Story concept by Patrick Toman
Written by Batya Levin, Kathy Pogge, and Patrick Toman
Click here for the Director's Cut version.
He felt the familiar pull of the Phoenix Gate begin to tug at him and this time he welcomed the inevitable dance. He was close enough to the new ship now that he could hear the murmur of voices across the sea and see the shapes of men begin to form on its deck. He picked out the form of the man who must be the ship's captain giving orders, mobilizing his crew.
Brooklyn puzzled over his odd clothing. It was somewhat flamboyantly tailored. Was that a cutlass in his hand? The man waved the sword at one of his crew members and the Union Jack was struck from the mast. In its place the leering face of a skull smiled across the sea. Brooklyn's victorious smile fell from his lips. His cry of agony was lost in the maelstrom of the Phoenix Flame.
"No! Oh, please, no! They're pirates!"
"I'm sorry that you had to get caught up in this, Sata," Brooklyn said earnestly. "If there's any justice in this universe, I'm sure we'll find our way back to Ishimura again."
Sata regarded him with dark eyes, deeply sad but with a resigned determination dawning in them. "Well then, Brooklyn-san," an arch smile came across the female's face as she sheathed her sword, "until that time arises, if and when it does arise, you and I will travel this strange path together."
"Better stay close, Sata." Brooklyn's familiar smug grin slowly spread across his face. "It's gonna be a bumpy ride."
Caribbean Sea, 1699
A bodhran beat the time as a tin whistle piped a merry jig. The sailors laughed loudly at some jest while a few of their mates, rather sodden with their weekly ration of rum, danced to the whistler's tune. Even the cabin boy, high in the crow's nest, was distracted from his duties by the general carousing that was the norm for Saturday night at sea.
Off in the distance, there was a bright flash of light that faded as quickly as it had burst into being, and a loud splash as two time travelers tumbled into the sea.
Brooklyn fought his way to the surface and looked around frantically. "Sata? Sata, where are you?" He listened with all his being and peered into the inky blackness. Finally, perhaps ten yards away, he heard splashing and coughing as Sata attempted to clear away the unexpected lungful of salt water. "Sata, are you all right?" He swam towards her, not waiting for an answer.
"I am here, Brooklyn," she called between bouts of coughing.
"Keep talking! I can't see you." Brooklyn followed the sounds of her coughing and soon the two gargoyles were bobbing together side by side.
"Do you see the light?" Sata pointed into the distance.
Brooklyn blinked salt water from his eyes and followed Sata's gesture. "It's a ship. Let's swim for it."
They swam and though the water wasn't cold, they were soon shaking from the exertion of trying to overtake a ship under sail.
"If gargoyles were meant to swim, we'd be born with flippers instead of wings," Brooklyn grumped. "Come on, let's give this one more push. If we don't close in soon, we're going to lose them for good."
The ship was closer now. They could make out the double masts and the long sleek lines of the hull. The strains of a fiddle joined with the high whine of the tin whistle and the beating of the drum.
"Sounds like they're having a party," Brooklyn commented hopefully. "Maybe they won't mind a few extra guests."
Sata didn't reply. She conserved her strength and swam grimly onward.
They were starting to make ground now. The ship loomed before them and they could hear voices raised in song. The two gargoyles redoubled their efforts.
"All right, boys, haul away!" a rough voice cried.
Something moved beneath the two swimmers.
"Hey! What the--" Brooklyn shouted as the rough fibers of a net wrapped themselves around his body, binding him and dragging the gargoyles beneath the sea once again.
He felt Sata bumping along, just below the ocean's surface. He reached out and grabbed her hand and she clutched his in return.
They gasped for air as the net finally broke the surface, and it was Brooklyn's turn to spit and choke the seawater from his lungs.
"One more heave, lads! We've a fine catch of..." The voice died away as the gargoyles came into view, rocking back and forth in the suspended net. The music stopped abruptly, replaced by the sound of shouts and running feet.
"Are you injured, Brooklyn-san?" Sata whispered, as Brooklyn coughed up more seawater.
Brooklyn spat the last of the water from his lungs and shook his head. "Only my pride." He looked down at the circle of rough, barefoot men who had gathered on the wooden planking below them, then glanced up. "Uh oh," he muttered. "I do not like the looks of this."
The sailors were shouting about the strange creatures they had caught in their net, and others were approaching rapidly. "Well, they isn't whales," remarked a young man with hair blonde as cornsilk underneath a bright red and white cap.
"Nar, an' they ain't eels neither, mate," agreed an older fellow, who wore a large golden hoop in one ear.
A third sailor eyed Sata speculatively. "Mought be mermaids. They do say there do be mermaids i' these waters."
"Garn to your mermaids," scoffed the fellow with the gold earring. "I never heard tell of no mermaids with great flappin' wings. An' that one looks to be a merman."
A skinny sailor with a pole in his hand moved forward. He prodded at Sata through the rough hemp cables and appraised her thoughtfully. "Whatever they be, boyos, they's in our fishnet. Think they tastes like fish?"
"Just try to find out," Brooklyn growled, his eyes began to glow as his patience snapped. He squirmed around in the net until Sata was behind him and out of the way of the poking sailor.
The sailors fell quiet and stepped back away from the net. A few crossed themselves and made small gestures warding away evil.
An older, white-bearded man was the first to find his tongue. "Sea demons! Sent by the Devil to claim us!"
Brooklyn groaned and rubbed his hand across his face. "Oh, great."
Sata made a tiny sound of disgust as several of the sailors dropped to their knees and began to pray fervently.
"Aah, ye spineless gobs," scowled the man with the earring in withering contempt. "If they was devils, think our nets 'uld hold 'em? They's maybe sea monsters or summat." He gave a chuckle. "Bigger game 'n yer minnows, eh Jarvey?"
A few of the men laughed in agreement, and the crowd began to relax.
"Now I's minded to 'ave oursels a bit o' sport," he drawled. "Dancin' is all right for you ladies, but I fancy takin' on one of these...whatever they is, might be a mite more entertainin'."
"Ought ter ask the captain, Smitty," the blond youth disagreed.
The man with the earring rubbed at his chin. "Cap'n's asleep. An' has bigger things t' worry 'bout 'n what we do wi' a couple sea monsters, aina?" He pointed to the net. "Cut 'em down!"
"Aye!" a shout went up from half a dozen men.
"We's the 'ellcats o' th' sea!" Smitty roared. "What match are a couple o' sea monsters?"
The sailors laughed as the gargoyles hit the deck with a thump and scrambled to their feet. Sata drew her katana; Brooklyn tensed to leap at the first of their antagonists who dared advance. A rough circle opened on the deck and the gargoyles circled back to back, prepared to fight.
"Sata, that flag -- " Brooklyn started in an undertone.
Far in the distance, the first rays of sunlight broke over the curve of the open sea. An early morning wind fluttered the ship's flag in the sudden light: black background, white grinning skull over crossed bones.
Stone fragments scattered over the wooden deck. Brooklyn's roar of awakening turned into a groan. "What happened?" He raised his arms and found them weighed down with heavy iron chains.
"We have been taken prisoner," Sata replied flatly. She struggled to turn around and found she could not. "My katana is gone." Her voice seemed unnaturally calm to Brooklyn, who at the moment was anything but calm.
The stink of the cargo hold was oppressive. The smells of the sea mingled with the stale sweat of men and the smell of wood soaked with pitch. Brooklyn wrinkled his nose, then tugged experimentally at his shackles. The heavy iron links wouldn't budge from their anchors in the heavy beam braced against the hull of the ship. He eyed the length of the beam in the dim light and groaned. "It looks like we're not the first prisoners these pirates have kept." He pulled uselessly on his shackles once more then looked up at Sata who was sitting calmly at his side.
"There is no point in struggling, Brooklyn-san. We cannot break our bonds."
"That's defeatist," Brooklyn argued. "We have to try."
"And if we could break them," Sata held up one hand and rattled the chain to illustrate, "we would still be vastly outnumbered, with nowhere to go if we were to flee. Would it not be better to wait until we have some tactical advantage, or until we can reach an understanding with our captors? They did not shatter us while we slept, they did not throw us back into the water. We might be able to gain their trust, or at least their cooperation."
Brooklyn shook his head stubbornly. "Sata, that's what I was trying to tell you before, these are pirates! The only reason they didn't toss us overboard was because they probably figured it would be more entertaining to watch us walk the plank!"
"Walk th' what?" a contralto voice asked mildly out of the shadows.
The gargoyles both turned toward the voice, startled, and peered into the dim light.
"Not tha' some o' my men weren't wantin' to toss ye both back into th' sea, min' ye," the voice continued.
"Who are you?" Brooklyn demanded angrily.
"I'll be askin' you that first, laddie me buck," the voice replied cheerfully, and a figure detached itself from the shadows and stepped forward. Brooklyn squinted, but still couldn't make out many details beyond a silhouette; tall narrow figure, loose clothing, a glint along the curved line of a cutlass at the belt. "This is my ship."
"You can call me Brooklyn. And my companion is Sata. Pleased to make your acquaintance, I'm sure," he added sarcastically, earning a dark look from Sata.
"I be Captain Davis, master of this vessel, an' I've a few questions for ye. I been sailin' the seven seas since Hector was a pup, but I never seen the like of you." The tone of voice was mildly curious, casual, and did not change as the captain went on, "Some o' me men are sayin' that ye're sea demons. Specially after ye turned to stone when the sun came up -- we wasn't sure you was goin' to start breathin' again after that. An' everyone knows devils can't abide the sun."
