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The Reaper of the Sea

Prologue

A Seaman’s Curse

“Beginnings are the hardest way to start a story. Ask any seaman. If you start too late, your audience will be left confused. If you start too early, they’ll be left bored. If you don’t give the listener the right information, they’ll be left confused as to the rest of the story. Give them too much information at once, they’ll be bored and start thinking of things like ‘I wonder what’s for dinner?’”

I paused, letting the dramatics sink into my growing crowd.

“So here is my dilemma: Where do I start my story?”

I stood up and walked around the large hall, lit by the torches at night. They sat on benches at tables that had at one point held loads of food on them. Now the bones of animals littered the table along with empty glasses. Their stomachs were full, their minds loose. It was the perfect time to tell a story.

It was a rough crowd, but considering they were all my men and fellow seafaring thieves, I understood why they seemed so rough.

I had paused for several moments, leaving my question unanswered, and no one tried to answer it, something I felt was rather surprising.

A man, who had drunk far too many drinks than was necessary, stood up, and yelled at me, slurring his words.

“Get on with y-your bloody s-story!”

I looked straight at the man, staring him down. The man slowly shrunk back to his seat at his table. The people next to him were passed out on the table, their long hair in their faces, the man snoring loudly and the woman fidgeting with a knife in her sleep.

I began to pace in front of their tables again, having stopped to stare down the drunken man.

“You see, there is no real clear way to start my story. But my best bet is to make sure that you know the oath that all of you swear to our captains or that we have sworn to us. Because I am afraid you will need to know it to understand the gravity of how many times it was broken in the tale I am about to tell.”

I sat down in my chair at the head of the hall. It was made of a darkened stone, with moss growing on the sides of it. From the stone ceiling, a waterfall fell onto the back of my chair and flowed down the sides of it towards a small pool in front of me towards the edge of the steps. In the middle of the small pool lay one of the last skulls of the dragons of the sea. The ancestors had thought it would strike fear in the hearts of the captains underneath the Lord of the Sea.

It had worked for some time, but now they all just thought it was a fake, fashioned to make the Lord’s rule seem more legitimate. Granted, it was partially true. It did make our rule seem more legitimate. But, anyone who said so out loud, was hung and left for the birds to peck at and eat.

“The oath, you all should know it. But I rather doubt you do. You may have said the words, but do you all remember it? Probably not. Which means you haven’t taken them to heart. So listen closely to me while I say them once for your ears to hear.

“By the gods above and the men of the sea,
I do swear my loyalty, my allegiances, my honor, and my pride
Until my gold is taken,
Until my ships are burned,
Until my service ended, by death or by banishment,
I, Captain Everton Arnes, do swear these things.”

I paused for a moment, watching the words sink into the hearts of my men. Most of them had gone silent. Taking a few moments to think about the words.

But, the drunken idiot stood up again and began to slur his words.
“W-why should w-we give a r-rats ass about t-those w-words?” he said, standing up again, his long greasy hair sticking to his face.

“Come here,” I said, beckoning the man towards me.

He did as he was told and stumbled his way forward, ascending the steps, though not without tripping several times and throwing up all over the steps, giving them a bright new red color from the wine he had tried to process.

Finally, he stood at the edge of the pool.

“Let this man be an example to you all!” I said, standing up and whipping out my pistol from its holster and with a quick, fluid motion sending four bullets into the man. One to his neck, the other to his heart, and the last two to his legs.

He fell forward into the pool, the water turning red from the blood. The fire inside the skull made me seem all the more menacing as my shadows danced around the flames.

“Would anyone else like to add themself to the water here? Or are you all content with letting me tell my story?”

There was a silence so quiet in the hall that one could hear the rats as they crawled across the tables and floor.

I put my pistol back in its holster and sat back down.

“I’m glad we’re all in an agreeable manner tonight. Now, where was I?”

“You just told us the oath!” a gruff voice from someone in the crowd shouted.

“Thank you, my dear sir,” I said in return. “Now there’s one more thing I must tell you about before I can truly start my story. And that would be the curse of a seaman.”

I picked up my cup from the tray that sat beside my throne. I took one long gulp of the red liquid, a fire began running through me.

Words always came easier whenever I was on the drunk side of things. Don’t ask me why, I can’t explain it. It just loosened me up enough to make my stories fun and interesting.

“The curse of a seaman I do not expect for you all to know,” I said. “It’s something that’s rather unknown at this point, but everyone knows it. I know that makes little sense to your small brains, but give me a moment and it will become clear. You know it, but you cannot put it into words. So I will do my best. So, what is it, this curse? The curse of a seaman is that they are addicted to the seas. They cannot be gone from them. They cannot stop living on the sea. The curse of the seaman binds their heart to the sea. Once a seaman, always a seaman.

“That’s exactly why we don’t care about the damned continents. They stay out of our land, we stay out of theirs.

“Which is exactly why we are here today. The continents want more. They see money in the sea, and they want to take it from us.

“But, I must confess. It is partially my fault. If I had never tried to steal the girl, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in today. But that comes much later in our story.”

I paused, letting the words sink into my crowd for a moment.

“Now let’s start at the beginning. I think I’ve given you enough information to understand. And if you don’t, you’re probably too drunk to understand anyways. But I must say, it wouldn’t be a good beginning without an explosion or two, a few deaths, and a dashing escape.”

Copyright © 2021 Titus Watson All rights reserved.

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