain jolted all over his body and he cried out as well.
Splintered wood and mast fragments peppered his body, a thousand cuts of various size. Looking around at his crew, Scjouraan saw that he had been lucky.
All around, men lay still, limbs at sickening angles, others caught in small bodies of seawater from their escape. They looked like corpses left to rot in the open sun for weeks. Their stench was enough to overpower Scjouraan. At least vomiting blocked the smell.
The survivors weren’t a much better sight. One crewman lolled against the port bow, panicked gasps escaping from him as he gawked at the tear in their ship. Another stared blankly at the tattered mess of flesh and bone that was once his leg.
Scjouraan forced himself to his feet. He grabbed a broken piece of banister for a makeshift cane and hobbled to the front of the ship. He stared aghast at the brutality before him.
The Ivory Hawk fleet was in ruins. Shattered ships and splintered hulls were scattered across a large plain, Grastell’s cliffs vague outlines in the distance. Among and around the ruined ships, Scjouraan could make out the figures of men. Some were moving, though most were not. Where was the command ship? Though Scjouraan was loathe to admit it, Edwin was far more suited to managing a crisis than he was. If he found him, they might be able to somehow rally the surviving men together.
There the command ship was, at the edge of the ruined ships.
There they both were.
Right behind the command ship was great Hidros itself, seemingly intact, with at least three dozen figures walking out from a giant metal drawbridge.
Neither Scjouraan nor his men were in any condition to fight. ‘A parley then,’ he muttered, limping away. With no weapons or men at his side, he could do nothing to stop the Hidrossi if they wanted vengeance. Although, it was probably for the best if he was to appear peaceful. Still, feeling a weapon in his hand would bring some small comfort.
Scjouraan only made it about twenty feet away from his ship before his left leg spasmed in pain. He was forced to kneel, clutching at it, breath laboured.
The Hidrossi stopped about ten feet away from him. From there, a bald man in a blue robe strode up to Scjouraan. He looked tired but there was an unconvincing smile on his face and a flask in his hand. ‘Greetings, I am Mage Sune of Hidros. Captain Edwin Side-Eye, I presume?’
Scjouraan shook his head painfully. ‘No. Scjouraan, his second.’
A frown crossed Sune’s face.
A small, rat-faced man broke off from the rest of the party too and marched over to them. ‘So, the coward won’t face us himself. Where is he, vagrant?’
Sune turned to face the man. ‘Stand down, Skarde!’
Rat-faced Skarde looked as if he was about to protest but one look from Sune and he bowed his head. Instead, he glared at Scjouraan.
Sune focused on Scjouraan again. ‘I wish to discuss terms with your leader, and I would prefer to speak with him in person. Where is he?’
Scjouraan’s eyes darted to the command ship, barely a silhouette under Hidros’ vast shadow.
Sune’s gaze followed his. That sad smile returned as he opened the lid of his flask. ‘I would ask you take me to him but those wounds of yours need tending to.’
A ghostly white liquid gently rose out of the flask like a small snake and slowly made its way towards Scjouraan’s injured calf.
He watched the pale liquid flow towards him, unsure whether it was wonder or pain that was stopping him from swatting it away. The liquid flowed around and under the bloody hand he clasped his calf with, then a warm tingling feeling started to spread through his body. Scjouraan’s eyes widened as his pain started to fade, his cuts healed rapidly, and the pieces of ship were forced out of him.
Within seconds, the pain had faded. Scjouraan felt ten years younger. He stared up at Sune in awe, but the mage was already re-sealing his cask, looking shaky and frail for an instant. But then his smile returned, and he looked to Scjouraan.
‘Now then, care to introduce me to your captain?’
As the two men approached the command ship, Scjouraan began to see some of Edwin’s crew scattered around, dazed or in shock. Scjouraan marched over to one, the boatswain he believed. ‘Captain Side-Eye, where is he?’
The boatswain gave a blank look, then pointed to the corner on the other end of the ship.
Scjouraan had a bad feeling. His instincts weren’t off.
He found Edwin leaning against the ship, a surprised look on the pirate’s face. This time, both of his eyes stared out pointlessly. Blood pooled in his shirt collar; the splintered stake of wood that held him up had almost severed Edwin’s whole head from his body.
Scjouraan felt his throat tighten, his hands shake. This selfish excuse for a man had been a real bastard, ruthless, condescending, testing Scjouraan’s patience for all their time together.
But Edwin Side-Eye had given him a place to belong.
This was an appropriate death for him, seeking glory, at the centre of what he’d boasted would surely become a historical moment.
A smile traced Scjouraan’s lips. What people would say?
“While fighting the legendary Ship-City of Hidros, Captain Edwin Side-Eye and his fleet were eclipsed by a great meteor that shadowed the very world, which turned the water ravenous and caused both pirates and Hidrossi to flee as it hit the sea and turned the water into poison. They tried fleeing to Grastell and just as all hope seemed lost, they all flew on a jet of water to escape a watery grave. Alas, in this endeavour Captain Side-Eye lost his life.”
A hand on his shoulder shook Scjouraan from his thoughts.
‘My condolences,’ Sune said.
Scjouraan just nodded. He couldn’t trust himself to speak.
Sune continued. ‘So, will your men accept you as their new leader?’
Scjouraan spun round to face the mage.
Sune jumped but recovered himself. ‘Please, forgive the sudden question but I was instructed to find Edwin Side-Eye, to negotiate with him. But since he is no longer with us, I believe you are the next best choice.’
Scjouraan stared at him. ‘You want to negotiate?’
Sune nodded. ‘After the fiasco we all just went through, both of our groups have been left marooned. My people are not fighters, and those of yours that have survived do not look like they will last long. My offer is this we will tend to your wounded, and offer you food and shelter. In return, you and your men will protect us from any further threats. Any who choose to leave are free to do so, and we will give them enough supplies to last a few days.’
Scjouraan eyed Sune. ‘What sort of threats are you expecting?’
‘We don’t know, but this situation could very well be the death of all of us if we don’t take the proper precautions.’
Scjouraan nodded, he was beginning to see the wisdom in the mage’s words. ‘Not all the men are Hawks. Some were hired to fill out our ranks. I can’t claim to speak on their behalf, or know what they will do.’
Sune waved a hand ‘Control them as best as you can, if they decide to join us, we will make it abundantly clear that we have no tolerance for thieves or swindlers.’ The mage stretched out a hand, his smile gone.
‘Do we have a deal, Scjouraan?’
Scjouraan pondered the situation. He had lost everything once again, and once again a stranger had approached him, offering him another life.
But this time, not a life of stealing and destroying, one with something to protect.
Scjouraan took the mage’s hand. ‘Deal.’
Author: Flynn is a 4th year Creative Writing student with a penchant for fantasy, mystery, and the supernatural. Growing up, Flynn loved reading stories with worlds that he could get lost in for hours, and he hopes that one day he will write stories that others can also get lost in.
Artist: Cyndra Galea (she/they) is in the third year of her Bachelor of Fine Art’s in Creative Writing with a minor in Professional Communications. When not found with her head in a book or three, Cyndra can be found radioactive antique hunting, fixing classic cars with her dad, drawing on her iPad, or writing and editing her manuscript. Cyndra aims to work as a structural editor when she finishes her Masters of Editing and Publishing, but also dreams of releasing novels of their own.
Editors: Bea Warren and Rory Hawkins