Brooklyn opened his beak to reply but Sata cut him off smoothly. "We are not demons or devils, Captain Davis. We are gargoyles, an ancient and honorable warrior race. We are on a journey and were lost at sea. We will do no harm to you or your crew."
A laughing note came into Davis's voice. "Fair enough words. And true enough too; ye'll do us no harm in chains."
"If we meant you harm, Captain-sama, we would have slain your men last night when they threatened us," Sata replied calmly.
A pause, as the captain seemed to consider her words. Then the silhouette changed as the figure turned, and bellowed "Ezekiel! Where be ya, laddie?"
Footsteps, first faint then louder, echoed down the companionway. A second, smaller silhouette appeared in the doorway. "Aye, Captain?" came a young voice.
There was a rattle and clinking of keys as the Captain handed them to the boy, who looked about ten or twelve years old. "Unchain th' lady," ordered Davis, pointing toward Sata.
"Aye, Captain!" The boy advanced a few paces, coming close enough to see clearly -- then stopped, staring at the two of them with wide eyes. The keys fell to the floor with a clank.
"Pick up those keys and git on with ye!"
The boy stood frozen in his tracks for another second, then gulped and bent to retrieve the keys. He sucked in his breath, held the keyring in a death grip, and step by trembling step advanced on the creatures chained to the deck.
Sata looked up at the boy, calm radiating from her. She smiled gently as he slipped the key into the padlock and tried not to chuckle as she realized that he had his eyes tightly shut and appeared to be murmuring a prayer under his breath.
The lock opened with a snap and her hands were free of the weight of the heavy iron shackles at last. She raised her hands slowly and turned them palm up, then pressed them together in a gesture of respect. "Thank you," she murmured, using the gentle tones reserved for hatchlings.
The boy bolted back to the safety of his Captain.
Sata rose slowly to her feet, gratefully stretching her arms over her head and extending her wings as far as she could in the cramped hold. Davis's hand went to the hilt of the cutlass, hovered in the air there for a moment, then moved to the cabin boy's shoulder instead. "Well done, Ezekiel. Now give me back me keys and go tell the cook that I said you earned a reward. Tell him you may have an extra biscuit and a bit o' cheese out of me private stores." Davis cuffed the boy casually on the shoulder, and gave his hair an affectionate tousle. "Git on with ye!"
The boy nodded, cast another wide-eyed glance at the two gargoyles, and scrambled up the companionway.
"I think I'll tend to ye meself, since ye seem to have a bit of a temper," Davis said to Brooklyn, twirling the keys thoughtfully. "He can be trusted, can't he?" The last was directed to Sata, in an offhand manner.
"I give you my word, Captain-sama." Sata bowed her head.
Brooklyn looked up at the approaching Captain Davis and stared. His mouth hung open, stupidly. After several moments he closed it again then stammered. "You're a woman!"
This earned him a bemused look from both Sata and the captain. Davis chuckled as she bent forward to unchain him. "This one is so sharp he'll cut himself."
Her long dark hair was pulled back into a tight braid, coiled at the nape of her neck. She wore breeches and a long cotton shirt like the rest of her crewmates. The cutlass at her belt was a businesslike weapon, the blade well-kept and sharpened to a fine edge. Her face was not beautiful, not as most humans reckoned beauty; a square jaw, a long straight nose and prominent cheekbones, with a pale scar running the length of her left cheek, from ear to chin.
Brooklyn was sure that he saw a twinkle in her eye as the chains fell away and she continued. "Been a woman most o' me life, an' been at sea longer'n that. Captain Malory Davis, master of the schooner Tethys."
"You're a pirate!" he added pointlessly.
"I's a buccaneer, boyo," Davis corrected proudly. "Though there's those who'd argue there's little enough to choose between the names," she added after a moment. "But that's na here nor there. What I would like to know, is how two...gargoyles came to be upon me ship. Follow me to me cabin and we'll have a bit of a talk and a bite of supper."
Sata prodded the still numb Brooklyn, and together they followed their hostess to the above deck.
The man at the window looked on stoically as the last traces of a blood red sun disappeared behind the distant waves at the mouth of the harbor. Hands clasped behind his back, he turned his gaze to the Union Jack, now silhouetted against a gibbous moon, and smiled inwardly at seeing it begin to flutter slightly as the evening breeze began to come in from the sea. Outwardly, though, he remained impassionate, his expression as stiff as his crisp red uniform.
The sound of approaching footsteps met his ears, but he remained at the window even as a second man, clad in a similar, though slightly less lavishly adorned, uniform, entered the room.
"I so enjoy seeing the sun set," stated the man at the window.
"Yes, sir," replied the second man, almost mechanically, as he came to stand in front of the polished desk which, aside from the accompanying chair, was the only piece of furniture in the room.
"As night is only relief this mosquito-infested place offers from the miserable heat," concluded the first man as if the second had not even spoken, and turned away from the window at last. He was a tallish man, thin and dried-looking, with medium brown hair touched with the faintest traces of gray. A dozen or so medals of various sizes decorated the chest of his uniform jacket, and he carried himself with an air of rigid formality, neither smiling nor frowning at the younger officer who presently stood before him.
"You have the papers, Lieutenant?" he stated more than asked, extending his hand expectantly.
"Yes, sir. Right here, sir," replied the younger man, eagerly extracting a roll of parchment from inside his jacket and handing to his superior.
The older man sat down, taking a few moments to satisfy himself with the comfort of his chair before unrolling the parchment on the desk and reading it over carefully. Several minutes passed by as he read, with the younger officer still standing, attentively yet silently, on the other side of the desk.
"Excellent," the first man said plainly. Carefully, he withdrew a quill from its holder, dipped it into the inkwell, and affixed his signature to the bottom of the paper. "If things go smoothly," he added as he returned the quill to its holder, "I shall soon be bidding farewell to this godforsaken swamp from the deck of my own ship."
"Yes, sir," replied the other man, his voice betraying even a bit more eagerness than before. The first man didn't seem to notice it, however, as he inspected the ink to insure that it was dry and then carefully rolled the papers back up. He stood back up from his desk and began to hand the rolled parchment back to the younger officer, but hesitated just as the man reached out to take them.
"The example must be made, you know," the older man said, "to get their attention."
"Yes, of course, Governor Richgrove," affirmed the Lieutenant. "I agree completely."
Richgrove's eyes narrowed for a brief moment before he finally deposited the papers back into the Lieutenant's hand. "Yes, Mr. Burr," he stated, "I knew you would."
"Will you need anything else tonight, sir?" inquired Lieutenant Burr as he tucked the signed papers securely back inside his uniform jacket.
"No," Richgrove replied after a brief moment of thought, "You are dismissed."
Burr saluted and slipped out of the room as Richgrove turned back to the window. He waited until he was several dozen paces down the hall before pulling the papers back out and reading them again. He smiled as he reached the end, his eyes lingering on the nearly illegible signature scrawled there.
Lights twinkled in the distance, growing brighter by the moment. Davis lowered the spyglass from her eye and gave a satisfied nod. "Good, we'll make port by midnight. I fancy a bit o' news and some fresh grub." She turned to her first mate, the man with the gold earring. "We'll have the watches flip a coin, whoever wins gets to go t' town tonight. The rest of you swabs can take your liberty in the morning, when we get back."
"Aye, Captain," the mate replied. "Go call larboard watch. Get 'm up here," he bellowed to the second mate.
The second mate ran below, and a few moments later the deck was covered by pirates eager to go to port for a night of carousing.
Brooklyn and Sata moved forward with the rest, curious who would be allowed liberty. Davis pulled a large gold coin from her pocket and held it high. "Starboard watch goes wi' me, larboard watch wi' Smitty," she announced. "The doubloon says who goes first. Mister Smitty, you do the honors?" and handed the coin to the first mate.
"Call it, Captain," he yelled as he tossed the coin high in the air. The pirates crowded close.
"Tails!" Davis roared over her crew.
The coin dropped into his hand, glinted as he slapped it onto his opposite wrist and uncovered it. "Tails it is!" Smitty growled, disappointed. "Cap'n and the starboard watch get the first leave."
Raucous cheers greeted the announcement, amid complaints from the unlucky ones. "Be sure and leave us some meat and drink and a few wenches when you're through," the cook grumbled.
"Now, Cookie," Davis consoled. "This is Robber's Roost we's headed for. Ye know they always have plenty of all three, even f'r a glutton like you."
The crew laughed and the lucky ones began to raid a large chest that several of them had dragged up on deck. A good-natured scuffle ensued as the pirates began to bedeck themselves in their hoarded finery. Even Captain Davis made for the chest, picking through the clothing and eyeing it critically. She reached for a jacket of red velvet, and another sailor went for it at the same time. The two stood there for a moment, each holding one sleeve, the jacket dangling between them.
"Now see here, Captain," the sailor began. "You wore that coat the last time we went to port. It be my turn this time."
Brooklyn held his breath. Surely Davis would skewer the sailor for his insubordination. His mouth dropped open when she let go of the sleeve and handed it to him instead.
"I did and it is and yer right, Garrison. I suppose I'll be wearin' the green instead." She smiled round at her crew. "Unless any of ye've a claim?"
