Irelan’s Adventures Chapter 4. Kepler-A

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4. Kepler-A

I stayed with your great-grandma, because I was so little. The Emerald Emperor was very kind to us.  Grandma Irelan said as she turned the page of her leather bound journal to continue reading to the children at her feet.

“We’ve been in a shooting war with the Union for over a century now. I was in my early twenties when it happened.” The green armored man said as he lead them across the grassy area. He let Irelan hold his wrist charm. “Still have it, Irelan?”

“Yes. See!”  She held it up to his amusement.

“Keep it safe for me, okay? As long as it twinkles, it will keep you safe, too.” He had a nice smile.

“So, you look like you’re only in your forty-somethings now.” Commander Espiosa observed. “Please, explain.”

She didn’t trust the leader of the Emerald Empire. She strongly suspected that he might be lying, and she was going to find a way to escape if she could.

“Remember when I told you about the vaccination that made me a kind of chameleon?”  He pulled at his ear, as if he was reciting common knowledge. “Some of the vaccines came from a slow-growing sea life. A giant clam. The virus was killing people at a geometric rate.  In the first month, a thousand people died with their flesh turning into a soup right on their bodies. The first five days of the second month, there were another thousand. After that, the government was in a hurry.”

The commander nodded, imagining when the world stood on the brink of being sterilized by a virus mutated from a biogenic toxin of a war on another world.  

“The government inoculated everyone, and like in the Pirate Confederacy home planet, it had unexpected results. Effects were varied. Mine was hiding in plain sight, but I also age slower.“ He thought for a minute. “By a factor of three or four. So, for every year I age, there is perhaps four decades that go by.”

He took a deep breath.  

“Others, like my girlfriend at the time, she became somewhat…” They stood still for a moment while he paused in a memory. “Feline. She changed her name to Felinae Qatamount, then went into the hills to fight against the Union on her terms.”

“So, what happens when you get a vaccine now?” She looked at him. “I’m not going to have my daughter turned into a mushroom or anything.”

“Mush brooms? Yuck!” Irelan shook her head.  “I don’ wanna be a mush broom.”

“No, after the government vaccinated everyone and it stopped the Rot, we went back and corrected the transcription errors. But those that were affected will have to live out their lives. The planet itself is under tight quarantine. You were only able to pass because you didn’t know of the magnetic flux of the planet.”

“This place sounds more like hell than a colony.”

“In some respects, yes. The virus mutated from a bio-weapon, from the DNA tests we did. How it got here, is unknown. Too many people died at once, but the magnetic fields of the planet are the root cause of it. We knew the life here would be a challenge with multiple north and south poles. with how many times they split and how fast they move across the planet it created genetic changes no one expected. “ They approached a transport surrounded by men and women in uniform who carried weapons. “The fastest was a north pole. It moved at a speed of six-degrees per day before it faded.”

He shook his head. “The effects were devastating with that intense of a flux. Machines failed immediately. The only things that worked were fiber optic powered systems with heavy shielding.I think that’s what nearly destroyed your ship.”

“We need to go back up and get it.” She said, there was no denying the force of her will. “There are personal effects of everyone, and I think the captain might still be there. We might have more passengers in stasis, still.”

What?!” That stopped him from his tale of sadness and heartbreak. “We don’t have a place to launch a space rescue from. The Union took it over six months ago. They’ve  been trying to figure out what is of value, and trying to sell it back us. “ A heavy sigh. “They are dismantling the systems as we speak.”

“Who, or what, is the union?”

“The conflicts between the colonies were political, but everyone believed in being green at the beginning, after terraforming. When the first colonists got here, there wasn’t anything alive. Lots of abundant resources, but no plant or animal life. Iron was abundant and there was no oxygen in the air. What my great-grandfather did was to start the great oxygenation of the planet with the use of plants. Grasses mainly, but trees have responded well to the high carbon dioxide content. There have been other challenges, including raw heavy metals that we exchange with Kepler-B for supplies.“  Ian explained. “It’s why this planet was more visible to the space-based telescopes that orbited around Longe Planeta near Pluto-Charon system. All this, was white rock and water. The reflectivity was much higher than Kepler-B, so astronomers discovered this planet first and colonized it second.”

“How do you keep us from dying, when we are out in the open like this?” She looked around.

“Oxygen levels are adequate, some twenty-six percent, but the carbon dioxide is at four percent. Which, is too high for humans and animals to tolerate more than a week or so. It gives us a limited ability to engage the Union on moves, but everyone has to run home and rest after that.” Ian said. “It’s okay to walk through, however. Just make sure you spend a few hours per week inside in a human-normal atmosphere.”

“You live here and can’t breathe the air?” Irelan’s eyes got big.

“Yes, sweety, we can breathe the air. That’s what you’re breathing now.” Ian chuckled. “You just have to stay inside more while you are here.”

Irelan made a face, clearly unhappy with that prospect.

“Don’t worry,” Her mom smiled. “We aren’t staying. We’re going to that spot in the sky.”  Larsya pointed at a pale disk of Kepler-B, the first colonized planet.

“Mama? Do they have kids there?” The child asked.

Mama smiled.

“Yes, they do. We just have to get there.” She picked Irelan up and carried her in a big hug.

“I wanna go there.”

A child’s wish gave energy to the leader of the Emerald Corps to get them to their destination.

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Irelan’s Adventures Chapter 2. 8 Poles and an Axis

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 2. Eight Poles and One Axis

After they landed, Sergeant Kennedy let Irelan hold her gloves while shethe Sergeant led them to the mission Lieutenant’s office.  A large room, shared by five “El-Tee’s” who rotated through.  Never more than one Lieutenant in at any time, the large room only had one desk and rows of chairs for briefing mission teams.

She tapped on the clear glass door and waited to be invited in by her superior officer.

“Lieutenant, this is the first officer Espiosa of the Longbow sleeper ship from Terraq Parenti shipbase.” Riley said. “The navigator and the First Officer here, are from the lifeboat that we rescued in the Ironstone bog last night.  She has some information that Colonel O’Malley would be interested in.”

“Thank you, Sergeant. Dismissed.” He didn’t even glance at Riley who quietly closed the door as she exited. He kept his eyes on the to officers of the lifeboat they had just rescued..

“So, you want to get close to the Colonel?”

“I don’t give two shakes of a wet wildflower. I want to know where the rest of the survivors from the attack are, and what the government here will do about it?”

“You piloted down into a combat zone for nothing. The Colonel’s not here. She’ll arrive sometime today to inspect the wreckage. It’s an odd configuration for troop carrier, no?”

“No, because it’s not a troopship, as it is a lifeboat.” Larsya shook her head. “You’re being overly assumptive. We’re not soldiers. We’re from Socrus Terrae of the Southern Islands where the super volcano blew up. Kepler-A was uninhabited and was considered a secondary colony.  There were twenty-five Seraph class sleeper ships.”

“Seraph class?” The Lieutenant typed it into his pad. “Oh, yes. There have been seven others that have arrived at Kepler-B.”

“There have been others?”

“Not here. You’ve been in hibernation. Kepler-A has been in a conflict for the last two-hundred years.” The Lieutenant told the First Officer.

“That still doesn’t explain why we were fired on.”

“We don’t shoot at civilian ships. Nor, do we have the ability to do so.” A voice from the back of the room interrupted the question and answer meeting.

The sneaky man who was sitting in the back of the room, whispering with Ireland, stood up and instead a light-sensitive Rorschach camouflage uniform that constantly changed spots and stripes it. The new speaker wore a hunter-green and black armor plate.

The new man was of the Emerald Corps. In that second of recognition, he Lieutenant bowed his head and stepped backwards.

“Sire, this is the first officer of the ship that’s in polar orbit.” The Lieutenant read from his handheld computer.

“Pleased to meet you.” The green man held out his hand to Larsya. “Is this your little girl?”

Irelan smiled up at the man with the eyes that matched his armor.  

“Yes, when did you come in?” Her mother’s protective side showing.

“I’ve been here a few minutes. I came in with a few of the other people. I had my stealth mode active.” The officer smiled.

“Wait, who are you?” Ensign Firston demanded.

“Stand down, Mr. Firston.” Larsya said softly. “We’re  safe. If they wanted to do us any harm, they would have separated us.”

“Now, now. No harm is going to happen. First, we have to get everyone on the same page.” The green-eyed man frowned. His helmet had an arm with an emerald disk on the end of a mechanical arm that swung down over his eye like one-half of a pair of glasses.

“What’s the name of your ship, um… I’m sorry, I don’t know your title other than first officer. I assume ‘Commander’.” He said to Larsya.  

“Yes, I’m a commander, thank you for asking. I’m not in uniform because I was off duty when we were hit. Ensign Firston was at the helm.” Larsya said.

“Ensign?” The green man turned his head.

“Second, we were introduced to you. But, you are still a stranger. I have instructions from the captain before the first officer came to our lifeboat. I am not to discuss anything except to someone named Ee-ann or something.” Ensign Firston was steadfast in following orders.

“What’s your Captain’s name, son?” The voice came out a bit lower.  

He’s going to get in trouble with the green-eyed man. Irelan thought to herself.

“Our Captain is Bogs Scorpion.” The junior officer said.

“Bogs.” The leader of the group stroked his chin. “Tall man, mixed race, has heterochromatic eyes, and is super intelligent?”

“Yes, you know him?”

“I am Ian. Say it as one word.” The Green-Eye gave a soft smile.  “He and I have a history.”

“Yes, sir. Can you prove it?”  Ensign Firston asked. The entire room gasped.

“I’m going to put you in for a medal and put you on my team when I can.” Ian laughed. “I am the Emperor of the northern hemisphere. All this land is mine. I am Ian Quaysar, the Emerald Emperor.”

“S-s-sir! Your majesty…”

“Stop.” He raised his hand. “The Lieutenant over there overstepped the title. I’m not a majesty, I barely earned the title. I’m a working man, like you.” He smiled. “Now, what do you have to tell me?”

He moved the monocle from his eye to look at the Ensign.  

“Sir, I have a ship’s sensor log in a cryptolinear chip. It’s safe inside a Faraday isolator case.” He held out an object that looked like a ring box, revealing a chip inside.

“Triton, scan the logs to the moment of impact. Send me the data stream.”

“Let me explain. The rest of your lifeboats have landed in different areas of the planet, most of which are in my domain. Your passengers will all be brought behind the lines to a safe location. You’re the first that has information that you were attacked. Your trajectory of the lifeboat leads me to believe you were over Union territory and, as of now, we didn’t think they had technology to shoot at anything outside of the atmosphere.” A tone sounded and he pulled his monocle down over his right eye.  “Just a moment, I’m looking at the data.”

Several others with the same kind of helmets performed the same action, pulling their monocles down.  The group went silent for several minutes.

“Triton, put what we are watching on the wall, please.” Ian said. He leaned against a table, more relaxed.

“Excuse our lack of communicating with you. We don’t have many folks without interlink helmets here.”

The data was displayed on a video projected from a small box put on the Lieutenant’s desk.

From the surface near the pole in the south, Ian paused the video.

“That area below, is the Federal Union of Resistance. From the burst of energy from this area, you can see it started above the ground, and corresponded with the speed and power of your ship as it moved through the magnetic poles.”

“Poles? Sir, we had navigated only through the edge of the magnetosphere to use it for braking, so we could insert into an orbit around Kepler-B.”

“This is where you have outdated information. First, this planet is in the middle of a civil war. It started about a century after you left your planet to come here. Originally, it was a disagreement on the use of technology. Eventually, it devolved into a shooting war for no good reason.  Second, and most important, the planet currently has six to eight north poles, and the same number of south poles.”

“What?” Commander Espiosa turned away from the video.

Mom is going to get mad at him for talking like that. Irelan blinked and giggled as she spied between the seats from the back of the room.

“The planet is undergoing a flux, it’s flipping poles. When the problem started, it caused neurological problems in humans and enormous problems with electrical circuits.  You flew through an uncharted pole that evolved in the last forty-hours.”

“Ian, can you elaborate? What do you mean a pole evolved?”  

“Yes. Our north and south poles are mixed. We can develop a pole, much like a weather system. It’ll drive huge amounts of energy in and out of the planet. You flew through a south pole, an energy fountain of sorts. It overwhelmed your systems.” He pulled at the strap of his helmet. “It must have felt like being hit with a big rock.”

“Sir, new data.” A blond man took off his helmet and rubbed his ear. “They yelled too loud.”

“Thank you, Dana.” Ian said as Dana put his helmet back on.

“Your ship is in an axis orbit, it spends about half the time flying over each side of the planet. It’s still in orbit.” He turned and sat next to Irelan.  “Well, good. We have solved two mysteries in one stroke. Who shot you down, and where your ship is. No one has new enough tech that we would have to complain about where your ship is.  Now, we just need to find the missing lifeboats.”

Ian pulled off his helmet and made Irelan smile by putting his big helmet on her head.

“You three will do me the honor by joining me for dinner, in this room?  Triton, make the orders,” Ian winked at Irelan. “And I’ll tell stories and ask questions of our guests.” He smiled. “Pizza sound good to you, young lady?”

Irelan smiled. She was wearing the important helmet proudly.  

Later in her life, she would write the memory down in her journal. The day she met a man who owned a half a planet.

