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Crossbones: Episode 1

Contents

Title Page E1

Copyright Page

Dedication

Half Title

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Review

Keep Reading

Join The Crew

About The Author

Mystic Inkwell

Published Worldwide in 2015 

by Mystic Inkwell

PO Box 760, North Lakes QLD 4509

www.mystic-inkwell.com

Copyright © Stefan M. Nardi 2015

This book is copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of private study, research, criticism or review permitted under the [_Copyright Act 1968, _]no part may be stored or reproduced by any process without prior written permission.

Enquiries should be made to the publisher.

For my darling, Kat & my awesome brother, Jacob. Without your support and feedback, I’d probably still be on chapter one.

And for my loving parents who read to me every night and gave me my love of stories. Dad, I’ll know if you skip that page in ‘It’s the Bear’ again!

Lightning crashed through the sky, illuminating the ocean below. Curtains of rain fell on the little ship, hammering down upon the wooden deck. The ocean surged, great waves rising from its depths, threatening to engulf the ship. The Black Phoenix bounced around in the ocean, thrown from one wave to the next.

Eldric Whittaker was perched in the ships rigging, attempting to stow the sails in order to regain some small measure of control. He was soaked from head to toe, his long black hair hung in clumps around his head, streaming water down on to his bare chest. His wet trousers weighed him down making it even more difficult to keep his balance. Eldric tied down the last sail and breathed a sigh of relief. He had warned his brother that they needed a crew from the start, that something like this would happen. But Dean had insisted that they could do it themselves and find a crew on the voyage. Bad idea.

He held tight to the mast as he clambered back down to the deck; one wrong move would send him sliding across the ship, possibly to his death. He stood on the deck, gripping the mast for support as the wind and rain tore at his skin and clothing. At the stern he could see his brother, wrestling with the ships wheel; he couldn’t tell through the rain but he could swear the idiot was grinning. Yep, he was definitely going to kill him for this.

Suddenly the ship pitched to one side and Eldric tightened his grip on the mast, holding on for dear life. Dean was sent flying across the deck, caught moments later by the lifeline tied around his waist. Eldric watched with bated breath as his brother scrambled around on the deck. Dean managed to roll over and pull himself back to the wheel.

They had both survived until now but they needed to get off of the deck before one of them got killed. He checked that his own lifeline was secure and then let go of the mast. He staggered along the deck, heading for his brother. He slipped over a few times but managed to make it to where Dean waited.

Eldric stood glaring at his brother through the curtains of rain. ‘I told you we needed  a crew,’ Eldric yelled, ‘But no, “we can do it ourselves” you said, “we’ll find a crew along the way,” you said. Sure Dean, great idea. Now look where we are!’

Dean turned towards Eldric and flashed him a gigantic grin. Dean’s short brown hair hung down like a wet mop, just above his eyes. A steady stream of water had formed at the bottom of his goatee, flowing down on to his shirt. If the situation hadn’t been so serious, Eldric would have burst out laughing at the sight. 

‘Where’s your sense of adventure, little brother?’

Eldric glared at him for a moment longer, wondering if he could punch him without falling over. He decided to let it pass.

‘It fell overboard, right before I almost did. Now hurry up and tie off the wheel, we need to get below deck before one of us follows it.’ 

Deans face fell. ‘Killjoy’ he muttered.

Dean grabbed some rope from the railing next to him and tied the wheel in place. 

‘There that should do it’ Dean yelled.

‘Good, let’s get out of here then.’

There was no railing for them to hold onto between the wheel and the stairs to their quarters so they had to drop to the deck and crawl along to avoid being thrown over board. The ship rocked violently as they slowly made their way across the deck. They slipped and slid as they moved, Eldric prayed that the ship would not roll again and send them overboard.

Eldric was slightly in front of Dean when he heard his brother let off a string of profanity. He turned to look at his brother questioningly.

‘What’s wrong?’ he yelled.

‘My rope won’t reach, I forgot to change it.’

Eldrics mind raced, they had to think of something quickly. They certainly couldn’t stay here, there was nothing to hold onto within reach. Suddenly Deans face lit up. 

‘Have you still got your knife on you?’

Eldric was puzzled. ‘Yeah, why?’

‘Move back this way, I have an idea.’ 

Eldric did as he was told and the brothers scrambled back the way they had come. After a few metres Dean stopped, Eldric slid up next to him and pulled the knife from his sash.

‘Okay, that should do, now pass me your knife and grab onto the rope around my waist. Whatever you do, don’t let go.’

Eldric did as he was bid and handed him the knife. Dean quickly gathered up the ropes slack and then sliced through it.

‘Now turn over so I can tie it to yours.’ Eldric rolled over and Dean lashed the two ropes together. 

‘Good, now go. Quick before this storm gets any worse.’

Minutes later they fell through the door leading to their cabins. Eldric cut off the ropes, threw them back out onto the deck and slammed the door shut, locking out the harshness of the storm.

The brothers collapsed onto the floor next to each other. Eldric rolled over to face his brother.

‘As soon as I have the strength to get up off of this floor, I am going to kill you.’

Dean put on his most innocent face, ‘ Hey don’t blame me, you agreed that it’d be a good idea too.’

‘My mistake.’ Eldric replied flatly.