The others merely nodded their consent and finished their own primping.
"Did you see that?" Brooklyn whispered to Sata. "I though she was the captain of this ship, not one of the crew. Pirate captains don't ask permission to use stuff, they just take it."
"Perhaps not all pirates are like the ones you know, Brooklyn-san. I think this one is very different."
Brooklyn frowned but said nothing.
Davis was still rifling through the chest, and after a moment, she discarded the green jacket she had grabbed a moment earlier. She slipped a heavily embroidered vest over the white shirt she wore, stepped into a pair of high black boots, and snagged a wide-brimmed hat trimmed with ostrich plumes. Setting it on her head at a rakish angle, she posed for a moment with her hands on her hips. "Well, bullyboys? Will I pass muster?"
Another cheer went up from the crew, falling into a chant. "Malory! Malory!"
"Let's hear yer brag, Cap'n," called out the blond Jarvey, one of the men on the larboard watch. "Like ye do in the taverns!" Shouts of approval echoed him.
Malory eyed her crew with a wicked grin, letting the shouts build up for a few more moments, then drew her cutlass and stamped one boot down onto the deck. "You wants t' hear a brag, boyos?"
She whirled the cutlass in a circle over her head and her voice cracked like a whip: "My father was a lightnin' bolt and my mother was a storm at sea! My name's Malory Davis, and I'm the meanest, toughest babe of a bloodripper ever to spit saltwater! I can orphan baby sharks with me bare hands, I can tie a cobra in knots and strangle 'im with 'is own tail! If I don't like the bend of a river, I grab ahold of the end of it and give it a shake to straighten it out! I was winnin' fights with a blade before I was twelve, an' I never lost a fight since! I carry death in me back pocket, an' blood's me favorite color! You get in me way, an' when I'm done with ye, yer friends'll weep whenever they see you by daylight!"
Brooklyn leaned over to Sata and whispered as low as he could, "You want to tag along and see how they act once they get to shore?"
Sata nodded her agreement. "I think that keeping this Captain Davis under observation would be most instructive."
Sata approached the captain who was waiting impatiently for the jolly boat to be lowered. "Captain-sama, may we accompany you to shore?"
Davis looked up and appraised the gargoyle. "Aye, I was thinkin' it might be wise to keep ye where I can see ye. But keep yer heads down. I suspect that not too many have seen the likes of you."
"As you wish," Sata murmered and bowed slightly. She moved to the railing and Brooklyn joined her.
"Don't ye want to ride in the boat? Or do ye intend to swim?" Davis called to the pair.
"Don't worry about us," Brooklyn returned. "We have our own ways of getting around." The gargoyles took to wing and disappeared into the night.
They glided in silence until they were halfway across the bay.
"If I never see another ship again, it'll be too soon," Brooklyn declared as the pinpoints of light grew into lanterns and torches. "They're cramped, they smell bad, the food is terrible...."
"You sound as if you've been at sea before." Sata cut into Brooklyn's rant and waited for an explanation.
"Yeah, it was before you came along for the ride." Brooklyn's voice was grim. "It wasn't exactly a pleasure cruise and I'd rather not talk about it."
"Very well, a new topic then," Sata said agreeably as they alighted on the roof of a rough dockside shanty. "Why were you so surprised to find that Captain Davis was a female?"
"Surprised?" Brooklyn questioned. "No, I wasn't surprised, exactly. It's just that her voice was..."
"Quite pleasing for a human female. I recognized it as such at once."
"Well of course you did. It was obvious, wasn't it? But it's just that... Well typically..." Brooklyn stammered and tried again. "There aren't too many stories in the history books about famous female, Caribbean pirates."
"I see," Sata said, not seeing at all. "So it is not that she was a woman, but that she practiced her trade in this part of the world."
"Yeah, that's it. Uh, let's talk about this later," Brooklyn said, desperately trying to change the subject. I think that's Captain Davis and her crew coming up to the docks now."
The little jolly boat bumped up to the dockside and one of the pirates, tow line in hand, jumped out of the boat and tied her securely to a post that seemed to have been provided for just such an occasion. He tugged at the line and satisfied that it would hold, he reached a hand down and helped his mates from the boat, Captain Davis last of all. The gargoyles waited until the pirate crew was close to their own spot on top of the supply shed before jumping down to meet them.
Davis looked up surprised, as they stepped out of the shadows. "Blimey, yer quiet," she swore as she took a step back in surprise. "Ye move like a pair of wraiths. Thompson," she gestured to one of her men. "Where be those hats?" A sailor produced a pair of large brimmed flannel hats similar to Davis' own. "I thought you could use a bit of a disguise. It's not much," she said as she eyed them critically. "Stay out of the light, fall in and come with me." She escorted them out of the little marina and through a very busy little street where men and women seemed engaged in all sorts of trade.
"There seems to be quite a bit of commerce in this port," Sata remarked dryly. "Of all types."
Davis nodded. "The town is run by pirates who've left the sea. It's a clearin'house for information, a place to rest one's bones and take one's ease, when one has a bit o' coin to spend, or wares to trade." She chuckled. "She's a simmerin' little stew of a waterfront town, an' I love 'er dearly."
They approached a busy looking building and Davis glanced back at the pair of gargoyles. "Keep to the shadows, stay close to me and none'll bother ye. And keep those hats on!" She gave a small, wicked laugh. "If anyone asks, I'll say we picked ye up in the South Sea islands. They'll believe anythin' came from there."
The rest of Malory's pirates crowded close around them, in a bizarre sort of camaraderie, as they entered. "Shouldn't be a problem," Garrison whispered to them in a tone of odd pride. "None'll pay us no mind in th' tavern, not while Malory's there."
The tavern was full of smoke, dimly lit with oil lamps, crowded and noisy -- crowded and noisy enough that Davis and her crew entered almost unnoticed. Most of the tavern's denizens, those that weren't hadn't fallen over drunk, were clustered around a pair of muscled men arm-wrestling in the center of the room. The two combatants were nearly silent but for grunts, but the mob around them were making enough noise for twice their number -- shouting encouragement, shouting abuse, placing wagers.
They seated themselves at a trestle table, with the two gargoyles seated as far away from the lamps as possible. The bartender was busy pulling pints from a keg behind the bar, while another was filling a tray with small stoneware jugs.
"'Ey, Hanrahan, stir yer Irish stumps! Me crew's thirsty and so's I!" Davis called over the general din.
The barkeep looked up and a grin split his ruddy face. "Malory! How's th' sea life been treatin' ye, then?"
Nearby, a swarthy man with a black beard looked up in surprise from his own drink, then laughed raucously and pounded the table with the jug. "I tol' you, Cecco, didn't I? I tol' yez that prat Richgrove got th' wrong one! There's herself now, big as life, plain as day, ugly as sin!"
Brooklyn tensed, and felt Sata shift beside him, expecting that such insult would be met with a display of force. But Davis laughed as hard as the rest of the tavern's denizens, then leaned over to swat the bearded man's arm with the back of her hand. "So says Will the Handsome," she returned in mock derision, her voice loud enough to be heard throughout the common room, "lookin' and smellin' like the hind end of a week-dead horse."
Another wave of laughter went up. Will roared louder than anyone, and pushed a bottle into Davis's hand as she sat down beside him. "Tongue still yer sharpest weapon, eh, Malory?"
"Always," she laughed. "While yer own is still dull as yer wit." She took a swig from the bottle and leaned forward on her elbows. "What's this about Richgrove?"
"Arrah, the blister's claimin' he's caught the pirate Malory Davis, gonner stretch her neck on the nubbin' chit," Will said dismissively. "Only th' skirt he's got hold of ain't a patch on ye. Little blonde bird, barely shoulder-high t' ye. I tol' em, did I no? Take more than some whey-faced bean-counter t' put the hurt on our Malory."
Davis's bottle hit the tabletop with a thunk, and she was on her feet again, leaning over Will with her eyes blazing. "Did you say blonde? Hair cut like a boy's? About so tall?" She gestured at her shoulder blade.
He blinked up at her. "Near enough."
"Oh, sweet mother o' Neptune," Malory whispered. "Jean."
Will's eyes widened. "Jean? Yer sister? Holy saints, Malory, I swear I didn't know -- "
"Aye, me sister," she snarled, "and if ye had the sense God gave little green apples -- " She choked off, whirled and pointed one finger at her men. "We're gone," she told them. "Now."
Without a word, the Tethys crewmen rose from their chairs and began moving towards the tavern doors.
"And the rest of you drunken blaggards," Malory raised her voice again, "you've not seen cord nor keel of the Tethys or her crew, not for months, if anyone asks." Her eyes scanned the room, not resting on any one man. "Malory Davis don't forget a favor." Or an injury, she didn't say.
The Tethys crewmen followed Malory out of the tavern in a tight bunch, as she snapped off orders right and left. "Garrison, Ames, you go find the boys what went to the other side o'town, bring 'em back to the ship right sharp if they're in. Tell 'em it's Hanlon's Choice, and the same goes f'r the rest of ye. Mullins, Mason -- " she tossed them a leather purse that clinked when Mullins caught it -- "you two load up the jolly-boat with provender, an' get gunpowder if y' can --"
Sata caught up to her, and placed a hand gently on her shoulder. "If I may, Captain-sama Davis, we can take you to your ship much more quickly than your companions."