 

Children of Fury: Hellions Chapter 8. Captain’s Log

Children of Fury:Hellions
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Captain’s Log

The young man sat on the padded seat with a quill in one hand, a book in his lap. He eschewed the captain’s chair at the desk, and preferred instead to sit in his favorite corner.

The Blackfish was making way nicely, and his view of the ocean from the stern of the ship made his soul feel free with the expansive view when the storm doors were open.

His long crimson hair, cut short the months before, now hung down past his earlobes, he dipped the tip of the quill in the jar of ink and put the blackened tip to the parchement.

“Captain’s Personal Log Of Keegan O’Danu:

First entry, and the first voyage of the Blackfish, and my father follows in the Cúlaith. A sistership to this one. We have come here from the start of years ago.

Nearly half my life.

A summer day when my father went out with a ship that he had built. He was gone when the English came and destroyed my village.

I saw my seanathair lay on the ground with a bolt jutting out of his chest and the soldiers that beat my mam into the dirt until she stopped moving. In those days, I thought she was dead.

I woke up on a slave-cart, I still carry the scar, hidden by my hair, where the soldier hit me.

When I came home, I found that my mam, taken by the English, was in the islands where my old friend Captain Myngs freed me.

I found when I returned to my father in the Virgina lands of a bay they called Irishtown. A backwater behind a German settlement.

I sit in command of this new ship, a crew of twenty and one hundred of the old crew. Only twelve adults serve on board. The balance of older’s follow in my father’s ship of his design.

We return in force, with my old friends Anna God-Wants and Jacquotte Delahaye to find my mother, somewhere on the islands of the Caribs.

I will not rest until I find the fate of my mam and return her home.

I cannot watch my father walk alone any longer, he weeps at night for the life stolen from him, he doesn’t I see it. But he is my father, I hear him in the dark when he thinks everyone is sleeping, I see his eyes. The strain shows on his face.

I cannot watch my father suffer.

It fills me with a rage that keeps me awake at night.

My friends all have parents, brothers and sisters all still missing and we will return to collect them.

The Blackfish and the other ships can carry twice more than the crew who man them. Plus my plan will be to take ships on our return home.

Empires will tremble at the thought of our rescue. No navy will prevail against us. We have new bronze cannon built by the one my father calls Francois Buile. He showed us that the ranges of these new nine-pounders are double of our last guns.

Granuaile has built gun carriages of her own design. Adult men have learned to keep their distance from her.

My only pleasure around her, she has stopped socking me in the shoulder. My bruise is almost healed, but any man who hits me there now, will have a surprise. Unless he has hands of stone, I would not notice it.

Diana, who has returned to using her war-name of Angelcries has driven our crew as a stringent task-master. She follows my direction to the letter. She has a heart of a lion, even I am afraid of her sometimes. But she has stopped growing, I think. A year ago, we were the same size, today I am taller by almost a head while she has yet to grow to five feet.

The ginger-haired youth rubbed his shoulder and laughed. But when he gazed out over the water, the old melancholy chased away the smile.

Putting the quill into the bottle, he stood up and walked to the expensive glass window. An artisan, commissioned by the blacksmiths, made the glass into three letters to remind a woman’s child of her name.

“Fey” in small colored cut-glass gems sparkled in the sun.

Tracing his fingers over the inlay, the old anger rose again. He would get her back.

He sat back down and picked the quill out of the bottle and tapped the drop off against the mouth of the blown-glass bottle of ink and put it to the expensive vellum in his personal journal.

Turning the page, he wrote at the top of the page:

“Captain’s Personal log of Keegan O’Danu

I miss her, I can remember my mam’s eyes and her laugh. I was only nine-summers old when we were taken. I will find her and bring her back, if only for my athair. A son should never see a father broken. Slavery should never be a market and I will free anyone that is in service against their will that I find, so long as I draw a breath. Slave ships will be my prey, anyone who flies the flag of empire will strike colors on my approach.

The Pirate Kingdom of the Sea will hold sway. Free people will embrace the name.

Everywhere they use the label pirate as a perjorative, I will embrace it as freedom.

Until my Mam is home, I will walk the decks and sail the seas until I am too old to chew my food.

Many years ago, to me.

My máthair was taken.

The English declared war on our village.

Today, I return to get her back. The Spanish or English and any who strike with the might of an empire, just because they can, I will make tremble with fear to sail these waters with their flags flying.

My father and his crew accompany us in thinking they protect the children.

We are the seeds of crimes that the Spanish, English and the Dutch have sown.

It is up to the children to protect the fathers.

I will continue to use my war-name given to me by the Quartermaster of the Marston Moor.”

A member since the first tour on Grampus she had no fear of anyone, Beth Angelcries stepped through the door.

“Keegan, your Da’ has hailed us using a speaking-trumpet.”

The captain of the Blackfish nodded. He smiled into the hazel eyes of the girl who had shown such fury when they made their way home, causing Keegan to redefine the term in his mind.

Looking down, he finished his entry.

With the support of Anna Marie and Jacquotte we will stop at the harbor of Germantown and meet with those children who stayed behind and were adopted when we left their village last year for the Chesapeake.

The adults in that town invited us to return when we wished. It is something I do wish to do, there is a debt of help I owe to the families there.

He set down his quill, the youngest captain in any fleet left his journal to talk with his personal hero.

He would discuss their next stop, Germantown, with his father.

The discussion would be from an adventurer sailor to a citizen sailors that was the fathers and uncails of the Cúliath, the swift, long legged canine used to chase prey.

It was a happy meeting. The crew of the Cúliath showed interest of the small village of Germantown. The people that helped their sons and daughters.

Fathers let the children lead, for they had been here before. Protected by the women pirates, the fathers sailed with the Wrath leading and the Scorned following.

Conn laughed at the names. THe women silenced him with looks alone, and would brook no arguement of the joke regarding the nature of the ships christening.

He was reminded, he and the other men were the students, his son and the women that protected Keegan, were the masters.

It made him smile.

His son the Master.

Children of Fury: Hellions Chapter 7. Casa De Las Canas

Children of Fury:Hellions
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Chapter 7. Casa de las Canas

Two women, shared the same icy stare. In four years, they had their indentured contracts extended against their will three times.

Now they both had an extra seven years on their service to the plantation.

They were the only women that did not suffer the forced marriage and children in the House of the Canes in the four years they had been in the service to the plantation.

Caoimhe Ni Maile MacRanald, from Campbell’s Town in Scotland was cousin to Fey Mac Boru O’Danu, the women grew up together as children, writing letters to each other when apart. They knew well enough they were no longer free in the first days of their servitude and they brought suffering unlike anything the men experienced before.

Then, the rape teams tried to move on them in the cabin they shared, to tame the women from the wilds of the emerald isle.

And it was failure that would echo for years. Now men feared the two women with blue-ice for eyes and fire for hair. These Scots women, one with an Irish name by marriage, held sway over all men on the plantation.

Garcia Parga, the Master of the Fields. The jefe de las cañas, would tremble at the thought of approaching the women and pass on a command from the owner of the estate.

Roberto de Las Planas owned and drove the daily trip to town in his covered coach, let Garcia to do the day-to-day work. except for the two women that he had bought at the slave-pens in Barbados, he had full confidence that all would be well.

The women, the first one called Fey.

Even after four years, he struggled with the name of the taller, slightly crazier one with the name of a harsh land.

“Keeva” He thought to himself. He tried to give her a Christian name, but the struggle for that in those early days was not worth the battle.

His memory of that time made him laugh and weep at the same time.

Unknown to anyone, his purchase of these two guardians of the house, they were more formidable than anyone would have suspected.

In the first day, he sent his best looking men in as their mates. Roberto even told the men to make sure the women would have children inside of them.

Over that long year, breeder teams went into the cabin where the women lived, fueled by wine and rum. But, then none of the muscular and brave men came out intact. 

His memory ached with the lessons of dealing with priestesses of the Drui

Powerful, muscular and brave, they all wept like children. Many holding vital parts of their anatomy, limped and breathless in agony.

He was positive that the larger redhead was guilty of some crime against the men who wept afterwards.

But to a man, the ones in most agony, identified the smaller woman as the roaring spirit that fought like a wild cat.

One man, who bled freely from his now broken nose, winced when he sat on the steps leading up the the main house, shook his head. Afraid for those who thought they would try to take the women against their will in that cabin of pain.

“Senior Garcia. I do not think there is enough rum on all the island to make me or any of the others to try to take them women against their will.” He said. The man, named Gawrhum by Roberto de las Planas. “These women will protect the house they are in. But I dare not hazard to try to mate them with anyone against their will.”

Garcia shook his head in disagreement.

“All women seek to have strong men.” He told Gawrhum.

“These women have more soul than ten men. They are far more than you think, they are both like demons when they fight.” The men watched another servant walk by holding a hand to his pants, in an attempt to stop the bleeding from his ruined flesh. “They have not chosen him, either. He is the strongest of us and has many children.”

Four men entered the cabin, sounds of shrieks like two demons emanated from the cabin.

One man almost made it out, before the smaller woman who claimed her name as Fey, flew out and grabbed the man by the hair and dragged him down as if she had a sheep to sheer.

He screamed for help as she pulled him back into the cabin by his mustache.

When the master of the house returned to his plantation, Garcia told him of how the smaller woman, as tall as many men, she beat on the servants as they were sent in. And how the taller woman with fists like a man knocked one to the ground and slammed his head in the door a dozen times.

“He will not work for a week, she has broken his face.” Garcia said.

Roberto held his face in his hands.

“What do we do?”

“Leave them be, use other means to keep them.” Garcia raised his eyebrows. “Find another way to enslave them, if you dare.”

Four years ago. News that spread of children that escaped. Released by the English fool Myngs had begun a new time of destruction against the empire.

Château du Soleil, owned by Frenchman Philippe Cornu, burned to the ground by servants under the command of the children pirates after he freed them like God’s Wrath against the population.

Cornu was slow to rebuild, and that allowed other plantations to expand, including this Casa de Las Canas. The only people who seemed to enjoy the news of such destruction were the Irish slaves. The women who he was successful to breed, he could force them to stay beyond the original contract that was imposed on them.

But the two that kept their pagan names?

No one dared cross them. They performed duties and ruled with an iron hand, the household was safe, clean and always ready for visitors.

The one thing that grated on Roberto’s soul, was their arcane observation of their old religion.

Now, he came from the harbor with news of from the crew of one ship. A new threat of the Caribbean was spoken of in fear-filled whispers. A small fleet of four pirate ships, one ship crewed with children.

The eyes of the Celtic woman glittered with the news.

“Senior Roberto.” She told him, the icy blue of her eyes chilled his soul. “You would do well to release all your servants. Should the child pirate come here.”

“Fey.” Caoimhe interrupted. “Nae speak of those bairns. Walk with me.”

Alone in a room, they spoke in their Gaelic language.

“Do not say you are related to any of them. You will be used to bait Keegan into a trap.”

“That is my son, he comes for all of us. I wish him safe, but Roberto should know what comes.”

“Ach! Keep your head down, cousin, stand with the other servants. We will leave together in time.” The larger woman admonished her older, smaller relative.

“Caoimhe, my son returns.” Fey smiled wide. “They all return.”

“They return for us.” Fey smiled wider still.

Children of Fury: Hellions Chapter 6. Eight Bells

Children of Fury:Hellions
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Chapter 6. Eight Bells, Four Ales and Conversation

The small fleet of four ships rocked in the in harbor at twilight. The captains and first mates sat on a small meadow that overlooked the small fleet of predators below, the three-quarter moon illuminated the horizon. It would be a bright night. No stealth was possible from the east.

The smell from the cooking fire below wafted up on the breeze and distracted. On the sheltered side of a volcanic rockfall, between boulders half the size of their ships made a natural chimney.

The sailors used it as a kitchen, and the flow of the air dissipated smoke among the rocks and hills, masking their presence to any lookout on the water.

A short hike with the food in hand, the crews assembled stone and wood benches and tables that allowed them to see to all points of the compass to more than twenty-five miles.

Two women sat at either side of the red-headed Keegan who was clearly tense with the attentions of the two women pirates.

“I think I should sit on the other side of the table.” Causing even his father to laugh.

“Keegan, we need you to stay slower on the ship.” Conn said over the food brought up by the cook. A bottle of ale sat, the adults pouring and laughing while they ate the evening meal later than planned.

“Da’…” Keegan O’Danu started to complain.

“Dash,” Anna “God Wants” spoke softly. “you vasseau… boat… ship… is more rapide tha’ mienne.” Her French accent slightly enhanced by the copious ethanol in the new ale donated by her last visit on the Spanish Treasure fleet. Annemarie, once one of the Fille du Roi, sent to the Caribbean because she was disruptive in the King’s Court. Still, she did not have that small voice most people have when it came to speaking her mind.

“You must reduce the sails you set so we can keep up.” She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, setting his ears ablaze with heat.

Captain Delahaye laughed and talked with the muscular first-mate with dark-eyes, playing with her hair while he poured her more ale from his pitcher.

Dana looked at his brother with one eyebrow raised.

“What is going on with her?”

Keegan shook his head and looked at his father for guidance, the elder O’Danu laughed.

“That, my boys, is the age-old mating ritual.” Looking at their puzzled faces. Keegan looked alarmed when the sailor reached out and touched the bright-red hair of the pirate captain.

“She will kill him.

“Maybe.” Conn said with a crooked grin. “But not in the way you think. Come with me, let’s start talking about what our plans are from here. Leave those two be for now.”

