Monday, December 3, 2018

"Queen of Black Sails" by P. J. Daniels

Queen of Black Sails
by P. J. Daniels

Queen of Black Sails by P. J. Daniels

Author P. J. Daniels stops by today to share an excerpt from his new novel, Queen of Black Sails.

Sarah Chartimands is a captain in a magic world. Her ship: The Lady Flotsam. Her crew: pirates. After rescuing an old friend and mentor, Sarah sets out for the haul of a lifetime: the King's gold. However, when not all goes according to plan, she finds herself on the run, outnumbered, and questioning her reality; all in a city trying to kill her. This adventure is loaded to the brim with guns, swords and spells. Can Sarah salvage a botched plan? More importantly, will she find a way out, alive?

Chapter One
Visibility was low. It wasn’t just the darkness of night that impeded sight, it was also the fog. A thick blanket wrapped the Hawesford, a large privateer ship with unmarked, white, sails. It was a ship built to intimidate, with a dozen cannons on the sides alone. The crew was well organized and usually reacted well to surprises, considering their line of work. The wind was low, so forward motion was minimal. The waves moved enough to lap loudly against the wood that separated the crew from the sea. They hadn’t been to sea for long before the winds died down and the fog set in. They spent the daylight hours moving slow; trying not to get turned around so close to land, lest they run ashore.
The captain stood behind the helmsman, overseeing the deck below. He was a tall man, with broad shoulders and thick arms. He wore a long black coat that hung over a white shirt that looked too tight for his massive chest muscles. He had pants that matched his coat in colour and in style. His long grey hair was tied in a single strand at the back of his head, which was topped with a black captain's cap. His eyes traveled over the ship, and back out to the fog. He had many eyes watching for danger, but he was not the sort to leave everything to his crew. He preferred to be more involved.
A multitude of oil lamps moved about the ship, guiding the crew at least a little in the low light. The fog was so thick that parts of the ship were not visible to the captain, so he was relying on steady messages passed along from crew further down.
Motion caught the captain’s eye, and he followed it to the sails. Something small and bright had moved near the large central sail, and it only took a moment for him to realize what it was: a flaming arrow. The sail lit up like a bonfire; much to the surprise, and horror, of the crew.
‘The sails were wet!’ Was the first thought the captain had upon seeing his sails catch fire. His second thought was spoken, loudly.
“Detach that sail before the others catch!” He bellowed.
White shirts surged in unison, cutting ropes as fast as they could while others fetched buckets of water to douse the flames.
A third thought spoke inside the captain’s head. ‘Where had the arrow come from?’
He turned to the sea as the fog parted, revealing another ship at spitting distance. It was a small vessel, from what he could see, about half the size of the Hawesford. That wouldn’t make a difference at this range. He’d been taken by surprise. He didn’t have time to load his many cannons. This wasn’t going to be a navel battle. He looked up at the smaller ship's black sails; he was being boarded. He didn’t have time for any complex orders, He needed to defend his ship.
“Pirates!” He shouted.
The crew stopped what they were doing, but any that were close to the side had little time to react to the wave of blades and bodies that made their way onto the ship. Clad in black they flowed over his men below him, not even letting them draw their swords to defend themselves.
The captain and helmsman drew their swords and entered the fray, as the initial surprise wore off. The crew that were below deck rushed up wooden steps toward the attackers. They battled below burning sails. The privateers had the advantage of numbers, regardless of the initial surprise.
The captain’s confidence in his advantage began to wane when the pirates pushed forward, hard. He couldn’t believe it. Despite being outnumbered ten to one, they were pushing forward steadily. The deck was large, so if they kept pushing toward the center, they would end up being surrounded.
‘This tactic is foolish.’ He thought. ‘Or am I missing something?’
The battle slowed to a stop once they were surrounded, about a dozen pirates formed a circle in the center, back to back. The captain had to admit, these were skilled combatants. Only a few of their own had fallen by this point, but many white shirts lay bleeding and motionless. Taking a closer look at them, the captain could see steel and fire in their eyes; not literally, but he imagined it. These were hardened men. These were killers, plain and simple. They had fought for survival at sea for all their lives, doing what was necessary. They had each reached the pivotal point of killing for their own survival, and had become harder because of it. They didn’t enjoy the death they brought, but they saw the necessity. These were men that were broken, but rebuilt as iron statues, with swords in hand; automatons, built for war and death.
‘But who commanded them?’ He thought. ‘Where was their captain?’
From both sides of the ship came gunfire. While they had concentrated on the dozen or so pirates on the deck, the remainder of their crew had climbed along the edge of the ship to take up shooting positions. At the perfect moment, they all rose, and cut the white shirts to pieces with fire and lead from their pistols. They died so fast, they may as well have been lined up for execution. The few moments they had, to decide which target to attack, was wasted. They were too far away to strike at the attackers on the sides of the ship, but they were not currently coordinated enough to strike at the dozen in the center circle. So, they died in their confusion, leaving piles of white and red on the dark wood of the deck. The captain didn’t fair any better than his crew. He took a shot to the chest before he could draw his own pistol. He fell to his knees, shock taking all control of his muscles. Before he closed his eyes for the last time, he noted two things: first, a woman stood on the edge of the ship, pistol in hand, with hair as green as seaweed; second, his sails had burned completely black.

About the Author
P. J. Daniels
Born in Pembroke Ontario, raised in neighbouring city Cobden. I've enjoyed creating written worlds since I could read. My favourite project in school was when we got to write a story. I can spend hours talking about new ideas with like-minded writers.