JW posted the first of them, here are the rest of the convention pack story insets for Fiends of the Blood Islands.
The captain of the USS Ironsides looked warily back towards the fleet of rotting, bone-encrusted ships on the horizon.
“This wasn’t part of the plan…”, his voice nervously trailed off as he glanced at his two escorts.
The Pequod and the Swamp Fox had both been selected to serve as escorts for the Ironsides’s maiden voyage. They were there primarily as a safety net for the crew in case something happened to the prototype Ironclad. No one had anticipated to intercept a Cursed war fleet.
The Cursed fleet had spotted the three American vessels, and five galleons were already en route and gaining rapidly. The Ironsides had been equipped with a full barrage of cannons and munitions as well as a full crew so as to test her speed in a combat scenario, but they hadn’t been expecting to need them on this voyage.
The Swamp Fox began to slow and turn around, her numerous gun ports opening. From behind the American vessels, a single cannon was heard. The captain of the Ironsides turned incredulously at the sound.
‘Do they really think they can hit us from that far away?‘, he thought.
Then he heard it: The sound of a chain-shot closely flying through the air. With a terrifying crunch, the Swamp Fox’s main mast snapped in half, the upper part toppling into the ocean.
More cannons were fired, and as the Swamp Fox was destroyed, the Pequod and Ironsides turned around to meet their fate.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It was the only thing El Fantasma could think to say when the Ironsides finally began to vanish beneath the waves.
Standing at the railing of the King Jones, he was struck with an idea.
“Captain!” he called.
“Yes, sir?” replied the half-decayed corpse wearing a black coat.
“Signal to the Hellhound and the Skell’s Hand. They are to return to Aguinvari-Gakhali immediately for repairs.”
Nodding curtly, the captain left El Fantasma to execute his orders. El Fantasma walked leisurely into the below decks of the King Jones. He pushed open the door to the room underneath the captain’s quarters.
“Master Scribe?” he said to the elderly man who was shakily scratching away at a scroll behind a desk.
“Yes, yes; what do you want?” the ancient scribe was clearly very irritated at the interruption to his work.
“I need you to record our current coordinates at this spot. There’s something I want to retrieve later.”
The library was dark; lit by only a couple candles on the work desk. A thin man sat at the desk, scrawling on a piece of paper, attempting to translate and copy a small, strange journal. He leaned back in his chair, and removed his large round glasses, tiredly rubbing his eyes. Placing his glasses back on the tip of his nose, he looked over at the timepiece on his desk.
Twenty minutes to three. Another sleepless night.
He sighed, and glanced at the name placard on the desk: Dr. Milo A. Thackeray; Professor of Linguistics and History. If the expedition went well, that name would soon be known the world over.
Milo shook the tiredness from his head and leaned over the desk again. He needed these translations; even if it took him all night.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Early in the morning, Professor Milo Thackeray stood on the command deck of the USS Whitmore. Gripping the railing tightly, he looked out through the main window in the front of the submarine with a combination of excitement and fear. The Whitmore was about to launch; and his quest to discover the lost Empire of Atlantis was about to begin.
‘Day 20 of the Atlantis Voyage; USS Whitmore; Professor’s Log:
The captain seems worried about the mission’s success. We have about half a month’s worth of food and supplies before we have to abandon the quest. Even with the journal and all of its clues, the Lost Empire continues to evade me! I feel the crew is beginning to give up hope on this expedition.
And speaking of the crew, I clearly remember asking for a professional crew for the mission; not the questionable band of… mercenaries that have been placed on this vessel. I do not trust any of the men or women aboard this submersible. I fear disaster or much worse-‘
The professor stopped writing in his log book. He hesitated to write the one word that strikes fear in all sailors: Mutiny.
He sighed heavily, closing his book. He pushed up his glasses and rubbed his strained eyes.
The dim red light on the wall of his cramped room gave him a headache, and made him miss the sunlight and bright colors above the surface of the water.