The brothers looked at each other for a minute and then Dean burst out laughing. It was only the second day of their voyage and already they were in trouble. Now they both sat on the floor of their ship, they were completely soaked and the ship was being tossed about in the storm like a toy. It was the adventure they had dreamed of and as Eldric lay facing his brother he couldn’t help it, they looked ridiculous and he began to laugh too.

They lay there for a few seconds longer, laughing. Dean sat up and got to his feet; he staggered around a little until he got his balance and then held out his hand to Eldric.

‘Come on little brother, we aren’t out of the woods yet. Lets get in to some dry clothes.’ 

Eldric grabbed Deans hand and pulled himself up. They staggered down the hall heading for their rooms.

In his room Eldric looked out the small window, the storm was getting worse. Much worse. A fork of lightning illuminated the night.

‘Oh crap, thats not good. Dean….’

That was as far as he got before he was sent flying across the room and everything went black.

The First thing Dean noticed when he woke up was the throbbing pain in his head where it had smacked against the edge of his bunk. The second thing he noticed was considerably more worrying. He was not alone in the room. He slowly opened his eyes and looked up.

‘Well good morning sunshine!’ said the shaggy figure standing above him.

The last thing he saw was a fist flying towards him, there was a burst of pain and then darkness again.

Dean was surrounded by darkness. He was sure his eyes were open, yet he could see nothing. Two tiny glimmers appeared in front of him. Slowly, the glimmers grew into small fiery balls, the one on the left glowed blue while the one on the right was orange. Dean stretched his hand towards the blue ball and then quickly withdrew it as the flames licked out and brushed the end of his fingers. He had expected it to be warm but, instead the flames had been ice cold.

A deep laugh echoed out across the void. The sound enveloped Dean, shaking him as it filled the darkness. 

‘Poor, foolish boys. If only you knew who your fathers really were. What would you do then?’

A second voice cut in, over the first. This one was a shrill, female voice, yet it still sounded just as sinister as the first.

‘Yes little Dean, whatever will you do?

Dean began to shake even more as the laughter of the second voice joined the first.

His eyes snapped open.

He looked up and found Eldric leaning over him, shaking his shoulder.

‘Welcome back.’

His head was pounding and his nose felt like it had been hit with a sledgehammer. 

Dean looked around, the room they were in was small and damp; It had low wooden ceilings and curved walls. They were in the hold of a ship and they weren’t alone. They were surrounded by a mass of faces; many of them were dirty and disheveled, as if they hadn’t seen clean water in weeks and their clothes looked almost as torn and tattered as their spirits. He realized they were slaves and was suddenly grateful that he couldn’t smell anything through the blood in his nose.

‘Wha..? Where are we?’

Eldric held up his arms and showed Dean the chains that bound them.

‘Slave ship’ he said grimly.

Dean looked down at his own arms and realized that they were similarly bound.

‘How?’ he queried.

‘Dunno, I got knocked out in the storm and woke up to the lovely site of a pistol being leveled at my head. Judging by the bump on your head I’d say you got knocked out in the storm too and judging by the rest of your face I’d say they didn’t wake you up with a pistol?’

Dean grimaced ‘No, not quite.’

Just then a head popped out from behind Eldric. The newcomer peered strangely at Dean.

‘How is he?’ the stranger inquired.

‘He’s fine’ replied Eldric, ‘ Dean, this is Erasmus Santiago, he’s a mage.’

The man stepped out from behind Eldric, Dean looked him up and down. Erasmus was a giant of a man, he had to crouch so that he didn’t hit his head on the ceiling; he had a shaggy black goatee and wore a dirty bandanna on his head, a few stray clumps of his curly black hair had escaped from beneath the bandanna. He was dressed in trousers and a loose fitting shirt. Although they were dirty and ruined, his clothes were clearly those of a highborn.

‘Here, eat this.’

Erasmus pulled a wad of leaves from his pocket and handed them to Dean. Dean sniffed at them before remembering that he still couldn’t smell anything.

‘Put them in your mouth and chew, they’ll help with the pain.’ Erasmus instructed.

Dean did as he was told, they didn’t actually taste too bad. After a few moments he began to feel the pain in his head ease. He smiled appreciatively at Erasmus.

‘So, you’re a wizard?’ Dean asked through his mouthful of leaves.

‘Yes. An Elemental to be exact.’ Replied Erasmus.

The brothers exchanged a glance. Elemental mages were rare and usually held positions of great importance. That explained the clothes.

‘How’d an elemental like yourself, manage to end up on a ship like this?’ Queried Dean. 

‘I was on board a diplomatic vessel, we got stuck in a fierce storm and our ship was wrecked. I managed to cling to a piece of the debris and washed up on a beach. I made the mistake of flagging this ship down and I’ve been here ever since.’

Dean’s face lit up at his words. In his head, the beginnings of an idea fell into place. 

‘Ah, so you would’ve seen the ship when you were brought aboard then?’ he said with a grin.

A puzzled look flitted across Erasmus’ face.  

‘Well, I saw a little of it.’

‘Excellent, we need details then. How big is it? How many men? What kind of weapons did they have?’

Deans mind began clicking over as he thought, he’d need all of the information he could get if his idea was going to work. Some of the other slaves gave him odd looks as a grin spread across his face. How could any man, who had just been placed in chains in the belly of a slave ship, have such an expression on his face? The same look of confusion was spread across Erasmus’ face as well.