“But… but…” Keegan still did not comprehend.

“That bruise on your shoulder?” Conn asked his son while they walked to the fire, around which the other captains sat in the hidden grove of trees and tall rocks.

“Yes?” Keegan said. It had mostly healed, Granuaille did not sock him so much after they were away from each other so long at sea. “It still hurts, but it is no longer the color of the midnight sky.”

Conn laughed at his young sons quandry of the attentions of a girl. Here was a young man that could sail around the world, but did not know the first thing about romance of the heart.

The three O’Danu’s sat in the circle with the other captains and officers.

“Where est Jacquotte?” Anna asked, then screamed. “Delahaye!”

“Oui?!” The answering voice echoed. “Je viens!”

Finally, when all eight sailors sat, with other crew sitting behind, paying rapt attention.

“The treasure fleet comes through in the next fortnight, they are punctual, but the ships from Campeche ran into difficulty with Morgan again.” Jacquotte winked. “So I predict that they will be on the far edge of the fortnight and sailing direct. They risk the storm season and will not waste time trying to hide during the day and sail only at night.”

“Even under full sail,” Keegan said, his red-hair glinting in the firelight. “We can catch them.”

“Est malavisé, em… unwise.” Anna shook her head. “They catch us in open daylight without surprise, the war-galleons will stand and fight. Big Spanish cannon are bad to face. We must catch them with their guns stowed and guard down.”

“We can catch them in the dark. In a fortnight, the moon will be on the wane.” Keegan said. “But still too bright, nightwatch will see anyone coming close.”

“Broken clouds would help.” Dana spoke up, then looked down when every eye turned towards him.

“We cannot depend on that.” Conn looked at Dana. “Weather is on thing that we can only take advantage of.”

“Da’.” Keegan said, defending his brother. “He knows.”

Jacquotte spoke up.

“We will speed up the chance to catch them on the first leg of the journey. Not far from where they depart, there is a small harbor, we can put ships there and in another harbor. When the war-galleon’s turn to fight the chasers, the treasure ship will run ahead.”

“Into the hunters.” Conn shook his head. “Is this how you always work?” The father asked the son.

“Often, Da’.” Keegan’s voice was soft. “We just followed.”

“I do not approve, we are here to retrieve your mother.” Conn looked around. “You said you would help us find his mother.”

“Monsieur O’Danu,” Anna looked at him evenly. “This est how our life est. We make the living from what we take, and the Empires we take from deserve no less.”

Few times in his life did Keegan O’Danu see his father truly frown. This being one of those times.

“We are on a mission to seek my mother.” Keegan said, in defense of his sire’s disappointment. “I will not be distracted with the hunt of a treasure ship. My Da’ has never taken a ship, he builds them.”

“And fine ships they are, too!” A voice behind Jacquotte sounded.

“We go to Port Royal first. No stopping until we get there after we leave here. You can gather crews and a fleet then.” Keegan spoke with his old edge. “My mother awaits, my father will seek to rescue her, but I won’t allow him in any combat.”

Jacquotte turned to Anna and pulled on her left earlobe and took a breath.

“The son protects the father. It is upside-down, the son is the warrior, the father is the peacemaker.” She looked Anna directly in the eye. “Père O’Danu est brebis among wolf.”

Shaking her head, the blond French Captain nearly wept.

“Monsieur O’Danu, you stay at Port Royal and get to know our friends. Mon Dash will come with us, we will bring your épouse back to Port Royal.”

This was the best news that Conn heard, but not the news he wanted to here.

Conn knew what they said.  He was a sheep among wolves.

Children of Fury : Hellions Chapter 5. Savage Sisters

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Chapter 5. Savage Sisters

The moon had not yet set when two ships quietly rounded the headlands of the bay.

Blackfish and Lir slid into the bay under the silent, carefully pulled oars powered from men who pulled the quiet vessels next to two darkened ships.

Darkened, but not asleep.

On board the Wrath and Scorned, crews sat and watched the illuminated ships draw up close, smoking fuses at the ready.

A young man’s voice called out, hailing the dark ships.

“Ahoy.”

And a woman’s voice answered.

“Mon Dash?” Then a squeal of recognition and applause, Annamarie’s favorite youth had returned as promised.

Cheers erupted, sailors stowed the guns and once darkened gunports were closed and sealed. The reunion with adoptive big sisters and their crew erupted in cheers and lamps were lit.

Sunrise found the crews of four-pirate ships deep in conversation.

“Mssr. O’Danu.” The brilliant blue eyes of the French Fille-du-Roi looked happily at Conn. “You are most blessed with such a jeune homme.”

She feasted on eggs gathered from the island the night before.

“I don’t understand, Captain.” Conn said with his head tilted slightly.”

“Emmm… Jeune man.” She repeated, her blond hair spilled over her shoulders. Then thought a moment. “Young man?”

A chuckle from a crewman nearby earned an icy look, silencing him instantly.

Laughter echoed over the morning water, the ships with space enough between them, men in the ropes and masts ready to unfurl canvas at a moments notice.

Stories told, Conn, and the other fathers learned of the children that sailed the small ship that brought them home.

While the peals of laughter and stories were told and laughed about. The one known as “Back-from-the-dead-red” looked around and spotted her most protected of men standing on the bow of the Wrath. She walked up to the youth, a boy when she last laid eyes on him, in the year that passed, he had grown nearly as tall as she was, his shoulders had become broad.

But the one that Annemarie called “Mon Dash!” still stared out over the water with those green eyes that filled her with worry.

The eyes were full of an anger that would haunt her soul for years. A steady, unblinking gaze that wished that his future lay somewhere beyond the horizon. When last they sailed together, she prayed that when this young man reunited with his family, he would find peace.

“Talk to me.” She sat on the bowsprit. “You have been and always shall be my man.” Her voice soft in the daylight and she held his hand.

“My dad and all their crew cannot keep up with us. They are learning how to sail their ship which he built as the same as ours.” He shook his head, blood-colored hair glistened in the sunlight. “Granuaille has drilled the crew of the Blackfish until everyone hates her.  But we can load and run out the guns faster than fast. Even Dana has earned his place amongst us.”

“Who, pray tell, is Dana?” Jacquotte asked.

“That would be me.” Icy blue eyes under the hair golden sunshine. The small boy-child, in her eyes stood next to the older and taller captain of the child crew. “I am his brother, what are you doing with him?”

Jacquotte laughed in happy surprise at the younger boy’s protective nature.

“Your Keegan, is my Dash. He is my man, I have fought beside him and hold him dear in my heart.” She winked, this seemed to relax the younger one. “I will always be by his side.”

“Dash, you did not tell me you had such a handsome brother.” She ran her fingers through the red hair.

“You know him, this was the cabin boy we took off of the ship under the command of Captain Tudor.” The cheeks and lips smiled and had a slight blush, however the green eyes remained haunted. “This is him.”

This is him? His hair was not nearly as bright yellow, he was shades darker. And he had black fingernails.” Jacquotte clapped. “Mon dieu! You have cleaned up well, cabin-boy.”

“I am not a boy, I am a pirate.” He stood with his hands on his hips.

Coming barely to the woman’s shouldershe slipped her arms around Dana’s shoulders and kissed him on the forehead.

“Any family of my Pirate Prince is welcome aboard any of my fleet.” She laughed while Dana blushed brightly.

“Don’t worry, Dana,” Dash laughed. “She has did that to me and Bradan, when we met.”

The sudden memory of his old friend wiped the laughter from his soul like shadows banished by sunlight.

The tall, redheaded woman stepped up to the one she called Dash and put her arms around him.

To her, he was Dash MacDíoltas, The Son of Revenge.

“You, young Dana.” She brushed a blond hair out of the tow-headed boy. “You would turn a girl’s head quickly.”

“Aww. Ma’am…” Dana started, finding a deeper shade of red to turn.

“Call me Jacquotte, or if you cannot, Captain will be well enough.” She smiled.

“Keegan? Keegan!” Conn’s voice sounded over the deck.

“We must return to the meeting, it seems that the meet and greet is over.” Keegain said to the others.

The trio stood and walked back to the larger group. Jacquotte sadly did not have time to talk to Keegan, her dash of spice in her life. A kindred ginger, this boy with the green eyes, who would replace her lost family.

In the crowd of captains and officers, they drank toasts to each other and greeted the red-headed captain of the fast ship Blackfish.

“We sail at the turn of the tide.” Keegan directed. “We head south, then west. There is a man we need to meet.”

When tide turned and began to withdraw, four ships gracefully rounded the edge of the hidden bay and turned to a southerly course.

Destination: Port Royal.

Captain Henry Morgan would be quite surprised to see that his favorite pirate had returned. However, the return of the children pirates would not go as unnoticed as everyone might hope.

Pirate hunters, given the a charter to find and eliminate any pirates working for the wrong government were on the rise.

In the twenty-first century, they would be called bounty hunters or mercenaries.

The red haired teenage captain of the Blackfish called them one only thing.

Target practice.

Children of Fury: Hellions Chapter 3. Hammers and Tongs

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Chapter 3. Hammers and Tongs

The two blacksmiths who also improved their skills on metal-working from the old country, hammered chains and formed links that they created out of the most crude of metals.

Sounds of arguments between the big men, occasionally a comment about the clan of the other, but never did it come to blows. They were friends, cousins even, but their thought processes were different.

This difference gave them an advantage in their forge and foundry. They learned to live as contemporaries of the shipwright Conn O’Danu, they took to his way of thinking outside of the normal traditions of their craft.

In their hands, metals were as clay was to the sculptor.

Bronze spikes, cast and forged, reheated and forged again. Many of the pieces ended up in a pile of ruined designs and sent back to the foundry for recasting.

They built one ship at a time, it would be sailed by Conn and then torn apart. The evolving shapes became a predator with no equal, with speed and power, bred by complexity. The crew fought as much with the ship as they did with their victims. The ships built by the shipwright were always victorious in a lopsided battle, but the village knew could do better.

By profanity and hammer blows. The latest rakish ship took shape. Local native tribes extracted promises from Conn would make the men in Red Coats pay for the broken promises.

Keegan, returned from the sea with more than a hundred of the children that the families accused the English that Parliament took the children, promised the leaders of retribution during a great council meeting. The oldest and wisest of the leaders offered drink of a steaming cup out of a fire and then the men smoked a pipe that was as long as his Bradan’s grampa’s pipe, but more solidly built.

When offered to Keegan after the council. The younger O’Danu choked and vomited outside of the circle of men, who all thought it was of great humor.

All but the eldest, who other community people called “Indian”. The council explained did not like the term, thus the Irish Conn and his son Keegan strove to avoid using it.

The day came, the father and son walked with the warrior prince of the tribe. The highly intelligent native sat on the new ship and spoke in Gaelic with Conn and his son. Directing them that to strike a blow against the redcoats would need a fist. The ship represented but one finger.

“Build another. One for adults.” The Great Prince said. It was not a a suggestion.

Conn stroked his chin. Before the evening was out, Keegan watched the elder version of himself speak with the tactical genius. The first truly new world ship began to take shape.

In the hidden cove, where Irish, German and the original residents of the lands, built two ships, the Blackfish and Cúliath.

Sister ships, one for the fathers, one for the children who refused to let the warm beds and fine meals deter them from the rage that they felt, a call to return and save those that were left behind because the Grampus was too small and out-matched by the navies of England, Spain, France.

This knowledge did little to soothe the pain in the hearts of the children, grown too soon.

Men and women of the communities up and down the bay supported the children as they came and went. Famous returning from an impossible life, the communities became igorant when the English or Spanish visited, looking for the Irish children who escaped slavery.

No one knew or heard of such children except from the two warring Empires.

The only united front the colonial powers shared, was the hunt for the hellions that sank so many ships of the empires.

Captain Elliott, in service to his Parliament, and whose mission is to find the children and bring them to justice in the Courts. He left the bay once again in frustration, no one admitted to have seen such children. No news of the small ship, stolen from a merchantman had, seemingly, vanished.

Captain James Elliott looked over the maps and gave a big sigh. Could it have been the children fell to the treachery of the Atlantic and perished? Had they become part of the vanished souls and ships that happened every year?

Two hundred children, with skills that would make any navy envious, engaged, sank or stole ships of the Navy Royale were the most wanted pirates in the western Atlantic. And he was tasked with the job to capture the one that was whispered to be the son of the devil. A redheaded youth that was known as Captain Mac Díoltas, the demon of the sea.

No one knew where he had come from.

Some said that he was one of the spirits that the Deputatum Rex of Ireland was killed by a curse on a village. Others whispered that his name, which meant “Revenge” in the barbaric langauge of Hibernian isle.

In command of the Black Eagle, he was positive he could capture the boy-pirate and bring him to justice at the end of the hangman’s rope from the yardarm of his ship, the Black Eagle. He was proud of his frigate-built warship, with it’s own list of victims from the Spanish, Dutch and French navies, few ships on the water worried Captain Elliot.

But, Conn O’Danu had drive and focus unlike any other ship builder and Captain Elliot would soon learn the lessons that other seafaring warriors had discovered. The ships from the new world were not to be discounted in a fight. Diarmuid An Dubh and Nial Gabham stood side by side while they directed the teams to build what Conn asked.

As a shipwright, Conn O’Danu never backed down from his strange ideas. He built ships that could turn in their own length, sail close to the wind with unheard of speed.