Davis's head snapped up. "Do it. The rest of you, catch up as soon as ye can, I've words to give the crew."
Malory looked down past her dangling feet at the lapping waves sparkling in the moonlight far below, and the two gargoyles carrying her between them, their arms linked with hers, tightened their grip slightly. Malory looked back up at her ship, its lights growing closer.
"Can't you fly any faster'n this?" she demanded.
"Gargoyles don't fly. We can only glide..." Brooklyn began to explain, but Sata nudged him.
"I do not think this is the time, Brooklyn-san," she whispered, low. Brooklyn was about to reply, but a new noise audible over the steady sound of the sea drew his attention. It was the sound of men singing -- badly and off-key -- and it was coming from the ship they were rapidly approaching. A moment later Malory heard it too, and her eyes narrowed as she began muttering curses under her breath. Sata and Brooklyn merely looked at each other before pulling their wings in closer and diving towards the ship.
A few seconds later, they landed somewhat roughly on the Tethys' deck -- right in the midst of about a dozen startled sailors and the fresh keg they had just tapped.
The now-furious Captain Davis broke away from Brooklyn and Sata before the two gargoyles even had a chance to fold up their wings. "Thought y'd loaf about 'stead o' stayin' on duty, did yez?" Malory growled, kicking the keg over on its side and ignoring the cries of dismay as dark-brown rum splashed over the deck. "Thought ye could have a little fun whilst the cap'n wasn't lookin', eh?"
"Uh oh," Brooklyn said very softly.
Sailors were already scrambling for their posts in terror as Malory drew her cutlass, turned around and roared, "All right, ye filthy pack of sea rats, I want the slugabeds rousted and every man jack of ye on deck now! Move, move," and she kicked one unfortunate crewman who hadn't managed to get to his feet yet, a solid kick to the ribs. "Jarvey, ye salt-scummed barnacle, get yer stumps under ye!"
"I think perhaps we should go below," Sata murmured into Brooklyn's ear. Davis was shouting orders (with profanities liberally mixed in) to a half-dozen crewmen clambering down through the rigging, waving her cutlass around wildly.
"Starting to sound like a real good idea," he muttered back. "It's getting nasty out here."
As if she had heard him, Malory swung around and pointed her cutlass at them -- not with any serious intent of using it, that was clear, merely as a gesture. "And you two," she barked, "ye stay put, hear? Ye get Hanlon's Choice same as the rest of my crew, or ye go ashore now an' keep yer beaks shut about me. What'll it be?"
"What kind of ..." Brooklyn started, lifting one hand. But she was already whirling away from them to snarl at a half-drunk crewman still staggering across the deck from his post. "Reed, ye pile o' stinkin' fishguts, bestir yerself or it's Moses's Law f'r the lazy! Haul yer worthless behind a little faster 'less'n ye want it striped!"
"...choice?" Brooklyn finished, and let his hand drop, looking around. The deck was beginning to collect a crowd of sailors, some who had apparently been asleep, many who had clearly been drinking.
"All right now, ye bunch o' horrible little men, listen sharp!" Malory shouted, and the crowd grew quiet. "We heard some news at the Roost. Gov'nor Richgrove's taken me sister Jean prisoner, an' he's givin' out that she's me."
The crew went absolutely still. In the silence, Brooklyn could hear the waves slapping against the side of the boat.
"Now, ain't a one of ye who hasn't got a price on 'is head, same's me. So ye all get Hanlon's Choice: stay aboard the ship an take what danger comes, or take yer leave now, wi' no prejudice against ye if ye come back aboard afterwards. But I'm goin' t' get Jean out o'there, an' I've got to get there before they stretch her neck. Any of you what doesn't want t' come along can stay here at Robber's Roost till we comes to fetch ye." She paused. "And I'd be honored by any man what cares to keep me company."
There was a moment of continued silence. Then, at the back of the crowd of sailors, one man raised a clenched fist into the air and shouted: "Malory!"
Half a dozen, a dozen voices repeated the name; fifteen, twenty fists struck at the sky, and the entire crew took up the chant: "Ma-lo-ry! Ma-lo-ry! Ma-lo-ry!"
Brooklyn, standing close to the captain, saw the sudden glimmer in her eyes...a glimmer that might have been tears, or might only have been reflected moonlight. Her shoulders and head straightened in pride, and she let the chanting go on for a few more beats before she shouted: "All right, enough o' that, ye drunken swabs! Let's get us ready to sail!"
With one final whoop, the sailors scattered in all directions to their posts. Sata tapped Malory on the shoulder and said quietly, "What of the men on leave? Are we not to await their return before casting off?"
"They'll get back afore we sail," Malory said confidently, "or I'll eat me own boots without sauce."
"Brooklyn," Sata said in a somewhat sharper tone. Brooklyn jerked his head back around to her, then gazed at last in the direction she was pointing. Toward the bow of the ship, the cabin boy they had first "met" in the hold was trying valiantly but with little success to spin the capstan that would bring up the anchor.
By the time Malory turned around again, Brooklyn and Sata were already at the capstan. The cabin boy didn't seem to see them, though, engrossed as he was in leaning his full weight against the massive winch, which still refused to budge.
"Um, excuse me, Ezekiel, is it?" Brooklyn began.
"Zeke," the cabin boy corrected without looking at them. "On'y the cap'n calls me -- " He turned around and jumped at seeing the two gargoyles up close.
"Might we be of some assistance?" Sata inquired gently.
The boy looked at them appraisingly for a brief moment and then nodded. Brooklyn and Sata took up positions on opposite sides of the capstan and were mildly surprised when the boy finally spoke.
"On me signal, then," he said authoritatively, retaking his position. Brooklyn raised a brow ridge and Sata gave a small smile. "One, two, three, heave!"
An operation that was normally the job of four strong sailors was an easy task for two healthy gargoyles, and within a few minutes and several dozen turns of the capstan, the anchor had cleared the water. They could already feel the ship starting to move, as well, as the wind began to fill rapidly unfurling sails.
Zeke locked the capstan in place and looked out over the side of the ship, back towards land, pointing.
"Cap'n! Here they come!"
Brooklyn and Sata stepped over beside him and strained their eyes to make out the small landing boat bucking over the waves, the men inside it rowing frantically toward the Tethys.
Malory came over to the rail a moment later, tucking her cutlass back into place on her belt. "Put your backs inta it, less'n you want t' be left behind!" she ordered the rowers, yelling out over the sea.
The small craft was still about thirty yards out, and Brooklyn could already tell that they were falling behind. Scanning the deck, his eyes fell upon a coil of heavy rope, and he bolted towards it. Sata looked at him curiously for a moment as he hefted it over his shoulder, but a flash of comprehension lit her eyes as he handed her one of the ends.
"Tie this off somewhere," he explained as he hopped up on the rail, and Sata quickly complied, Zeke helping her to knot the rope securely about one of the mooring anchors while Malory looked on. Brooklyn took off a moment later, trailing the rope out behind him as he glided, until he alighted on the bow of the small landing boat. The exhausted rowers gladly traded their oars for a piece of the rope, and with Brooklyn helping, they soon pulled the small boat up alongside the Tethys.
A few minutes later, Zeke helped Sata pull the last of the exhausted crewmen aboard and then turned back to help Brooklyn, who had climbed up the side of the wooden ship, over the rail. As tired as they were from rowing, Malory's men headed immediately to their posts without so much as a glance at their Captain.
"That be a quick thinkin' fellow you've got there," Malory told Sata as she turned away from the rail. Sata blushed slightly, her jade-green complexion deepening, but she didn't get a chance to reply as Malory turned to address her crew.
"Lively now, gentlemen. Set those sails, we need to make port by dawn!"
The schooner's great canvas sails unfurled and billowed in the wind. Moments later they were underway and a grim Captain Malory Davis retired to her cabin to think.
A rat squeaked angrily as Governor Richgrove gave it a sound kick and then continued his carefully measured stride down the dank prison alley. Lieutenant Burr followed in his wake carrying a large parchment scroll. They walked past a string of empty cells and a few not so empty, whose prisoners cowered against the walls hoping not to be noticed before stopping next to a cell guarded by a stocky brute of a jailer. He snapped to attention at the Governor's approach.
Richgrove dismissed the man with a nod and coolly appraised the cell. Its lone occupant was facing away from him to look through the cell's one window, a narrow aperture that had been an arrow-slit before this part of the fort had been converted to prison cells, some years back. It wasn't barred and it didn't need to be -- a child's hand could scarcely pass through it, and outside was nothing but a sheer drop to the water below, too shallow for a boat and too rocky to swim. The prisoner's short-cropped blond hair and small, slender build might have been mistaken for a boy's, until she spoke.
"What d'you want now, Richgrove? I already told you that I don't know where Malory is. And even if I did know, I'd never tell you." Her voice was low and roughened, but quite unmistakeably female. She did not look at him as she spoke, keeping her gaze on the window and its meager view of the harbor.
"It has been charming, my dear, but it will no longer do you any good to keep up this pretense. I know where the pirate Davis is."
The woman twisted around and almost threw herself against the bars to look out into the corridor, her eyes wide with horror as she stared past him. Richgrove followed her gaze to the empty hall, turned back to see her expression turn to one of confusion, and laughed low.
"Oh, very nice try indeed, Malory Davis. But I know that you stand before me. Honestly, my dear, you didn't really think I ordered all these extra guards for just a common thief, did you?"
