This is a preview of a short story that was published in the Sacred Bands issue of the Forbidden Love journal from Under the Moon.
Artwork by Anne Cain
(updated excerpt from earlier post. Changed after editing)
© 2007 Jet Mykles, all rights reserved
“Damn it,” Joshua muttered, spinning at the sound of running footsteps at his back. He brought his weapon on guard and faced the next man who wanted to try and take down the pirate captain. This time he kept only cleared deck and bodies to his back, taking on the two that came at him, parrying ably with the cutlass, enough to keep one at bay and flick the tip of his rapier across the face of the other.
Both men fell back under his attack, judging their next move. Joshua had seen the look countless times before. He had worked hard over the years to merit the reputation to cause it. Captain Joshua Hartley of the Savage Wind. Terror of the Florida Keys and particular enemy to Spaniards such as themselves. He wore his distinctive, heavy violet coat despite the wet, oppressive heat of the day and his signature straight black hair was pulled into a tail that extended down his back, fully visible thanks to his customary lack of hat. The coat, his square, unshaven chin and exceptionally long hair identified him as certainly as the screaming skeleton profile on his ship’s flag.
One of the men smiled a gap-toothed grin despite the bleeding gash Joshua had opened in his cheek. He reached for the sash at his waist, toward the pistol tucked there.
Joshua’s eyes narrowed. Blast it! How had the man managed to not discharge his pistol yet when the battle was nearly over? Saving it for the pirate captain? He must not have been a very good shot to have waited for such close quarters. Thinking quickly, Joshua judged his chances of knocking the pistol aside. But to do that, he’d have to get closer and the man’s squat companion looked to be ready to defend.
The man with the pistol brought it out, manically grinning as he lifted it. “Muere, Diablo!” “Die, devil!”
Eyes narrowed, Joshua charged, again determined to take at least one of the bastards with him.
A shot rang out.
The man with the pistol fell to the deck with a hole in his forehead, his weapon still cocked to fire. Shocked that the hole was not a gaping wound in his own chest, Joshua almost lost track of the sailor with the cutlass. At the last moment, he managed to turn aside the attack that would have eviscerated him. Instead it took a good slice out of his side. Hissing, he shoved back out of the blade’s reach.
The sailor, lusting for more of Joshua’s blood, crouched, ready to charge. A flash of blue fabric and shining steel caught him unawares. Tristan, still holding a smoking pistol in his left hand, stepped in and calmly skewered the man through the side.
Damn! He’s a dead shot with both hands?
“Damn it, boy!” Joshua cursed, dropping his acquired cutlass to press a palm to his bleeding side.
Tristan tucked his spent pistol neatly into his sash alongside two others, then nimbly lifted his dagger from its sheathe on his belt and flipped it into proper hold in his palm. “You’re welcome, Captain.” Calm and cool, Tristan took a ready stance to Joshua’s wounded left just as two more opponents charged.
Joshua twisted and parried a slice from an officer’s saber then got in a good thrust of his own. Unfortunately, the officer parried the thrust with a twist of his blade that nearly took Joshua’s own. Joshua was forced to twist aside and step back to avoid the shining blade.
Joshua heard the distinctive sing of blades from Tristan’s battle right behind him. Without conscious thought, he and his over-aged cabin boy maneuvered themselves back to back.
“I thought I told you to stay aboard the Wind!” Joshua sneered, never taking his eyes from the Spaniard before him.
“You did.” Tristan grunted, voice still calm and cultured despite his actions. “But I felt a burning need to come and save your ass.”
A quick swing to his head had Joshua ducking and kept him from commenting immediately. He fought the unreasoning panic that welled in his chest at the thought of Tristan in danger. Despite the wound in his side and the fact that he knew Tristan was perfectly capable of fending for himself, Joshua was far more frightened for his “cabin boy” than he was for himself. But he couldn’t very well help Tristan if distraction got him killed! Angry at himself, he threw himself at the officer, thrusting through the skirt of the man’s smart black jacket as well as some of the pristine white shirt beneath. The officer tried to take advantage of the fouling of his blade, but Joshua caught the man’s sword arm. They grappled. Joshua tugged his blade and finally managed to free it. Without letting on, he twisted his wrist and brought the blade up and across the man’s chest. There wasn’t enough strength behind the slice to kill, but it opened the man’s shirt and a good portion of the skin of his chest, making him bleed. The officer cried out in shock, fell to his knees and froze when Joshua put his blade underneath the man’s jaw.