‘Uhhhh, well it was a large ship, I saw maybe fifty men on the deck but I guess there could’ve been more. The only weapons I saw were pistols and swords and maybe a few muskets.’

‘Excellent’ Dean beamed.

‘Dean…What are you planning?’ Eldric knew his brother well enough to guess that whatever he was planning was going to be both incredibly spectacular and incredibly stupid. It’d probably be quite fun too. Dean turned his manic grin towards his brother. He was practically bouncing with excitement.

‘Why, our escape of course.’

‘Oh, by all means, proceed then’ Eldric said wryly.

Erasmus looked from one to the other, bewilderment painted on his face.

‘You heard me correctly when I said fifty men right? How are you two, going to fight fifty men and then escape? We’re in the middle of the damn ocean.’

Deans grin grew even wider.

‘Oh I don’t plan to escape…I plan to take over the ship.’

Eldric burst out laughing. Erasmus sat there stunned, lost for words.

‘Close your mouth Erasmus, the rats will crawl in if you leave it open like that,’ Dean said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. ‘ And we’re not going to fight fifty men by ourselves, the other slaves are going to help us. Plus we have a wizard.’

Erasmus raised his hands in protest. ‘Firstly, I can’t perform magic without my staff to focus, if I try I’ll probably kill everyone here. Secondly, say we do take the ship, then what?’

‘Well the ship has to already be on a course for some place, we continue on to that destination, set the other slaves free and sail off into the sunset. As for your staff, did you have it with you when they brought you aboard?’

‘Yes, I did, but they took it and I have no idea what they did with it after that.’ 

Eldric continued to watch the exchange with amusement.

Dean beamed, ‘Fantastic. It’s settled then, we get the wizard’s staff, beat up the slavers and it’s all high seas and happiness.’

‘Great plan.’ Erasmus’ voice was dripping with sarcasm. ‘Aren’t you forgetting one thing though?’ He held up his hands and shook the chains that hung there.

‘Ah, of course. Hold that thought.’  Dean pulled himself to his feet and gripped his chains in his hands. The chains were made of iron, they didn’t seem to be particularly strong but strong enough that a man would not be able to break them with brute strength alone. They consisted of two manacles and a long chain that ran from one prisoner to the next, binding them together. Dean cleared his throat and looked at the crowd of hopeless faces before him. The slaves all turned to face him, many of them eyed him warily. One mother pulled her children closer to her.

‘Ladies and gentlemen,  my name is Dean Whittaker. I am the captain of the pirate ship, The Black Phoenix. I am also the man that is about to set you all free. You may feel a slight chill in your chains, but if you bear with me, I’ll have you all out in a moment.’

A wave of puzzled looks and murmurs swept across the room. Erasmus lent towards Eldric.

‘Is he mad?’

Eldric grinned ‘Probably, yeah. Just watch.’

Dean closed his eyes, his hands still gripping the chain. Erasmus felt the chains grow cold, he looked down and saw frost forming on them. His eyes grew as wide as saucers. Gasps of astonishment filled the room.

Dean let go of the chain and then swung it against the wall, it shattered and fell into a pile of tiny shards at his feet. He turned to Erasmus and held out his hands.

‘See, no problem at all.’

Erasmus just stared at him.

‘Tha…That…That was Fae magic. That’s impossible.’

Eldric grinned at Erasmus. He snapped his fingers and flames sprang up in his hand, dancing across his palm. Dean laughed at the look of disbelief on Erasmus’ face.

‘Right, now how many decks did you say this ship had?’

Janos Salt slouched against the door frame, he hated guard duty. It was boring and it wasn’t like the slaves were going to go anywhere. They were chained up and apart from that, they were in the middle of the ocean. They literally had no where to escape to. 

He let out a sigh, he would’ve much preferred to be on that new ship they’d captured from those two idiots, it seemed much nicer and there was hardly anyone else there to annoy him. Plus there were no slaves to guard either. At least it was a nice warm night, even if it was cloudy. A full moon hung in the night sky, casting it’s light across the deck of the ship as it ducked in and out from behind the clouds. 

He had just closed his eyes when he heard a strange knocking sound. He jumped up straight, suddenly alert. He peered around the deck of the ship, no one else seemed to have heard it. Or at least they weren’t giving any indication they had. 

Knock Knock.

There it was again. He turned as he realized it was coming from the door to the slave hold. He leaned closer to the door. Nothing. He decided calling out was the safest option.

‘Hello? Is someone down there knocking?’

There was silence for a moment and then a voice shouted back.

‘Yes, we need help, the ship’s taking on water.’

Janos started to panic, he wasn’t sure what to do. He didn’t want to go get the others, if it was just a false alarm they’d think he was an idiot. But what if the ship actually was taking on water? Then they might all drown because of him. He decided he’d go down and take a look and then get help if he needed it. He drew his sword and moved towards the door.

‘Alright, stand back against the wall, I’m coming in.’

He fumbled with the keys and managed to get them into the lock. As he pushed the door open the last thing Janos Salt saw was a column of flames rushing towards him. The flames engulfed the unsuspecting sailor and burnt him to a crisp. And thus, ended the life of Janos Salt. Sailor, guard and imbecile.

