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.

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Children of Fury : Hellions Chapter 5. Savage Sisters

Children of Fury:Hellions
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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

Children of Fury:Hellions
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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.

Tired. But the muse is yelling.

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I would go to sleep, but I have been away from the computer for two days while i stood in for Papa Dash while Mama Dash had to go through Chemo.

Where once they had (still have for the time being) a ranch of some 540 acres, mostly desert, she is not going to return.  Her health precludes that from ever happening again. So he has returned to collect things such as pots, pans, sheets, clothes, etc.

But the six-hundred mile trip and he is tired ( Not only from his surgery, but worry about mom.) he does not want to make a round trip from Reno to the land of dust and a patch of earth where little exists but things that can (and will) hunt you. Big bitey, scratchy things on one side.  Venomous and deadly on another, and just plain ol’ huge horned things that fear nothing – including humans to round out the feeling of being surrounded.

He (Papa Dash) is totally off the grid, generates his own power and water.  Built a palatial house that is elevate above the surrounding land (Flash flood defense!)

But that said, he had no urge to try to make a huge trip to make for a three-hour tour of doctor appointment, chemotherapy session and following the bus around town. (Mama Dash is currently in a wheelchair for ease of transport)

So I went in his place.  While there, an 11-year-old sensed a disturbance in the force and sent me texts.  Both the 11-year-old and the 16-year-old archers I created pounced me when I knocked on the door at 9 O’clock at night.

Me, my bow, twenty-plus arrows and two girls went to the floor.  Lucky the arrows were in a quiver and stayed together. We stayed up to midnight talking and doing homework.

(I may have lost some “Crazy uncle” points by insisting homework be done before we talked of novels, and stories that have their names in it. but the homework is DONE. Dunno if it is right, but it’s done.)

So we stayed up, they whupped on me on xbox (I have no such animal in my home- only computers. As I type this, it is an 8 year old HP with one broken hinge, six rows (Horizontal) of dead pixels on the top of the screen and one column of >red-only< pixels on the right side.  The keys of a,s,e,c, n,k,l,i are obliterated.  The space key has a divot worn in one side.

that is my “video” machine. heh.  So, needless to say, when they headed off to bed finally (It was a >school< night! Mom gave special dispensation) at midnight, I settled down on the sofa about 1-2 AM.  (It rang 1 AM while I was making the bed, tried to figure out a smart-phone problem then turned lights out). The sofa I slept on, I’m longer than by a few inches. So my feet hang over the edge.

Not really a bad thing? But I have fears something will try to nibble on my toes.  So I don’t sleep well.

And another 200 miles worth of driving to come home.

I think I might go to bed “early” tonight. Family is already in bed, SO I might hit the sack at midnight instead of 2-3 am and get up at 7-ish.

In the meantime, I will try to catch up for a few days.  I will also attempt to get you more stories daily.

Hm… No. Maybe not. I would not want to overdose you.

How tired would you get of a crimson coiffed crazy uncle that tells stories? If he happened to tell four different tales every day? Hmm…

 

We shall see.  I struggle with 2 a day. AND!

 

NaNoWriMo is coming baby! Woot! Then I will be gonzo!

Hang with me!

Your favorite future best selling author.

Dash

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta Chapter 6. Log Search

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Chapter 6. Log Search

Fae walked alone with Thea fluttering along next to her.

“You have been quiet for a human. Especially for you.” The mini-bot looked around. “We are farther than we have ever gone, are you disturbed about something?”

Fae shook her head as she walked along in her thoughts.

“No, not something, someone. When we got the order for everyone who would voluntarily go into hibernation or stay on the surface, I talked to my family, everyone accepted the positions in the pods, my husband did too.” The human frowned. “I found my brother’s name, he is in there. So is my mom. But my husband and father are not in the logs. I don’t think they made it, thirty-thousand years, there is no way to find their graves if they died. If they were not buried, their bodies have long gone to dust.”

“We can find out if there was anyone left out in the contaminated atmosphere.” Thea flitted. “I know where the early archived logs are. Early on, humans wore virus-check badges that automatically registered the movements and if they suffered exposure to any contagion.”

“There are logs after so long?”

“Core System deletes nothing. You just need to know where to locate the logs. Core System maintains them deep in fixed archives, written into hardware systems.”

“What do you mean? Hardware systems.”

“It is not a code, the Core System determined that the best storage is writing in hard-wired systems. They cannot be accidentally erased.”

“Let’s go look up the logs, we can compare them to the ones I have seen.”

Following the large artificial dragonfly, Fae walked as fast as she could to keep up.

“Could I get a flyer like you have? Only bigger?”

Thea laughed and slowed down to a human walking pace.

“The size requirements increase exponentially with weight and size.” Thea explained, and drifted off into an engineering lecture that included wing loading, speed of wing flap and size of wings.

It was all beyond engineering that Fae had ever studied. Her studies never covered flight engineering, physics of flight and related math formula.

“So the final answer is that I would have to have one that has a wingspan about double my own arm-span.”

“Blunt, but essentially correct.” The riding mini-bot nodded. “At macro sizes, rotary wings become more efficient than those of Rudy here.”

“Rudy?”

“That’s what I call my flyer.” Thea smiled, her eyes glittered in good humor. “I named him after a company that built powerful engines for waterborne vehicles.”

“Ah.” Fae tried to nod and look wise, having no idea what Thea was talking about. “Good choice.”

They arrived at a building that Thea flitted up, then stopped.

“I don’t know how to get you inside. I fly through the vents normally.”

“Your nanobots maintain everything perfectly, let me try just opening the door.”

She turned the red-metal knob, it felt stiff as if it were not going to give. Then warmed up and pinged.

A built-in panel, flush with the wall. Not visible until the words illuminated “Access Granted.” On the surface.

“That is weird.” She traced her fingers over the panel, it was the same texture as the wall, there was no change, perfect blending of the function and structure.

“This way!” Thea called as she and Rudy the speed happy artificial dragonfly fluttered ahead.

Stopping at a console, they fluttered for a minute and then landed.

“This is the first one we can get to, the access is open. You just log in with your badge.” Thea smiled. “The logs are sequential. No codes, you can scroll all the way back to day-zero.”

“When is day-zero?”

“You will have to tell me. I was not around then.” Thea looked up at the human woman. “But zero is before humans were frozen, no one was frozen then.”

History scrolled by, she stopped zooming forward on video, war information, death counts, virus discovery. Fae closed those and moved her hand through the three-dimensional file system, spinning the virtual clock forward and opened another video file.

Thousands dead.

Closed the video with a sigh.

“How did people die from this?”

“Badly, it was a hemorrhagic virus, it drove people mad after it caused a bleeding in the brain. People would pull off their own ears, claw out eyes, those that did not self-mutilate, they became murderous and turned on others.” Fae shook her head. “It spared anyone with a genetic mutation of four fingers. If there was an accident, and they lost a pinky, it did not matter, the virus targeted only five-finger DNA.”

“I read that it was a four-finger DNA virus.”

“That was the answer the government had, once it was out of the control of the scientists, the two different DNA were going to be wiped out. That was everyone. Only the others that would have had mutations of three or six fingers would survive.”

“How many of those genetic structures were there?”

“On this planet? Too few to survive. We all had to go into hibernation. So the military did a final attack then ordered everyone into pods.” Fae flipped through more files and found the order that she was talking about. “People who refused to go, for health or religious reasons remained unfrozen, but they were all had to live elsewhere.”

She opened a file.

“Oh my god.”

“What?”

“I found my brother, he was one of the first into the pods. Number nine-sixty-two.”

“That would be very near the Core System on the X,Y grid and nearly a kilometer deep on the Z axis.”

“How deep does it go?

“One-hundred meters per hundred pods.” Thea answered. “They go top to bottom, the deepest pods are five-kilometers deep and are leaders of the saved society.”

“My brother is almost one-kilometer deep. That makes him important.”

“Yes, how deep were you?”

“I don’t know, I wasn’t awake.”

“Last in first out.”

“Oh. So I was not that deep.”

“No, your pod was one of the first by the doors.”

“That’s depressing.”

Thea danced through the three-dimensional displays and moved files around on her own power and found what she was looking for.

“Here is yours. The system shows you also had a neurological implant for encoding memory engrams.”

“What? I don’t remember that.”

“Odd. Do you find that you have unexplained knowledge about systems you didn’t know of before?”

“Like this one? Yeah.”

“Do you have an access port?”

“Um. That is a little personal?” Fae laughed. “Sorry. Gutter mind.”

“What is guttermind?”

“Never mind.” She laughed again. “Now let’s find my dad.”

lunch of crushed fire.

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So far, I am convinced the world of the kitchen today is trying to perform some kind of twisted sense of humor.

In making a sandwich, A touch of mayonnaise, havarti cheese, mushrooms, sliced crimini mushrooms. Then powdered garlic, and a sprinkle of crushed red chili pepper.

Well, that was the plan. It all went well until the chili-pepper.

The dry pepper in a jar just takes a light shake. Instead of a pinch? I probably put two-tablespoons on the sandwich.

UGH!  Shake it off- carefully. And I ate it down anyway.  THIS was a sinus-clearing event.

and now, I know for sure it is not an anxiety/panic attack, but my tummy is asking me “WTF did you swallow? A bbq ember? Wow!”

Ugh, Refusal to back down, hard-headed “I refuse to let it ruin my meal.” attitude.

So now I sit here perspiring more than if I just sat in the sun after a hot shower.

To quote a famous cat. Pffttthhp.

I can even fail at making a lunch.

But I did finish making the frozen dog-treats.  Greek Yogurt, (Local “raw”) honey, banana, peanut butter that are now in the freezer. I just tried really hard to make a mess. One of the containers had a hole in it from a dog-tooth, so it leaked all over the counter. *Sigh* but that was the only fail. Messy enough. At least when breaking up larger frozen “Cubes” of the dog treat, I didn’t slice a finger.

Not that I didn’t try. heh.

I did get a half-dozen shots in with the bow, hit the milk-cap twice. I’m trying to get focused again.