The professor rose from his cot and left his room, heading for the command deck.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
On the deck, some of the crew were huddled together, whispering to each other suspiciously. As he glanced over at them, they stopped and looked up at him. The captain, an ex-military commander named Tiberius Rouran, stood up and walked over to him.
“You’re sure this place exists?” asked Rouran. “We’ve checked and rechecked these coordinates over and over. Where’s the city?”
Milo breathed deeply, trying to calm his nerves.
“Mr. Rouran, the empire does exist. It’s just hidden well.” Rouran raised an eyebrow skeptically.
Milo continued, “I know that none of you want to wait any longer, but-”
Milo was cut off when another crew member ran into the room.
“We found it! The Ulysses found the entrance!” he exclaimed.
Milo ran to the front window of the Whitmore. Sure enough, in the light from the Whitmore’s forward lamps, he could see the back half of the Ulysses turning downwards into a cave.
As the Whitmore began to descend into the deep, a feeling of dread slowly came over the professor. Whatever happened down here would change the course of history.
Milo looked hopelessly across the Atlantean harbor. The USS Whitmore was approaching the submerged tunnel that led to open ocean. Milo’s crew had mutinied against him, tried to kill him, and were now getting away with an ancient relic that the natives called, “The Heart of Atlantis”.
The Ulysses was being left behind due to her slow pace and size. She was moored at a sturdy wooden pier not far from where the Whitmore had just launched.
Desperately, Milo turned to the daughter of the murdered Atlantean King. They had become close acquaintances before Milo’s crew had turned against him.
“Is there anything we can do?” he asked her.
She looked at him with a saddened face.
“There is one thing”, she said. “But I need you to gather as many people as you can, and prepare that vessel for our escape.” She pointed to the Ulysses before turning and running towards the city’s remains.
“Kida!” Milo called, starting after her. “Kida, wait!”
Her pace never wavered. Before long, Milo could no longer see her wild mane of white hair.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
When Kida returned to the beach, Milo was finishing up the preparations to launch the submarine.
“Where did you-”
“No time, we must leave now!”
Kida’s voice cut off the professor’s weak protests.
A deafening roar echoed through the city. Milo needed no further encouragement to board the Ulysses.
“What the hell was that?!” Milo exclaimed as he began to submerge the Ulysses.
“I had no choice, Milo”, Kida’s voice was somber. “There is no chance those traitors can escape now.”
Behind the Ulysses, Atlantis shook. The city began to crumble and collapse, caving inward as the ground beneath it sank.
“I have done the unthinkable” Kida’s voice was shaking. “I have awakened the last Guardian: The Grimm.”
As the Ulysses escaped through the remains of the city, a massive air bubble breached the surface near where the Whitmore was last seen.
The captain slowly made his way down from the wheelhouse, taking care to note all the minute details as he went. Little nicks and scratches in the paint and wood, rough spots made smooth by constant usage, a different colored plank showing where repairs had been done. He ran his hand along the guardrail, once rough now smooth from countless days at sea and constant usage. He looked up at the masts, the spars and sails. He could make out all the places where repairs had been done, both to wood and cloth. Heaving a sigh, he finally turned and walked down the gangway to the pier. Old Montana was there, grizzled and graying, waving to him as he descended.
“Saying a final goodbye?”
“Something like that.”
Montana grunted, and offered a pipe to the captain, which he accepted.
“They don’t make ‘em like this anymore, ships fall apart in a few months nowadays.” Montana grunted as the two strode along the pier.
“I remember the first time I saw her, back when I was a young buck, up till then nothing had ever impressed me, she did.”
The captain grunted in agreement.
“She was old then; it’s amazing she’s held up this long, a testament to her crew, and captain.”
The pair reached the other end of the pier, where a ship was sitting moored, fresh new sails and trim, practically glowing in the afternoon light. Scribed across the bow was the word Excelsior.
“So this is the replacement?” the captain asked.
“All bright and new, bet she lasts two months, tops.”