For a moment she stared at him, not understanding. "No. Me name's Jean. Jean O'Shay. I...."
"Read the sentence if you please, Mr. Burr."
Richgrove's second cleared his throat and untied the scroll. He began to read. "For acts of piracy against the ships of our good King George of Britain, for causing the death of innocent men, for evading capture and causing destruction of property..." Jean was shaking her head in incomprehension, her lips shaping the word no over and over. "...you, Captain Malory Davis, are sentenced to hang by the neck until dead. May God have mercy on your soul. Sentence shall be carried out when the bell strikes twelve noon, on the morrow."
"No," Richgrove interrupted, his voice suddenly sounding troubled. Jean's eyes flicked to him, in a kind of wary hope.
Burr lowered the paper. "Sir?" he said, disbelief in his tone.
Richgrove paused, looking directly at Jean for a long moment. "Change that," he said finally, turning back to his Lieutenant. "It's too bloody hot at noon to stomach a hanging. Let's make it as the clock strikes five in the morning instead. Just after sunrise."
The lieutenant fought to stifle a relieved smile. "Certainly, sir," he replied.
The hope faded from Jean's face and she watched, numb, as Lieutenant Burr made a note on the paper - a few pencil strokes that cut seven more hours from what seemingly remained of her life.
"You had better rewrite the whole thing," Richgrove suggested. "There's no sense in risking any violation of proper procedures."
"Yes, sir. I'll make the changes at once."
"Bring the new copy to my office within the hour," Richgrove ordered. "You are dismissed."
Burr saluted and hurried off. Richgrove followed him with his eyes until he disappeared from sight around the corner. Then he turned slowly back around to take in the empty cells to his right, the narrow barred window at the end of the hallway, and finally, the young woman who still had her hands clenched tightly around the rusty iron bars of her cell. He didn't smile. He didn't frown. He merely waited.
Jean pulled herself closer to the bars and looked straight up into the Richgrove's eyes. "Why?" she asked. "You know I'm not Malory."
His smile was as dry as a bone, and about as mirthful. "As far as I'm concerned -- and, more importantly, as far as the reports are concerned -- you are Malory, my dear. You're a woman, clearly one who's been at sea, and there've been so many conflicting reports of Malory's appearance that you're bound to match one of them. The capture and execution of such a notorious pirate will surely bring me to the notice of my superiors, and will ensure my reassignment to someplace other than this insignificant little colony." He turned to leave, then stopped and looked back at Jean. "It's nothing personal," he added. "It's just politics."
The smell of burnt gunpowder hung heavy on the air as Brooklyn and Sata burst forth from their stone shells. Smoke clouded the room, and the two did their best to blink back tears as they shook off stone fragments.
"What's going on here?" Brooklyn shouted in between coughing fits.
The noise of running feet and shouts had a desperate quality to it, and there were other sounds as well -- the crack of pistols and the louder boom of cannon. Sata drew her katana and was up the companionway in a flash, Brooklyn close at her heels.
On deck, a pitched battle was being fought. Six pounders belched smoke as they fired on a second ship that had hove to on their port side. Through the dim light and smoke, Brooklyn watched as men in British naval uniforms scurried around on the opposite deck trying to defend themselves in what was obviously a losing battle.
"The battle goes ill for our opponents," Sata noted, speaking very close to Brooklyn's ear in a low voice that undercut the din.
"Yeah, but our opponents are the law in these parts," Brooklyn said uneasily. "This can't be good. Where's Captain Davis?"
Sata scanned the decks, first their own and then their opponent's. Pirates were boarding now, pistols blazing, as they swung from long ropes, screaming fiercely to antagonize their prey. Davis was on the ship's deck, already fighting hand to hand with a man in an officer's uniform.
The pirates had the navy on the run. A precisely placed shot had knocked the top'sil from the aft mast, sending it hurtling down onto Navy and pirate alike. The pirates roared their approval, and the men underneath the yards of canvas their rage. The officer that Davis fought yielded under her blade and from somewhere came a cry to stand down.
Davis accepted the officer's sword. Using her own cutlass, she herded him roughly to the foc's'le and he was soon joined by his surviving crewmates. The pirates bound their hands behind their backs and sat them down upon the deck to wait for their captain's pleasure, three of the pirates remaining as guards while the rest helped begin the cleanup.
Davis nodded her approval and began to bellow orders. Small fires had broken out on board both ships and she and her crew wasted no time in switching over from battle mode and getting to work. "All 'ands, step lively now! Rig those pumps! Secure those lines. Come on ye slaggards! Move it I say, or there won't be a one among ye not wearing th' sign o' th' cat!"
Brooklyn and Sata jumped into the fray as Ezekiel and several of the men emerged from below lugging an ungainly looking wooden contraption. As the rolled it over near the rail and one of the men heaved a long hose over the side, its purpose became clear. Brooklyn quickly volunteered his strength to help with the pumping as the exhausted pirates began systematically putting out the many small fires that smoldered on the deck.
Sata grabbed the arm of an injured crewman as he staggered toward the ladder leading below, steadying him before he could fall. Gently, she helped him below decks, discovering that a small triage area had already been set up to tend to the wounded. Seeing they were somewhat short-handed, she quickly pitched in to do what she could to help treat the steady stream of minor injuries.
Dusk had faded to night, and the moon had risen high by the time the last of the fires were out, the last of the sails repaired, and the last wounds bandaged. As the men who were well enough to gathered again on the deck, Brooklyn wiped his brow and rejoined Sata as she re-emerged from below.
Davis surveyed her ship and her men, and once satisfied with the condition of all of them, she turned her attention to her prize and her prisoners. She paced the foc'sl'e of the Navy frigate before the captive men, appraising them as a whole before addressing the group.
"For ye common sailors and conscripts, I've a proposition. Ye can sign th' articles and earn yer freedom, or ye can feed the sharks. I'll give ye a minute to choose yer fate." She turned her attention to the officers who were bound apart from the others. "I wants answers."
The English captain looked up with contempt. "I've nothing to say to you, slattern."
Davis appraised the man coolly. "Sure ye have. Yer goin' to tell me where Governer Richgrove is 'old'n the pirate Malory Davis, or ye'll watch this fine bunch o'officers head off to Davy Jones."
"But I thought you were..." the captain sputtered.
"That's right, you fool. I'm Malory Davis. That scurvy dog Richgrove has got me sister, an' he's givin' out that she's me."
"Sister, is it. That's not what I've heard," the Captain sneered. "I doubt either of you gentle ladies even know what buck fathered you. Or was it a whole regiment?"
Malory kicked him in the ribs. "I don't care what ye heard. I want to know, where is she?"
"Richgrove doesn't have her. I heard she found a new family. One that keeps her in grand style, when she's not plying her trade."
Davis glared at the man for a moment, then before anyone could react, she drew her cutlass and slashed it cruelly along the length of his arm. She made sure the wound was bleeding freely before pulling her captive to his feet and shoving him over the side.
Brooklyn ran to the rail, then turned his head away. The water was roiling as triangle fins appeared, then descended back into the water. Of the English captain, he could see nothing. He dug his claws impotently into the brightwork.
"All right, ye motherless sons-of-ancestors, who wants to be next?" Davis growled. "You, yer the first officer? Or should I start wi' th' lowest-ranked an' move upward?" She favored them with the wickedest grin Brooklyn had ever seen on a human. "Never did know all 'at much about military protocol...."
The bound officers glanced at each other, then away. None of them said a word.
Malory's cutlass, still bloody, pointed at the first officer and then wavered about like a compass needle. "Sharks 're still hungry, boyos."
The first officer, a handsome man with a dark beard, lifted his chin haughtily. "Let it never be said that the Trinity's crew feared to follow their captain." Despite the sweat beading on his temples, his voice was calm and bold, and a mutter of agreement went up around the others -- but they did still look frightened.
"Oh, y'll follow 'im all right," Malory said grimly. "Every man jack o' ye, one by one. Noble, is it? To get torn apart by sharks instead o' talkin' to a pirate?" She looked each man in the eye. "Never got along too well wi' sharks, neither, an' I'd just as soon not give 'em a free dinner off o' my deck. But if yer all duty-bound t' keep yer silence...." The cutlass point drifted back and forth among the officers, seeming on the verge of selecting one.
"Wait," said a young voice, choking on the word.
Malory put up the sword at once and looked at the man who'd spoken, a very young officer with pale blond hair. "You just want to know where she's being held? Which prison?"
"Mister Jimson, not a word from you, that's an order!" shouted the first officer angrily.
"Which prison in which town, lad. That's all." Malory's voice was quiet, undercutting the first officer's rage.
"It's a court-martial if you speak, Jimson," he ranted. "I'll see you charged with mutiny -- treason -- giving comfort to the King's enemies --"
"Shut him up," Malory ordered flatly, and watched as one of her men gagged the man with a strip of linen left over from the ones they'd used for bandages.
Jimson licked his lips nervously and swallowed hard, his eyes flicking from his commander to Malory. "I...."
"Listen sharp, lad," she told him. "This fine body of men won't be able to charge ye wi' sneezin' out o' turn if they don't make it back to land. A compromise? If ye do speak, we'll maroon th' lot of 'em somewhere, an' put you ashore where ye can send a rescue party. If ye so choose." Her face hardened. "But if none of ye speak, y'll to the sharks wi' th' rest of 'em. I've no time t'waste sweetenin' the deal for ye any further."