On a related “Focused” note. Keep an eye on this (and a few others! PoffPublishing and Rarity for two.). blog for announcements of an anthology of Horror scheduled now for (NO later than) 1 October 2016.  Originally scheduled for 2015, but all of us have fallen behind and with my own rough patch coming up (Mama Dash with Multiple Myeloma- a bone cancer and Sister Sledgehammer [the “Dash it ALL” attitude. Do not @#$! with her, she will hurt you.] with hardware being taken out of her body to the tune of about a half-pound of steel. PLUS a discovery that the previous surgeries failed to reattach a TFL muscle back to the hip.  Papa Dash trying to crash and burn in front of the nurses the day of his surgery. ) I don’t see me doing much in a full-fledged assembly of a story, even if we have a team of us authors.

Speaking of which?

Anyone who wants to be part of an anthology of a horror novel scheduled for a Halloween 2016 season release.  We have some openings. We are shooting for a 50-60,000 word novel. No more than 100k words total. At that point, our short-story size begin to shrink.

So, shoot me a note. We can chat.

Dash

Assistant cook and chief bottle washer.

Oh and just promoted from journeyman baiter to master. So all is good there. (think about it and you’re allowed to giggle)

“Outpatient” Surgery

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Do I believe it? There should be “Truth in advertising” rules for some things that the good doctors do.

Outpatient surgery should be relabeled Almost Outpatient Surgery.  After a 4 hour outpatient surgery.

“In and out.” Yeah?

Okay, FOUR days later, we are still looking forward to being discharged. Papa Dash has his history of a thrill, where they started yelling “Code Blue!”.

Sister is due into the hospital for surgery tomorrow… ALSO “Outpatient”. Do I stay?  Hang out and see if she ends up in the hospital for a few nights? Support the brother-in-law with THREE invalids, and 3 children? (Mama Dash is not doing well, either with a wrenched back.)

We’ll see.  I am at their disposal. After I post this, I will write some more fiction.

Papa Dash is feeling spunky, walking around with his IV pole, hitting the bathroom hourly.  His kidneys have kicked in full force.

To the MD that figured out that the “Bleeders” that were causing some problems with a bloody mess every hour or so, thank you, the proper idea at the moment stopped all the leaks.

Papa Dash, his dire thirst has come to an end, chapped lips, parched mouth.  With Mama Dash’s wrenched back, a poor reaction to narcotics the twenty-four hours before and he did not eat or drink much if anything before he had to fast. PD went into surgery extra dehydrated, then all the excessive bleeding drained him some more. (IV Replacement fluids to blood are not a 1:1 ratio)

Then tonight, they(Nurses) got tired of my talking with Papa Dash after visiting hours and booted me out. XD Well, he is hard of hearing so my use of the “Inside voice” doesn’t work.

Anyhow.  Back to the task of writing.

Well, not a task, the thrill of writing. It is something I like to do. 🙂

Hope you do, too.

Papa Dash

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Only son of a red-head and a giant of a man who was well-known as the foreman on a construction job to get it done – and done right – will be having surgery, a cholecystectomy on Friday.  I will be there as this is the one single hero that has tolerated my tweaks and quirks and still has the spirit to call me “Son”.

Once he had color o his hair (Even had a lot of it! Shhh… No comments on the lack thereof now!) now with his beard, his hair. The hero of my childhood and adulthood, a man who if I was not his son, I would go out of my way to know him.

He looks like Sean Connery, with the voice of James Earl Jones.  Now he is in a rough patch with stones in places they have no need to be.

So, I will be distracted this week, I think. I will try to keep you all posted, but in constant emails with him, interpreting the dr’s comments he transcribes and keeping my mom’s concerns updated.  I’ll be seeing my sister and brother-in-law there, too. (They live nearby).

So a four-hour drive for me.

Small potatoes for family, especially Papa Dash who is also titled as “The Great King”. Who’s throne I aspire to, but I am just a poor copy.

So “Papa Dash” (So named by an old friend when we were little)  John Kenneth U’Maille MagCallen (Original spelling, actually was changed sometime in the 18th century after a move to the New World as explained by “Grandma Boots”.) will be having holes poked in him by a slightly maniacal, egotistical MD with a car payment due.

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.

Flee

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Flee

Fracking.

That’s what they called it, but whatever the title it might have, it was a disturbance in places long hidden from the light.

Humans dug deeply into the earth, disturbing the ancient bedrock. Minor quakes rattled places that humans had yet to explore.

Perhaps they should not. For there are places in the earth that were buried so deep as to be forgotten.

They should remain forgotten.

But not this day.

All that remained for those still standing, with all their maps and explorations, was

Flee 2nd cover

1. Brisbane

The red haired Yank drew his bow and sighted over the arrow at the horror that approached him from forty-paces away.

Taking a deep breath, he let it out slowly.

Thirty paces and closing, its breath wheezed audibly in decaying lungs. This was a fresh-dead human that could walk faster than the other undead.

Twenty paces.

His focus was a laser point as he aimed, he pushed fear of approaching death down into a small compartment in his soul.

He waited, measuring.

Fifteen paces.

The eyes of this once-human had not yet become milky. Its vision was nearly equal to the living. The Archer took a deep breath and let it out slowly, at one time this was a handsome youth.

Five paces.

Archer shot the arrow into the left eye of the walking nightmare, it stiffened and fell over backwards.

“Why do you shoot them in the eye like that?” Alexander Frobisher asked.

RCMP when he was working, he was a Sergeant and a leader of the Emergency Response Team in his section, now he was not so sure since the fall of society.

“Bone is thinner there, with luck it’ll punch through hole that the optic nerve passes. It’s less stress on my arrows and I hate trying to build new ones. I have tried build wood arrows, but I failed. Wood arrows are a challenge, even starting as dowels.” Archer said. “But, I’m learning. Each time I work one, I’m better. We need to figure out how to build these in case we cannot find any high tech arrows in stores someday.” The Archer pulled out a straight dowel of a wood that Frobisher could not recognize. It was fletched and had a tip made from a silver spoon he had pounded into shape with a discovered hammer, but was no arrow that Archer was willing to shoot. “Ah well, let’s take the food to the group. ” Archer said, as he pulled his arrow out of the head of the nightmare that had been walking at him— it was an odd moment of black-humor that struck his mind as Frobisher watched.

A dead-dead person.

“Stay close to the flat of the buildings, away from the bushes.” The Sergeant said as they headed out. His own weapon at the ready, made of a cricket bat and the front chain-wheel of a bicycle. An effective battle-ax with a spiked edge.

The Archer carried a bow that he had found in a house. A simple recurve bow, he shot with an instinctive skill. Always in the eye of his target with devastating effect, they always went down in a mundane, quiet fall.

You could say that they were longtime friends if you met them on the street. But they had only met three weeks prior when the world fell into ruin.

Funny how such bonds are forged in the crucible of chaos.

Chaos.

It began in the land of Oz.

In Darwin, the first news of it hit the television. A virus the newscasters said.

A jetliner had declared an emergency, crash-landed, breaking into two large sections. The walking cadavers emerged from the debris, quickly overwhelming the emergency crews and security forces.

The Archer figured out the secret with head shots. Gunfire attracted attention and mobbed those that used such weapons. The silent arrows made a path without attention.

The shuffling dead did not know or communicate when an arrow had stilled one of their own.

The pair made their way to the bank that the group had held up in. Hiding behind a blast-resistant wall, the group was a mix of people who followed the Archer after he walked down the boulevard, creating a hail of death that cleared a path through the Edgar Allan Poe nightmares pounding on the walls of their tourist coach.

Andrea St. George the tour guide and her driver Jameson Curtis were the first to join the Yank.

Rachel “Stormy” Knight, an attorney from the United States that worked for the ACLU, Zac Wood from Scotland, a student ambassador, joined the group on another of the Yankee’s forays at a bus depot. Now they stood behind the cage where they could pull the safe door shut if they needed to, while Andrea held a single-shot rifle ready.

The Archer and Sergeant Frobisher tapped on the doors to be let into the bank.

Rachel “Stormy” Knight of the ACLU opened the door, holding a shotgun she had discovered in the bank. The men stepped in while the sharp eye of the lawyer watched the street.

Behind Stormy stood, with a pump shotgun taken from an abandoned police cruiser, Gallisa “Gail” Blachere, Ph.D, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Ed.D had a barely controlled rage in her eye, welcomed the two explorers back

“Mighty hunters bring food!” The Archer laughed and opened his bag of canned goods. “Sorry there are no fresh foods.”

Stale biscuits and beer were common in the second bag that the Canadian carried. Two jars of Vegemite he set on the counter.

“You have taste for a Yank!” Andrea laughed and picked it up. “A bit of heaven on earth you have here.”

“Maybe. I bet Al has done better with the beer and biscuits.” The Archer said. “Eat up, we need to move out as soon as we finish. There is a police station down the road with a gated fence. “

“Why do we need to move?” Zac asked.

“The bank is too soft of a target.” Sergeant Frobisher said. “A police station is more easily protected I’d say, it’s safer.”

Praise the lord and pass a biscuit.” Archer said. 

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Chapter 2. Eating Well


“We need to move before sunset. Tomorrow we need to head down to the marina.” The archer said. “I’d say if we head south, we will head into the mess at Darwin. Sydney is the best way out of this hole.”

Aw, you don’t like my BrissVegas?” Andrea laughed.

The archer chuckled while accepting a biscuit from Andrea, who was instructing the Yankee on how to eat the Vegemite and bread before he continued.

“The boats down at the marina will allow us to sail with safety.” The archer said softly as he choked on the Aussie treat. “Damned lucky for beer.” He gasped out.

You Yanks have no taste.” Andrea laughed. “I told you to take a bite, not pop the whole muffin in your mouth. It will pull your tongue out by its root and beat you over the head with the bloody end.”

“I do have a taste, I like beer.” He winked. “And it was bite sized after all! This is saltier than ocean water.”

“We will need to fight our way to the marina.” Al interrupted. “It’s a long ways there to run and the how those creatures move about, we need more ammunition.”

“Guns equal attention.” Stormy said. “I watched it happen when they first attacked the police roadblock. Shooting our way there isn’t viable.”

The chance that saved your ass in that bus.” The archer said as he stood. “These… zombies… were going after the cops and their guns, that kept them away, they were inside the terminal going after the officers that were making so much noise. Those that were injured, turned. The others won’t be awarded medals for bravery, but they lived by running, it was FUBAR.”