It made Conn smile when the sounds of the blacksmith shop rang all day

He enjoyed the sounds of the hammers on the ships. They were hammers that the empire would hear from the America’s to London.

Children of Fury: Hellions Chapter 2. Quartermaster’s Report

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Chapter 2. Quartermaster’s Report

Disaster.

That was the only word for it.

No, there was another, an add-on to emphasize the level of defeat.

Unmitigated disaster.

The classification was undeniable.

A dead captain.

A burnt-to-the-waterline ship.

Dead crew, but for a handful that jumped overboard or were put off on longboats.

All to a single ship that out-sailed, out-gunned, out-fought the ship-of-the-line of His Majesty’s Navy.

They were adrift for three days, rowing like madmen against the ocean current before they got to an island.

The curses of having no navigator or maps.

The navigator, captain and the talented helmsman that knew how to read the sea better than anyone were all obliterated in the lopsided battle with a crew of child-pirates.

Children they call them! More like a small-stature crew of barbarians who should have struck sail when challenged. But, they fought with uncanny skill. They turned their ship and fired, time and again. All the while, they would not offer a target for the big guns of the third-rate ship-of-the-line.

Chain-shot, bar shot, heeling and tacking. It was more like a dance, a dance of death for the English warship. Cannon from the small ship battered the larger vessel at will. It seemed to hit from all points of the compass. The whipstaff blew away with helmsman’s the left hand still holding onto the tiller.

A cannonball cares not for who fired it or where it goes. Random chance, the will of gods, demons and a roll of the infinite dice of the Lord God determine a sailor’s life in battle.

No matter how the Captain prayed for his life, or the helmsman who vanished in a hail of iron rain could change the outcome.

And in politics, those that administer the will of the King care little for God’s Will or Random Chance.

There was a ship lost, that was the question that the minister wanted answered from the only surviving officer of the Worchester.

And “Will of God” was not going to be an acceptable answer. Then, the summons came from the doorway.  He stood and followed the owner of the hand up the steps to the next floor.

Dressed in his military best and a new powdered wig, he entered into the chambers and walked where the squire led him.

His heels made an echo on the fitted stone floor as he walked down the hall into the chambers of proprietary governor’s office.

His Highness Gurdman Stonecutter, Governor for the Virginia Colony, stood in the middle of the Great Room that served as his chambers. Tall, he stood six-feet four-inches and towered over everyone in the court. At ten-stone, he weighed less than most men.

Informally, his peerage called him “Colosus”, something that he did not object to. He lived up to his name in his focus as a warrior. Fair in judgement, but without mercy in his treatment of anyone who failed the Empire, he had anticipated the arrival of his only visitor of the day.

Archebald Whyte, late of the Worchester stood respecfully off to the side as told by the Governor’s secretary, until the Governor turned and addressed him.

“Tell me a story, Quartermaster. What happened to the King’s ship I gave to Captain Willim?” The Governor asked as he sat in a large chair, built just for him. The secretary filled a cup of wine for the Governor, leaving Quartermaster Whyte standing, without comfort or refreshment.

It promised to be a long afternoon.

Married by Mistake Chapter 26. Papers

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Chapter 26. Papers

Kaylee left the medical center after they settled Tom back his room. He had been in a bit of pain as the nurses bathed him and gave medications to help him sleep.

She walked across the macadam surface of the airport to the hangar where the Flying Sea Dragon sat, she could barely keep from sobbing the trip from the hospital.

It hurt so much to even think of those papers that sat somewhere inside the plane, waiting.

She rode in silence in a taxi she caught at random to the airport, she did not want to ride with anyone who knew Tom, knew of Tom or had even heard about his books.

She had a serious need to sit and drink wine and smoke a bowl with her sister and talk.

She missed the afternoons with Melanie like they had in their teens. They had barely graduated from high school, but as the best of friends and the worst of enemies, they would be in a furious scream-fest fight for minutes, then would be the best of friends as they settled down for a toke.

But no outsider dare make either of them cry.

Woe be unto the person that faced the wrath of the Grant sisters. It would make for an epic bad day when both sisters would turn on the offending person with fury that only sisters, family, and those of the same heart and soul have.

As they grew older, and although they took different classes and their lives were on different paths, they became closer still.

Opening the door of the big jet, she looked down at the broken glass that still lay on the floor.

And blood! Everywhere, large black clots that cemented fibers of the carpet into a mat with choking copper-smell. It surprised her the amount that soaked into the carpet on the floor. A body-trail in the glass where he crawled to the door and yelled for help at the plane’s technicans and engineers.

She stepped past the gore and glass that almost ended Tom’s life and perhaps did end his life as a writer.

She sat at the chair and looked where the papers in the manila envelope waited, filed in the cubby-hole that Tom told her about.

She thought of Melanie and all the fights they had while she sat in the Flying Sea Dragon and held the annulment papers in her hands.

*Tom said I just had to sign on the lines in the document and mail it with…*

With…

She slumped in the chair and a wept.

*It’s strange, this is just what I wanted four-weeks ago! Now I have a serious temptation to put it in the washing machine, somewhere on the plane. Except, damn, I’m not sure where it is, hidden behind some cabinet door.* Kaylee took a heavy breath, *I’m not sure if this is wise.*

Her hands trembled when she found the place to sign in the back of the document.

She slipped the papers into the manilla envelope they were paper-clipped to, she closed and sealed the package and walked out the door of the big flying yacht.

*The Flying Sea Dragon is not as big as the Pacific Wizard is inside, it’s more cluttered with furniture, bulky items to make it feel close. Still, a comfortable plane to live in.*

*A flying yacht.* She reminded herself as she walked across the airport to the main offices.

She nearly didn’t get to mail it, the woman behind the counter almost gave it back because of Kaylee ’s facial expressions and the slumped-sad way she carried herself.

“Miss, I don’t know what you have in this, and it’s not my place to say. But do you really want to send this?” She looked as if she might have known Ben Franklin when she started for the post-office. Not a trace of color in the great-grandmotherly hair.

With the postage stamped on the envelope, the woman gave Kaylee one more look, a last chance to change her mind, then slowly it into the slot behind her and it was in the US mail with a required a signature on delivery at the court.

Once the clerk of the court received and signed for the papers, in the eyes of the government, it never happened.

It would be as if she was never married.

While Kaylee walked out to the sidewalk she dialed the number on the business card that the Chauffeur Kaikane had given her and told her to call anytime she needed a ride. This time it would be to the hospital. She would tell Tom that she signed the papers, but she was not sure about how she felt.

After breaking the line with Kaikane and his peaceful voice, she hit speed-dial and called Melanie .

‟KAY!” Melanie was always excited to hear from her sister. ‟Where are you?”

‟San Francisco. Tom has had a good run of luck with the doctors since his accident.”

‟You need to come home quick as you can. Glenn is here and he has asked for you, he said it’s important.” Melanie said in a conspiratorial tone. ‟I think he is going to ask the question.”

‟Oh.” Her heart finished the phrase. *Damn.*

‟You don’t sound excited.” Melanie became quiet, shocked at the response. “This is what you have waited for since you were kids.”

‟I just signed the papers and sent them off to Nevada. I stop being married and never was according to the state once the papers arrive.”

‟Oh sis. But this is what you want, right?”

‟I don’t know. Tom needs me.” Kaylee was quiet as she waited for the limo. “You should see his eyes. Mellie, he is a good man, he cares for so many things and he’s in pain because of me.”

‟But he was alone before he met you, and it’s only been a month.” Melanie said helpfully. ‟And you said he nearly crashed the plane with you in it.”

‟He showed the wine country off to me from the plane.” She was defensive all of a sudden. “Melanie , it was beautiful, right up until we hit the birds, scared me so bad I think I nearly peed myself.”

At the other end, her best friend and sister laughed, knowing Kaylee the way she did, for her to say something like that was funny.

They talked as sisters do over the phone. Switching to video chat while she waited for the contract limousine to pick her up.

‟Why don’t you take a cab?” Melanie asked as Kaylee sat on a bench and waited in the shade of a tree.

‟No. If this is my last limo ride I don’t have to pay for, I want to enjoy it as much as I can. Besides, there is a hot Hawaiian that drives it. You’d love him. Surfer type, intelligent as any professor, knows more about sensemilla than a DEA cop.”

Melanie laughed so hard she snorted, then held her hand over the lens while she composed herself.

‟Stringbean? You know I can still hear you.” Kaylee took her turn of laughter, using the nickname that they worked out as children. This only made Melanie laugh that much harder.

Melanie Grant was the only person in the world that could make Kaylee laugh when things were at their darkest.

Kaylee hated her for that…

Which made her laugh all the harder, she loved her sister more than anyone else in her generation. They were, after all…

Sisters.

Married by Mistake Chapter 13. Alone on a Jet Plane

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Chapter 13. Alone On A Jet Plane

Just as he promised, a limousine drove up the dirt road next to the canal, driven by a woman in her mid-twenty’s wearing a tuxedo and a chauffeur’s hat opened the rear door for her with a professional smile.

“Thank you, but I want to sit in front. I need some girl time.” Kaylee smiled. “You don’t mind?”

“Not at all ma’am. It’s not regular, but the insurance does not prohibit it.”

The ride was talkative with both women lamenting about men being overgrown boys and their wishing to show off.

Lettie, the driver, smiled softly after a long-winded complaint that they flew low over the wine country and hit a flock of birds. Kaylee shook her head and wept over one bird whose life ended smooshed all over the windscreen of the big jet.

“Well, it would have been a pretty view up until then.” Lettie smiled as she drove. “He didn’t do it on purpose. I would love to have a guy to show me the wine country from above. Plus, he put it down safely. Does he ever say he loves you?”

“Naw…” She answered, looking out the window. “It’s a long story. But I’m going home and smoke until I’m stoned out of my mind and wake up by the weekend. It’s been a crazy month.”

“Once in awhile,” Lettie softly laughed. “Crazy is what you need. It has been crazy in this limo from time to time. Occasionally, the crazier nights have been the most rewarding.”

“How crazy?“

“I have been paid to drive naked and pick up girls.”

“Oh my god! Did you do it?”

“No.” Lettie laughed loudly. “He tipped me anyway, we did pick up some girls at a club and they partied in the back.”

“And they partied hard, I found clothing for days after that.”

“Um, ew.” Kaylee laughed. “I’ll sit up front from now on.”

Lettie laughed louder as she wheeled the limo towards the Stockton Airport.

“You have not asked, but my suggestion Mrs. Tom, is to take a few breaths while you are back home without him. He’s slightly old world, but a great guy.” She smiled.

“You know him?”

“Yes, he has hired our company more than once.” Lettie said with a wide smile. “He is a regular customer. Pays in advance, I think he has a thousand hours paid for this year.”

“Does he ask for you?”

Lettie shook her head. “No, but there are only five drivers. Me, my sister and two cousins and a psych-major that goes to UCSF.”

“An all woman limo business?” Kaylee’s curiosity piqued for the moment.

“Yeah. We were all going to school in Sacramento and started driving friends around as designated drivers. We studied in the car while everyone else drank. One thing led to another, now we own a limo service.”

“How well do you do?”

“Pretty good. I own two Molinaxil Harley’s and an Indian now.”

“Two… what?”

“Motorcycles. I have one custom fitted to me, built by a custom shop in Ohio. Molinaxil Metal. He makes custom bikes and cars. His sheet metal work is something out of the movies. THEN! Oh my god, then! The guy who does the work? He used to be a dancer, he looks as hot as the machines he builds.” Lettie laughed like a kid at Christmas. “And oh, he is jaw-drop gorgeous.”

“A dancer?” Kaylee asked while looking out the window. She was a thousand-miles away.

Lettie pressed on, she promised herself to improve the mood of the young woman next to her.

“Yup, like Chippendale’s? Same kind of thing. A rocking body and eyes that you would dream of doing naughty things with.” Lettie smiled at that. “Like Mr. Harte. He’s handsome enough for a church girl think of things. Naughty things. Over and over.” She gave a lusty laughed.

“He’s an ass.” Kaylee said in a wistful voice.

“The plane was in the water in one piece. Lettie frowned. “What happened?”

“He was flying low and ran into a flock of birds.”

“Bird strikes are common around here. We are in a migratory path of so many types. I even hit one with a limo last year.” She shuddered with the memory of it. “It nearly came all the way through the windshield, blew in a hole like it was an artillery shell. Tom saved you both by setting the jet down in the deep water channel.”

“Maybe. But I’m still mad at him.” She shook her head. “He keeps making me mad at him.”

“You can upset about almost dying, that’s your right. I would be, too! Ah, here we are.”

Pulling up in front of the airport. It’s architecture from the mid-seventies was obvious, but it was well maintained and spacious. One professionally dressed security in plain clothes held a sign with her name on it.

Lettie opened the door for her and handed her a business card with a penned in phone number.

“If you need me for anything again, call. That is my private number on the back.” Lettie smiled. “Kaylee, you have a lot going now. Don’t let this change you mind about Tom. He is a treasure, he is a keeper.”

Kaylee hugged Lettie. It had only been a half-hour’s worth of talking but she felt as if she was old friends with the limo company owner.

Walking up to the man with the sign, she smiled.

“I’m Kaylee.”

“Excellent. Come with me, please.”

Passing through TSA Checkpoints, she had no luggage to speak of. Robert, as his name badge stated in gold lettering, was polite but non-talkative.