The young officer looked at his commander again, then at Malory, then closed his eyes and let out a small sigh of misery. "Fort Clayton." The first officer made an outraged noise behind the gag, and Jimson flinched visibly, but repeated the words, his eyes still shut. "She's bein' held in Fort Clayton. There's only the one prison there."
Davis reached out and clapped the young Jimson on the shoulder. "Wise decision, boyo." She raised her voice and directed her next words to her own men. "Put 'im in the cargo hold, away from th' rest of 'em. Strip 'em to their drawers and tie 'em up below. We'll deal with 'em later."
Sata joined Brooklyn at the rail. The red gargoyle radiated anger and she gently placed her hand on his arm. He looked up, then noticed that her hand was bandaged.
"Are you hurt?" His anger momentarily subsided as he undid the bandage and examined her palm. "This is a knife cut!" he exclaimed. "I didn't see you injured during the battle. How did you do this?"
"It is nothing Brooklyn-san. I drew my katana from its sheath, but I did not fight. Honor demands that the blade taste blood."
"You cut yourself, to satisfy your sword's honor? I don't get it."
"It is the way of bushido," Sata replied, as if that explained all.
"Right. You've got as weird a sense of what's honorable as the rest of these people," Brooklyn said, indicating those around them. "Davis is a thug, but her crew would march into Hell for her. She trades insults with friends for fun, and then kills a man for insulting her. And not one of those British sailors didn't sign on to the Tethys' crew. I don't get it and I don't like it. I want out of here, now." He turned to Sata. "It's too late tonight and we're too far from land, but tomorrow as soon as we wake, let's get out of here. Let these murdering pirates rescue Malory's sister without our help."
"We can't do that, Brooklyn-san. We have accepted these people's trust and hospitality. Captain Davis has asked our assistance in rescuing her sister, an innocent woman. Is it not justified for a person to use whatever means they have at their disposal to right an injustice?"
"She stole a ship from the British Navy and sent its captain to the sharks!" Brooklyn argued.
"What means would you have her use to redress the wrong against her sister?" Sata returned, calmly. "She is wanted by this Governor Richgrove. If she were to appear before him, do you believe that she would receive a fair audience? When the law fails to keep justice, is it a law worth our respect?"
Brooklyn stared back at her stubbornly, not replying.
"Should an innocent die, while others stand idly by?" Sata continued in mildest tones. "I will not stand idle, Brooklyn. You may do as you wish. But I will help Captain Davis free her sister." Sata turned on her heel and left Brooklyn standing alone, staring at her numbly as she joined the pirate captain.
An hour later Brooklyn was still standing in the forecastle, fuming. One or two of the hands tried to joke him out of it, but after a while, they left him to his thoughts, all but Zeke. "Mr. Brooklyn," he began timidly. "Are you all right, sir?"
Brooklyn looked down at the boy who was staring up at him earnestly. "I'm fine. I just need to think for a while."
"Beg pardon, sir. But whatever it is yer thinkin' about seems like too big a thing for one person t'be thinkin' about all by 'isself." He tucked his thumbs into his rope belt and leaned against the rail. "An' I was thinkin' maybe I c'ld help."
The gargoyle gave the boy a small, bitter smile. "Thanks, kid. For someone who hangs out with a bloodthirsty captain and a cutthroat crew, you're pretty wise."
"Take care with yer words," Zeke growled. "They're me family. Cap'n Davis has watched over me since I was a babe in arms." The boy stepped away from the rail, his hands closed into fists.
"Davis? She's not your mother, is she?"
The boy spat eloquently. "Ain't got a mother. Malory's me cap'n, an' you say a word against her...."
Somebody shouted the boy's name from across the deck.
"I best be goin' now." He turned and ran, as his name was bellowed again.
They were moving under full sail now, and the salt spray washed up over the bow as the ship cut smoothly through the placid sea. Brooklyn stared blankly forward, oblivious to the shouted orders and the bustle of the crew preparing for its next mission.
"Brooklyn?" Sata spoke gently and he ignored her. "Brooklyn-san." She put a hand on his shoulder and he finally turned his head. "You have been standing there idle long enough," Sata said once he was looking at her. "There is something I must discuss with you."
Brooklyn stared at her blankly for a moment, his eyes still distant.
"Brooklyn, are you listening to me? The captain--"
"Sata, do you think..." Brooklyn interrupted. "Do you think our travels have been fated?"
The jade gargoyle was silent for a moment, unsure of what to say, for she had never really had reason to consider such a question before. "What do you mean, Brooklyn-san? I do not understand your question."
He tried to clarify. "Why are we here? Is it just luck that I picked up the Phoenix Gate and fell into the trap of the Weird Sisters? Or when I was hatched did somebody out there say, 'Oh look, there's Brooklyn, at least he will be in a thousand or so years. I've been looking forward to torturing him for the longest time.'"
"I still cannot comprehend why you must make foolish jokes about something that so clearly distresses you," Sata told him. "But I believe that I understand your question now. You are asking if the course of your life is predetermined?"
He nodded. "What do you think?"
Sata still sounded puzzled -- not at the question, but at why he needed to ask it. "Of course it is, Brooklyn-san. All the world is governed by fate. How could your life be otherwise?"
"It's not like I asked for any of this to happen to me," he continued on, trying to explain the thoughts that had been plaguing him. "But the Sisters told me if I didn't play along, the consequences would affect everyone, not just me. So I guess in a way I am chosen. Even if it's not my choice. I guess I should just be like those sails and let the wind take me where it may."
"But there's more to it then that, laddie-me-buck," Captain Davis said as she lowered her spyglass and joined them. "The wind can only take control of yer ship if ye let go of the tiller. As long as the wheel is in my hand, I control my destiny."
Brooklyn turned silent again as he absorbed the Captain's words.
"But what determines whether you hold the wheel or let the ship run free?" Sata asked patiently.
"Why, I do o' course," Davis maintained. "Listen, I've been from one end of this great wide world to the other, and I've never seen anything to make me believe that there's an all-powerful force directing me actions."
"You do not believe that your path has been chosen for you, that you were destined to a course of action before you were born?"
Malory shook her head. "Thinkin' like that is givin' up before you've even started. If I believed in that sort o' fate, I'd be a tavern wench or dead in childbed, not makin' me fortune here on the sea with a fine ship and a fine crew. No, me girl, ain't no fate but what we make oursels."
"And I suppose the Captain of the British ship chose his fate when you threw him to the sharks?" Brooklyn whirled, his eyes glowing in anger.
"That 'e did," Davis said flatly. "Even a redcoat knows th' rules o' fair speech. If 'e'd answered me questions, without talkin' filth at me, 'e would 'a been set free. If 'is crew'd voted 'im a fair man." She looked across at the Navy snow, which sailed to their starboard side. "'Course if they voted 'im a tyrant, then 'e'd have sealed 'is own fate and ended up among the sharks anyway," she concluded casually.
"I don't know why I should believe you," Brooklyn growled. "You don't have an honorable bone in your body. I should just leave right now, except that somewhere across that bay an innocent woman is probably going to hang for your crimes."
Davis pulled herself to her full height. Her own eyes seemed to glow in the lamplight. "Stay or go, ye red devil. Yer companion stands by 'er word and I spared yer life because of it. Who know's what would 'ave 'appened to ye if we'd pulled ye up in that net by yerself. Maybe that almighty destiny of yours mighta had somethin' different planned." She turned on her heel and started to stomp away, then turned and addressed Sata, as she slipped automatically back into command mode. "Make sure yer at yer positions. Timin's goin' t' be tricky, so y've got to follow plan exactly."
Brooklyn's eyes faded as he turned to Sata, confusion mixing with the anger on his face. "What 'plan'?" he asked gruffly.
Sata sighed and rolled her eyes skyward for a moment, then she took the brick-red gargoyle by the arm and pulled him aside to explain.
Richgrove fiddled with the oil lamp until the flame again burned steady, then stared again at the blank parchment before him as he had been doing for most of the hour. At long last, he picked his quill back up, dipped it into the inkwell, and began to write.
I cannot express how much I miss you. I am expecting to be reassigned very soon, and I hope I shall be able to return to England and see you once more. Very little has changed here since my last letter. The weather continues beastly hot --
The pen trailed a small smudge across the paper as Governor Richgrove looked up at the young soldier. "Yes?" he said irritably. "What is it?"
"Sail's been sighted, sir --"
Richgrove sighed and cast his eyes heavenward. "Imagine that. Sail sighted in a waterfront town. Whatever will they think of next."
"Sir, it's the Tethys."
The governor's eyes snapped wide open. "What?"
"And she's being brought in under tow."
Jean clenched her hands around the edge of the cold, mossy stone and pulled one last time, summoning all the strength she could muster and leaning the entire weight of her body back until she nearly lost her balance. She teetered precariously for the briefest of moments on the edge of the rickety bench before pulling herself back against the wall, sighing defeatedly as she let her chin drop to rest on the dusty ledge of the narrow window.
As old and decrepit as they looked, the stones hadn't budged. They were still in the exact same place they had been nearly an hour earlier when Jean had slid the bench over to the high window and first began investigating it as a possible means of escape. She blinked to clear her eyes of the tears that she still refused to let fall, and gazed out over the harbor.