Eldric stepped through the flames and over the charred corpse of the dead guard. Dean and Erasmus followed a few steps behind, as he passed Dean nudged the body of the guard with his toe.

‘Not the brightest chap, was he? It’s a little hard for the ship to take on water three decks above sea level.’

Erasmus grunted his agreement.

Upon hearing the commotion created by the death of the guard, the rest of the crew had come running towards them. Dean, Eldric and Erasmus stood, surrounded by the slavers with their backs to the door from which they’d just emerged. The sound of dozens of swords being drawn filled the warm night air. Dean stepped forward.

‘Gentleman, My name is Dean Whittaker, Captain-’ Eldric cleared his throat loudly from behind Dean. Dean rolled his eyes pointedly. ‘Sorry, co-captain of The Black Phoenix. Now, seeing as you so rudely boarded our ship and placed us in chains, we’ll be borrowing this ship. If you lay down your weapons, you will be allowed to live.’

There was stunned silence for a moment and then raucous laughter filled the night as the realization of what Dean had just said sunk in. One of the sailors stepped forward, he was a big, brawny fellow and he had a confident smirk on his face. He held his sword loosely in his right hand and his left rested on the butt of a pistol that he had stuffed through the sash around his waste.

‘My name is Domenico Carbara and I am first mate aboard this vessel and if you think that you’re taking this ship, then you are sorely mistaken.’ 

Dean grinned, ‘So, I’ll take that as a no then?’

Before the words were barely out of his mouth, Domenico swung at him. His sword blade gleamed in the moonlight as it tore down through the air. Dean leapt backwards, his feet landing nimbly on the wooden deck. The blade flew past him, missing by millimetres. He laughed as a glittering blade of ice formed in his hand. Domenico hesitated, his eyes growing wide at the mystical sight before him. Dean seized the opportunity; he thrust the now fully formed blade through Domenico’s chest. The blade disappeared into the man’s Chest, reappearing in his back. A look of confusion spread across his face as he looked down at the growing flower of blood spreading across his chest. Dean pulled the blade back and the man fell to the deck, a pool of blood quickly forming around the corpse. 

It was at this point, that all hell broke loose. The sailors were too stunned by what had just happened to notice that the other slaves were now gathered in the doorway. The slaves, heartened by the death of one of their captors at the hands of their savior, let out an almighty cry and surged forward. They fell upon the sailors with the ferocity of men who no longer had anything to lose, the only weapons they had were the broken chains from which they had been freed. They used the chains to belt and bludgeon the slavers, the sounds of battle filled the air as the sailors fought back. The clash of metal on metal, the screams of dying men. From somewhere, an alarm bell began to sound and more of the sailors rushed up from below decks. A bloody mist filled the air and the deck became slick with blood and gore as slavers and slaves alike, fought for their lives. 

At the centre of it all, Dean twirled and twisted, his blade flickering and 3, cutting down man after man. From his free hand wispy blue balls of magic flew, patches of ice forming where they struck. Eldric grabbed the sword from the deck where Domenico had dropped it. He swung the sword at the nearest sailor, cutting a large arc through the air.  As he did a fiery scythe blasted forth along the arc, it cut down anyone in it’s path. Both friend and foe alike. Eldric stood in shock at what had just happened. Erasmus snatched the sword from his grasp.

‘Give me that, this isn’t a sword boy, it’s my staff. You’re lucky you didn’t kill all of us.’

Eldric grabbed another sword from the deck and launched himself back into the fray. There would be plenty of time to have questions answered later. Amongst the confusion of the battle, Eldric saw another, smaller ship sliding up alongside them. The sound of gunshots rang out through the noise of battle as the crew of the second ship fired their muskets into the fray. Eldric grinned, he’d recognise that beautiful ship anywhere, it was [_The Black Phoenix. _]A blast of light lit up the night as Erasmus fired back with a column of scorching flames. 

‘Hey, watch it, that’s my ship your burning, and besides, get your own tricks. Fire is my thing.’

Erasmus scowled at him. ‘I’ve been doing this since you were in swaddling clothes.’

Eldric grinned and took off towards the railing. Erasmus bolted after him. Eldric ran towards the railing and without skipping a beat, he jumped up onto it. He used his momentum to launch himself off again. He leapt across the gap between the two ships and came down on the deck of the smaller vessel. As he came down, he continued into a roll and sprang up next to the group of gunmen as they were hurriedly trying to reload their muskets. He grabbed the dagger from the nearest of them and flicked it across the sailors neck, blood bubbled up out of the mans throat and he fell to the deck with a gurgled cry. Eldric twisted and thrust the dagger through the neck of the next man, as he did he used his free hand to grab the pistol from the mans waist. The sailor grabbed at the dagger in his neck as blood spurted from the wound and he quickly followed the first man to the deck. Eldric barely took any notice as he swung around and pointed the pistol at the next sailor and prayed that it was loaded. A sharp crack cut through the night air and their was a spray of blood as the pellet hammered through the man’s skull. Blood and gore sprayed out onto the deck behind him. The last sailor had already given up on his musket and had drawn his sword, he rushed at Eldric. Eldric turned and ducked under the mans desperate slash, he brought his hand up and into the chest of the man. Using his magic, Eldric sent the sailor flying backwards in a fiery explosion, his charred body falling to the deck with a dull thud.