“Your flight is waiting for you, this way.” Robert said with a slight smile, but showed no other emotion. All business.

The next officer uniform was a dark-skinned woman who had even more of a ramrod straight spine.

“You are Kaylee Harte?” It was almost a statement and not a question. “I’m Captain Adanna Ogechi. I will be your pilot on the plane. We will be setting down in Harbor Bay Airport within an hour of departure.” Captain Ogechi motioned with her hand. “This way.”

All business like Robert and made no comment as they walked to the small business jet that was claustrophobic compared to Tom’s flying yacht. But then, she remembered, it was his home.

*Since after the second day, Tom has hardly written on his notepad.* She realized, *Since I’ve been with him.*

He was always in her business. His “rescue” of her being blackmailed into a compromising position and possibly sex with the professor who the police arrested later.

*I had it handled,* she fumed. *I would not have wrapped my legs around the art instructor, I would have gotten the upper hand on that situation, somehow.*

Still, she had no idea what she was going to do to extract herself from that mess. Between an epic-awful morning on that Friday, getting fired from the restaurant and pub where she slaved as a waitress and tended bar. The day just kept going from bad to worse until she met Tom.

Kaylee laughed at herself. Then life just took a left turn into a surreal universe as she reflected on the last week. The adventures in how his body and hers could merge.

*His hugs are like having a heart hold mine*

How they fit together and things she had never tried in a plane before. Hands on the controls, sleeping on top, diving off the wing.

AND!

Sleep on a boat was wonderful beyond words, even if the boat had wings. She did not even need to smoke any weed to get into a zen mood!

She had an eighth of a kilo of Killer Kai weed at the Wizard that she had not even touched. It was all that good.

Her thoughts drifted back to Glenn, who went to Mt. Mazama University.

*Not as far from home but it’s still an eighteen-hour drive from Ocean Bay, too much of a long-distance relationship. It is so far apart, even with current technology, and not date other people.* She remembered the conversation. *To expect either of us to not go out with other people is a setup for failure.*

A Poli-Sci major, he was honest in they both would make contacts.

*”It is unreasonable to assume we could be faithful to a promise, being so far apart.”* She remembered him saying. *If Glenn only knew how unreasonable I could take it.*

They were “steady” when they were home together, but not when at the remote colleges.

A sigh. *I hope that the papers and annulment will be final before I go home, because Glenn sent that email that he had something important to talk about.*

*Glenn might propose this year. He has been acting strange, like he has something to say and has a shy-bone stuck in his head.* She gave a big sigh, holding her face in her hands in the solitude in the back of the tiny jet. *This is so messed up! This should excite me, but it would only complicate our schoolastic careers. UGH! It will be more complicated if I am still married to Tom when I go home.*

This made her laugh again as the small jet shrieked down the runway then pulled in to a steep climb.

*Tom is a good man.* She was growing fond of him in many ways. *But he has achieved success while I am at the beginning of my art career. I’ll have a gallery in a couple of years.*

Still, his kisses. He was attentive and made her toes curl just to think about it. Her heart skipped and jumped in pleasant ways from his smiles to when he looked in her eyes.

*I wonder what children would be like with him.* She smiled for a moment. *He writes children stories and… OH!*

She surreptitiously had looked them up in her phone, even though the signs at the airport said to turn off all phones.

Leonard the Leafy Sea Dragon had many adventures, most of the stories had an ecological slant to them, some dealt with right and wrong. Leonard’s friend Wendel “Weeds” The Weedy Sea Dragon was a constant companion and sometime hero as Leonard would get into predicaments that needed help.

Tom addressed things that kids would be worried about, bully issues were dealt with in one arc in the series of the little novellas. Scary things that shake the bushes in the night in another arc. Tom was a talented writer and made a living off of his books.

*He did say he was “comfortable”.* She smiled herself at the memory.

Then, she saw a reference online with her smart phone and clicked on the link.

She looked forward to the cockpit of the jet, the pilots had not looked back. No one to check on. She was the only one on board of the chartered flight.

She read the title about the tragedy of Tom’s life. His pregnant wife failed to beat a train at a crossing and died in the accident, there were no other children in the family. After that, he began to write prolifically.

Other searches turned up tabloid comments about that Tom was gay and had his wife murdered.

Another read that she killed herself on purpose since she was gay and was going to leave him, then found she was pregnant.

Many speculations that he no longer dated women. Paparazzi had a difficult time keeping up with him and his flying boat that they had come to call the “Flying Wicked Wizard of Solitude” out of spite.

Images of his plane leaving when they would try to chase him after the accident in speedboats. Super long-range lenses used to image the Pacific Wizard as it floated in lakes or the ocean were all in the trash websites.

Then another picture, taken from shore of two people on top of the Pacific Wizard, one was obviously him and another of a raven haired woman who was impossible to recognize. They were between the engines and, with no obvious clothing.

But Kaylee recognized the mystery woman! It was her! Kaylee knew it by the large sunglasses she wore. It was their first day after getting married by accident in Las Vegas.

The image was grainy and blurred from such a long distance and the rocking motion of the plane.

Another website claimed the unknown woman was a victim “Kidnapped by Alien Author” as the trash tabloid alluded that Tom was now a non-human from space. Possibly a vampire.

She laughed at that. *Well, he does have sharp teeth that he uses in nice ways when he presses his teeth against my neck and hums the song “Star Spangled Banner”.*

She rarely held out past the first stanza before laughing and then the spasms that went through her and she loved that. It still made her toes curl to think of it.

Still the picture of them on top of the plane was obvious they were together, the image taken more than a mile away. Shot from shore and they were not on the top of the plane for any length of time, so she felt that her identity was safe for the moment. No one bothered to chase them with any speedboats. They were old news and boring.

*Except for the bird strike. This is sure to make the papers.* Again she face-palmed.

*I need to call Tom and tell him to keep my face and name out of the news. Damn him! Mom ‘n’ Dad will be sure to find out. Gramma G is a big reader of all those tabloids.*

She flipped through the listings of the conspiracy web-sites.

*Ever since Grampa Grant died, Gramma’s talked about aliens, time travel and immortal beings. She is sure that Grampa was with the aliens instead of the airliner that he was in that went down over the ocean.*

A memory, it did not seem that long ago, but it was over a decade. Not a single distress call from the airliner, it just went off the radar and wreckage was found floating in the water.

There were no survivors. Not even bodies in water that was more than ten-thousand feet deep.

Without a body to say good-bye to was the hardest thing for Gramma to bear as she descended into a fantasy that Grampa was still alive, somewhere.

“Missus Harte, we are landing now.” The Captain called back. “Seat belt on, please put away your phone.” This caused Kaylee to blush like a kid caught with a cookie. She had not asked if she could use it and on commercial airlines, the rules prohibited the use of laptops and phones.

The descent from luxury private jet to the mundane real world had begun and Kaylee was not entirely prepared for what was to come.

*I’m not prepared for anything.* She reminded herself with a heavy sigh.

The dog, selzter water and good humor.

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A TWO-liter bottle of seltzer water, a curious dog with an urge to chew and a near-dry dog water bowl. 

The sand-colored dog chose that the bottle I had sat down after it’s time to get cold in the fridge was worthy to lick.  I had laughed at the dog as it was on the order of 98-99 degrees F/37C, I let her lick the cold and sweating bottle whilst I was preparing lunch.

I have given her sniffs of seltzer water before and she was curious, but the curiosity passed quickly. 

This time, however, I came out with a salad to sit down and write, the bottle that sat on the floor when I walked out, now was in between the dog’s paws and she had already chewed the cap off and chewed the neck flat. 

No way to save the water, and she was curious now as it was fizzing at her.  A small puddle on the floor, but she still held the cold water (Must have felt good?) but, I have four other bottles chilled.  Only slightly upset that she took advantage of my being out of the room, but it was my fault for leaving her in close temptation. 

So, a pause, I poured the entire contents of the curious, fizzy water in the dog bowl and watched the scene play out. 

Chocolate Lab “Hershey” is highly jealous and — OMG — do not let Honey the honey colored dog get something that Hershey might not. (Yes, it causes confusion in the house due to similarity of the names, not planned, it just happened that way.) 

Well, the afternoon wore on, the noises and snorting of the dog versus fizzy water is something to behold.  Now, I buy just seltzer water, carbon dioxide and water, no sodium or other salts.Otherwise I might have resisted the urge to give it to the dogs.

However, it was cold, fresh and fizzy.  Hershey squatted down and barked at it. 

Honey kept trying to bite the bubbles, occasionally sticking her nose in the water, blowing bubbles and chasing THEM.  

Then snort-sneezing. (I thought she was done after that.) but then going back for more.

The cats?  They were sitting back shaking their heads at the psycho dogs, saying something to the effect “You are an embarrassment to all pets, everywhere.” 

Back to the water bowl, the two dogs took turns biting at the water, blowing bubbles at it, pawing at it. (then licking the paw). 

This goes on for nearly an hour.  I don’t think they drank half of it, like children playing in a small pool, the two of them splashed the water out on to the floor. bubbles that fizzed up get licked, bitten, blown back into the water.

Oh, and a snoot-full of fizzing water will cross your eyes if you are a canine. that stuff tickles! But remember to go back, the stuff is fun.

Laughter of humans is so intense, sides hurt. 

Oh and the barking chocolate lab? She jumps up and down barking with a wagging tail when I take the next bottle out to fill my glass. 

And Honey, she has a dejected look when I don’t pour any in their bowl.

Note to self: when I set up for a lunch of iced seltzer water and salad, leave the bottle out of reach.

 

Keeper of the Cane and the Scandal in Sandals (Or: Drinking Wine in the Public Park)

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Finis, the muscular Santa Claus type, sat on the bench enjoying the life and activity in the public park.

Death chose to take an afternoon off, relaxing in the shade of the trees, he listened to children playing in the sandbox — a good sound, full of life and a balm to the soul.

He was closing his eyes and inhaling the blessed perfumes of pine, elm and grass when a jewish carpenter tapped him on the shoulder and offered snow-maned occupant of the bench a cup of wine from his bottle of “Never Empty” brand of Merlot.

“You know, drinking of alcohol in the public park is illegal here.” He gratefully accepted the cup.

“Are you going to talk or drink?” 

“You only filled it half-way.” Finis said, his companion laughing and topping up his glass. “And we can visit at the same time.”

The sharing of illegal drinking of wine with the scandal in sandals was always enjoyable. Finis tore off a large peice of a baguette he carried in a bag and handed it to the long-haired friend and good-natured rival, fishing out a bar of dark chocolate, he broke it in half and balanced it on top of the broken bread.

“Humans here relish this.” He said and both men nodded. One of the discoveries of man that was enjoyable on many levels.

The two men chatted for a while, a good rivalry had developed between the two years before. This crazy carpenter held the unique position of defeating him in the universal contest that everyone, everywhere struggles with, and against walking with the Angel of Death.

Finis never held it against the wandering rabbi, they both walked a path that was similar and shared some laughs. But where the carpenter enjoyed his position, Finis hated his job.

No one ran towards Finis with peace in their hearts. If and when they did, it was always a darkness that drove them. 

It was depressing.

They were talking peacefully when a drug dealer and his entourage walked into the area and spread out to the different areas, staring at the families.  

Terrified and intimidated mothers gathered their children and vacated the area in abject fear, ending the joyous sound like a cold rain.

The descending silence drew the attention of the two solitary gentlemen sitting on the bench who frowned as they discussed the change in the air.

The gang leader looked at the two men, they seemed clueless to where they were.  They sat in a dangerous part of town and a lesson was about to be taught.

This was HIS park.

One, a white-haired man with a long silver-handled cane, and the other who wore a peasant shirt, well-worn but clean denim shorts and sandals. They were openly sharing wine and bread while the park changed from one of family fun to one of the business of crime.

They two friends commented to each other that it seemed colder and more unwelcoming than before, when a five-year-old girl raced ahead of her mom to climb and take her turn at the slide.

The drug dealer could hear them discussing his crew as he walked up.

“This is our park, you need to pay to stay.” The tattoo of tears on the face of the bald leader in contrast to the sparkling hatred of his eyes.

The two benchwarmers looked first at each other, then the white-haired one with the cane looked back at him with a slight smile. 

“We were here first and we are just enjoying the shade.”

“You want a piece of me?” The dealer hissed drawing a sidearm. “I said you had to pay to stay, now you just have to pay.”

“Roberto, I don’t get to see you for another three-years, four months, twelve days.” White-hair said matter-of-factly, no anger, but the old man’s tone was even.

“Finis.” The smaller carpenter cautioned. “No messing with him. But, if you …”

“Fuckit. You go to the hospital with holes.” Roberto aimed his pistol at the face of the carpenter. White-hair grabbed the hand and weapon with cat-like speed.

“You have no idea how close to death you are right now, young man.” Finis stared into the eyes of the thug. “And that gent right there is your only saving grace.”

The fear burning at the soul of the human as the Angel of Death invaded his mind with images that changed his life.

“This carpenter right here will lead you back, but of it were me? I will just take you away. Talk to him, open your heart. If you talk to me, it will be with your last breath, and you would suffer in the most biblical of ways.”

In the following minutes, the two men, a white-haired Santa Claus type and a jewish carpenter sat and talked of everything they could think of with the shaven and tattoo leader and dealer of drugs. Roberto the gangster known as “The Bull” discovered a change in his life, he had met death that day and found Jesus. 