FUBAR?” Zac asked. “What’s FUBAR?”

Fucked up beyond all repair.” The archer said.

Or reason.” Al injected.

Or recovery.” Gail added.

Nodding and chuckling, the archer continued. “I needed to choose, clear the coach or the cops out. I opted for the civilians, it was a tough call. But… Cops took an oath, you folks did not.”

His lowered his voice to almost a whisper describing the scene, looking at a bit of plastic on his finger.

It was a nightmare. I took down thirty of them beasts before they knew I was there. Before they knew anything, I had recovered enough arrows to cover the difference. That’s when I yelled through the door.”

Well. Let’s dash over to the police station. It’s six blocks away, but in the right direction of the marina.” Al said putting his hand on the archer’s shoulder.

Let’s walk, no tripping.” Andrea said softly, kissing the crimson-haired Yank on the cheek. “Archer, I’m glad you made the choice.”

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3. Stepping Out

 

The door of the bank opened quietly, there were few creatures in the street, not one of them alerted to the humans.

“Okay, quiet, cover each other’s back. I’m first, Stormy to my right, Andrea and Zac in the middle, cover sides and up. Gail, Al, you have the rear and up. Keep them from dropping in on us from fire-escapes or windows.” Archer said as he placed an arrow on his bow.

“Why is the Mountie not first?” Gail asked.

“I shoot faster with my rig than he can until he gets practice.”

Al loaded up a vertical crossbow, holding it so that anywhere he looked, the arrow aimed naturally.

When they stepped out into the street, a single shabby ex-human shambled towards them from where they were going. The Archer loosed his arrow and it fell to the ground as they walked quietly towards the police station. No other of the animated dead that patrolled the area

The Archer paused as they walked past the body and pulled the arrow out of the head of the horror-come-archery target.

The Archer kept his place on point as they headed to the station, an arrow nocked, his bow ready to draw in a heartbeat if a need arose. and carefully moved forward to the gate of the fortress-like structure. It stood ajar and opened silently on high security hinges.

They dragged the body of a large Rottweiler by its thick harness, Al cried when he saw it wore a badge. The head of a half-eaten corpse of the police dog blocked the spring-loaded gate from fully closing. Toothmarks on the badge where something had chewed, obliterating the badge number. Torn bodies lay about, decaying in the concrete courtyard. The K-9 cop did not die gently, as evidenced of a furious fight by the bodies in the courtyard.

“Never thought a dog could tear limbs off of a body.” Jameson said.

“Canine officer. They teach them well and they require robust intelligence with these dogs.” Al said softly, tracing his index finger over the mutilated badge.

A bullet-proof glass and steel enclosed observation area inside the building controlled the gate.

Sergeant Frobisher, quickly figured out how to operate the lock and secured all the exits with a control panel.

“Excellent.” Al said. “Now we can relax.”

“No, now we need to check all the cells and rooms.” The Archer said. “I’m not sleeping without clearing this place from top to bottom.”

“You need to sleep, no matter what.” Andrea told The Archer. “When was the last down-time for you?”

“It has been a day or so.” The Archer nodded. “We will rest when the building’s secure.”

“Al and Zac stay here. Stormy, Gale and Jameson upstairs. Andrea and I will search below.” Archer said.

The Sergeant nodded.

“Here,” The Sergeant reached over into a locker as the groups were getting ready to leave. “I found these radios. Keep them on this channel I selected. Radio checks every five-minutes, everything is voice activated, so I will hear you the moment there’s a sound louder than a deep breath. As the Archer said, no rest until this entire building is cleared.”

Archer taped an LED torch (as the label on it said) to the side of his bow and he adjusted the beam to fill a room with the glow from the diminutive light. Andrea stood next to him loading a police shotgun liberated from a gun-rack they found. She had used a key she found in a drawer and was quite proud of her discovery that allowed all the other firearms in the station available to the others.

“Right, ready.”  Andrea said as she racked the riot gun and chambered a shell. “Buckshot and slugs. That’s what this girl is made of.”

For good measure, the Aussie filled her pockets and a bandolier with shotshells she had found while digging around the observation port. Al pointed it was not police issue.

But Andrea could not care less.

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4. Revelation

 

The door was ajar to the training room, only tables and chairs.

Vampire Skull Northern Ondode/Nosferatu

Image of Ondode/Nosferatu type Vampire Skull.

But they were not alone.

Movement…

Weapons turned the same time and Andrea hissed at the Archer.

Stop walking.”

It was a shadow that did not fill with light — then it was gone.

Something hissed at Andrea, avoiding the lights as it moved.

It went under the corner of a table, knocking over chairs.

“Come out!” Andrea sounded braver than the Archer felt.

The shadow charged as Andrea pulled the trigger and drove the serpent-like shadow backwards for a moment, an arrow buried its tip into the head of the shadow causing a shriek of anger, a desk erupted into splinters and sawdust as a dozen pellets tore apart the pressed wood construction whilst Andrea tracked the shrieking creature that moved like a cat on crack cocaine and too much espresso.

Clawed hands gripped the arrow and pulled the shaft out of the right eye socket, the eye reforming as it did.

The Archer’s earpeice buzzed. “REPORT! Who is shooting?”

“Sorry, busy!” Archer answered as Andrea rocked the room again with her scattergun.

Archer blinked to clear his eyes from the dust fell from the ceiling. He shot an arrow at the wrong shadow and it stuck out in a stupid angle that made him shake his head while nocking another shaft to the string, tracking the correct shadow – the one with teeth.

“Call back later!” Andrea yelled into in her mic. “We’re killing shit!”

The shadow was too close this time, charging like a cat as she racked in another shell. An arrow intercepted the creature, penetrating it in the left eye and knocked the attacker off-balance.

The shotgun fired again, destroying its face and the arrow. The black creature did a back-flip, knocking over a video projector that shattered on the floor. The creature landed on all fours and its face unbelieveably rebuilt as it launched at Andrea again as a winged quadruped.

Andrea kicked a table against the wall and pinned the attacker — It was no zombie, but suddenly bi-pedal. Still, its features could not yet be determined beyond fangs and cat-like eyes— struggling against the wall, pinned in an awkward way.

However it was immensely strong and changing shapes, wriggling from behind the heavy desk that Andrea held against it.

Point-blank range, she fired another load into the inhuman face. The shotgun blowing a hole in the wall behind the attacker the size of her fists. But she might as well have spit on it for all she had done with the gunpowder and lead.

Gristle and meat, black blood and bone splattered on the wall, and then just… jumped… back to the struggling body. Then a tickle of wind and a swishing sound at her ear and would later be angry with Archer over how close the arrow was that flew past her head.

The angry shriek and gnashing of teeth stopped as the creature choked, clawing at a wooden arrow stuck in its chest, then collapsed into a pile of bones and ash.

“Wh-wh-w… ” The Archer, already nocked another arrow. “The.. Son of a… Holy… Shiiii…Fuuu… what… HELL!” His eyes as large as a car’s headlight as he searched for the best profanity.

“F’k’n oath!” She said, nodding with the Yankee. Still tracking what was left of the attacker with the pool of light that was the aim-point of the twelve-gauge.

Thundering footsteps down the hall announced that Al and company were coming as backup.

No sneaking up on a bloke with that crowd.” Andrea said to Archer as the Al kicked the door open and entered with a shotgun at the ready, followed by Stormy and Gail each with submachine guns, lasers crisscrossing, looking for a target.

You shouldn’t talk, that thing is LOUD.”

“What the hell was going on down here? Could you keep the room at least in one piece?” the Canadian Cop surveying the room and the holes in the sheetrock.

The Archer picked up a skull off the floor and walked out of the room. The skull had too many fangs in its mouth as he looked it over in the lighted hallway, then he handed it to Al.

“This is what attacked us.” Archer said. “I believe we woke it up.”

“It’s so light.” The flesh crumbled under his fingers leaving polished bone if he rubbed firmly. “It’s so dry.” Sharp teeth glinted in the harsh hallway’s light.

“Not when I first shot it. It crumbled and dried up in seconds when I hit it with my wood-shafted arrow.” Archer reported.

“Aluminum arrows had no effect.” Andrea nodded. “Neither did the buckshot from the riot gun.”

“Wood-shafted arrow? What are you talking about?” Al asked. “What the hell?”

Andrea and The Archer looked at each other and laughed.

“My words precisely.” Archer said. “We are fighting something besides a virus I would say.”

“What does that mean?” Gale asked. “You’re talking in riddles.”

“It means,” Archer said, “that skull you hold, goes into a consecrated cemetery. One blessed by someone of the cloth, toss that in a hole of a cemetery and it won’t rise again.”

“Rise? A-a-again?” It was Zac.

“That,” The Archer pointed to the skull. “is a vampire, a Dracula-like creature, I would wager. It kept changing shape while we fought it.”

“BULL!” Jameson yelled. “The news explicitly said it was a virus!  We are not fighting something so profoundly… so profound…. so… F’k’ng WRONG!  NO! You are not telling me that it’s a lie! An explicit, bald-faced LIE? THIS IS JUST A…

“Jameson! CALM DOWN” Gail slapped the coach driver so hard he fell over.

“Coincidence.”  The downed man moaned out.

There is nothing in real-life as vampires!” Zac said, echoing Jameson’s disbelief. “That is only in movies.”

There are no zombies, either. But we have seen otherwise, haven’t we?”

Is it dead?” Jameson pleaded.

No.” Gail said. “If Archer is right and the legends hold true, it is in a hibernation state, drip some blood into the skull and it will wake up. That is why we need to separate the head from the body and buried at a blessed cemetery.”

Blessed cemetery? Aren’t they all?” Jameson asked. Coming back to grips with himself. “I’m sorry about that.  Vampires terrified me as a child.”

No.” Stormy said. “Some even have consecrated and unconsecrated ground within a single graveyard. We need to choose where to bury that skull carefully.”

“Should we put garlic in it?” Zac asked.

“You brought back some garlic powder and garlic salt with the last shopping spree you and the Canadian did.”

“Stuff it, bag it and bury it.” Sergeant Frobisher said. “But where?”

“There is a church up the way.” Andrea pulled at her ear. “I don’t recall the kind of church. Catholic maybe, but I am not positive.”