“Oh, don’t be so down Montana.”
“Like I said earlier James, they don’t make ships like the Enterprise anymore.”
Scarborough’s docks were cold and partially frozen in the winter night air. A man was slowly staggering through the harsh, snowy air towards the churning black water at the end of the docks. He was wearing a tattered, red sailor’s uniform under a thin blanket that was draped over his emaciated frame. He walked with a limp, favoring his right leg. He’d been pinned against a cannon during a fight at sea, and had been relieved of duty once he could stand again.
Shivering uncontrollably, he made his way to the end of the dock, where a Schooner was moored. A man in an impressive-looking captain’s uniform was standing outside the ship by the gangplank. Seemingly unaffected by the frigid air, he called out to the limping man.
“Sir! Have you come to enlist your service to the Orion Solstice?”
The man nodded jerkily, teeth chattering.
“Then step right up, sir! The Solstice is always happy to have new recruits”, the uniformed man was energetic and welcoming as he guided the cold man up the gangplank.
Snow was building up on the deck of the Solstice, but there was a cleared path from the side of the ship to the hatch leading below decks. Entering the dim lamp light below the ship’s top deck, a wave of warmth washed over the cold man. Turning to thank the uniformed man for accepting him onboard his ship, he noticed that the walls and floor of the Solstice were an unusual deep red color; almost black.
Before he could comment, a boot heel slammed into his face, knocking him onto the hard wooden floor. Blood pouring from his broken nose, he looked up at the uniformed man in shock and terror.
A cruel smile spread across his face. His uniform was now covered in bloodstains and sword punctures. At certain points along his limbs and torso, his skeleton was visible.
“Welcome aboard the Orion Solstice” he said, his voice fading. “Where not a single soul escapes…”
As he lost consciousness, the man heard muffled screams through the bloodstained wooden floor.
Hell awaited him hungrily.
Captain Scott Dacsh
The sea was stormy and treacherous. Waves washed over the deck of the HMS Orion Solstice as she sailed alongside the HMS Benjamin. Captain Scott Dash was at the Solstice’s helm, guiding her and the Benjamin through the rough, dark seas.
Lightning flashed in the sky, drawing Captain Dash’s attention to the Solstice’s starboard side. As the ensuing thunder sounded, he froze, staring out into the rainy night air. Something was out there. He’d seen it in the distant flash.
When the lightning flashed again, he was staring straight at them. Two Cursed galleons were closing in on the Solstice and the Benjamin, gliding effortlessly over the choppy waves.
“All hands to battle stations!” Dash shouted over the rain and wind. The crew responded quickly and without question. The schooner’s gun ports opened, loaded cannons sliding forward, ready to fire upon the incoming ships.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The storm had died long ago. The Orion Solstice was tied to the Hellfire. She floated, damaged, but not ruined, broadside of the Cursed galleon. The Plague had been damaged severely by the Solstice, and had fled halfway through the battle. The Benjamin had escaped thanks to the efforts of the Solstice and her crew.
Now, captain Dash and what remained of his crew were surrounded at sword-point by the fiends who manned the Hellfire. Her captain, a ghostly pale man in a tattered old American navy uniform, stepped forward.
“Which of ye be captain Dash?”
Dash stepped towards the phantom and looked into his colorless, dead eyes.
“I am”, he stated challengingly.
“Restrain ‘im”, the captain gave his orders in a lifeless monotone. “Take th’ crew below and slaughter ’em all.”
“No!” Dash’s cry was panicked and scared. “I beg you, take my life, take me prisoner, do what you will to me. But leave my crew. They were only following my orders!”
The Cursed officer looked back at Dash. A smile curled at the edge of his mouth.
“And what makes ye think we’re not gonna kill ye either way?”
Before he could react, Dash heard a gunshot and felt his right knee explode.
Falling to the ground, screaming in pain, and on the verge of passing out, Dash could faintly hear the captain’s final words to him: “Welcome to Th’ Cursed, Cap’n Dash. Prepare for Hell.”