Eldric stood up straight just in time to see Erasmus land behind him in an awkward roll. He offered his hand and pulled the mage to his feet. Erasmus looked around at the bodies of the fallen sailors.

‘You could’ve at least left me one.’

Eldric grinned at him. ‘Next time I’ll ask them to wait until you arrive, maybe they’ll share a cup of rum or two while we wait.’ 

Erasmus chuckled at him.

‘Did you happen to see Dean as you were coming over?’

‘Not exactly, the last I saw of him, he was tearing those slavers to pieces. The man’s unstoppable with that blade.’

Dean cut his way through the slavers. His sword darting back and forth, slashing and stabbing; it’s icy blade coated with blood. His feet moved with the grace and dexterity of a dancer as he twisted and turned, tapping lightly on the deck with an almost hypnotic rhythm. He dispatched his latest adversary with a flick of his wrist, the sword slashed across the man’s throat spilling more blood onto the deck. And then suddenly, for what seemed like the first time in hours, all was quiet. 

Dean stopped and looked around the ship. The deck was coated in blood and various other liquids. It was littered with the bodies of dead slaves and slavers alike. There were still some men fighting but, for the most part, the former slaves had prevailed. Suddenly there was a cry from behind him and he whirled around to find one of the slaves standing a few meters behind him. From the middle of the mans chest, The blade of a sword protruded, surrounded by a growing circle of blood. As Dean watched, the blade retracted back into the man’s chest and he fell to the deck. Where the man had stood, now stood one of the slavers. The man was tall and carried an air of confidence that none of the others had. Dean instantly knew who he was.

‘I presume you are the captain of this ship?’ He said acidly.

The man took his eyes off the body of the dead slave and looked at Dean. A strange look came into his eyes, Dean could’ve sworn it was fear. He guessed that he must look pretty terrifying by now, he was splattered with the blood of the men he had killed and his wicked blade gleamed in the moon light. The man stood staring at Dean.

‘It can’t be you,’ the man breathed ‘you’re dead. I killed you years ago.’

Dean gave him a puzzled look. ‘Well, last time I checked I was still alive, but you’re welcome to try again if you like.’

The man snapped out of his reverie and charged at Dean. It was a reckless move and Dean easily side stepped, bringing his own sword around as he did. The sword cut through the cool night air, speeding towards the captain’s neck. Despite his initial recklessness, the man was good. At the last second he twirled and brought his sword around, parrying Dean’s cut. The sound of ice striking metal sung out across the deck. The two men stared into each others eyes as they locked swords, each weighing up their opponent. Dean grinned and leapt backwards, landing nimbly a few feet away. This was going to be a good fight.

In his left hand, Dean used his powers to form a dagger. The captain smiled and drew his own dagger. The two men circled each other, each waiting for the other to move. Dean grew tired of waiting, he leaped forward, thrusting his sword towards the man’s chest. The captain batted Dean’s sword aside. The two men closed on each other, their weapons blurred in a flurry of movement. Once again the clanging of metal on ice filled the air.

Their blades shone in the moonlight, they spun, twisted and twirled as they fought, each trying to find a hole in the others defense.  The blur of movement stopped as the two men locked swords again. The captain was good. Dean was better. Dean twisted away from the man, as he did he sliced his dagger across the man’s leg. The captain cried out in pain and staggered. He swung blindly out to his left, Dean caught the blade on his own.

The Captain regained his footing. He twisted around to face Dean. He thrust his dagger up and under Dean’s sword. Dean shoved him backwards. The blade missed it’s mark but still managed to glance across his side. Dean roared in pain. He leapt forward again, quickly closing the gap between them. Dean was furious. He struck at the captain with a renewed ferocity, raining blows down upon him. The man retreated with each blow. The fear returned to his eyes. With a roar Dean swung his blade downward. The captain caught the blade on both of his. He struggled under the weight of the blow, the blades slowly inching closer to his body. Suddenly he keeled over and fell to his knees. He looked down to find Dean’s Dagger protruding from his stomach.  His sword fell from his hand and clattered to the deck. Dean stood over him, his sword now hung loosely by his side. The captain made a feeble attempt to slice at Dean with his dagger but dean swatted it aside and it too went sliding across the deck. 

The captain raised his head to look up at Dean, the fear had returned to his eyes.

Dean stared down at him. ‘Tell me your name.’

The captain stared at him with a look of confusion on his face. He coughed as lines of blood formed at the edges of his lips. 

‘How can you be here?’ he whispered weakly, ‘I killed you. 12 years ago, I stabbed you through the heart and threw you overboard.’

‘I believe you are mistaking me for someone else; 12 years ago, I was a child. My name is Dean Whittaker and I have never seen you before in my life.’

The captains eyes widened. ‘Did you say Whittaker? You’re his son!’

He began to laugh but it instead came out as a horrible gurgling sound as he choked on his own blood. He fell to his back, gasping for air.  Dean froze at the words. This man knew his father. The memory of his dream came rushing back to him.  Dean dropped to his knees beside the man and rolled him onto his side.

‘No you can’t die yet, tell me who you are mistaking me for? What do you know of my father?’

The man just lay there gasping for breath. He choked out one final word, ‘Hibernis.’ And with that his body went limp.