“Catholic, Jewish,” Archer shrugged. “Could be a Shaolin temple for all I care, so long as it involves holy ground.”

“Let’s make it done.” Al ordered.

2 Dracul Skulls ("Noble" caste, Possibly "Royal" Ref. Van Helsing, Et al, "Identification of skulls" Copyleft 1901 Royal Underground press.) in 2 views.  Left skull buried in bag of garlic under unknown church, skul

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5. Debriefing


The group walked into the cafeteria , Zac was carrying the skull, carefully turning it over in his hand as they all sat down..

Archer poured himself a coffee in a styrene cup from a stack he had found in a cabinet, handing one to Andrea and to Al.

So what happened down there?” Al asked.

Archer took a tentative sip of the steaming black water while Andrea spoke.

“We entered the classroom and I would hazard a guess that it was asleep and we surprised it. It wasn’t even aware we were in the building.” Andrea said to Al as she sat with the others in what was once a cafeteria.

“If Andrea had not seen it and fired first, I’m not sure we would have survived. It came straight at her and my aim was not on. I shot the wrong shadow.”

Stormy found some herbal tea in a cabinet, saying it would be better for Archer, she took away his coffee.

You sure I can’t have the coffee?”

Stormy gave Archer an icy look and shook her head. “I’m worried about your caffeine intake.”

“I was lucky, it happened to come over the table where I was pointing the riotgun, I pulled the trigger when it startled me.” Andrea said.

Al chuckled and turned to the Archer.

“How did you decide to shoot it with that arrow you made from a dowel? I know you carry that one you keep fooling around with. What made you think of that?”

“Well, I wasn’t sure, but if I was wrong, we were in for a hell of a fight. But, one way to destroy a vampire is to run it through the heart with a stake.”

“Okay,” Al pulled at his ear. “What you are getting at?”

“Okay, wooden stake in the chest. Can it be thrown? Could it be larger? A spear? Wooden shafted and driven through the chest?”

“Um, yes, it follows.”

“Okay then what is the difference between an arrow and a spear? A javelin and an arrow? Size? So, I used that wooden arrow that I have been working on.”

“You thought that during the fight?”

“Well,” Archer chuckled, “A significant deal more than that, but I’m being succinct about it.”

“Heh, my friend, if you think that fast after you drink your coffee, don’t you ever quit.”

Everyone except Stormy chuckled, who failed to appreciate the humor in Archer living on caffeine.

#

6. A Good Night


“Okay, we are cleared, top to bottom. Windows are secured, we have a room for us to sleep in. Who will take the first watch?” Al asked.

The Archer raised his hand.

“I’ll take the night half.”

“No.” Stormy, Gale and Andrea made a harmony of the word.

“Sorry, you need some sleep.” Gale said.

“Besides, you reek.” Andrea pointed out. “If I wake up and you are standing there, I will shoot your Yankee arse for one of those walking dead.”

“Okay, shower. Then I will do the watch.”

“No,” Stormy Knight argued. “Is it true that you have not slept at all? Then you need to sleep.”

Archer shook his head.

“Okay, just lay down for awhile. Rest.”

“Oh, all right. I’ll relax and recuperate for a bit. Al could you do first watch?”

“Naw, right now I need some shut-eye for a couple hours. I’m beat. I’ll volunteer Jameson. He’s slept quite well the last few nights.”

Jameson cleared his throat.

“Archer never woke anyone for the next watch, he did the whole shift!”

“No matter.” Andrea said. “You have first watch. Archer has a night off.”

The Archer shook his head slightly and winked at Jameson.

“YOU!” Stormy pointed a finger at the Yank. “Gingersnap, off to the showers with you. The men’s side has a shower system. I looked it over when checking out for any nasties that might be lurking there. You wash up and then lay down.”

“Your clothes, too, deposit them outside the door of the showers. There is a laundry . We’ll need to wash all our clothes.”

Heh.” The Archer said without trying to hide the humor. “Lawyers will always take the shirt off your back.”

The look from the attorney of the United States was enough to for the fearless Archer to move quickly at her command.

Archer spoke loudly as he walked down the stairs, “Clean mind, clean body; pick one.”

Anyone else want to cross swords? I will send them to the showers, too.”

Gail raised her hand. “With him?”

Andrea laughed and raised her hand. “Community shower?”

Oh hush. I’m first in that case.” Stormy laughed. “I like the redhead.”

We all do.” Andrea and Gail said in chorus.

#

7. Morning’s Early Light


Stormy nudged Andrea before dawn.

“Mm- mmph.” It was Andrea’s wittiest conversation she could have before morning coffee— her “Cuppa”.

Looking around Andrea nudged Gail.

“Wh’.” Was the best that the petite, muscular blond woman could verbalize as she stirred out of the best nighttime hibernation in a long while. She sat up, rubbing her eyes.

“The Archer is gone. Jameson is asleep.” Stormy said, matter

“Jameson!” Andrea threw a pillow at the coach driver with uncanny accuracy. “When did you come in?”

“Not long after Archer finished his shower. All you shelia’s went to bed, Al was asleep, he was up and said he was my relief and you were okay with it.”

In the control room, Al and the Archer were talking.

“ARCHER!” The women yelled as they came down the hallway.

“Uh-oh. Busted.” The Canadian chuckled. “You violated curfew.”

“Better to apologize than to ask permission.” Archer winked.

“You’re supposed to be sleeping.” Rachel said.

“You said to rest, and I did. I rested for an hour but could not catch any luck on sleep, so I came up here so that I would not disturb anyone.”

Stormy grumbled like distant thunder with lightning flashing her eyes, living up to her nickname.

“Men and children, the only difference are their sizes.” She said to Andrea.

Andrea laughed, looking at the two men that continued to gaze out the window at the outside world.

“What are you blokes looking at?” Andrea asked.

“Well,” Al said and looked out the window. “Birds.”

“Listen.” The Archer opened the heavy, armored-glass door to the outside courtyard.

The sounds of birds singing in the early morning light.

“I have not heard that in over a month. Birds stopped singing when all this happened.” Andrea said as she walked to the door listening to the music of nature’s composition for the first time in a long while. “What’s changed?”

“I’ve been standing watch for the last four hours. ” Archer said, Stormy sighed at this news with fire in her eyes. “There has been not a single shuffler meander by. Not one.”

“Are they gone?”

“I couldn’t know about that, just that I have not seen them from the observation area. The only change is that we destroyed that vampire yesterday. After Al and Jameson ran down the street and took it into a church. We can rest assured it is not in control of anything at the moment.”

“Control?” Jameson yawned as he stumbled in. “Y’all disturbed m’ sleep.”

“I’ll do more than just disturbing your sleep.” Gale was dangerous sounding. “I should kick your arse down the hallway and back for not finishing your shift.”

After my run down to the church there and all.” Jameson said, sounding a little more awake.

Shut it!” Gail said, then turning to the Canadian. “Taking it into a church killed it?”

Zac, Jameson and I took it down the road to the church— Catholic by the by— and when Jameson dropped it into a baptismal tub full of water. It bubbled and then burst into a flame, it was quite impressive.” Al said. “You’d think we dropped it into a vat of acid and gasoline, eh. It was quite exciting for a moment.”

“Yes, I would venture a guess that that did it.” The Archer continued. “I’m not positive, just a theory. Now that it is lighter, there are bodies are visible, lying all around out there. Those bodies— over there and there — we didn’t shoot them. It looks like they collapsed suddenly, what ever it is that energizes them was abruptly cut off.”

“The vampire?” Stormy’s asked. “Are you saying the vampire controlled these zombie creatures?”

“That is what I’m supposing.”

“So you think it was controlling them.” Gale asked.

“I cannot say that for sure. It could just be motivational. A bit like saying ‘rise up and walk’ and then just let them shuffle around, aimlessly. No direction, just setting them loose to put pressure on the humans.” Archer shrugged. “It is a hypothesis based on the scantest of information.”

“So.” Stormy’s logical side took over. “You are saying that it is not a virus?”

“In the way it appears as of now. The jury is still out. If you excuse the term.” The Archer winked. “It could be a sort of, I do not know, a sort of control that is passed on by senescence – death. You become dead, your systems are inert and are open to control. A frog’s leg, for example, can move even though the frog is dead or even if the leg is amputated. That could explain why those shufflers out there are not something to be reasoned with. There is no mind. Just a power control.”

“That kind of power is unknown, nothing I have ever heard of can do that.” Gale said. “And it is spread by contact with the zombies, not vampires. That makes no sense.”

“Yes, and true.” The Archer answered, nodding. “But it is all I have for now. Bigger brains than mine will need to think it over. One more reason to find a military center where they may have a fortress and are holding out against this. This started in Darwin, Sydney is the largest city, it should have a military base somewhere around the water.”

“Yes,” Jameson nodded. “There is a naval base on Garden Island there.

“Perfect. An island is easily protected!” Al said. “That’s our destination.”

The Archer nodded. “Agreed.”

“No, it is not what you are thinking. It’s an island, but has been connected to the mainland by bridges. Like your Manhattan island, for example.”

“Still.” The Archer said slowly. “It is a base, it will be defended, I hope, and a place we can dock a boat to without walking across land with those flesh-eaters hunting fresh meat.”

“Okay, then prepare to leave. Pack light. We leave at sunrise.” Al said.

Archer agreed.

Archer.” Zac said sleepily. “You were in the showers when we came back. I wanted to give this to you, but I was asleep before you were finished. The mum’s would not let me stay up.” Zac pointed at the women as he held up an exotic shape of limbs and string.

Where did you find that?” Archer’s eyes widened.

I found this in a shop, it was in a glass case. The Sergeant said you would like this.” Zac smiled.

Thank you,” Archer smiled as he ran his fingers over the four limbs of the bow. “You have any idea what you have here?”

A bow. It is unusual, I have never seen one like it.” Zac said, his eyes glittering with glee that the face of the redhead lit up with a rare smile. “I never saw one with forked arms before.”

This is a Penobscot style bow, it is custom made by White Wolf in the United States. Look at this here. It is called a Wind Warrior. And here? This is the number of the bow, the boyer’s name and the draw it has. This one goes up to seventy-pounds. I don’t think I have heard of one that went that high before, the name etched into it here “Midnight”. I don’t know if that is the color or the name of the bow.”