Captain Shamshere smiled to himself. His day was going exceptionally well. In the space of a single afternoon, The Phantom had sunk two English cargo vessels and their escorts, ransacked Thompson’s Island, and now the Arbiter, the most feared pirate ship on the seas, was within his sights.
Shamshere stood at the helm as he gave his commands.
“Full canvas. Prepare cannons and a boarding party. Today, we take the sea back from the pirates.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Arbiter had fought bravely, but she was no match for The Phantom. She was now barely afloat next to The Phantom; her crew had been forced onto their knees and lined up on deck. Shamshere stood before them, looking at what remained. His eyes settled on a woman with short blonde hair near the far end of the line of sailors.
He moved to stand in front of her.
“Are you the captain of this fine vessel?” he asked, mockingly while gesturing towards the derelict Arbiter.
In response, the woman looked him in the eyes and glared.
“I take that as a yes.”
The undead captain looked over to his first mate.
“Lock them in the brig and set course for Aguinvari-Gakhali. Make sure The Phantom’s well-fed for the trip, but keep this one”, he said, gesturing to the short-haired woman, “alive.”
“Aye, captain…”, the cursed sailor said, his voice like a serpent’s hiss.
“What’re you planning to do to us?!”
The frightened and angry inquiry came from the blonde woman, who had been taken aback by Shamshere’s request to keep her alive.
Turning back around to face her, Shamshere’s face split into a cruel grin.
“Well, for those of you that survive your time in the brig, you’ll be put to work immediately. The Empire is in need of a new ship and a fierce crew.”
Realization dawning on the pirates’ faces, they tried once more to overcome The Phantom’s undead crew, but to no avail. As the pirates were subdued and dragged into the bowels of The Phantom, Shamshere let out a harsh laugh. Davy Jones was sure to promote him for this.
“Captain!” the cry cane from the crow’s nest. “There’s a large ship following us; looks to be a galleon, sir!”
Robert Surcouf looked back from the stern of La Possession. Sure enough, a four-mast galleon was visible in the distance. There were vague, white designs on her otherwise black sails.
“What colors are they flying?” Surcouf called to the lookout.
There was a lengthy pause.
“The Red Skull, Sir” came the lookout’s response. “And Sir, there are white coffins on her sails.”
Surcouf’s heart skipped a beat. Every sailor had heard the same description of the ship with white coffins on her sails: No ship can escape her; nothing can stop her; and no one survives her.
The Laughing Coffin.
“Full canvas! Keep guns loaded and primed! Throw unnecessary cargo overboard!”
Surcouf was running from section to section of the Possession, giving quick and precise orders to the crew.
He climbed to the helmsman’s post, taking the wheel. Turning to look back at the Coffin, it was already closer than before. Frantically, he glanced across the deck of the Possession, searching for a way to make her faster. He looked back again. The Coffin’s sail designs were now clear as day. Soon she’d be within firing range.
Sweat was running down Surcouf’s brow and face.
“Bring guns to the stern! Prepare to fire on-”
Before Surcouf could finish his commands, the deck where he stood exploded, sending shards of wood, glass, and metal through the air. La Possession’s back mast collapsed into the ocean behind her, and the next one fell forward into the main deck, cracking it severely.
The Laughing Coffin was now broadsides of La Possession. Cannons opened fire, tearing through the hull of the Possession. When the powder magazine went off, the guns stopped.
In the ringing silence, there was the faint sound of laughter.
The captain lowered his spyglass. The Two Spanish ships the Fury was chasing were making for an island that was getting steadily closer. He smiled, they were no doubt seeking a natural cove or bay where they could take shelter and hide, but there was nowhere for them to run to.
“Full canvas, I want those Spanish sunk by nightfall!” he cried, with a resounding cheer from his crew who could still speak.