Dean stayed where he was on the deck, exhaustion washing over him. It was some time before he moved again, as he raised his head he realised that it had begun to rain. Someone came and hauled him to his feet, he turned to find himself staring into the face of a young man. He recognised him as one of the slaves that had been chained near him. The man didn’t say anything, he just smiled at him. Dean looked around. The battle was over, they had won. The deck was slick with blood, but already it was beginning to melt beneath the cool shower of rain.

Dean realised that he was moving, he had one arm around the other man and they were walking towards the back of the ship. He wasn’t sure where they were taking him. Really, he didn’t care. The last thing he remembered was falling into a soft bed and then sleep took him. At least he hadn’t been knocked out this time.

Dean awoke to find himself in a small cabin. He was sprawled across a large comfortable bed, his wounds seemed to have been dressed and sunlight crept into the room around the edges of the curtains covering the large window. He groaned and sat up, the cut in his side wasn’t nearly as painful as he had thought it would be. He threw back the covers and was startled to find that he was naked. The blood rushed to his face as he realised that someone else had undressed him.

He looked around the room and grabbed a pair of pants and a shirt that had been laid out on a chair in the corner of the room and hurriedly pulled them on. Fully dressed, he walked to the door and pulled it open. He found himself looking into a large and ornate study. One wall consisted entirely of a large floor to ceiling window that flooded sunlight into the room. Directly in front of the window was an intricately carved desk, at which Erasmus and Eldric were seated, munching upon a bowl of fruit as they studied the papers which covered the desk. Eldric looked up an smiled as he saw Dean.

‘How is it that I always seem to be awake well before you, dear brother?’

Dean returned his brothers smile, ‘with the amount of times I’ve been hit in the face over the past several days, I need the beauty sleep.’

Eldric gave him a knowing look. ‘Well, that’s not what the girls who bandaged you up thought.’

Dean’s face went bright red.

Eldric and Erasmus chuckled at him. Dean walked over to the desk and pulled out a chair. He grabbed an apple from the bowl as he sat down. He hadn’t realised how hungry he was until he began to eat it. He stared out of the window at the vast expanse of ocean behind them.

‘So who is taking care of the ship if you two are in here?’ queried Dean.

‘There were a few sailors amongst the slaves, they’re taking care of it. Some of them are aboard your ship as well.’ Erasmus replied.

‘Any idea where we are heading?’

Eldric pushed one of the papers towards him, it was a map of the coast of Sitaria.

‘We figure the slavers were heading here’ he said as he stabbed at a point on the map with his finger. ‘Aldan, the capital city of Sitaria and one of the few civilized cities that still practices the slave trade.’

Dean studied the map, looking up and down the coast line.

‘If that city hasn’t outlawed slavery, we can’t stop there. They’ll just put everyone back in chains.’

He looked up at Eldric and Erasmus, Eldric had a grim expression on his face.

‘We need to go there, Dean. Do you remember hearing about the Civil war in Sitaria about 7 years ago? King Raldar was murdered by his brother, Kaldorn, who then took the crown for himself. Well Kaldorn is one of Darius Shaide’s right hand men.’

Dean’s expression hardened, Darius Shaide was one of the seven pirate lords and part of the reason they had set out on this voyage. Dean turned to stare out of the window again, thinking.

‘Fine. Eldric you and I take the Black Phoenix and head for Aldan. Erasmus, you can take this ship with the others and head for Alartas. You’ll be safe there, slave trading was outlawed there years ago.’

Eldric and Erasmus exchanged a glance. Dean looked from one to the other.

‘Why do I get the feeling you two have already discussed this and come up with a different plan?’

‘Probably because we have.’ Erasmus said with a grin. ‘You’re right, those that were slaves can’t go to Aldan, as soon as they’re marks are seen, they would end up back in chains. However, being that we were some of the last to be captured, we haven’t been branded yet. So, I’m coming with you. One of the slaves was the captain of a merchant vessel before he was captured so he’ll take the ship and the others on to Alartas.’

‘You’re coming with us?’ Dean looked puzzled.

‘Yes, I have business in Aldan. Plus you two have some very unique powers, ones that mortal humans shouldn’t have. I want to keep an eye on you and teach you how to wield them.’

The brothers looked at each other, having a conversation without even saying a word.

‘Ok.’ Dean agreed, ‘But first, tell us, when you saw me use my powers for the first time, you said it was Fae magic. What did you mean?’

Erasmus sat forward in his seat.

‘What do you two know of your parents?’

Dean looked uneasy at the question. He looked across at Eldric who seemed to be studying the ground with intense focus.

‘Eldric never knew them. He was only a toddler when our mother was killed, too young to remember. I was five when our village was attacked by pirates, they murdered our mother in the attack. I managed to get Eldric and myself out of the village. We escaped to some nearby caves that me and the other children used to play in. We were the only ones that survived. Eventually we were rescued when a navy ship arrived, but they were too late to save anyone else. Our fathers we never knew, all I know is that we have different fathers.’

‘I’m sorry to hear that.’ Erasmus sat back, considering what he had just been told. ‘It does explain a lot though. Have you ever heard of the Fae courts?’

Eldric shook his head, Dean however, nodded. ‘They’re just a legend though, stories to scare naughty children.’

