Sky Pirates!: Part Four
The dynamite was all in position. Barrel upon barrel was stacked up high underneath the Rusty Dubloon. Captain Hackett stood back; he was proud of his work. The Fontaine sisters had long ago retreated to the safety of the street above. Once Hackett was finished taking in his fine work, he picked up a considerably lighter barrel, and walked away slowly into the gloom. The gunpowder pouring out of the barrel formed a nice trail, all the way back to the cellar’s entrance. He had to be far away when he lit the fuse, but close enough to see the explosion.
Some things you really don’t want to miss.
The Revenge waited in the bay, cannons loaded, crew ready.
“Crew’s reported back, sir!” Benny said enthusiastically. “Dread’s not in the town!”
Scarblade smiled evilly.
“Good, we got here before him,” he replied. “Make sure everyone is prepared. Round up pirates to help from the shore if we need them.”
“Most of them are in the Rusty Dubloon, sir,” Benny informed him. “The two for one grog offer, you see?”
“Not the Golden Dubloon?” Scarblade asked. “Hackett will be annoyed.”
“Cap’n!” a shout came from the crows nest.
Scarblade wheeled around.
“Where?” he shouted up at the pirate.
“To the south! A single ship!” the lookout replied.
The Captain took out his spyglass and looked towards the south. A grin spread across his face.
“A fishing trawler!” he laughed. “Is that the best he can manage?”
“Are you sure it’s him, sir?” Benny asked, squinting to see the ship coming over the horizon.
“He said fishermen found him on the bottom of the ocean; it must be him!” Scarblade told the Bruce confidently, before turning to the crew. “Sink him!”
The crew didn’t need telling twice. They rushed to light the cannons. A few moments later, three cannonballs were hurled across the ocean. They impacted on the small ship, and floundering against the waves it slowly sank.
Benny smiled; Scarblade did not.
“That was too easy...” the Lupe muttered.
He knew Dread wouldn’t wait on the sea bed for years, only to be sunk by three shots.
In front of the Revenge, the ocean began to foam. Scarblade’s crew backed away, towards the centre of the deck. Scarblade stared in horror at the depths as a dark form was etched out below the surface.
An ancient galleon burst up through the foam, rotten and rusted. The sails had long ago been ripped from the mast by tides, and there were holes from previous battles blown in the sides.
The ship had been sunk once before, but like Dread it had returned from the grave. It was a skeleton of a ship for a skeleton of a Captain.
Scarblade’s crew reeled back in horror. Onboard the dead ship, there were skeletons walking around, a crew of the undead. Scarblade could see Dread at the wheel, his permanent grin seemed wider.
“Attack!” Scarblade roared, rounding on his crew.
The terror of the depths was nothing compared to Scarblade. The pirates ran to their tasks. The Revenge put distance between the two boats, and then opened fire.
The Rusty Dubloon was full to the brim once more. Word of happy hour had reached the farthest corners of the piratical world, and the grog was in full flow. Toothless Bob stood behind the bar with his same old distant smile on his face. He was feeling in an especially insane mood, and had washed the dishcloth he used for glasses. That alone had caused a stir among the barmaids serving grog to the table. What followed managed to top that historic event... but only barely.
The door to the tavern was flung open with such force that the charred wood fell off the hinges and hit a small Kau over the head.
“In the bay, there’s a battle happening!” the Kyrii who had rushed in gasped.
The hubbub of the Rusty Dubloon died slightly.
“Who is it?” an elderly Gnorbu asked.
“Dread and Scarblade!” the Kyrii replied.
Total silence fell in the tavern for a few moments. Then, as one, the pirates made their way to the door. Free grog was one thing, but no self respecting pirate would miss a duel between two of the greats.
A small bottleneck formed as the pirates forced their way out of the bar and onto the streets. They soon saw to it by forcing their way through the grimy windows instead.
The waxy smile on Bob’s face faded slightly as the last of the pirates left.
His bar seemed emptier; that wasn’t right.
Slowly, he put down the cloth and the tankard he was cleaning, and stepped out from behind the bar. It was something he hadn’t done in years. He stood in the doorway, breathing in the fresh air from outside.
Breathing in deeply, Toothless Bob stepped out.
