By EM Malachi
The mage had surrounded himself with the maps. Some were ancient parchment, their mistakes and ignorance covered with drawings of dragons and drakes. Others were current shipping routes, still bearing the wax seal of Vesper Customs. The rest were faded or moldy sketches done by pirate captains over the years. Rankin frowned. “What am I supposed to be seeing?”
“A new kingdom,” replied Hook, as he sharpened a knife.
Rankin traced a circle around Buccaneer’s Den on a sea chart with a finger. “I guess I can see that, if you claim another major island or two. Nujel’m, maybe ?”
“You miss the point. Landlubbers look at the world as kingdoms bounded by coasts. The high seas themselves are much larger. The very ocean will be my kingdom.”
“How could you hope to hold that much territory?”
“Does Blackthorn control every mountain or cavern in Britannia? No, he governs the cities and roads. Those roads are dotted with outposts, and the threat of his armies is enough to hold the rest. The Guild’s fleet is the army to claim the shipping routes, but my plan also requires outposts along these ocean roads.”
Rankin thought for a moment and picked up a list of numbers. “These were stolen from the Lycaeum. They are the coordinates of every seamount and vanishing island in recorded history. With some of the spells I learned from a hiding Lithos cultist, I could raise the earth and stone at some of them. Would that help?”
The sea serpent had made its home in the waters around the seamount. The waters were warm, and the shallows teemed with schools of fish. The monster had filled its belly for years here.
That changed when the underwater mountain rumbled and cracked. The chaos set off a panic among the fish, which fled for safer waters. Great stones stacked themselves up to the surface.
Something up there had destroyed its home, and the serpent was now very angry and very hungry.
Rankin jotted down the coordinates he needed. “I gather the new cannons being cast are for these outposts of yours? The metal workers did mention that the bores were larger than normally used on a ship.”
Hook polished the steel of his cutlass. “My plunderbeacons needed appropriately impressive artillery. Such weapons also send a message.”
“I can only raise so much stone. You still need to get enough lumber out there for docks and cannon mounts. I guess you could repurpose a ship if need be.”
Hook smiled. “Let me worry about that.”
The sailors lowered the sails on the captain’s order. Everyone knew the crew of the Golden Kraken was honorable and would only steal valuable cargo. It was safer to surrender than risk damage to the ship.
As the Golden Kraken closed for a boarding action, another sailor saw the black flag and drew his sword. The pirate ship slammed into the merchant sloop, and several orcs jumped aboard, all armed with cutlasses. The largest orc grabbed the quartermaster and tossed him overboard. Then the rest of the orcs began the slaughter.
Hook admired the gleam of the polished cutlass. “I do enjoy the finer things in life. Reminds me that I need to go kill a man. Is there anything else we should talk about before I do?”
Rankin nodded. “There was another thing in an old Guildmaster’s notes. He mentioned finding a lost rune…”