‘Not exactly. The Fae are indeed real, they just prefer to hide themselves from us. However the important part is that there are actually four courts of the Fae, one for each of the elements. Ice, earth, fire and air. For you both to have the abilities that you have, you’re fathers must have been Fae from the courts of Ice and Fire.’

Dean and Eldric had been listening to Erasmus’ words intently. Eldric slouched back in his seat.

‘Well that doesn’t sound too bad.’ He said casually, ‘So we’re only half human, big deal. We’re still the same people we were before you told us that.’

‘That is true.’ Erasmus replied

‘Why do I sense a but coming?’ Dean asked with a grimace.

‘Well…there are actually thousands of half Fae children in the world but not many of them have powers like yours. In order for a half blood child to manifest powers, one of the parents has to be a very powerful Fae but even then the powers are usually quite weak. In order for a child to have powers equivalent to those that you both displayed, they have to be someone very powerful indeed…’

Deans thoughts strayed back to the events of the night before and the final words of the ships captain.

‘Ok, so we have fathers who are some powerful, mystical creatures. Again, big deal.’ Dean said.

Erasmus sighed. ‘You still don’t get it, do you? There are only four Fae powerful enough to have a half blood child as powerful as you two. The kings of each of the courts.’

Dean was lost for words, all he managed to get out was a simple ‘Oh.’

Aldan was a bustling city, tall stone buildings lined the streets, reaching into the sky. People filled the streets as merchants bartered for their wares and craftsmen plied their various trades. The port was filled with ships of all sizes, navy vessels, merchant ships, trading galleys and slave ships. That last part was what Eldric hated most, no one deserved that. To be locked in chains and forced to wait on another man, forever marked as his property. It was disgusting. Eldric forced the thought out of his mind for the time being.

It had taken them three days to sail to Aldan after they had parted with the slaves. They had docked the ship in the port and left it under the watch of the harbor master. They were now seated in a comfortable little inn, sipping on cups of cool mead and wolfing down bowls of hot stew and bread. The inn was a busy little place, they had managed to get a small table in the corner of the room, the rest of the tables were packed full with sailors, soldiers and men of various other occupations. In the corner, a minstrel sat strumming on a lyre and singing a song about a sailor who had run away with his captains wife. Eldric took a swig of his mead and cast a glance at a group of rowdy soldiers at the next table. 

‘Some people have no consideration for others.’ He muttered.

Dean followed his gaze.

‘Just ignore them, they’re not worth the trouble.’

Erasmus grunted his agreement through a mouthful of bread. Eldric let out a sigh of frustration.

‘Fine.’

Dean smiled. ‘Besides, we have more important things to focus on. Now that we’re here we should probably figure what we’re going to do exactly. We can’t just kill Shaide, if we want to bring down the pirate lords then we have to completely destroy them and their organisation.’

‘Great plan. Now how exactly do we do that?’ Eldric said sarcastically.

‘I’m still working on that…’ Dean muttered.

Erasmus cleared his throat, the brothers both looked at him.

‘I may be able to help with that. Do you remember when we were talking about coming to Sitaria and you mentioned the civil war. Well that war never really ended, the loyalists were routed but there is still an underground rebellion which remains loyal to the descendants of King Raldar. If we can find them, they may be of assistance, seeing as Kaldorn is one of Shaide’s men anyhow.’

‘Well that’s a start.’ Dean said ‘Now any idea how we find them?’

Just then, there was a loud crash. The three men looked up to see the group of soldiers laughing as one of the bar maids was picking herself up off the ground. Eldric got up from the table. He walked over to the woman and helped her up, he whispered something to her and she nodded and then scurried back into the kitchen. Eldric drew his sword and walked over to the table of soldiers.

‘Eldric!’ Erasmus called.

Eldric either did not hear or did not care.

‘You should apologise to the lady.’ He said as he approached.

The guards laughed at him. One of them stood up and faced him, drawing his own sword.

‘And if I don’t, what are you going to do little man?’ 

Dean sighed, ‘Oh well, if we’re looking for rebels I guess prison is a good place to start.’

By this time the entire room had fallen silent, several people left their tables and hurried out of the doors. Dean got up and drew his own sword. 

Erasmus lent his back against the wall and continued to sip on his mead, they could handle this.

Dean walked up behind the man and tapped him on the shoulder, the man turned just in time for Dean’s fist to connect with his face. Erasmus looked on, casually sipping from his mead as chaos erupted across the room. Chairs, cups, hats and men flew through the air as the inn filled with the clash of metal and the screams of men. Dean and Eldric were in the thick of it, crossing blades with any guard they could see. The fight quickly erupted into the street as Dean threw one of them through the door. Erasmus got up and followed them outside. He pushed the door open and stopped dead in his tracks. 

The two brothers stood just in front of the doorway, hands raised in the air. They were surrounded by a regiment of guards who had their pistols leveled at them. Evidently, someone had gone to fetch the city watch and they’d gotten quicker since he’d last been here. Erasmus raised his hands as well. This was not going to end well. He looked around, there were too many of them. Even with their powers, they’d be dead before they could take them all out. As he looked around, a flash of sunlight from the roof of a nearby building caught his eye. He smiled to himself.

‘Don’t move a muscle.’ He hissed at the brothers.