Roberto “The Bull” Roman was lucky, Death was off duty.

Children of Fury: Hellions Chapter 7. Captain’s Log

Children of Fury:Hellions
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7. Captain’s Log

The young man sat on the overturned bucket with a quill in one hand, a book in his lap. He leaned in his favorite corner, eschewing the captain’s chair at the desk.

The Blackfish was making way nicely, and his view of the ocean from the stern of the ship made his soul feel free with the expansive view when the storm doors were open.

His long crimson hair, cut above his ears months before, now hung down past his ear lobes, dipped the tip of the quill in the jar of ink and put the blackened tip to the parchment.

“Captain’s Personal Log:

This is the first voyage of the Blackfish, and my father follows in the Fearg. A sister ship to this one. We have come here to this spot from a journey that started years ago.

Nearly half my life.

A summer day when my father went out with a ship that he had built. He was gone when the English came and destroyed my village.

I saw my seanathair lay on the ground with a bolt from his manubalista jutting out of his chest and the soldiers that beat my mam into the dirt until she stopped moving. In those days, I thought she was dead.

I woke up on a slave-cart, I still carry the scar, hidden by my hair, where the soldier hit me.

When I came home, I found that my mam, taken by the English, was in the islands where Captain Christopher Myngs freed myself and my friends.

I found when I returned to my father in the Virgina lands of a bay they called Irishtown. A backwater behind a Dutch settlement.

I sit in command of this new ship, a crew of twenty and one hundred of the old crew. Only twelve adults serve on board. The older’s follow us,  in the ship of my father’s design.

We return in force, with my old friends Anna God-Wants and Jacquotte Delahaye to find my mother, somewhere on the islands of the Caribs.

I will not rest until I find my mother’s fate and return her home, if I can.

I cannot watch my father walk as a man alone any longer, he weeps at night for the life stolen from him, he believes I do not see. But he is my father, I hear him at night, I see his eyes. The strain shows on his face.

This is not tolerable on a personal level.

My friends all have parents, brothers and sisters all still missing and we will return to collect them.

The Blackfish and the other ships can carry twice more than the crew who man them. Plus my plan will be to take ships on our return home.

Empires will tremble at the thought of our rescue. No navy will prevail against us. We have new bronze cannon built by the one my father called Francois Buile. He showed us that the ranges of the nine-pounders are near double of our last guns.

Granuaile has turned carriages of the guns into inventions of her own design. Adult men have learned to keep their distance from her.

My only pleasure around her, she has stopped socking me in the shoulder. My bruise is almost healed, but any man who hits me there now, will have a surprise. Unless he has hands of stone, I would not notice it.”

The ginger-haired youth rubbed his shoulder and laughed at his own humor. Looking out over the water, the old melancholy chased away the smile.

Putting the quill into the bottle, he stood up and walked to the expensive glass window. An artisan, commissioned by the blacksmiths, made three cut-glass letters to remind a woman’s child of her name.

“Fey” in small colored cut-glass gems sparkled in the sun, it burned in his soul to see it.

Tracing his fingers over the inlay, the old anger rose again. He would get her back. They meant it as a gift to calm a soul, instead, it was a fan that increased the rage in his heart.

Sitting again, he picked the quill out of the bottle and tapped the drop off against the mouth of the blown-glass bottle of ink and put it to the expensive vellum in his personal journal.

Turning the page, he wrote at the top of the page:

Captain’s Personal log of Keegan O’Danu

I miss her, I can remember my mam’s eyes and her laugh. I was only nine-summers old when we were taken. I will find her and bring her back, if only for my athair. A son should never see a father broken. Slavery should never be a market and I will free anyone that is in service against their will that I find, so long as I draw a breath. Slave ships will be my prey, anyone who flies the flag of empire will strike colors on my approach.

The Pirate Kingdom of the Sea will hold sway. Free people will embrace the name.

Everywhere they use the label pirate as a pejorative, I will embrace it as freedom.

Until my Mam is home, I will walk the decks and sail the seas until I am too old to chew my food.

Many years ago, to me.

My máthair was taken.

The English declared war on our village.

Today, I return to get her back. The Spanish, English and any who strike with the might of an empire, just because they can, I will make tremble with fear to sail these waters with their flags flying.

My father and his crew accompany us in thinking they protect the children.

We are the seeds of crimes that the Spanish, English, Dutch have sown.

It us up to the children to protect the fathers.

I will continue to use my war-name given to me by the Quartermaster of the Marston Moor.

A member since the first tour on Grampus she had no fear of anyone, Beth Angelcries stepped through the door.

“Keegan, your Da’ is pulling up along side and using the speaking-trumpet that Nial the smith made.”

Nodding, the captain of the Blackfish looked up into the hazel eyes of the girl who had shown such fury when they made their way home, causing Keegan to redefine the term in his mind.

Looking down, he finished his entry.

With the support of Anna Marie and Jacquotte we will stop at the harbor of Germantown and meet with those children who stayed behind and were adopted when we left their village last year for the Chesapeake.

The adults in that town invited us to return when we wished. It is something I do wish to do, there is a debt of help I owe to the families there.

Setting down his quill, the youngest captain in any fleet walked to talk with his personal hero.

Their next port of call: Germantown.

Children of Fury: Hellions Chapter 5. Reunion

Children of Fury:Hellions
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Chapter 5. Reunion

The moon had not yet set when the two ships quietly rounded the headlands of the bay.

Blackfish and Lir slid into the bay next to two dark ships.

Dark, but not asleep.

On board the Wrath and Scorned crews sat and watched the illuminated ships come close.

A young man’s voice called out, hailing the dark ships.

A woman’s voice answered.

“Mon Dash?” Then a squeal of recognition and applause, Annamarie’s favorite youth had returned as promised.

Cheers erupted and they stowed the guns. The reunion of adoptive big sisters and their crew erupted in cheers and lamps were lit.

Sunrise found a fleet of four-pirate ships deep in conversation.

“Mssr. O’Danu.” The brilliant blue eyes of the French Fille-du-Roi looked evenly at Conn. “You are most blessed with such a jeune homme.”

“I don’t understand, Captain.” Conn said with his head tilted slightly.”

“Emmm… Jeune man.” She repeated. Then thought a moment. “Young man?”

A chuckle from a crewman behind her earned an icy look, silencing him instantly.

Laughter echoed over the morning water, the ships with space enough between them, men in the rigging. Each ship ready to unfurl canvas at a moments notice.

Stories told, Conn, and the other fathers learned of the children that sailed the small ship that brought them home.

While the adults cackled and told stories, the one known as “Back-from-the-dead-red” looked around and spotted her most protected of men standing on the bow of the Wrath. She walked up to the youth, a boy when she last laid eyes on him, in the year that passed, he had grown nearly as tall as she was, his shoulders widened. But the one that Annemarie called “Mon Dash!” still looked out over the water with those green eyes that filled her with worry.

The eyes filled with an anger that haunted her soul. A steady, unblinking gaze that wished they were  somewhere beyond the horizon. When last they sailed together, she prayed that when this young man, Keegan, reunited with his family, he would find peace.

“Talk to me.” She said, sitting on the bowsprit. “You have been and always shall be my man.” Her voice soft in the daylight.

“My dad and all their crew cannot keep up with us. They are learning how to sail their ship they built the same as ours.” He shook his head, blood-colored hair glistened in the sunlight. “Even though the adults have years on boats and ships, even building, they do not have the skills to fight by reading the water. Granuaille has already drilled the others and we can run out the guns faster than fast. Even Dana has earned his place amongst us. ”

“Who, pray tell, is Dana?” Jacquotte asked. “And do not discount an adult’s skill. I am an adult and you see what I can do.”

“That would be me.” Icy blue eyes under the hair golden sunshine. The small boy-child, in her eyes stood next to the older and taller captain of the child crew. “I am his brother, what are you doing with Keegan?”

Jacquotte laughed at the younger boy’s protective nature.

“Your Keegan, is my Dash. He is my man, I have fought beside him and hold him dear in my heart.” She winked, this seemed to relax the younger one.

“Dash, you did not tell me you had such a handsome brother.”

“You know him, this was the cabin boy we took off of the ship under the command of Captain Tudor.” The cheeks of the haunted green eyes smiled. “This is him.”

“THIS? His hair was not nearly as bright, he was shades darker. And he had black fingernails.” Jacquotte clapped. “Mon dieu! You have cleaned up well, cabin-boy.”

“I am not a boy, I am a PIRATE.” He stood with his hands on his hips.

Coming barely to the woman’s shouldershe slipped her arms around Dana’s shoulders and kissed him on the forehead.

“Any family of my Pirate Prince is welcome aboard any of my fleet.” She smiled while Dana blushed brightly.

“Don’t worry, Dana,” Dash laughed. “She has done that to me, and Bradan, too.”

The sudden memory of his old friend wiped the laughter from his soul like shadows banished by sunlight.

The tall redheaded woman stepped up to the one she called Dash and put her arms around him.

To her, he was Dash MacDíoltas, The Son of Revenge.

“You, young Dana.” She brushed a blond hair out of the tow-headed boy. “You would turn a girls head quickly.”

“Aww. Ma’am…” Dana started.

“Call me Jacquotte, or if you cannot, Captain will be sufficient.” She smiled.

“Keegan? Keegan!” Conn’s voice sounded over the deck.

“We must return to the meeting, it seems that the meet and greet is over.” Keegain said.

The trio stood and walked back to the larger group. Jacquotte sadly did not have time to talk to Keegan, her dash of spice in her life. A kindred ginger with the green eyes.

In the crowd of captains and officers, they drank toasts to each other and greeted the red-headed captain of the fast ship Blackfish.

“We sail at the turn of the tide in ten-hours.” Keegan directed. “We head south, then west to Port Royal, there is a man we need to meet.”

Captain Henry Morgan would be quite surprised to see his favorite pirate had returned.

In ten hours, the tide turned and began to withdraw, four ships gracefully rounded the edge of the hidden bay and turned to a southerly course.

©2015 Dash McCallen All Rights Reserved

Images from the house of Smites

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Report from the Smite House

 

Ringing sounds from firm smites

The anvil hums keeping time

Hammers and tongs

A fire and bellows

Metal becomes plastic

Into the steel

The soul belongs

Ogham transparent

 

 

Black sand

Found in a stream

A careful eye

A skilled hand.

Ogham transparent

 

 

Carbon, fire, ore of iron

Coke from coal

As charcoal is to wood

Aching arms

Blue flames, yellow heat

And a loving eye

Ogham transparent

 

 

Red heat and the sand fused

Shapes to a curl

A wood seat used.

Long curved rails

Twisted steel leaves

The chair takes shape

Ogham transparent

 

 

A century past

A grandchild rocks

With a child of her own

On steel curved

By the house of the Forge

Ogham transparent

 

 

The steel soul

Still touches

With words engraved

“For my children”

Copyright ©2015 Dash McCallen

2 Seconds… T-Minus 2,775,168,000 Seconds

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T-Minus 2,775,168,000 Seconds

 

LucilleMay Adler born to George and Ethel grew up in Chicago on the poorest side of town. George was a warehouseman and had never had much time for his family. A heavy drinker by the time that Lucy was in her mid-teens. He died when he drove into a tree on his way home. Ejected from the overturning car, the intoxicated father struck his head on the hard ground and never woke from his injuries.

Lucy and her mother moved to California on suggestion of her aunt Lewellyn where she became involved with a young man who went to school. He impressed Lucy with his clear blue eyes and aspirations. The young man often would take Lucy on rides in the country as they sat with picnics under his favorite trees along the Marin headlands.

Trying his hand at farming, Joshua Sprecks was a failure. Buying the land around the hills in the southern bay area, they fought and struggled for years until a builder spoke with them about selling land so a home could be built.

Pausing to think, Joshua refused the offer. Instead, he spoke with an employee who helped him and in turn they looked into building a few houses which sold quickly.

In the years that followed, Joshua found he had talents in the business of home and subdivision design. With a good relationship with the local inspectors, Joshua Sprecks made his life comfortable for his growing family. His plans for schools that the children would attend were set as father blazed the trail by going back to school himself, becoming an architect of some renown in the area.

Shortly after the first of Lucy’s four children were born. Lucy developed an addiction to Valium, a common problem in the early years of the drug. Most of the women in her church were very much addicted to the Valium family of medications, and an active trade developed within the group as the hoarders would sell among the women that needed it at the moment.

One springtime afternoon, everyone had arrived at home from school and after finishing chores. The day was warm and beautiful and a wonderful time for the young. Joshua Junior promised he would be careful, Lucy’s smiled and allowed her eldest son to take the family car and drive his younger brother and two sisters to the store for sodas. Joshua Junior was always very careful at the wheel of the car, Lucy was always careful to teach him of his responsibilities. Teachings that he took to heart, always.

Alas the drunk driver that collided with them had no such guidance.

The light in Lucy’s eyes dimmed as she never quite recovered burying four of her five children. The only survivor of the accident that took the lives of all the children was the youngest who had to stay home to do homework.

Josh Sr. took the next offer of his three-hundred acre ranch and bought land in the Lake Tahoe area away from the metropolitan growing around their orchards. Houses built haphazardly without the plans that Joshua tried to include with his developments, and the effect was, to him, untenable.  

It was not fair to Joshua Sprecks, who had no wish to stay in the area where his children died at the hands of a man who paid only a month’s worth of salary in fines.

