-- A BLUE KINGDOMS TM story --
The young woman writhed against the sharp rocks, her arms and legs bound in chains. Her mouth had been gagged--not with fine silk, as would have suited her station, but with rough sailcloth torn from the tattered rigging of the Scarlet Skull. Red Jack Sirus laughed at her muffled screams.
The undead pirate adjusted the girl’s bonds, making sure they would cut into her pale flesh ever so slightly. Then he stepped aboard his decaying skiff, and his crew rowed him back to the skull.
Tiny rivulets of blood formed on the woman's skin and dripped into the surging water at her feet. She screamed, knowing that the blood would quickly attract sharks. Predators were common in this part of the sea--even more common in the wake of the Scarlet Skull. The sharks loved Red Jack for the trail of carnage in his ship’s wash.
The woman gazed desperately at the retreating skiff; Red Jack merely laughed--a terrible thing to behold. The bandages covering the pirate’s rotting face quivered as though alive, and the tatters of his dead skin shook like writhing worms. The woman, Laralee, screamed again, but the gag smothered most of it.
The water lapped at her ankles now; the tide was rising quickly.
The pirates reached their ship and stood at the rail, watching and waiting, gloating over Laralee's terrible fate. A mist rose on the open waters beyond the red-sided brigandine. The fog crept around the ship, embracing its rotting timbers. Soon, the pirates and their awful captain began to vanish in the mist--a small mercy that Laralee hadn't expected. She could still hear them, though, chuckling and jeering at her dreadful plight.
She rubbed her chains against the rocks, but it was no use. Though badly rusted, the links were still far stronger than the glasslike obsidian that formed the cliffs on this tiny isle. Laralee sobbed, without meaning to, and blinked back tears. That she would die here she didn't doubt. That wasn't the worst of it, though.
Laralee looked around, hoping beyond hope that she would not see anything. A gray shark fin cut through the fog thirty yards away. That wasn't what made her heart sink, though. Much closer, a small trail of bubbles broke the surface of the dark, greenish brine. Laralee struggled more, and screamed as loudly as she could. With the gag, though, it was no use.
The bubbles grew closer and larger. A shape loomed up out of the rising surf--the shape of a man.
Tindalin smiled at her, his blue eyes flashing even in the fog-shrouded semi-darkness. He winked and put a finger to his lips, signaling that she should keep silent.
"Nnn!" Laralee said, her eyes pleading.
"Don't worry," Tindalin whispered. "I'll have you free in a moment." He looked magnificent, even sopping wet. His long blond hair clung to his neck and shoulders. His muscles rippled beneath his sleeveless chainmail shirt. His enchanted spiked mace, Morning Glory, hung from his bejeweled belt. Leather sandals, tied up to his calves, adorned his feet.
He moved quickly across the sharp rocks separating them, making no more noise than a fish skimming the water's surface.
"Nnn!" Laralee repeated, but Tindalin did not understand.
He reached her and with iron-thewed muscles sundered the chains that bound her. He pulled the rough gag from her mouth and pressed his lips to hers. "Don't worry," he whispered as they parted.
"I-it's a trap!" she sobbed.
The fog surrounding the Scarlet Skull parted and the ship's terrible captain gestured toward the rocks where Tindalin and Laralee stood.
A fireball streaked from the gun-port of the ship toward the doomed couple. The magic shattered the tiny promontory, leaving nothing but shards of black glass and greasy smoke behind.
Beneath his blood-drenched bandages, Red Jack Sirus smiled.
Third time's the charm when visiting the Blue Kingdoms in A Season of Fear: 101 Nights of Fright. This is my favorite of the trio when it comes to narrative style and pacing. Groping around after finding the idea for "The Tower Princess," this lovely little tale popped into my head.
Probably it was inspired by the legends of Perseus and Andromeda--that's Clash of the Titans for you Harryhausen fans. The maiden chained to the rock is an old sod in both mythology and pirate stories. The twist here, of course, is that it's all a plot by Red Jack to kill the hero. Hope you didn't see that coming.
Jack had been on my mind since his debut earlier in the writing streak. I wanted to give him something else dastardly to do. So, there you go.
Whether this was really the end of star-crossed lovers Tindalin and Laralee remains to be seen.
Unfortunately, this is the last of the Blue Kingdoms stories that I wrote during the project.
Don't despair, though. If you want more, there's always Pirates of the Blue Kingdoms and my upcoming fantasy masterpiece, A Reliable Dragon, to look forward to. Chances are, there'll be more Blue Kingdoms stories in the future as well. (I've even bought a handful of domain names in preparation.)
-- Stephen D. Sullivan
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TM & Copyright 2007 Stephen D. Sullivan -- All Rights Reserved.