A brutal fantasy tale of piracy, friendship, romance and revenge on the high seas…
It was almost a year after the master of the Rey Don Phillipos met his maker that Bony Mary came looking for Tall Jack.
She found him in the island’s least reputable tavern with a fat slattern on his lap and a bumper of exceptional rum in his fist. He had obviously been drinking for some time, because he blinked owlishly at her and even went so far as to blow her a kiss. She sighed and jerked a thumb at the tavern wench, who made herself scarce. Once Jack was unencumbered, she carefully removed the tankard from his hand and hefted him under one brawny arm. In most situations the next destination would be the harbour, but she had a sneaking suspicion that a half dwarf with a steel leg was likely to sink without trace, and she sort of liked the little shit. Instead she headed for the bathhouse where she handed the, by now swearing, pirate into the tender care of two very camp young men.
The younger of the duo looked into Jack’s bloodshot eyes. “Give us an hour, Mary, and he’ll be all yours.”
“Just don’t let the little weasel escape. Or I will be annoyed.”
With which imprecation she ambled off to arrange a decent meal and bottle of the best red wine piracy could provide. When she returned to the bathhouse, a sober and clean-shaven Jack eyed her with real dislike.
“This,” he said bitterly, “had better be good. That beard took me the better part of five years to grow.”
Mary favoured him with a sour smile. “Oh, it’s good. Well, no, it ain’t good. But you needs to hear it. And with a sober head.”
Normally, Jack would have argued for form at least, but something in the set of Mary’s meaty shoulders told him this wasn’t the time for random contrariness.
“Okay, then, let’s go somewhere where we can talk.”
Mary didn’t bother to reply, merely turning on her heel and striding off at a pace that had Jack running to keep up.
“Oy,” he puffed. “Tin leg behind you.”
It is a measure of just how disturbed Mary was that she not only abated her pace, but she also muttered an apology.
Once they were seated at a table in the dining room of one of the cleaner bunkhouses around the harbour with bowls of steaming fish stew in front of them and glasses of almost priceless ruby-red wine at their elbows, Mary started to speak.
“I’ve just come back from San Christo. While I was there I checked up on Isabella.”
Jack must have looked as puzzled as he felt because Mary looked skywards and make a tisking noise with her tongue.
“Isabella is the girl we rescued from Don Carlos’ fragging treasure ship. The one you gave a share of the booty to.”
“Oh. Right. I just never knew her name. Is she doing okay now?”
“Yeah. She’s fine. But that ain’t the point. The girl seems to think she owes the pirates of Retiro de Ladrones, so she keeps her ear to the ground and her mouth shut. She works as a bookkeeper for the banquier who holds all our moneys. And she eavesdrops…”
“Why am I getting a bad feeling about this?”
“Because maybe you should. Seems that Don Carlos had him a brother. One Esteban. A very wealthy man. And one who would seem to bear grudges…”
“Tell on, my friend.” Jack suddenly started sounding as dangerous as he undoubtedly was.
“Yeah. Well. I am. Just lining it up right in my head. This Esteban, he takes his brother’s death hard and vows to find the scoundrels responsible and put them to the sword. Only there’s hundreds of pirates out there. But then he got lucky.”
“He did? And how might that be?”
“There’s hundreds of pirates. But there ain’t too many undead talking rats.”
“No. I guess not. There’s probably about one.”
“Probably. So this Esteban is on San Christo throwing gold around like it’s worth nothing. Offering anybody who brings him your head more money than most of us could ever dream of.”
“Many takers?” Jack asked in a deceptively mild voice.
“So far as I heard, none. But there is gonna be a few.”
At that second, a manky looking parrot landed on Mary’s shoulder and chortled derisively. “Pieces of eight,” it grated.
“Shut up Gravel.” Jack threw the ugly yellow and blue bird a crab claw which it caught in its beak.
His mind clicked into gear right about the same time as Mary’s; they both leapt to their feet.
“One-Eye Sam. Assassin to the masses.”
There will be more from Bony Mary and her crew next week…