Name?” Zac asked.

A few shooters named their bows. I was one, but I’m considered a bit eclectic. My favorite bow was the Gertrude. But this one is my favorite now, she is beautiful.”

She?” Andrea laughed lightly.

Beauty, thy name is woman.” Archer said, looking again at the four-limbed bow as he held it up to the light. “The name of the bow is Midnight. Thank you, Zac, this is a wonderful gift.”

Oh! You could use your nickname with it and call it Midnight Thunder!” Zac was pleased with his thoughts on the subject.

Archer chuckled and looked down. “Maybe. We’ll see.”

“Now if someone can point out the direction to my clothes, I have gotten chafed wearing this prisoner’s jumpsuit. It rides up a bit.” The Yank said, changing the subject.

Quiet snickers could be heard as he disappeared with Stormy down the hallway towards the laundry room, pulling at the prisoner garb uncomfortably.

I keep getting a danged wedgie.”

#

8. Recognition

The Archer came back out after he pulled on his pants and socks. His shoulders were a testament to the skills he had with a bow as he carried a dark-gray polo shirt over his right shoulder.

He sat down by the armored glass and looked out, pulling on heavy black boots.

“Any changes outside?”

“None.” Al said as he surveyed with a pair of binoculars he had found. “It has been quiet, what can be seen, however, there is some movement six intersections distant heading away from the water, but I don’t have a view down towards the marina, it could be a Grateful Dead party down there for all I know.”

The redheaded Yank chuckled grimly and started to pull the polo shirt on over his head.

“Archer?” Stormy asked. “The tattoo you have on your chest? I recall seeing it before. I needed to think about it for a moment, but I remember you.”

“My tattoo?” He touched his chest. The Celtic heart with the black lightning bolt across it had been there so long, he had forgotten about it.

“You are T.H. Harte. The U.S. Olympic Archer that took the team to the finals, they said your form was all wrong, but it kept working for you. I helped sponsor you. My firm bought you equipment and some bows. Three of them if I remember.”

“He is… you are Thunder Harte?” Al blinked, looking from Stormy to the Archer. “He wrote a few books and is the host of the outdoor channel’s show “Against all odds”. Wow!”

Archer looked down and gave a heavy sigh. The sound of a man haunted by ghosts and tortured by a shattered soul.

“Yes, yes, and yes, I was Thunder Harte. But I cannot use that name anymore. I’m no longer that man.”

“You have a family. Your son is supposed to be one of the youngest to ever qualify for the U.S. Olympic Archery team.” Rachel said. “There was a legal challenge about minors in the sport.”

“Yes, I opposed him being pushed to be an archer on the team by the media. Their attitude was beyond the pale and I filed the suit for an invasion of privacy. It was his choice and his choice alone.”

“You keep talking about him in the past tense.” Al pointed out, his three-decades of police skills coming to the fore.

“Yeah,” Archer said softly, as if he did and did not want to talk about it. It was a wound that still made his soul bleed and began to pour out of him as if he could not stop his words. “We were overrun by those shuffling nightmares. So, my wife and son took shelter in a quiet, dark house and I drew off the mob by using fire bombs and a shotgun. There was a minor problem, and then my son came out to help, the courage of a pre-teen. ” Archer sighed. “They caught him and began to drag him off. My wife ran out with a stick to beat them away and they grabbed her too.”

He choked and his knuckles turned white as he squeezed the edge of the desk, the veins stood out in his forearms and neck. A man about to scream in agony.

I was a half-block away, semi-auto shotgun was stovepipe-jammed and I had the bow and four jars of turpentine.” The deep sound of a heart breaking sob came out of the one they called Archer. “It took too long to clear the jam, the shotgun wouldn’t cycle so I could clear a path. Then I finally cleared the jam and needed to eject another shell before I could jump back in the fight. But I was too late.”

He took another deep sigh as he pulled himself together.

“I shot them both.” He said quietly, almost inaudibly. “It was the best I could do. They were both bloodied already and I believed it was a virus at the time.”

“You didn’t know about the vampires.” Rachel said, showing her less stormy side.

“No. I could have saved them.” Archer drew a breath and looked out the window. “I failed them. I killed my family and there is no deeper Hell than what I’m in. I couldn’t even bury them.”

“I’m no longer a Harte.” He said in a strangled voice, anguish showed his face as he covered his eyes as if to blind himself to a vision remembered. “I have no name. Just… Archer. It is well enough of a name.”

You will need to forgive yourself, you will need time to find your way.” Gail said, putting a hand gently on his shoulder. “You need to put this behind you, the world has nearly come to an end.”

Forgive?” Archer shook his head. “No. I should live with this forever. There is no forgiveness for what I did.”

From his quiver, he pulled a plastic baggy that contained locks of hair.

“I cut some hair from their heads after I drove the zombies back. The blond is his and this, ” He reached in the bag and touched a lock of red hair. “Is from my wife.

Compared to my hair, she is more of an orange color, but she was a warrior from the north of Glasgow. By the time I got to her, they had bitten and severely tore her up, but she had given better than she taken. There were bodies with their heads stove in all around her.” Archer stroked both locks of hair as if there was some magic in them. Magic that he could not unlock, but refused to let go.

He rolled the plastic baggy up and put it back into a pocket in his quiver and closed the flap.

“Let’s hunt up something with working radios that won’t draw a crowd.” Gail said softly, taking her hand from Archer’s shoulder and stroking his hair. “Down by the marina, we can put to sea, zombies are not able to sneak up or mob us. I would bet the long dead ones would sink anyway.”

“Let’s pack up.” Archer said. Anything to draw attention away from him.

They were ready in moments and formed up under the watchful eye of Al.

The group headed out in the practiced cover pattern that Sergeant Frobisher had taught them to do.

#

9. Out On The Docks

For the first block where birds sang, streets were eerily empty of the walking horrors as they headed to the marina. The death of the vampire seemed to have a chilling effect on the animated dead. Decaying and partly mummified bodies lay everywhere. The presence of ravens feeding on the dead was oddly reassuring to the group. Where the dead walked, birds were absent and silent. Everyone considered the ravens to be a good sign.

The closer they approached the marina, the air seemed to change. Like a heaviness in the atmosphere they had not noticed before, it suffocated the mood of the armed human centipede. They had started their walk to the marina in the best spirits they had been in days, but the farther they walked, the more melancholy the group became. It was as if the soul of the land they walked on was dying.

Moments later, another group of tattered, half-rotted bodies appeared from around the corner of a cross-street and began to approach the heavily armed group.

I thought we killed the vampire.” Zac said in a frightened whisper.

There must be more than one.” Al answered quietly as he walked backwards, protecting the rear of the group as he scanned back and forth with his vertical limbed crossbow. “There ain’t any of those shufflers following us.”

A range? Like with a cell phone?” Archer asked.

By deduction there is more than one kind of vampire.” Stormy said, keeping her sound suppressed weapon against her shoulder. “Some more powerful than others. Foot-soldiers, like Renfield in the classic horror novel. You might have some vampires that would be the generals, they would… maybe… channel the power to the lower caste. Then the zombies are the shock troops that are unstoppable.”

Stormy?” Archer asked.

Yes, love?”

You are giving me a panic attack, please talk about something else, something nicer, like how lions eat baby zebra.”

You killed one vampire already.” Stormy nudged Archer with her hip.

You weren’t down there with the Yank and me.” Andrea said. “That was a serious piss-fight brewing.”

They began to use the arrows to take down the mob of horror that was approaching as they headed to the marina in a controlled pace. Sound suppressed, special weapons did their jobs brilliantly, but the tinkling of spent brass on the ground rang loudly in the silent area that no bird song could reach their ears or any winged life flew. Even the insects had abdicated flight in the area.

As they approached the marina, Archer pointed out a large ketch with sails rolled up on the booms, well tied up. It would be easy to prepare the boat for departure.

Al jimmied a lock of a barred gate that stood as a silent sentinel across the dock. It opened with a loud shriek of partly rusted hinges and closed with the sound of a steel drum full of marbles.

Looking back over the way they had come, several of the animated dead had heard and were drifting in towards the marina as if they were not sure where the sound came from, wandering aimlessly with ever more gathering in the street between the buildings.

Okay, it’s safe.” Gail said. “They are not coming at us directly. We need to walk carefully on the dock to keep the noise down, or we will bring all of Brissy down on us.”

Walking down the dock to the sail-yacht, a large man with a side-by-side shotgun stepped out into the open deck of a tour-boat.

“Hey!” He yelled.

Archer and Al stopped and drew their bows. Andrea, Zac and Stormy pointed their own weapons at the armed man, Zac’s shotgun now loaded with sharpened dowels.

“Ahoy.” Called Archer. “We are seeking safety only. We are not looting. Just need to listen to a radio and find a way to travel south.”

“You are under quarantine. Don’t c’me closer, you are no going to pass on dat virus to me.” He shouted.

“We are alive and breathing, when was the last time you saw one aim weapons at you and hold a conversation?”

The skipper paused.

Archer took advantage of the pause and spoke again.

“There is no virus. All this? It’s vampires— They are using the zombies as war dogs.”

“Bah! There are no such things as vampires!”

“There are no such things as the dead zombies that walk, either! But there they are!” Archer pointed at the bodies that ambled up and down the street. Still milling about trying to find the source of the sound that the gate had made.

The skipper swore under his breath.

“C’me ab’ard befer any of doze still walkin’ sees ya. Git below.” He lowered his shotgun. “I didn’ wanna to shoot an’way. I’m down to whut gravel, nails and bolt-heads I c’n scrape up off teh ground. I has lots o’ powder, but nothin’ fer shootin’, I has ta make do with scraps. Bloody awful whut it is.”

The group sat down around the inside of the cruiser. It was medium sized, but well appointed.

“I chartered until two months ago. The damned demon-things put an end ta dat overnight. I usually walk ta town ta live, but dis is my home now. Dis is de Maribeth an’ welcome ab’ard. She don’ run, though. The engine is farked fer awhile, I ordered a new fuel pump and have been waited fer it fer six weeks before dis all started. I don’ think I’ll be gettin’ it in now.”

“What if you took parts from the other boats around.” Andrea asked.