And the patriarch of his surviving family could not suffer living in the shadow of the four headstones that marked the graves of his children, moved to the mountains, never to return willingly to the lands of his shattered dreams.

Children of Fury: Hellions Chapter 1. Latent Threat

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Chapter 1. Threat

Tongs and hammers, wood and copper, iron and wood, the ship took shape in the backwater of the great bay, hidden by the local geography, the ship grew in its lethal shape.

Knife edged, a keel that reflected the inspired fin of the largest porpoise in the world’s oceans. The Blackfish grew in shape and lethal purpose. Conn O’Danu paced as he directed the Irish carpenters to follow the measurements and drawings to the bitter-end of each page. There would be no gaps, no errors. Conn used green, live oak for building the new ship, stout construction to the extreme.

This pleased Conn, this oak was a resilient wood and made for the tightest construction ever envisioned.

In the course of the construction, the men and women adults felt motivation to build a ship like never before, the motivation  came from Keegan, who reassembled the crew of children that had returned home. Their mission, the small ones had decided, return to the islands in the south and rescue their friends, mothers, fathers and all their families that remained.

The cruelty of the Empires of the world had taught them how to sail and fight.

Now they would return. The 

Copper and iron, Diarmuid the Dubh and Nial Gabham, the two talented blacksmiths of the village, who had made connections to other artisans of metals and the powers of Hephaestus, forged with imagination the plates of copper they attached to the hull of the ship, that remained hidden in the back-waters of the bay.

Ideas from the boy who brought the children home, copper scales nailed on the bottom of the ship’s hull. Copper nails held the dinner-plate sized copper ellipses in place. Brass and bronze nails driven in measured distances by carpenters and craftsmen who followed what Keegan O’Danu and Dana, who the O’Danu’s had adopted as one of their own, showed where to drive the metal spikes into the wood.

Under the shade of a tree nearby, children gathered by ones and twos as word spread.

Mothers with fear building in their hearts, tried to pull these children who gathered in the clearing. Children, those that had been lost and then returned, and who still carried a fire in them that frightened most adults.

Such anger, taught by the Empires of the sea and this New World that they colonized. For the treasures, a life was worth less than the sweat it took to pull a knife from a sheath.

Father’s pulled on children who turned and stared at the patriarchs in the eye.

Words of denial, spoken of in angered whispers.

These were children who had learned a mission. Their first mission was to come home.

A new call to arms, flames of deep anger sparkled in youthful eyes. Confidence, that only the young had, and a fury from the devil himself at those who raided their villages.

The followers of Cromwell, the devil of all the crimes against this group of children that despised the soldiers in red and the Rump Parliament who followed after Pride’s Purge. The efforts of a few had instilled such anger in a whole people.

And the growing Empire angered two groups of people so far.

The Great Scots of the Highlands and the whole of the Hibernian isle.

The Governor of the colony could not know of the return of a crew of children on a ship that was like no other.

In time, despair would settle over the hearts of Governors and Ministers alike in future days as rumors of the hell-ship, Blackfish, that sailed the waters of the West Indies came to their ears.

But we get ahead of ourselves…

Dark Heart, Pure Soul 21. A Life Left Behind

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21. A Life Left Behind

Over the next few months, Kane met with other clan leaders who said that the other island across the channel had more raw materials that could be traded for and they needed a metal worker to replace one that had moved south with a daughter of a king. Kane thought it a good move, they could go across the water and then be lost in the mill of people of the age.

Bronwyn wept as she packed. This time was leaving for good. They had tried it once on the mainland, but the violence was testing both their tempers, highwaymen appeared time and again, attempting to take what they had traded for.

Kane carefully bundled his tools together in fine, waxed linen and placed them on the chariot that he had built to transport when he heard a small, familiar voice behind him.

Uncle Kane, are you leaving?” It was Daigh, still carrying his favorite sculpted toy bird.

Yes. Bronwyn and I are moving closer to where they mine for metals. We can trade much more cheaply there and make our useful wares and pretty things to sell.”

Will you come back?” the eleven-year-old asked. His curly brown hair framing his sapphire-blue eyes.

Only if you be good. You will know I have been here on that one night, when you have waited all year for new toys. I’ll sneak in and leave you and your friends something.” Kane winked.

You ever break a promise.” The bright eyes of the young man who believed in the demon-in-hiding.

Have I yet failed you?” Kane kneeled to look in the boy’s eye on his level.

Daigh softly laughed and shook his head, cheeks blushing as Kane found him out in doubting the hero of the village. Kane was one to keep promises. If Kane said it, gave his word. It would be so. If he did not give his word, he would do his best, but in the words of Kane “No promises.” which meant that there was a chance that he would not be able to do what he had hoped to do.

Kane stood up, checked and tightened down a braided leather rope, immensely strong, Daigh once saw Kane use what he called a pulley to lift a log on to a chariot to move it into the village where he made a huge dugout canoe, for the bonfire that year, with the death of a nearby King, they placed the body into the hollowed out log and then floated out on the sea. An arrow was lit and shot into the oil-soaked pile of branches upon which the King’s body lay. A funeral to which there was no equal that day.

But now, Kane and Bronwyn, the creator of such tasty treats in the kitchens and on holidays would go with Kane and live a life in another part of the world.

One woman who had whispered to Daigh’s mother one evening when they thought that there was something wrong with Kane and Bronwyn.

They are not with children and are not getting old. It is strange I say.” She whispered one night.

They could be tricksters among us.” She was one that was always having babies, so Daigh did not understand how they had tricked her into having another one. But Daigh told Kane who had pulled on his ear with an amused look.

Well, the best trick is to teach you to keep your word. Never make a promise that you cannot keep or do not want to keep. If you give your word, you keep it even if you do not want to.”

Daigh and the other kids, Aed, Muirne, Cuinn all nodded. Always they kept their words to each other and told their parents the truth. Even if it would cost them some trouble, they knew that Kane would know, and then he would be mad at them.

THEN, he would be too busy to make new toys or mend old ones.

But today, he was leaving, many people would leave and some would return, others would move from other villages or change where they lived after gathering cattle at the end of the summer to bring the livestock in for protection of the cold and feed them. Calves were often born during these months and would often need feeding by hand. Older kids milked cows and goats, next year, it would be Daigh’s start to care for some of the beasts.

Okay,” Kane said as he finished the knot and all the items were tight in the covered wagon. “We are good if it rains, we will have a sleeping area if we get stuck and we can get to the trade goods easily.”

Daigh stood there for a long moment as Kane tied the ponies to the draw bar of the wagons. The leather harnesses were something that Kane had put together with Daigh’s help and suggestions.

Kane again knelt, closer to the level with the pre-teen boy.

This is what we have to do, Bronwyn and I. We came here the year after you were born. I have helped you learn things and you have learned well. You have a great mind, be a poet, tell the history of your people. Sing of the great things that will be. Kings will come, brave heroes. Even creatures that have come before people and now live in the forests and underground. I will be around,I will sneak in at harvest time.” Kane winked. “Think of me as a gnome or some other small spirit that will sneak around one night of the year and leave you something nice.”

Then Kane held up his index finger in admonishment.

“BUT! If you do not do your chores or do wrong to someone? I will leave you nothing, or worse, you will find a gift of twigs and rocks.”

With that, Daigh’s eyes got big.

I will not forget! You will see Uncle Kane! I will be the best poet that history will ever know. I will sing songs about you that the world will think you were a great Brehon.”

Thought I already was.” Kane said with a wink.

Bronwyn’s voice echoed slightly in the now-empty shop. She was ready to leave. All things that families were to take were so placed in order. Things remaining she had marked with strips of cloth in different colors that indicated different families.

Hello Daigh. Come to see us off?” Bronwyn’s copper-colored hair hung down around her shoulders like a waterfall. She bent down so she was as tall as the eleven year old. “Kane has favored you. You do make him proud when you grow up?”

Yes ma’am! He will hear about my stories and songs all over the world.” Daigh smiled. “I promise I will never stop telling stories about you and him.”

Daigh, you are a wonderful young man.” Bronwyn kissed him on the cheek.

A gasp, Daigh was without words as, first his ears, then his entire face turned red.

Bronwyn laughed softly and hugged him.

That is our little secret. You make me feel pretty.”

Time to go, Bronwyn, climb up.” Kane said.

Daigh was still blushing as their wagon trundled out the gates and disappeared. Feeling a little sad as he turned to walk away. His heart was hurting and, in a small way, lonely, until he remembered, they would be back in a few months at harvest time!

Daigh skipped back to the center of the village where the other kids were. His embarrassment forgotten as his attention span was that of any child.

End Of Book One? (who wants more?)

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 19. A Nightmare Of A Possibility

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19. A Nightmare Of A Possibility

Twitching, the world took on a surreal color pallet.

She slept with her arm over his shoulders, cuddled up to his back like two spoons in the flatware box. This world faded away and another one slid forward on soft cat-paws in his mind.

A nightmare invaded Kane’s slumber. A violent dream.

He was angry. He was fighting and he was fury incarnate, down to his core, he was… He was…

He was Orcus the avenging demon of wrongs. The angry imp that struck in an instant.

The black-soul that would invade a lover’s heart and turn the loving soul into a murderer in a moment for minor wrongs, bringing new slaves to the Dark Lord for his bidding.

And found – Not an angelic minion, a nameless adversary. It was… It… was… even in his dream, he stammered.

It was HER!

He defended his Angel.  It played vividly in his mind, he was again there when the Hoard attacked. For his heart focused only on one soul ever. A heart properly motivated would do anything. In defense of his deepest mote of love, that one spark never lost, did he do the unthinkable.

But the hesitation brought the unwanted attention of the Dark One who did not believe in such deep thoughts – Backing up his best, his most infernal, the one who brings the most of the new souls in for the Satan, Emperor of Hell to torment for his pleasure.

The Great Angel of the Pit arrived and struck her a crushing blow, pushing the smaller imp out of harms way, attacking the crimson haired angel delivering a huge slash across her arms and with that single blow of his clawed hand, he knew her name.

Bronwyn they called her. In that instant he knew it was her human name. Somewhere in time there was a candle lit for her. But that mattered not, this soul, that forestalled the killing stroke of the best of his warriors, one who commanded a legion. The Emperor’s best and brightest, the most savage, one of the most feared of all.

A blow stung him to the core as she struck back, a blessed sword of holy crystal! With a mighty roar of a thousand damned hearts, and struck at her with claw and fang, to tear out a new soul. Not one that would be returned to this little Angel’s lord. Her flesh would be ravaged, spirit would be torn and body broken as he pounced on her like a savage raptor of hate, of the dark side and he struck with a blow to shatter souls; it was the law of things in battle. The mighty overwhelm the weak.

But this angel did not read the rule book.

The bright, pure soul of the host, drove Hell’s Master backwards the flash of a moment as she struck him with the might of the host. Michael would not have struck as hard. Silver chain mail over her torso resisted the power of darkness, for this was for this was one of the great warrior archangels. Fitting her like a wet shirt, it guarded against  the savage horde. However, it was not on par with the supreme demon of the darkness.

The battle ensued, he was savage and she as a blinding light against his dark, claw to armor, fist to fang. The whole of the lands shook with the fury of battle. Master against Angel, there was no turning back, Bronwyn was fighting for her immortal soul and there was no mercy, no plea that would be heard. This was a battle to the end of it all, to the death of two immortal beings.

She struck with enough power and heart to knock him to his knees, enough power to break a demon. But not this Dark Lord, almighty in his satanic powers, he was beyond her dreams of power. He took his measure of her strength, weighed her power and compared it to his own. She who had gotten a few hits in, her light was as a small lamp in the pitch darkness of night. Bright as she was, she was found wanting, and he retaliated.

That little blessed knife of hers,  broken and thrown away, hummed feebly in the dirt.

And the Devil struck with the might of Hell – again and again the great dark fist of the Emperor shattered her body, her shield of faith. Her soul would taste like a sweet grape on his tongue after he tore it out of her and consumed it, never to return to the adversary of her Lord of Light. To hell with an angel.

Beaten, weaponless, on her knees, held by one wing he beat her again and again. She screamed one name.

“Orcus! HELP!”

Her screams echoed in the cold, dead heart. Somewhere in the dust of ages, among the dead and heavily scarred flesh that wound around the blackened and charred whole of his soul, a spark that was hidden was found and it heard – the spark flared, burned and ignited something within the emptiness that was the heart of a demon.

A rage that grew, fanned to flames by the winds of memory that rushed back, an awakening of a promise once made to a pure soul. The spark that remembered once promised to protect.

And failed.

But not this time.

Not again.

Never again.

Shall not. Ever again. Fail.

And a single word, born from the very core of fury.

“STOP!”

Corruption was who he was, a body covered in hideous scars of ages of combat, unholy visage of a beak-like face, horns for hair and red-rage that glowed in his eyes. Orcus, a name known only to Bronwynn, had in that one moment, that blistering rage that erupted and attempted control of in a futile effort, the Emperor of Hell saw and knew.

One brief shining moment of longing crossed the angry face of the warrior-demon. Of passion’s fire kindled in a heart that had long gone to cold ash. A history that was once forgotten, rose again in the demon once thought soulless, an ember of passion rose and the testimony of that one quiet hot mote arose to live again in the being that was Orcus. A soul, blasted and scarred with self-hatred and anger.