*** *** ***
The captain lowered his glass, he didn’t need it anymore, he could plainly see the names of the ships he was chasing. One was called ‘Monarca’, and the other was something ‘Isabel’. As it had turned out there was a natural cove at this island, and these two ships were indeed trying to take shelter there. “Ready cannons, boarding party at the ready, I want these Spanish dead!”
Suddenly a sound like thunder ripped through the air, and the deck of the Fury was thrown into chaos as wood shattered and the main mast fell. The Captain looked ahead at the Spanish ships, which had parted as they entered the cove. Between them sat a ship larger than any he’d ever seen, with countless rows of gun ports, all open and smoking. The Spanish colors flew proudly from the main mast above the gathering clouds of smoke, the captain looked on in stunned silence as the giant ship reloaded it’s cannons. He made out the name ‘Santissima Trinidad’ on the bow, then a deafening boom as the Fury flew apart.
Elyse Rose looked around deck at the motley pirates around her. Being 14 and surrounded by Pirates was usually not a good thing, but Elyse had won them over when she took the ship, and welcomed them aboard. Besides most of the ‘pirates’ were barely older than her anyway.
The call came from her newly appointed first mate, who was making his way toward her from the wheelhouse.
“What is it Mr. Arc?”
“We’re approaching Tortuga captain-“
“Excellent, ahead of schedule.”
“We are approaching Tortuga, but some of the lads are worried we may be fired on by the Dead Man’s Point, since we still resemble a Royal navy Ship.”
Elyse thought for a moment.
“Run up a black flag, that should convince the gunners on the fort not shoot at us, although we’re barely a target worth shooting at.”
Arc and some others hurried to carry out her commands; Elyse ambled up to the bow, looking over the railing to see the name HMS Crusader still emblazoned on the hull.
That needs fixing, but what to call you my dear? she thought, absently stroking the scythe she carried at her side, her thumb tracing the crescent of the blade. Suddenly she was struck with an idea, and called for Mr. Arc.
“Bring up some paint; it’s time to give our ship a proper name.”
“What would you have us scribe?”
Elyse smiled, her pale eyes lighting up.
Elyse Rose was watching over as her boys loaded supplies onto the Crescent Rose, food, water, rum, cannonballs, powder, all things needed for a ship.
It was the man in the crow’s nest, who was holding a glass to his eye.
“What be it Mr. Winchester?”
“A ship, out beyond the reef, English by the look of it.”
Elyse’s heart skipped a beat.
“Have they spotted us?”
“I cannot say captain, though it looks as though they’re turning away.”
The lookout’s voice had grown fearful. All of the crew knew who she was, and who was chasing her. Elyse looked around at her lads, who had all but stopped moving.
“Load those supplies, double time! I’ll be back!”
She ran down the gangway and into the town of Tortuga, and stopped in front of a shabby looking tavern. Steeling her nerves she pushed open the door and waked in.
*** *** ***
Elyse stood by the helmsman and plotted their course.
“You’re sure of this route captain?”
“Yes I am. Got it from a reliable fellow in the bar by the pier.”
“All right, I’ll make the adjustments captain; but, you know, we’ll be skirting past Cursed territory?”
“We’ll be fine.”
Elyse left the helmsman to plot his course in the wheelhouse, and walked along deck to the bow, doubt beginning to eat her.
He WAS a funny fellow, that Skyme. She thought, turning her gaze to the horizon and the encroaching darkness.
Julie Rose looked from the ship to her mother and back again.
“You cannot be serious.”
Red Rayven responded with a slap across the face. Julie winced and held back tears, looking again at the sloop tied to the stern of the Branwen.
It was small, but had taken Rayven nearly a whole day to capture; it was so quick and agile. And now it was going to be hers. Not because she’d earned it, but because her mother was getting rid of it, and her in the process.
Even though it had taken them so much effort to catch, Rayven wasn’t keeping it, as it had been the personal yacht of some English businessman and it was sure to attract attention.
“That ship is yours now, Julie. Make good use of it.”