“I dun’ thin’ the other owners would appreciate it, besides, tha’s stealin and what good would I be if’n I were in jail? They’d bust me for sure an’ take me boat.” The skipper nodded. “By da way, me name’s Roberts. Abraham John Roberts. I’m cap’n of this vessel, whut’s left of ‘er an’way.”

“There are no police to arrest you. And the owners of the boats around here are gone. You are not stealing. You’re salvaging.” Archer said slowly.

Captain Roberts looked at Al, then Archer, then to the ladies for a moment.

“Whut are we waiting fer.” He chuckled. “Damn, I is getting old, I could ha’ been salvagin’ all dis time!”

“We would like to listen to the radio, too. Everywhere on the land most power is out and no radio is working on land.” Rachel said.

“Aye, we can do dat. Marine radio and I has a world short-wave radio set built in. Digital radio is available, too.” The Captain said. “I ha’ no listened to it much. I worry that de sound would bring them, so’s I just walk in ta town ta de stores, avoidin’ them ta hunt up food.”

The women turned it on low and sat drinking the Captain’s coffee. Andrea offering “a cuppa” every few minutes. Captain Roberts told stories of how the world changed from the south up north to the marina. How the changes came from tourists to the biters that came later.

“We get the parts in the morning. This will be hell of a better watch than being here alone.”

“Then we put into Sydney or some other town with an enclave or sanctuary?” Al asked.

“Aye, we can.” Captain Roberts answered. “But fer ta-night? We DRINK!”

“Here here!” Andrea laughed.

Archer, atypically quiet, just sat at the top of the steps. Dusk was more than two hours away.

“Once it’s gone dark, w’ pull all da tarps over de glass and git below. I keep lights ta minimum. I ha’ LED lights that adjust low.” Captain said. Then coughed. “We needs fuel, too, for such a trip. We will need to take on at least three-thousand liters of fuel or we run a chance o’ rowin’ b’fore we get ta where we wants ta be.”

“Hey, what if we just take a boat?” Al asked. “There is a whole fleet of vessels out there that have no one to claim them.”

The Captain stopped talking for a moment.

“Well, I don’ know de other boats as well, but it’ll sure’n satisfy a few cravin’s. We kin upgrade. I never thought about takin’ another boat. Hum…”

Unpacking the maps from the Maribella, the group now including the Captain walked down the moorings assessing each yacht. Finally settling on the Calliope. A luxurious world-class sixty-meter yacht that showed full on all six tanks. Checking the staterooms confirmed the crew was alone on the yacht.

The Calliope, secured and they moved slowly to the unplug the yacht’s power cables from the end of the marina.

“The radio is broadcasting that the area north of Sydney is under quarantine, they are blocking all roads.” Rachel said as the Captain had started the engines warmed them up.

“Here comes the farewell party.” the Sergeant shouted. Shuffling dead were attracted to the sounds of the vessel powering up.

“Dey’ll hold up at de gate.” The Captain said.

“Yeah… no. They have pulled the gate down already.” The Archer said, the sounds of rending metal attracting more walking horror. “Captain, we need to leave.”

The redheaded Yank looked back out the window at the failed gate. “As in now.”

“As in… We has ta get de fark outta here,” Captain Roberts said.

“Agreed,” The Al said. “Forget leaving on the turn of the tide. Let us just cast off now.”

Bloody hell! If yer’n not cast off now, just cut lines. Theys not organized, theys keep fallin’ off into the water, but I won’ ‘ave any o’ ya out dere as bait.”

Casting off, the sixty-meter yacht pulled away from the dock slowly. The motion was not missed by others on the edge of town. The dead, under control of their masters began to walk down towards the marina stopping only at the edge of water.

“Set a course,” The Captain ordered. “Use dat GPS dere, and indicate Sydney.”

Archer gave a rare smile to Stormy, putting down an arrow from his bow, Midnight.

You were going to make a stand?” Stormy frowned.

Stand? Hell no. I was going to shoot that transformer on the pole over there and drop the power line into the water. I’m sure we would be safe, but anything standing in the wet areas would have an exciting moment or three.” Archer winked.

Wi’ one o’ da li’l sticks?” The Captain asked. “F’k’n’ Bullshit.”

Captain.” Al said. “With all due respect, that man could do it. I have seen him do things a hundred paces away with those “li’l sticks” that should be impossible.”

The Captain shook his head land laughed.

Den I’s glad ta has yer on my side, Yank.”

#

10. Ocean and Freedom

The Calliope gathered speed, passing ten-knots and they turned south. Following the shore with the land on the right, they sailed into the gathering darkness.

Captain Roberts sat back and sighed.

“We are clear. Radar shows us with no traffic near and sonar shows that the water depth is increasing nicely. We are in the channel.” The Captain nodded. “Now… I have something to celebrate our escape.”

Hopping off his seat Captain A. J. Roberts opened up a trunk he had lugged from Maribella without a word on what he had inside.

Bottles and bottles of exotic liquors. The largest of which he pulled up.

“RHUM!” He laughed. “All the way from the Caribbean! I bet you have not seen the likes.”

The Archer laughed.

“Actually,” Archer said softly to Rachel, “I have been drinking that brand for years.

Rachel laughed. “I have a bottle of that in my house now.”

The drinking went on for some minutes, The Archer was working on his second cup over ice to the Captains third. The two were seemingly getting into a race.

Suddenly the radio crackled and the Captain choked on his fourth cup of the dark liquor.

“Emergency channel is working! Huzzah!” He grabbed the microphone and called.

“Emergency caller, this is the Calliope out of Brisbane bound for Sydney. Go ahead with your traffic.”

“This is Royal Australian Navy Destroyer Guardsman. Reverse your direction return the way you came.”

“Negative, Guardsman, we are out of Brisbane, all on board are healthy and are seeking asylum from the chaos of the area.”

“Calliope, this is your last warning, the quarantine has been extended to Brisbane, come about now and return to your point of departure.”

“Guardsman, we have women and children on board, we cannot return. Do you wish to condemn them to deal with the collapse of government there?”

“This is Captain Monroe of the RAS Guardsman. Calliope, please reverse your course, I do not wish to fire upon you. Heave to and prepare to be boarded.”

“We are making our way to Sydney. Board us there.” The Captain Roberts replied to Captain Monroe.

“Heave to, or we will fire.”

“Captain.” The Archer was looking out a window. “We have a problem.”

In the air, a heavily armed helicopter suddenly lit up with navigation lights in the failing twilight of the coming evening. Already airborne, missile pods were visible on the sides of the rotary-winged gunship.

Captain Roberts looked out.

“Oh f’kn’ bloody brass nuts.” The Captain said loudly. “If you folks believe in a hell, you might wish to call ‘em an’ ask if they have exchange programs, it is about to become worse than that here. Guardsman is a Hobart Class ship, that there bird be one o’ its hammers.”

“What are those?” Stormy asked as two, then four pinpoint lights seem to move towards them from a mile out.

“Archer?” Andrea asked, pointing out at what Stormy saw.

Incoming! They’ve opened fire!” The Archer yelled. He reached down to his quiver and pulled out a rolled up plastic bag. Holding two locks of hair close to his heart, he watched the missiles track towards them at unimaginable speed.

“I”m sorry.” He whispered to the last remains of his family as he dropped the baggie over the rail of the yacht. “I’m so sorry I failed.”

OUT! Abandon ship!” Al was like a bull shoving everyone he could reach towards the railing. The only time in his life he used his hand to hand training to shove a group.

“Abort! ABORT! Do not fire! ABORT! ABORTABORT! We are…” The Captain screamed into the microphone.

It was his last conscious thought as the missiles impacted into the bridge of the Calliope. High explosive warheads sent shockwaves through the vessel. Air heated to thousands of degrees shattered doors and bulkheads as the yacht disappeared in a fireball of continuing weapons fire as the helicopters their weapons repeatedly.

Only after the Calliope’s shattered, burning hull slipped beneath the surface of the water the gunships returned to base on shore.

The haze and smoke slowly dissipated as the killing machine moved off, returning to the carrier.

There would be no rescue boats launched as the Guardsman followed orders and turned away back to its patrol.

#

Epilogue


Radio transmission on shore after the military radar had detected the contact:

Captain Michael Monroe made his report to the base. “Contact made. Illegal threat neutralized. No spread of infection or contamination. End of report.”

Rear Admiral Shyldon Gillette, Commander of the Royal Australian Border Protection Command read the electronic report out loud and turned towards a shadow in the corner with red eyes glimmering in the dark.

“The secret remains safe, my Lord, the operation will be able to continue to relocate the human blood sources into the feeding reservations.”

“Excellent. Keep the fear up. Any human that finds clues to the real source of the undead slaves, kill them. The living cannot know what is happening until the whole of the world is under our control.” The lips of Lord Maldark’s ghostly face barely moved to create a voice that sounded like it came from the depths of a muddy tomb. “Tell the lower caste to increase the numbers of the risen and to drive herds of the food towards the reservations, do not give them a chance to contemplate their position in the food-chain. That is key to our success.”

Yes, my Lord.”

The face that appeared to float in the shadow twisted unnaturally into a grin, long fangs glittered like glass in the subdued light, but the admiral was under the ancient one’s control now and was no longer afraid as he was the first night.

That night, over a month ago.

Out on the water near the sunken Calliope, a plastic sandwich bag floated on the water stuffed with two gently cut locks and five hastily pulled blood-red strands of hair sealed inside.

Together the hairs drifted towards the land of Oz in the prevailing current with wreckage from the destroyed yacht.

A bow floated on the wreckage, an unusual penobscot bow made of exotic woods. The bow lay on a raft of floatation devices, hastily lashed together, clear of the water with a quiver of arrows as the land grew closer with each passing moment.

<Finis?>

United States Thanksgiving: Please be with family. In or out of US.

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In this time of the season, whether you are in the northern or southern hemisphere. take time sometime this week and give thanks for the family you have. So many lose a loved one, sometimes we don’t tell them– out of anger or oversight, or the most wrong thing.

We take it for granted.

Tell them. Hug them. Enjoy the family. It doesn’t matter if you are a New Zealand, Aussie, Yankee, Canuck, Russian, Chinese, Mongolian and any of the others I am too danged lazy to write out. Take your mom, dad, brother or sister, son or daughter and give thanks that they are in your life.