“You wish this female? Take her soul then. Use the battle-ax, the Claw of Hades and cut it from her.” The terrible eyes of the Emperor turned on the General of his legions. “Strike her sacred body, cut off her wings, cut out her soul and you will stay together for an eternity! You will command together. Whole legions of demons that would respect you both, you will the power second only to mine, you both will be in Hell forever.”

The dark countenance of the Dark Lord was that of savage pleasure, to have her struck down without her fighting back. A total defeat of an angel and the stealing of a soul as pure as this.

“Power and love of your mate for all time. Fear and respect from others, none shall dare not stand up to you.” The Dark Master spoke to the smaller demon.

On the battlefield the three stood, all demons had stopped their corrupt actions and watched the drama, would an angel switch sides for love? Would the great Gardener stand up and save one of his own. A warrior angel, the best and brightest, one that had once turned her back on heaven to live a life with a love. One where her heart once rejoiced so much that it echoed in heaven.

The Dark Lord held her by a copper-colored wing, this angel, one who had given her heart to Orcus so long ago with the blessing of her Enlightened One. The long scarred and hideous arm held her out as if to offer a meal to the demon for his abuse, for the cut to come. To take her into the darkness and drive out doubt in the host.

Once an old affable gardener with wisdom unmatched and told her to go to the Imp and love him good and well.

“Raise him up, love him all the days on that little spot that you claim your own.”

This moment she hung helpless in a giant’s clawed hand. On a finger an ebony ring of an apple surrounded by a snake on the hand, he squeezed and smoke billowed from her wing and Bronwynn screamed in pain. The battle between the light and dark over for the moment.

But there was no fight left in this angel. Her crystal sword broken and the angel’s battered and bruised body hung limply from combat against the one called Satan. She was out of energy. With not enough strength to fight, she hung in his mighty grip and cried. Holy chain-mail hung off her in tatters and shreds. Plates of armor, harder than diamonds, tougher than a heart of a warrior crushed like foil lay on the ground.

Defeated, no weapons left, too weary to lift her arms.  Bronwyn hung there, broken and beaten.

A flick of the wrist and she was flung across the battlefield at the feet of the demon of retribution, vengeance and pain.

“Cut her soul from the angels body and you will have her forever.” The Dark One spoke. “How deep is the love you have? What would you do for that passion that burns in your chest? Do you believe you have a love for this small one?”

“She pleases me.” Orcus looked at her.

The old rage was there, ruby-red eyes of a savage demon. But… something else and it did not go unnoticed.

“DO you love her?” The question was more of a statement by Hell’s Master.

“I…” A hesitation. How does one give up a weakness? Never a good idea to do so to anyone that has power over you… but… “Love her.”

“What sweetness.” Satan laughed. “Would you do anything for her love?”

“Yes.” Orcus was watching her, greed in his wholeness. Cultivated consciously, lust for power. Turning away from love. Lust for a mate. Not love. To use her for pleasure. NOT love.

“I love her.” Damn it all! Orcus thought. Not what he wanted to say.

“Sweet indeed. Love for an angel. Does the small demon wish her with him forever and ever?” The Emperor said softly. “I can give her to you.Just give her the stroke, take her soul and bring her to you. Live forever in each others company in the beauty of your world. Can you do that? Can you love her enough to bring her to you?”

Orcus nodded.

“I can do that. The soul of an angel, power untold. I can do that.” A grin from the lips that split with the evil of his own words.

Savage anger glowed from his eyes, the Claw of Hades, an old friend, a battle-ax whose blade had ten points for piercing of armor in his hands that caressed its polished surface as if it were a sexual device. The tip of the main blade pressed against the bare flesh of her chest, an unprotected gap of her rent and destroyed armor.

Bronwyn looked up into the eyes of the one she loved most in all the worlds, all the universes that existed, anywhere she ever lived, anyplace she had gazed upon — she had given him her heart.

The tip of the ax rested against the curve of her throat, where it joined her torso, she had nothing more to give this demon, the imp that held her heart. Trying to tell him, never did he fail her. For she loved him greater than all the souls that were in heaven.

An evil laugh as the Master knew what would come. “Would you do anything for love?”

“I would do anything for power! I would do anything for love.” Orcus cackled now.

Bronwyn gave him her best, most vulnerable spot, knowing the pain of the cut coming. Not fighting any longer, she arched her neck back, offering her soul, she gave up all that would be her history, her love, her passion.

She would give up her heaven.

Her lord and her soul.

For him.

And waited for the cut that would take her from the light and plunge her forever into the darkness of the pit of the abyss.

She then heard the last time he would speak to her in this world.

“I’ll do anything for love.” His breath was hot on her cheek.

His breath coming in deep ragged gasps of blood lust, she knew. The tip of the cursed battle-ax, a gift from Hades to Orcus in another long ago age, pressed against her throat dimpling the flesh.

“I would do anything for your love. ” He said again, softer. “I will have you as mine forever.”

She could feel the muscles of the battle-scarred body tense, the winding up of the moment, he was ready and the blow was moments away.

“I”ll do anything for love!”

A pause…

Bronwyn closed her eyes, waiting for the first sensation of pain that marked the end of her heavenly life as she gave herself to her love, her heart, and the one that brightened her soul even from the darkest of realms.

She closed herself off to the view of the one with the weapon that had her at his mercy. The him through time and realms that they had traveled. Through dimensions, ages, together they had once loved laughed and had light of the universe in their hearts.

“I’ll do anything for love…” He drew a deep breath through sharpened and savage teeth…

*I love you.* It was her last thought.

“… NO! I WON’T DO THAT!”

Turning in an instant, Orcus hurled the cursed ax, the Claw of Hades at Satan himself, launching into an attack against the Emperor of Hell, this demon of legend, the First Emperor of all things of evil intent, action and temptation.

A simple flick of the Lord of the Demon’s hand and the ax flew away over his shoulder, landing uselessly in the battlefield beyond the reach of the smaller demon.

“TRAITOR!”

“I knew you! Traitor! You shall live forever as a slave to serve us all! Torment by those being tormented, undying life of slime, never-ending pain is all yours forever. I shall enjoy consuming your angel, she is MINE.”

“NEVER! You will starve!” The Demon screamed.

Savage was Orcus’ attack, the crushing blows he delivered was with every mote of his being, all sound, all battles, all conflict stopped as the host of heaven and the hoards of hell halted their battles and watched this ballet of destruction played out.

Watching the fight that suddenly became center stage of a battlefield, Asmodeus turned to Lucifer. “One-hundred on Orcus.”

“You’re on.” Lucifer already had plans to tell the Emperor how the odds were. Who bet on the outcome.

“I’ll take some of that.” The Beelzebub stood near the arch-demons. “I’ll take the Master.”

“Roll your own dice Beeze?” Leviathan laughed, the giant put down his vote for Orcus. Calling him “The once and future Emperor”.

Savage orange fire from the mouth of the Emperor for the chest of Orcus as he folded his wings around for protection and laughed as the flames enveloped his body.

“Time to fall!” A scream from the beak-like face as the demon went claw to talon, fang to fire as Satan did battle with the best and darkest of his demons. Green fire from the clawed hands of the demon that shattered the confidence and wings of the Emperor. The tail of the once-Emperor, whipped through the darkened atmosphere of war, a weapon unto itself, the prehensile appendage wrapped itself around the throat of the Dark One.

“To slime, to torment, to slavery with you! For LOVE I shall strike. For her soul I shall beat you into the ground.” Orcus screamed as his tail tightened against the armor-scale of a neck as he looked into the compound beast-eyes. Sixty-six and six-hundred pupils that he saw his reflection framed by the horned face.

“For my angel’s heart, you will suffer!”

Satan’s quad-lipped mouth opened up and exposed too many teeth as the Emperor of Hell choked on a grip tighter than steel that squeezed ever tighter. The Devil’s mouth tried to bite the scale covered hide of traitorous demon.

Twisting about in the noose of a tail, the Dark Lord landed a blow that registered on earth as an earthquake. Scientists explained that a previously unknown fault shook the humans. The same blow nearly obliterated the demon, but Orcus fought back with the power of love. The demon was unstoppable as Satan was relentless. Again they collided head on, claw to claw, fang to tusk. Each blow measured to inflict the greatest damage, each block meant to waste the energy of the opponent.

Never had there been such a challenge to his power. Victory was not assured, for the fist time in an age – Satan, the Emperor of Hell, felt fear.

Fire and fury, hate versus love. A Dark-Heart against the power of darkness, the energy of both opponents took a toll as they gave their all for victory.

One loved power, the other loved.

Suddenly a misstep, a missed moment in a battle against an implacable enemy and Orcus was flung backwards by a titanic blow, one wing broken, the other wing torn, horns broken, eyes unfocused. The right arm lay useless under his body.

Tired and out of breath, the Emperor of hell moved towards the demon that dared to choose love over immeasurable power, lust and greed. This Satan, wheezing and blinded in half his eyes, all the fingers on the right hand missing and the Emperor of Hell walked on his hands, swinging his leg forward in an ape-like walk, trailing black ichor that served as blood, towards the traitor, a stump where the left leg was missing. He struggled to tear with his remaining hand, to finish the demon, to turn him into the lowest of the slime of hell – Better! To consume the dark soul until it was no more, to digest and spit out that which they called “Love”.

As the Emperor got close to the puny and broken imp, close enough to strike with what was left of his claws and fangs, Orcus held his left hand outstretched towards the Emperor…

Was this beseeching? That thought was entertaining.

A plea for mercy? A laugh at the thought rose in Satan’s mind.

A plea? Hardly.

It was a call, a command to a part of the demon’s own wholeness, a call to an old friend, a gift from the Emperor that followed Orcus to the throne. The call to the Claw of Hades, a call that the ax must answer. Return to its owner no matter the obstacle.

Behind the Dark Lord, the Claw of Hades lay in the filth of the battlefield, forgotten in the rage of battle. Tossed so easily away by the more powerful demon and never given a thought after.

A mistake.

A fatal mistake.

The weapon, as much a part of Orcus as his tail was, answered its call. The ten-pointed ax trembled, slightly at first, then turned blade first and raced through the air to the Master of the Ax in a straight line, regardless of what was in the way.

The Dark Lord became aware of the whistling noise, the disturbance drew the great demon’s attention, but too late.

Too late!

Returning to Master of the Ax, the cursed weapon drove through the through the forehead of the Dark Lord on the way to the hand of Orcus. The look of surprise was entertaining to the old demon as for one brief glorious moment as Orcus nearly laughed, the Great Devil himself, the destroyer, He who defeated Hel who gave her name to the kingdom that He then ruled. He who defeated Hel held his hands up in frozen stark surprise…

And imploded without a sound, like a shadow banished from view when a light shines into the darkness.

The Dark Lord was no more in one last anticlimactic, quiet, mundane moment.

All that was left, an ebony ring of an apple surrounded by a snake that fell to the ground. Frost formed where it bounced until it stopped moving. A  freezing fog formed around the ring, curling over the ground as it rested quietly in the dust.

Panting, barely strong enough to stand, pain was his second world, a second life of passion drove him to stand. Shredded and torn, his right-wing broken, dark blood oozed through dozens of new wounds that covered his body as he knelt next to his angel.

Lifting her up in his arms, she reached up and caressed his face. His broken hand held hers gently. There were too many wounds on his immortal body, he was weak beyond description. The immortal demon was weakening further, the great heart had begun to beat, now faltered. He caressed her face with a blood-stained finger tears leaked from his eyes as dark blood leaked out of him into the dirt.

“I’d do anything for you.” He whispered softly and nodded, “I would do anything for your love, but I would not do that. I could never do that.”

“Come with me.” Bronwyn whispered. “Come back home. You are free.”

A soft cough from a few steps away interrupted.

“Hell needs an Emperor.” The Lucifer said, standing behind Orcus. “It is advancement by assassination in Hell. He must take his place on the throne.”

“NO!” The Angel refused to accept this! Orcus sacrificed it all for her life.

“NO! Stay with me!” Bronwyn argued. pulling on Orcus’ arms, her own hands too weak to grip tightly.”Turn away from all this, come home. I will not have this!”

“He could do anything for love. Fight the old Emperor,” Asmodeus nodded, frowning as he handed the ebony black ring of an apple surrounded by a snake to Orcus. “and win. He has changed the course of a war, changed a thousand hearts. He has altered the universe in uncountable ways. He did that all for love.”

“He did it all.” Lucifer nodded. “He did it all for love. But he cannot go with you.”

“He can’t do that.” Beelzebub whispered as he shook his head and bowed to the new Emperor.

The cool hand of Bronwyn touched him in between the shoulder-blades. “Orcus”, the name echoed in the webs of his dream, his face was wet from tears, Kane had cried out in his sleep.

Kisses on his cheeks as the hands of an angel cupped his face.

“What makes you cry?” She frowned with concern in her eyes.

“I dreamed I had lost you. Our time together was over and I had to use my powers to save you. I also remember my name, from so long ago. Orcus.”

“I remember that name. Punisher of broken promises and oaths. No wonder you do not break promises to children.” She smiled at him. “You are the children’s guardian of promises. You keep the promise of the gift giving when the days grow short and life begins anew. You are the one to shape a child’s view of the world.”

He shook his head, “I still lost you and I will not allow that. Ever.”

She slid her arms around him as she kissed her husbands tears away.

“We can change the future.”

Together they slept the rest of the night, no further dreams intruded.

But Kane had his doubts.