Julie snorted and allowed herself to be rowed over to the ship, upon which she clambered aboard and hopped on deck of the small sloop. The men who rowed her over almost seemed gleeful when they cut the tow rope and began drifting away, waving to her from their rowboat.
Julie cursed at them, loud enough from them to hear. Their waving and jeering stopped, replaced by scowls.
Not even a single deckhand….
Julie paced across the deck quickly, and soon set herself to work, hauling lines and canvas, and plotting a course. She reached shallow waters by nightfall and made anchor, noting her position on a map in the captains, no, HER cabin. Exhausted she slumped down into her cot, the rolling of the waves calming her exhausted fury.
Suddenly she spied something in a glass cabinet she hadn’t noticed before. Picking herself up out of her cot she opened it and examined it. It was a small crate, with several sealed bottles of amber liquid inside. Julie smiled, pulled out a bottle and popped the cork.
“All mine now….” She said, as she dropped back into her cot and slowly drank the whole bottle down.
Maybe things aren’t so bad she thought as she drifted off to sleep.
The water had run out three days ago, the food was dwindling and she was exhausted. But what was really bothering Julie Rose was that the Spiced Rum had run out yesterday. She pulled on a line, and looked toward the bow into the fog. She could hear it; there was a ship out there. She secured her line and looked over the rail toward the bow at the water. The trails were faint, but it was there, and she was catching up.
She’d been tracking this ship for two days now, determined to take it and make it her own, and maybe convince a few souls to join her. Suddenly she straightened up, listening intently. The sound of water lapping at a hull, the creak of ropes and spars, a dark shape loomed out of the gloom off her port side. Grinning, she ran to the wheelhouse and adjusted her course to point straight at the ship. A faint breeze caught her sails and she picked up speed.
Coming to stand on the bow, she looked up at the ship as it grew more defined. She counted numerous gun ports, and made out the name ‘HMS Gallows’. Her ship rose with a small wave and smashed into the starboard side of the ship, making a tremendous noise. She should have been crushed on the bow, but jumped, her red eyes flashing, golden hair trailing like a comets tail.
She landed on deck, surrounded by surprised and stunned redcoats.
*** *** ***
The fight hadn’t lasted long; the redcoats had folded like they were made of paper, and the sailors had cleared out of her way in fear. She stood before them now, atop a table on deck, looking at weary faces.
Yes….. They’re English, but I can work with them, make them mine. She thought.
She smiled, revealing teeth almost like fangs.
and then, mother, you and I are going to have a nice little chat.
Rayven stood at the railing of the Branwen, looking out at the sea. It was dark grey today, the water a little choppy; dark storm clouds gathered on the horizon, but the sun shone on her and ship. Rayven closed her eyes and unbidden memories rose before her.
Learning she was pregnant, feeling Julie grow inside her, giving birth, teaching Julie how to read the waves and the water, her first sword- which she’d broken moments later picking a fight with the bosun. Her tenth birthday, when Rayven had allowed her to take part in a raid, the day she’d sent her away on that little sloop, all those years ago.
Rayven opened her eyes, cutting off the memory. Julie probably didn’t understand why she’d forced her away, members of her crew had begun to ask questions about her, who her father was. More troubling to Rayven was the way some of the men had looked at her. Sending her away was the best thing she could have done for her little girl.
“Captain, ship approaching from the west!”
Rayven roused herself from her musings, and called back to the lookout
“None I recognize captain, but there’s something strange.”
Rayven quickly climbed to the lookouts nest and took his glass, and held it to her eye. Coming directly at them was a large ship, looking to have once been English, but the flag that flew from the topmast was not the union jack, it was a bright yellow and red, with what looked like crossed fists on it.
“Looks like we’ve some fellow pirate company, they shouldn’t be a problem.”
“Look at the bow captain.”
Rayven trained the glass on the bow of the approaching ship, and her breath caught in her throat. She was standing there, her golden hair flowing about her like a lion’s mane. Rayven lowered the glass,