No borders need stand in the way of that thanks.

Have a good week folks. I am taking a few days away. You all might get ONE chapter, but I won’t promise for the next week.

 

Even the Bradach Ard Ri gets a week off sometimes.

 

 

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…

Dragon Master University Chapter 9. Tour of the University

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IX. Tour of the University

Jona’s mother gave him the lecture about behaving around pretty girls, especially around those that he had no idea what they really were.
“She is a dragon and probably older than all of us put together.” Aed laughed, “Still, she was pretty. I remember her when I first came. She went steady with the champion racer at the time. Most of us were in love with her.”
“Most of you boys,” Dearbhail interrupted, “were in love with her, she has no affect on females.”
Aed whispered to Jona when his mother stopped to talk to a professor and ask directions to the dorms and library.
“The girls are also affected, mostly as jealousy. Kolo is one of the most beautiful of her species, but they are all pretty. I dated one of her sisters, Soisal. We had a good time until I met your mother, then it was all history then.” Aed chuckled. “I loved your mum from the day I met her.”
“This way” She led her family to the dormitory area. Along the way, the red dragon Jona had seen before was basking in a shaft of sunlight, his size was smaller than Jona remembered, but they were in shadows and Jona had looked around.
“Professor.” Dearbhail said gently, “I would like you to meet Jona, my son. You remember Aed, my husband?”
The dragon opened an eye. Where many of the eyes of dragons were cat-like with slits, or like an owl’s that where wide and bright, taking in everything. This dragon had eyes like a human, deep blue, with the look of someone who has had seen and taught much, with a touch of sadness in his eyes.
But those sad eyes crinkled into a smile– as much as a dragon can smile.
“Why yes!” His voice sounded strangely like a cross between a human and a thunder-clap echoing backwards. “I remember you Aed! You had a knack for using hammers to make art out of metal. I still have the chain you made for me as an end of school present. A great treasure of my personal cache.”
Jona cringed slightly as the tusked face turned to him.
“You will be attending here then in the next cycle? You will like it, there is the renew festival in the autumn, where all the spirits of the year come to greet us. It becomes a trick or treat week of fun and spooks.” Winking at Jona as if it were a secret.
“We make it all month though. Always fun. We also have visiting wizards and witches now and again during that time.”
“I would like to attend here. My dad says you were once human?” Jona reached out and touched the nose dragon lightly.
“Yes, but one must recite the words and said exactly and with passion. I cannot repeat them as the same magic that made me as I am does not allow a dragon to speak such words of reversal. How I came to be like this was to save the most precious treasure I have ever had in my possession or held in my hands.” With a slow nod, the dragon finished his thought. “That treasure was, is and remains my best treasure, my wife. I will see you in class, Young Jona, you will be how dragons think and feel. And you can check with my scales anytime.”
Looking at Aed and Dearbhail, the big dragon took a deep breath. An intense look filled the eyes of the red-dragon.
“His touch is that of a healer, I have seen into his mind’s eye. Aed, Dearbhail, he has the soul of a teacher and a smiter, but most– he is a healer if we can get him past his play.”
“And do not stare so much at Kolo, she might think you like her.” The red dragon chuckled. The sound was if someone had struck a large drum. Then the old wizard dragon closed his eyes and sighed as the the pleasant feeling of the sun shining on his body and warming his scales.
They got a ride on a tram that rode on wheels of wrought iron, pulled by a young dragon that wore a sign on the side of one of his horns. It was in a language that Jona could not read.
“What does that say?” he asked his mother.
“Public service for failing class. All donations to this tram go to the university’s charity for delinquent dragons.” His mother read. “Not much has changed since we attended here. I wonder if they still make humans do the same thing?”
Aed shook his head and shrugged.
“I would’nt be surprised, I spent more than one school week pulling people haulers for not doing my work on time or getting caught in a bad situation. I always got dragons that wanted rides, too.”
“I never had to do that.” Dearbhail laughed lightly as she put her arms around her husband and kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you for that, too. I would have hated to have pulled a wheeled cab for my friends when they were going out and I was doing penance.”
Jona looked at his mom “You were going to be punished?”
“No” Aed said, “I would not let that happen, so I took the blame.”
“I had to marry your father after that, he was such my hero, very gallant.” She blushed slightly and kissed Aed again, no longer the finger waving, loud voiced matriarch that shook the earth with her stomps, but looked more like a caught school girl.
“I hung all the boy’s underwear between the buildings. We raided their rooms when they were in the showers.”
“You took the blame for that?” Jona looked at his father incredulously.
“Got me the nickname of ‘Odd Aed’ for awhile. But it was worth it, they figured it out in time, but the debt had been paid.”
His small dragon woke and started crawling around the inside of his tunic and Jona wiggled around then complained loudly that the small creature just pulled out what little chest hair he had. Finally getting free, the small creature flew around in circles over his head before landing on the edge of the tram and watched the world go by.
“This happens often?” Jona asked
“Only with chosen ones. I was not chosen,” his father said. “Your grandfather had a run in with a dragon and a Dragon Master came to arbitrate, the result was the dragon apologized with the agreement I came here to study. One of the best agreements we ever did as a clan.”
Jona looked at his mum “What about you?” with a quirked look.
“I was chosen, I had a small dragon follow me home, my parents were always trying to kill it until a Dragon Master came and spoke with them. You have no idea how much of a dragon hater your Grandfather was. He resented it, your grandma— she secretly liked the idea I could save things that lived in and over the earth. But your grandpa, if he had the chance, he would hunt dragons to the ends of the earth without a thought.”
“Is that why we lived so far away from Grandpa and grandma?” Jona asked
“Yes, partly due to that, but also because he did not like your father much. Because I had met him here, your grandpa did not want to even talk to him.” His mother shook her head sadly. “But what he did not know was that your Grandma is also a Dragon Master. She has never told him.”
Once again, his life shook. Schools end, he was free and knew it all, now he found that all he learned in school— was how to learn.
The tram rumbled on, the farther they went, the larger the school looked. “Everything is school here?” he asked while looking out.
“Yes, last count I remember that they had almost forty- thousand students of all kinds. A large city. They will all live here, away from dragon hunters, kings that look to have a prize on the castle or a name as King Dragon Killer or some stupid thing.” Aed said unhappily. “The best part, however is that the dragon council pays for it all. Humans only get in if chosen, arbitrated or otherwise selected carefully. All dragons come here no matter what.”
“All dragons? Do they all live here?” Jona asked as they stopped in front of a very tall spire.
“OUT!” The dragon called in front, his voice was very small for his size, until Jona realized it was a girl dragon, and that he had a lot to learn of how to tell gender from male and female dragons. Except for Kolo, she still danced in his recent memory with the swish of the tail and move of her legs.
A slap on the back of his head again as his mother brought him back to the here and now.
“Jona, you need to look around. There are different dorms. Many are houses that have a brotherhood of dragon and masters. The girls have a sorority but can and do also belong to the fraternity of Dragon Masters. That is where the tattoo’s come from. Only those that achieve that status can have the never ending knot of dragons on their arms.” She reminded him.
A small dragon of a pale blue— white hue walked up to him. “I am Ramases, I will guide you around the dormitory, this is the house of the Frost Dragons, you may find that it is a bit cold in some area’s. But we study hard to keep warm. Do you like to ski?”
“Um, no.” Jona said as they mounted gilt stairs up to the upper floors. The slim dragon bounded on two legs while giving occasional flaps.
“I’m in my second year here, they have moved me into the guide status because my grades are so high. I already speak most human languages.” Ramases laughed as he stepped up the stairs.
Jona looked at the guide as the three Samhain’s followed, “Do all dragons come in different sizes or will he grow to be like some of the big ones that are flying outside?”
Aed shook his head “Most dragons are of adult size in one or two years. By the time they get here, they are done growing, after that, they just age. Like Kolo, she will never get any bigger– even though she looks like she might have gained a little weight.”
Dearbhail shook her head, “She has matured, the vamp.” Jona’s mother shook her head. ‟Dragon girls never seem to get dumpy. Look at Professor Olly. She looks as if she was still a bride when she got married. That was when I was a student here!” Jona’s mother sighed, “and she has four children!”
Aed leaned over, “That’s because you don’t have scale-armored boobs like they do.” And tried to kiss Dearbhail while Jona complained.
“Stop it dad! That’s just … ugh.” Jona walked further ahead rolling his eyes while Ramases laughed quietly.
The young dragon and the human boy began to talk as the parents laughed behind them at Jona’s discomfort.
“Parents.” Jona rolled his eyes.
“Yeah, I have troubles with mine, too. My dad is a desert dragon, mom is from the far north. They are always wrapping tails around each other— it’s gross. I have ten brothers and sisters, I’m the youngest.” Ramases said, “The smartest, too. I can’t get any bigger, I’m kind of the runt of the nest.”
“That must have been hard.” Jona said, “I have a friend that has a few bigger brothers. One brother captured a lúchorpáin and made it give them a bottle of youth. One drop would make you one year younger. “
“Oh very nice, they would have gotten rich off that!” Ramases smiled.
“Not really, they gave Boru ten drops and he was only nine! They made him minus one!”
Ramases laughed, “Pour kid!”
“He had to repeat basic school until the potion wore off the next spring.” Jona added, “I’m an only kid. I just have sprite here that is my dragon I guess.”
“Ooh, he is not yours— you are his, he chose you.” Ramases corrected him. “He looks to be an orphan, must have just hatched very close to you.”
Ramases snorted something, then growled. Sprite just looked at him a few times, then Ramases puckered up and whistled low with some clicking, the little dragon clicked back.
“Said he has spent the last two weeks alone, all the other eggs were smashed, no sign of mother. You are his mother now.”
“Here we are. These are sample rooms, no one lives in these, but it gives you an idea on what you might have available.” Opening the door, Ramases stepped back and let Jona step in. His parents just looked in.
“Do you not want to see the rooms?” Ramases asked Aed.
“I have lived in these rooms with the Fire Dragon fraternity. They are much the same.”
“OH! You are alumnus! Is Jona second or third generation or more?”
“Jona is actually fifth generation candidate, but I have no doubts he will make a fine teacher and, maybe a healer.” Dearbhail said.
“My father was no Dragon Master, but I think my grandfather was. But my father and grandfather did not speak much to each other.” Aed said.
Walls of polished obsidian stone made up the walls of the room, Jona had never seen the like of such a grand room.
“I get a room like this?” Jona gaped.
“Not alone, you would share this size of room with five others.” Ramases nodded.
‟Five? I don’t get to be alone?”
‟No first years do.” Aed said. ‟That is tradition.”
‟I’m going to hate the first year.”
‟You,” His mother pinned him with a deadly look that Jona knew well. ‟Young man, will learn. Study or I will come and teach you in each and every class.”
If Jona thought it was cold when he walked into the dorms, the chill that came from his mother could have cracked ice.