One of the guards stepped forward.

‘Well, if it isn’t Erasmus Santiago.’ He grabbed Erasmus and pulled him forward. ‘We thought you were dead.’

‘Hello Roland.’ Erasmus smiled ‘Sorry to disappoint you.’

The man laughed, ‘Disappoint me? Oh no, this is fantastic. Now I can kill you myself.’

The brothers exchanged a confused look but remained silent.

Now it was Erasmus’ turn to laugh. ‘Maybe one day, Roland. But not today.’

Just then there was a sharp crack and Roland fell to the ground with a scream, clutching at his leg as it soaked his pants with blood. Several more cracks followed in quick succession and more of the guards fell to the ground. The rest of the guards looked around confused and fearful. Suddenly the street was filled with men and the guards were surrounded. Dean and Eldric looked to Erasmus for guidance, he grinned at them. 

‘It’s okay, they’re friends.’

Dean and Eldric lowered their hands. Erasmus knelt down next to Roland.

‘You made the wrong choice that night Roland, you chose gold over loyalty.’ Roland groaned in pain.

Erasmus stood up again and looked around at the remaining guards, they had all dropped their weapons and were now standing in a group, fear written across their faces.

‘Run back to your castle and tell Kaldorn that he better lock those gates tight, because we’re coming for him.’ He looked down at Roland again, ‘and take this filth with you too.’

The guards looked around uneasily, unsure what to do.

Erasmus sighed. ‘Go now’ he shouted at them, ‘otherwise, I will let them kill you.’

With that, the guards scurried to pick up their wounded, one of them hauled Roland to his feet and helped him along. The men surrounding them snickered as they parted to let them through. Once they were gone, Erasmus turned back to the men who had come to their rescue.

‘Portas!’ He called out ‘Where are you? I thought I saw your ugly mug in that inn. I assume that was you and Eros on that rooftop with the rifles?’ 

Two men pushed their way to the front of the crowd, they were both big and burly like Erasmus, they looked very similar too. Erasmus laughed and ran to embrace them. Dean and Eldric looked on bewilderedly. Dean cleared his throat loudly, Erasmus looked up.

‘Ah yes, of course. Dean, Eldric, these are my brothers Portas and Eros and these…’ he said as he waved his hand at the surrounding group, ‘are the rebels I was just telling you about.’

Eldric glared at Erasmus. 

‘You could’ve told me that before I started the fight and nearly got us all arrested.’

Dean burst out laughing.

‘Oh please, you would’ve started that fight anyway.’

Eldric grinned. ‘Yeah, probably.’

The group of men laughed as they exchanged handshakes with each other.

‘You’re not going to forget about me are you?’ said a voice from behind them.

Erasmus and the brothers turned to see a woman striding towards them, a rifle held in one hand. She was one of the most strikingly beautiful women Dean had ever seen. She was small and slender, with dark red hair and deep blue eyes. She was dressed the same as many of the men in the group, she had long trousers with a shirt, over which she wore a brown leather jacket. Dean could not take his eyes off her.

Erasmus bowed deeply, ‘My apologies, my lady. Dean, Eldric allow me to introduce Kayleigh Vestar. Leader of the rebellion and rightful princess of Sitaria.’

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Crossbones[_ ]continues in Episode 2[ _](this season gets better by the book!). Episode 2 is available NOW!

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Stefan M. Nardi grew up on a healthy diet of books, books and more books (pretty sure there was some lollies and other junk in there too). He read his first fantasy novel, Deltora Quest when he was 6 years old. Coincidently it was about the same time that his dad sat him in front of the TV and put Star Wars in the VCR. From then on he was hooked, he consumed every fantasy and science fiction novel, television show and movie he could get his hands on. He is now a self-confessed nerd and can be found most days with his eyes glued to a television or wedged firmly in the pages of a book.

After writing many horrible first chapters of various stories which usually ended up in the bin, in 2015, at the ripe old age of 21, he managed to get to the second chapter of (and eventually complete) a story and released his first fantasy serial ‘Crossbones’.

He currently lives in Brisbane, Australia with his loving girlfriend (Hi sweetie!) and his wonderful parents and brother. He also now feels like one of those annoying people who talk about themselves in the third person all the time and is going to stop now. He promises.

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Crossbones: Episode 1

A thrilling, swashbuckling new fantasy for fans of Jim Butcher, the Starz TV series Black Sails and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. For two hundred years, the world of Alarisia has lived through a great age of piracy. Men take to the seas to seek their fortune or die trying. Controlled by the seven pirate lords and hounded by the world navy, they sack and pillage their way across the oceans. But not all prosper under their rule, for many the pirate lords create only misery and death. Dean and Eldric Whittaker have never known their parents, orphaned in a pirate raid on their village the two brothers were raised by the mysterious wizard Rorschach. The only clue to their heritage, their strange abilities to control the elements of Ice and Fire. Harboring a hate for the pirate lords and a thirst for revenge, the brothers set out on their own voyage. But in a world inhabited by monsters and ruled by men with the power of gods, can they survive long enough to achieve their goal?

  • ISBN: 9781310028489
  • Author: Stefan M. Nardi
  • Published: 2015-09-23 13:00:09
  • Words: 8808
Crossbones: Episode 1 Crossbones: Episode 1