Home > A Pirate's Wish

A Pirate's Wish
Author: S. E. Smith

Prologue

 

 

Centuries Before Present Day

Seven Kingdoms

 

Ashure Waves slipped the items he had just stolen into his pocket and tipped his hat to several pedestrians on the crowded cobblestone street as they passed by. A wide variety of prospective shoppers filled the marketplace on the Isle of the Giants, providing him with ample opportunities to keep his slight-of-hand skills sharp.

He fingered one of his prized possessions, a ring made of gold with a beautifully polished amber inlay. Sealed inside the amber was a speck of dust said to have been captured upon the creation of the Seven Kingdoms. He didn’t believe that, but it would be a good tale to tell when the time came to sell the ring.

He drunkenly hummed under his breath as he made his way back to the pirates’ Flagship, the Sea Wasp. His captain, the King of the Pirates, Simon Black, had sent a missive asking that he return early. Ashure hoped it didn’t mean that they were about to depart. He had made plans with a rather voluptuous Giant currently living above The Cyclops’ Tavern.

“Dull name for a tavern,” Ashure chuckled as he staggered down the dock. “She could have named it… ‘Aye, Eye Tavern’… or ‘The Single-Eyed Cyclops!” he loudly proclaimed as he stopped in front of the Sea Wasp. “Oh, but all Cyclops have just one eye, don’t they? That’s no good.”

He gripped the gangplank’s rope handrail, thankful for the added support, especially when his foot caught on one of the raised wooden strips that were meant to keep a person from slipping, and he leaned dangerously over the rope. He blinked several times at the dark water below him, then swore when he saw one of Nali’s nasty little Sea Monkeys grinning at him from the piling underneath. A shudder ran through him. Perhaps he shouldn’t have pilfered a bottle of Nali’s best brandy from her ship last week. He had been warned that the Empress of the Monsters had a wicked sense of humor, but, well, when opportunity presents itself….

“I’ll return it the next time I see her,” he promised. “I did leave her a lovely shell necklace in exchange for it.”

“Ashure! The Pirate King is waiting for you in his quarters,” Bleu LaBluff called to him from above.

Ashure frowned, wondering for the hundredth time why the Pirate King wanted to see him. He wasn’t an officer. Hell, he wasn’t even a very good pirate! He shook his head, hoping to clear it a bit. Even amongst the crew he was something of an oddball, and he had been an outcast from the non-thieving folk since he was old enough to reach a pocket.

Ashure looked at Bleu with a wide, sloppy grin. “Of course the Pirate King wants to see me. Everyone wants to see the famously fabulous—fabulously famous—Ashure Waves,” Ashure stated with an awkward bow at the waist and a fling of his arm.

Bleu walked down the plank and grabbed his arm when the movement almost sent him through an unprotected gap in the rope handrail. He awkwardly patted Bleu on the shoulder when the man muttered a curse as he turned Ashure in a tight circle and pushed him in the right direction. Ashure clumsily saluted and stumbled across the deck. Around him, he could hear snickers from the few men still on duty.

“The First Officer will have him scrubbing the decks in the morning if the Pirate King doesn’t take his soul tonight,” one of the men muttered.

Ashure scowled but didn’t turn to face them. He had heard rumors about the Pirate King since he was old enough to wipe his own nose. His father—at least the man he thought was most likely his sire—used to threaten to send him to the dreaded Pirate King, the man who would suck out his soul and keep it trapped forever. His mother had laughed and said the Pirate King wouldn’t waste his time with someone as weak and worthless as the thin-boned dock rat she seldom called ‘son’.

By the time Ashure was seven, he had lost both of his parents, and eventually, he started living aboard one of the pirate ships of his own free will. Still, whenever life became so terrible that he thought he would die, he escaped to one of the many isles. He had made part of his living from backbreaking work, but there had also been stealing and conning to make ends meet or simply to find pleasure in the world. That was why he never stayed in one place for very long. Whether on land or at sea, it had always been a pirate’s life for him.

Ashure pulled open a door and descended a staircase. He was almost to the bottom when he slipped and barely saved himself from a nasty fall. Pulling himself upright using the handrail, he straightened the shirt sleeves under his dark red coat. He also touched his head to make sure he had not lost his new hat, decorated with a brilliant blue, green, and purple plume from one of Empress Nali’s Thunderbirds. He hissed when a spark of electricity from the feather zapped the tips of his fingers. Yes, the hat was still there, feather and all.

Running his hands down his face, Ashure cleared his throat and blearily focused on the door at the end of the corridor. This would be his second face-to-face meeting with the Pirate King. He doubted the man would remember their first meeting. He had changed a bit since then. He shook himself and slapped his cheeks in an effort to sober up a little before he faced the leader of the Pirates.

“Please, Goddess, let him want only to thank me for scrubbing the decks so well,” Ashure muttered.

He stopped outside the door and raised his hand to knock. Before he could, the door opened by itself. Ashure stood outside, unsure of what to do next.

“Come in, Ashure,” Simon Black commanded in a deep, raspy voice.

Ashure stepped into the room. He glanced over his shoulder when the door shut behind him. As he scanned the Captain’s ornate quarters, he itched to explore the contents. He turned when he heard Simon’s low, harsh chuckle.

“You are a most unusual pirate, Ashure,” Simon commented by way of greeting as he rose from his seat behind the massive dark mahogany desk.

“It is better than being a usual one—sir—your Majesty,” Ashure retorted before he winced.

Simon laughed until he started coughing. Ashure watched as the old pirate took a shaky breath and leaned back against the desk. Then the Pirate King looked him up and down while Ashure stood stiffly. He braced himself for Simon’s harsh retort.

“You have a good heart, something that the pirates need,” Simon reflected.

“Sir?” Ashure said, confusion lacing his voice.

Simon gestured to the chair in front of a small fireplace. Ashure walked over and sat down, warily observing as Simon poured two glasses half-full of bourbon from a crystal decanter. He accepted the proffered glass but didn’t drink. His mind was clearing, and his gut was beginning to warn him that something terrible was about to happen.

With glass in hand, Simon sat down in the chair across from him. Ashure watched as the Pirate King downed half of the drink before moodily staring at the magical fire in the fireplace. Time passed as the Pirate King became lost in thought, and Ashure remained quiet, waiting.

“Do you remember the first time we met, Ashure?” Simon finally asked.

“I was rather hoping you might have forgotten, your Majesty,” Ashure grimaced. He lifted his drink and took a sip, thinking that this sounded like the beginning of a goodbye, and perhaps being drunk would make whatever was coming slightly more pleasant. “Oh! This is almost as good as the Empress’s,” he breathed. “As good—I meant to say ‘as good’,” he quickly amended.

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