There seemed to be a commotion going on near the water front. The Techo made his way towards the crowd. His feet moved jerkily as they strained to remember how walking worked.
And then the Rusty Dubloon exploded.
Captain Hackett jumped up and down in anger.
“Why!?” he screamed. “It was all going so well!”
The pirates had left the bar just as Hackett had lit the fuse, and Bob had walked out just seconds before the place had gone sky high. It should have worked; Hackett should have rid himself of Bob once and for all.
The Lupe rounded on the Fontaine Sisters.
“You must have warned him!” he concluded.
Loretta looked at him sceptically, her nostrils flaring.
“Come on, sister, we don’t have to listen to this,” Rosetta snorted. “Let’s go. There’s something fun happening in the bay.”
The Aishas joined arms and marched off towards the crowd at the waterfront. Hackett was left staring angrily at the fiery remains of the Rusty Dubloon.
The two ships circled each other, firing cannons haphazardly. The Revenge was badly damaged, fires having broken out on the lower decks. The skeleton ship was also badly damaged, but the evil magic Dread had cast on the vessel seemed to hold together the carcass, as the skeleton crew ran backwards and forwards, firing cannonballs.
Both Captains stared steely at each other across the waves as they barked orders at their crews. One ship would sink; one Captain would fall.
On the shoreline the pirates had gathered to watch the show, and as is ever the case, grog had arrived. Toothless Bob was back at the ruins of the Rusty Dubloon lamenting his loss, but every single other pirate on the island was there.
They all looked up agog as the Flying Cutlass flew low over the island. Freddy brought the ship down in the bay, kicking up the water.
“What’s going on?” Fairfax asked, taking in the scene as he clung tightly to his bucket.
The two other ships in the bay were still facing each other, firing everything they had. Behind them, the ruins of the Rusty Dubloon sent up thick plumes of smoke.
“They’ve attacked the town!” the Pimpernel gasped.
“All that grog...” Bug Eye murmured.
Freddy set his jaw solidly.
“No pirate attacks Krawk Island and gets away with it!” he shouted, wildly turning the wheel. “Arm the cannons!”
The Flying Cutlass shot up into the air as the crew aside from Freddy went below deck. The Chomby brought the ship back, circling above the two hostile ships.
He tilted the wheel slightly, putting the ship at an angle, and lining up the cannons to fire directly at the older looking ship.
“Fire!” he commanded.
The shots impacted on Dread’s resurrected ship with force. Several hit the skeletal crew and blew them to pieces. A large hole in the deck revealed to the Kiko Captain that his ship was taking in water quickly. It was strong magic, but it wouldn’t last forever. Dread had no way of attacking the flying ship.
He snarled at the sky, and held out a single Dubloon in front of him. Strange symbols engraved on it began to glow, and a moment later Dread was gone, whisked away by magic. With the Captain gone, the remaining skeletons crumbled to dust, and slowly, the sea reclaimed the ancient ship.
Freddy turned his attention to the Revenge, but Scarblade had seen the flying ship coming. The black galleon was already sailing frailly away through the waves, far too damaged to put up a fight.
On the shoreline, cheers rose up. The pirates of Krawk Island considered that it had been a good show, all things considered.
The door to the cell opened again, and the Grarrl guard entered. He handed over a small slip of paper to General Qin.
“Just arrived from a Weewoo sir,” the guard explained.
“All went according to plan on Krawk Island, so it seems,” Qin said happily. “Dread should make his move soon, and Scarblade will be more than happy to help I should imagine... provided our little messenger reaches him.”
The General looked expectantly at the Grarrl.
“Oh yes, sir!” the guard ventured. “He is on his way as we speak, sir!”
“Good... any word from Mr. Halflook?” Qin asked.
“He was spotted entering the last of the valleys in which we prepared traps not long since, sir,” the guard answered.
Qin seemed to do some calculations in his head.
“Yes... that will do nicely,” he said at last. “How many of your... associates are in place now?”
“There are eight of my men who have infiltrated the guard, sir. I’m working on a ninth,” the guard said proudly.
“The ninth will not be needed; it is far too late in the game to be adding pieces to the board. Leave the door unlocked when you go,” he said dismissively. “It will be starting soon.”
The guard left quietly, and as ordered there was no gentle click of the lock.
Everything was going exactly according to plan.
To be continued...