She was close enough to smell the salt of the sea, even over the sour stink of mildew and rot in the prison cell. If she closed her eyes and breathed deeply, she could almost imagine she was standing on the deck of the Tethys again, with Malory beside her.... But it was solid stone instead of wood planking under her bare feet, and there was no swaying of the waves beneath her. And instead of the boundless freedom of a ship at sea, she was surrounded by iron bars and stone walls.
The full moon hung low over the ocean; it would be setting within a few hours. Full moon sets at the same time the sun rises, the thought came to her inexorably. And at sunrise they're taking you out to hang in Malory's place.
Jean rested her forehead against the stone rim of the window slit, watching the waves tossing the broken moonlight back and forth. Don't think about it. Don't wait for it. Just watch. With a shade of bitterness, the thought continued: There's nothing else to do.
She blinked back tears once more. Then blinked again, and raised her head, her eyes narrowing. No, she hadn't imagined it.
Sails, in the distance, on the horizon.
The ship rocked beneath them again, and Brooklyn dug his claws into the wooden bulkhead. "Ships," he muttered, the word almost a curse. "I swear, when this is over, I'm never gonna set foot on a ship again."
"Hush," Sata whispered from the door, and applied her eye to the knothole again.
"Can you see anything yet?"
"Nothing new. The harbor is closer. There are men waiting there, with lanterns."
Richgrove hastily finished buttoning up his uniform jacket as he strode into his office, where his lieutenant was already waiting. The second-in-command lowered the spyglass from his own eye and handed it to the governor, moving to the side to let Richgrove step up to the window.
Richgrove raised the polished brass instrument and sighted across the harbor, searching the whitecaps for several seconds before locating the Tethys and the Navy frigate leading her into the harbor. Redcoats moved about the decks of both ships, and a plain white flag flapped in the stiff breeze on the Tethys' mast.
A small smile grew on Richgrove's face as he sighted at last upon the Tethys' bow. There, standing between a pair of burly redcoats, in chains and with head hung, was the pirate Malory Davis.
A half-dozen men rushed out onto the pier to meet the incoming ships, several standing with docking lines ready in their hands. The narrow wooden structure stabbed straight out from the rocky beachhead upon which the fort was built, jutting unnaturally into the harbor. The tide was still low, and the barnacle-encrusted stilts towered high above the level of the sea.
The men with the ropes shifted about restlessly as the ships grew closer, the most experienced among them realizing with just a few seconds warning that something was wrong.
"Ease back to starboard! Yer too fast!" the man at the farthest end of the pier shouted as the bow of the Navy frigate passed before him. "Throw down yer lines! Pull to starboard! Are ye daft?" he yelled as he backed away from the great wall of wood sliding towards him. His subsequent curse was lost in the grinding and splintering of wood as the ship slid broadside against the pier. The planking heaved upward beneath him, and a moment later he hit the water with a splash.
"What does that bloody idiot think he's doing?" Richgrove screamed incredulously.
Lt. Burr had no response this time, and the two men could only continue to look on as the Navy ship plowed broadside into the pier. Richgroves eyes flicked back from the destruction to the Tethys, which until a mere moment ago had been sailing parallel to the frigate. It, too, now seemed to have gone out of control, spinning clockwise in the water and no longer moving forward.
Richgrove looked again to the Tethys' bow, making sure Davis was still there. She was... but he was a bit startled when she suddenly glared straight up at him, and when her face broke into a fierce, half-mad grin. He was more than a bit startled, however, when she raised her arms and the chains suddenly fell away.
Malory reached behind the back of one of the "Redcoats" at her side and drew her cutlass from where it was concealed in his belt as the chains that had "bound" her fell to the deck. In the same span of time, a dozen of her men sprang from their places of concealment and rolled the cannons into place.
Malory raised her cutlass high and pointed the glinting blade straight at Richgrove, meeting his eyes with her own as she gave the order. "Fire!"
Richgrove and Burr didn't even trade a glance with each other before they dove to the floor for cover. The volley rang out like a clap of thunder, and the entire room shook first with the noise and then with the impact as cannonballs shattered the stone of the fort's outer walls.
Richgrove covered his head with his hands as pebble-sized debris rained into the room, then scrambled on his knees back over to the window and threw the shutters closed before another volley could be loosed. Getting back to his feet, he scanned the room for his second-in-command, and found him poking his head back out cautiously from under the desk.
"What do we do now, sir?" Burr asked as he hurriedly pulled himself back to his feet.
Richgrove frowned and thought quickly. "There's only one thing left to do now," he said quietly.
Richgrove had already started from the room. He paused in the doorway. "Take your men and stop them!" he snapped. "Malory Davis will hang today, if I have to throw the lever myself!"
He was gone before Burr was able to mutter "Yes, sir."
Brooklyn and Sata heard the crash as the Navy frigate rammed the pier. They tensed as the cannons were rolled across the deck above them. But they held back until their signal came. They heard Malory scream the order, and they burst from the hold as a dozen cannon fired and sent the ship lurching sideways in the water.
Malory was already waiting, standing with arms extended, facing the rail. The gargoyles opened their wings and three quick strides brought them across the deck. They picked up the captain between them as they had before, locking their arms around hers as they leapt over the side. Malory's feet nearly skimmed the water as the two gargoyles swooped down and then leveled out, using the rolling smoke from the cannons as cover as they streaked toward the shore.
A young soldier who had managed not to fall off the pier raised his rifle, but wasn't prepared for what he saw coming at him as he looked up. An awesome winged figure with six legs and four glowing eyes appeared, hurtling towards him out of a cloud of fog and gray smoke. His rifle clattered to the rocky ground as he dove into the bay, narrowly escaping the monster as it shot overhead.
Brooklyn and Sata pulled their wings back and deposited Malory safely on the ground as Redcoats finally began to rush out of the fort. Malory let loose a blood-curdling war cry that was echoed by her men as they streamed off the Navy ship and down the tilted remains of the pier. They closed the distance so quickly, barely a Redcoat had time to fire more than once before they were forced to go hand-to-hand or bayonet-to-cutlass against the angry mob of pirates.
The rats quickly scurried aside this time as Richgrove stormed into the prison area, a pair of burly guards in tow. He grabbed for the wall and steadied himself as another volley of cannon fire shook the compound, then continued purposefully down the cell block corridor.
Jean was still standing on the bench, her face pressed tightly to the narrow window, trying to see what was happening in the harbor beyond, but she turned at the sound as one of the guards rattled his keys.
"Get her out of there!" Richgrove ordered.
Jean barely had time to hop down of the bench as the cell door was flung open and the two guards advanced on her. They grabbed her roughly by the arms and pulled her out of the cell, holding her tighter than seemed necessary, considering that she did not struggle.
Another volley sent a fine rain of mildew and dust falling from the ceiling. Richgrove looked on impatiently as one of the guards took hold of Jean's wrists and bound her hands behind her back with rough cord, while the second guard held her in an iron grip.
Jean looked up at the Governor. "It ain't five in the mornin' yet," she stated defiantly. She winced as the Redcoat drew the ropes tight about her wrists.
"It will be when the trapdoor opens," Richgrove replied. "The pirate Malory Davis will hang this morning, one way or another. She leaves me no choice now."
Richgrove turned away and Jean was forced to follow, prodded along by the guards on either side of her.
Brooklyn growled and pressed himself flat against the stone wall for the umpteenth time as yet another bullet whizzed by his head. "You know, these guys are really starting to annoy me," he muttered angrily.
"This route is not as easy as it looked from below," Sata commented dryly, sinking her talons into the rock and pulling herself up the wall another couple of feet.
"Just a little bit further, Sata," Brooklyn said, looking up to see the top of the wall was within sight.
"Hurry it up and hand me that gunpowder, will ye?" said the taller of the two soldiers nervously as they crouched behind the low parapet, their backs against the cold stone.
"T'aint my fault ye spilt yer own," replied the second, shoving the container roughly into his only remaining companion's hand. He dropped a pellet down the barrel and slid the ramming rod in, packing it as quickly as he could while his eyes lingered on the pile of rubble just a few yards away. He counted the strokes silently to himself even as he prayed that another volley of cannon fire would not bury him as the first had done the other members of the watch.
"Hello there," a gruff voice said from over his shoulder.
The soldier froze in the act of reloading his rifle, the ramming rod still halfway down the barrel, and turned his head slowly.
A pair of white glowing eyes set beneath a pair of long red horns and behind a grinning, fanged beak stared back at him. The sniper's eyes rolled back in his head as he fainted dead away.
The first sniper's companion wasn't ready to go down that quietly. Startled, he jumped to his feet and held his own rifle out in front of him, attempting to hold Brooklyn at bay with the bayonet. Unfortunately, he failed to notice Sata climb over the wall behind him. He slumped to the ground limply, barely even feeling the pressure of the strange grip Sata applied just beside his neck.
Brooklyn raised a brow ridge as he looked down at the unconscious Redcoat and back up at Sata. "Live long and prosper," he quipped.
Sata only scowled at him, then cast a glance back over the edge of the wall. Brooklyn followed her gaze. Malory's men were clearly winning the upper hand and were already starting to force their way through the gate.
"Let us finish what we came here to accomplish," Sata pronounced, throwing open her wings. Brooklyn nodded, and the two gargoyles spread their wings and circled down into the compound.