Dragon Master University Chapter 8. The DragonMaster University

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VIII. The DragonMaster University

Jona looked at the lady, she had beautiful eyes, her ears were elegant with a slight point to them, elf for sure! Jona had never met an elf, but he was sure this was one. She was not nearly as old as his parents.

“Professor, this is our son, Jona, he has been chosen by the dragons, one follows him still.” Mother Samhain said softly. “Jona, this is Professor Melian Jewell, she is one of the senior teachers here in the university. She teaches dragon language, the only person I know that speaks all the known dialects of dragons, including the dead languages that no one speaks even now.

“She, I mean, you ma’am speak all dragon languages?” Jona followed his mothers finger as she pointed to the professor, to who he was to address the question.

“I was around when the dragons first encountered men, I helped set up the school, many winters ago.” Melian stated with an air of simple fact. Jona was getting the ongoing feeling that his school back home might be over, learning how many bushels would fit in a cart to today of dragons, elves, snow. His education was about to start. All that he had learned before was to practice for what was going to come now.

Professor Jewell looked up and down at Jona and nodded, “You have a dragon upon your person now, he is sleeping in the fold of your cloak. You may name him if you like because his real name would take you years to learn how to say it correctly.”

The professor was correct, the little dragon had found a loose fold in his sweater and was no longer moving, instead, it had warmed up and gone to sleep against the skin of Jona’s arm. If Jona did not know any better, it felt like the little dragon was purring.

The professor nodded curtly and excused herself as the Samhain family walked to the office, men and women walked by in many kinds of armor, many were gold, some were obviously a gray metal of iron. Dozens of beings, of humans and species that Jona had never dreamed of that existed passed him wearing laminated leather and metal decorations passed by every minute.

Jona began to notice that there was a subtle meaning to all the different types of decorations all over the leather that in many cases was a heavy weave of strips held in place by the metal rivets engraved into various flower shapes, then gilded with different colors.

He assumed that each color and shape meant something. Flowers, hands, what looked like ropes, crossed knives and either feathers or leaves, Jona could not tell which, embellished the shoulders and chests of humans, elves and— someone who looked like human, but was not.

Jona walked behind his parents looking about when a larger youth with raven-black hair collided with him, knocking Jona sideways and making Jona stumble and bump into another student who was gazing at the sky.

“You be careful! I am a DragonMaster.” The youth shoved back and growled at Jona.

The color of the jerkin was thin and worn, well used or poorly made, Jona could not decide. The aggressive stand of the student, however, flamed anger in Jona.

“Stop killing people for once, do not pull out your gutting knife just now. Let him live and come with me, please.” Aed turned and called to Jona. Shocking the other youth with the deadly reputation that the older generation recognized.

The other boy stood wide-eyed and looked on as Jona walked to his father, smiling to himself and in a way that no one else, but his father could see.

A wink the elder gave his son as the boy caught up and they walked off together.

“Thanks, Da'” Jona whewed quietly, “He’s bigger than I am. I did not want to have a fight so soon after getting here.”

“A father’s skill, I got you out of a fight without needing to raise my voice or get involved directly. But, be warned, it may just have put off what you will need to do later. He’ll want to test you.” Aed told him. “I recognize the forged flower on the leather vest he has on. A good family that has fallen on hard times. His own father suffered an attack by a dire wolf and nearly died. That boy’s father is now touched. Sometimes I find him in my shop wondering over common items. They live on the coast and are good people.”

‟Does the pirate king know him?”

‟Oh yes. Keegan O’Danu has gone out of his way to take care of the family. That is why the boy is here. The O’Danu scholarship, designed just for him. No one else can qualify, all Kacra had to do was apply”

‟Kacra?”

‟That’s the boy I warned you not to kill.”

‟Oh.” Jona thought about Kacra’s father wandering around the countryside.

From the coast to the shop would be at least a full days ride, two days to walk. How would Jona’s father get him home?

“Wagon mostly, and using an apprentice. Sometimes, I have given him a ride home on the dragon.” Aed leaned in whispering “I think that is why he keeps coming back.”

“So he takes it out on me?” Jona asked “I will have to avoid him or beat him.”

His mother shook her head at the her men talking.

“You will teach him how to teach dragons. By teaching you will learn, by learning from each other, you will teach.” She said.

”I do not want you to be fighting, I will be sorely upset if you get in trouble and I have to come by way of dragon— and I will come by fast dragon— to get you out of trouble from the school.” Her eyes flashed, “Then you will be in trouble with ME!”

Jona shuddered, somehow trouble with his mother, against the trouble in school? He feared his mother far more than anything the school might throw at him, including dragons.

Walking by a large door, several staff were moving bucket of fish in front of a large door to one of the dragon’s rooms. Barely they had time to get the door open when a tongue snaked out and wrapped itself around the leg of one of the faculty. Screaming for help, several of the bucket movers fought with the tongue until it let loose and returned inside the room— but only for a moment.

Out snaked the tongue again, finding the bucket, it dragged the container inside the room where a sound of sloshing could be heard.

Then the heavy bucket was airborn out and bounced off the door with a loud BONG. Jona could make out the shape of an armored dog, more than twice his height, possibly bigger than even the dragon that had brought them here.

Jona shook down to his bones when the bucket, big as ten men standing shoulder to shoulder, bounced as if it was the ball that Jona had seen the red-headed merchant had thrown for his son, Dana.

Jona looked up, it seemed like spires of a castle towered overhead on the inside of the old volcano, the heat and smoke that came from the bottom of the hole warmed the buildings, the fires were great stones that were heated by fire-breathing dragons that were being taught how to use their powers without burning things down. Jona was not sure who were teachers or who were students.

It seemed as if there were dragons that were professors as they ambled by with great medallions around their neck and others would bow to the dragons.

“The Dragons teach?” Jona could not stop his mouth from echoing his thoughts.

Aed chuckled and nodded, “Yes, you don’t find many students that daydream in those classes.”

Jona gaped at a red dragon that sat before an old lady professor. Her hair was blood-red, salted with white hair. Around the neck of the graceful, scaled neck of the dragon hung a medallion, battered and scarred, was a medallion engraved with runes around its edge, dwarfed by the size of the dragon, it seemed to be meant for someone of a different size. The dragon bowed it’s great head, as the professor kissed the scaled head and hugged (as much as she could wrap her arms around the huge head) the dragon.

Dearbhail looked at her son as he looked at the odd couple while they walked.

“Careful you will bump into a column.” She laughed quietly, “Those are the two most senior professors here. She is a witch, half-elf and her husband is a powerful wizard that gave up his human form to save her life, once upon a time during a battle with invading barbarians. But he did it in a way that no one can ever turn him back to his old shape. Someone has to say the proper spell, the proper ways with the proper words. No one knows how he did it and he cannot say how it was. He speaks rough human language, but not enough to undo the spell he made.”

Jona thought about this as they walked on, looking around. “Is this a castle?”

He looked around. “It is so large!”

“No, this is a village,” Aed laughed. ‟Really, a collection of schools that have banded together to make a more protected place to teach. This old volcano is long stopped being a danger, the only heat comes from deep underground or the dragons themselves.”

“We lived here a long time before you were born.” His mother added.

“Hatched, is better said. We found you under a rock.” his dad laughed as they walked. “Watch it!”

Jona nearly walked into a tree trunk sized leg as he was looking around, the dragon looked down and sounded like it snorted angrily at him while it moved past.

“She apologized,” Dearbhail translated for him. “This school was built inside the this old volcano, it can storm outside with a blizzard and all you will get in here is a soft rain.”

“Unless he has a class in the outside area” Aed added. “You will need to learn how to ride on dragons as well. It takes practice and a bit of luck— and a lot of understanding on how a dragon moves, thinks and lives.”

“This way,” his mother said as they turned into a beautiful building. A column of dragon images, each with a name under it.

“Puff?” Jona read, “What kind of name is that for a dragon? That seem silly.”

“Heh,” His dad laughed softly. ‟He was a legendary dragon that made one of the first contacts with humans that did not end in one or the other being killed.” Aed nodded, “It was the beginning of understanding between dragons and other creatures of the world.”

“Where do we go from here?” Jona asked

“Inside, come.” His parents escorted him in and he met the second smallest dragon he had seen so far.

Jona watched her as she moved around, she had a short tail, and she was in a same moment, color shifting from sky blue to forest green, performing complex paperwork quickly as she concentrated. She was so pretty that the young man nearly forgot to breathe.

Jona’s mom smacked him in back of the head and brought him out of his own little world of fantasy as the girl sized dragon smiled and looked down at her work.

“Happens all the time with new students.” She said with a musical voice. “It happens with dragons, elves and humans all the same.” She sighed and went back to a folder and opened it, pulling out several documents.

‟Clan Samhain, one child, Jona” She looked up at the gape-mouthed teenager “That must be you.”

Aed chuckled as his mom hid her face in the palm of her hand as she tried to stifle a laugh. Jona continued to stare, compared to the other dragons he had seen in the school, there was nothing like her.

“My name is Kolo and you can stop staring now, I am here to help you get through your first years, I will be your mentor and teacher of language arts of the first order. I also teach sports, I am a swimming dragon, but I also can fly. Do you swim?” Kolo looked at Jona with a soft smile and a wink.

Jona only made a momentary sound and then Kolo tapped him on the forehead.

“Are you okay? Did you eat a sleep berry?” Kolo giggled, “Here, just give these to you folks and then come back when you have your brain in your head instead of my shirt.”

Walking away Kolo looked over her shoulder at Jona who was being led out of the room by his father as they went to the desks to fill out the proper paperwork.