Of the remaining few Redcoats at the gates, the ones who didn't flee in terror were easily defeated. As Brooklyn tossed the last unconscious one aside, Sata lifted the already splintered wooden bar that held the gate.
With a renewed cry, Malory Davis and her crew stormed into the fort.
Brooklyn and Sata backed up against the walls on the opposite sides of the gate to avoid being trampled as the mob of pirates rushed through, Malory leading the mad charge across the now empty outer courtyard. The two gargoyles followed behind as the mass of men used their collective momentum to simply knock down the second set of doors that stood in their way. Like children trying to view a parade from the back row, they suddenly found themselves struggling to get just a glimpse of what was going on, peering over the heads of the throng as Malory's men funneled through the narrow arched doorway and flooded into the inner courtyard.
Brooklyn barely got halfway through the archway; the unmoving sea of bodies in front of him prevented any further progress. He grabbed Sata's hand and pulled her up beside him, and both of them craned their necks and raised up high on the balls of their feet.
In the center of the courtyard, grabbing immediate attention, was the wooden framework of the gallows. Ranged around it were perhaps a dozen red-coated guards, rifles held at the ready. A tall man in a black coat stood holding the lever of the trapdoor, his face set in a look of thin anger. And standing on the gallows itself, hands tied behind her back and a noose about her neck, stood a small slender woman with short-cropped blonde hair, her eyes wide with fear. Her gaze fell upon them; she visibly gasped in breath, then let out a cry: "MALORY!"
The courtyard seemed to freeze into a tableau: tall thin man beside the gallows holding the lever, tall woman with drawn sword facing him, small woman with the noose about her neck. The defending guards and the attacking pirates, all standing still and awaiting a command to move, seemed almost to become a backdrop to the three in the sudden silence.
Malory took a single step forward, her eyes fixed on the slender blond woman. Most of her own dark hair had come out of its neat braid, and straggled around her face and shoulders in a wild mane; blood streaked her hands and her clothes, some of it her own, but the blade of her cutlass had been wiped clean.
Somewhere in the predawn dimness, a seagull cried harshly.
"She's not Malory Davis, Governor Richgrove," the tall woman said, her voice quiet as the paw-tread of some predator. "I am."
"Malory," Richgrove said with dry courtesy. He did not move as he spoke, his hand resting on the lever almost casually, and did not look at his prisoner. "I said before that the pirate Davis would hang today, one way or another. One Davis or another. I'd marginally rather have you hanged than her, and I imagine you feel the same way or you wouldn't be here...."
"Let her go, Richgrove," Malory spat. "She's na th' one ye want!"
"Gladly," he said, almost smiling. "If you'll see fit to surrender your weapon and take her place on this platform. Or rather, I should say, take your place on the platform."
Jean stared. "No," she breathed.
Smitty's hand abruptly dove for the pistol stuck in his sash. The redcoats all stiffened, raising their rifles --
-- and Malory turned and struck her first mate across the side of the head, knocking him to the ground. She rounded on the rest of her men and snarled "The first man of mine to stir a whisker dies like a dog, d'ye hear?!"
The pirates visibly backed down, lifting hands away from cutlass hilts and pistol butts. Richgrove's own hand tightened almost imperceptibly on the lever; he lifted his free hand and signaled a hold to his own men as well, repeating the signal emphatically as Malory took another step forward. And another, and another, towards the gallows.
Brooklyn nudged Sata. "There's our cue," he whispered. "Let's get going."
She nodded, held one talon over her lips in a hushing gesture, and darted back into the compound with a silent, cat-footed grace. Almost as silently, Brooklyn followed her.
Lieutenant Burr's foot twitched nervously as he surveyed the courtyard and counted up the odds in his head. There were at least four times as many pirates as his own men, and at least half of them had firearms. He looked up over his shoulder again at Governor Richgrove standing on the platform behind him, only daring to take his eyes off the murderous mob of pirates for a few seconds, looking for some sign that Richgrove was ready to give the signal to fire.
"Davis, lay down your weapon," Richgrove repeated, his voice tightening.
Malory took another step forward, and another, her half-wild eyes on Jean, her cutlass still in her hand. The guards were beginning to look from Burr to the governor, awaiting an order to fire.
His voice rose in pitch. "You'll lay down your weapon now, do you understand me, now! Now! Or I'll throw the lever and hang this one as I planned!"
Abruptly, her gaze went to Richgrove, and she stopped moving...then slowly knelt to lay down the cutlass.
"Malory, no!" Jean cried out.
With a quick, jerky motion, Malory lifted the cutlass and stabbed it into the ground so that it stood upright, then released the hilt. She straightened and looked up at her sister. "Jean, I can't let 'im hurt ye. I'm th' one he wants, and ye'll not hang for me crimes while I c'n still draw breath and stir limb."
Tears streaked Jean's face. "No! Malory, he'll kill ye!"
"Half the Tethys is yers when I'm gone, Jean," Malory continued inexorably. "Ye can sign on or ye can sell yer half to the rest of the crew...."
Richgrove's gaze darted from one woman to the other, and the knuckles on the hand that held the lever were going pale.
"Now?" Brooklyn hissed. Sata nodded sharply, once.
The two gargoyles leapt together, diving down towards the platform. It was an effort not to let out a war-cry, but those few extra moments of surprise --
For a fleeting second, Malory's eyes went over Richgrove's shoulder, behind him. Only for a second, but long enough for him to see it, and he twisted around just in time to see two winged creatures, green and red, swooping down upon him with their eyes glowing. His mouth fell open in a gasp, his hand tightened on the lever and pulled it to in a single convulsive jerk--
And Malory's hand flicked into her jacket and out again, so fast it blurred in the air, and hurled something at Richgrove. The heavy rope-pin struck his skull with an audible crack, and he collapsed across the lever.
Still hurtling through the air toward the gallows, as if in slow motion, Brooklyn saw Jean's face go tight with horror as the trapdoor fell away beneath her. He stretched out with his claws and slashed through the rope, just as it went taut.
And, with almost supernatural timing, Sata tucked in her wings and dove underneath the gallows, catching Jean about the waist just as the rope was severed and settling to the ground with the small woman in her arms.
As one, the pirates surged forward. Lieutenant Burr's order to fire was all but drowned out by their fearsome cries. A short burst of gunshots rang out, sounding much like a series of firecrackers popping, but neither Brooklyn nor Sata could tell exactly who among the soldiers and pirates had managed to fire before the latter had converged upon the former. With four pirates to every Redcoat, however, the melee was brief.
Sata deposited Jean gently on the ground and severed the ropes binding the young woman's wrists with one flick of her talons. She stepped back as Jean ran to Malory, who, smiling broadly, stepped forward from the crowd of her men, extended her arms, and virtually caught Jean as she leapt into her embrace. The crew of the Tethys gave a resounding cheer as their captain and her sister spun around in a joyful hug.
Brooklyn, who was still on the platform, looked up at the sound and couldn't help but smile slightly. Then he turned back to Richgrove, using his foot to roll the man over on his back. A nasty black-and-blue knot was already forming on the side of his head, but the rising and falling of his chest told Brooklyn the man was still alive....
He glanced at Malory and frowned, as the thought completed itself in his mind: He's alive...at least for now. The red gargoyle hopped down off the platform and moved over near Sata, standing back and watching as the two sisters embraced and Malory's crew cheered their victory.
Brooklyn glanced again at the still-unconscious Governor Richgrove, then up at the reddening sky, and finally back at Malory and Jean. Sata stepped up beside him and laid a hand on his shoulder.
"Brooklyn-san? Should we not return to the ship before the sun rises?" she asked.
Brooklyn didn't answer her. He looked at Malory as she and Jean finally backed away from their embrace, a grimly serious expression on his face. "So what are you going to do with him?" he asked, low.
Malory opened her mouth to reply but never uttered a word, her eyes widening in shock as a ball of flame appeared from nowhere and engulfed the two gargoyles just seconds before the sun breached the horizon.
The roar of the Phoenix Flame gave way to the muted sounds of a reggae beat filtering down from somewhere high above the street as a pair of gargoyles landed with a muffled thump in the back seat of an empty convertible parked along the curb. Sata and Brooklyn hastily disentangled themselves from one another, struggling for several seconds to right themselves in the cramped quarters of the vehicle.
Brooklyn looked around as they finally brought themselves into upright positions, surveying first the multi-colored Volkswagen they were sitting in and then the quiet city street and brick buildings surrounding them. He fumbled with his pouch for a moment before pulling out the Phoenix Gate and looking at it. "Great timing, as always. At least it was a dry landing this time," he muttered.
"Who is 'Kilroy'?" Sata questioned, her head cocked to the side as she examined some graffiti scrawled on a nearby lamppost.
Brooklyn tucked the talisman back into his belt pouch, hopped up and out of the tiny car, and extended his hand to her. "Beats me," he replied as he helped her over the side, "but he seems to get around as much as I do."
Sata stared at him quizzically for a moment but then sobered. "I wonder what Governor Richgrove's fate will be."
Brooklyn shrugged. "I'm just glad we were able to save Malory's sister."
Sata smiled. "I am glad to hear your sentiments have changed, Brooklyn."
"Yeah, well..." He trailed off, noticing Sata's usual serene smile betraying traces of a smirk. "What's so funny?" he asked finally.
"Nothing, Brooklyn-san," Sata murmured, her mouth still curved in that secretive smile. "Nothing at all."