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Authors: Chris A. Jackson

Tags: #Fantasy, #Scimitar Seas, #Pirates

Scimitar War

BOOK: Scimitar War
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Praise for the

Scimitar Seas

Series

“…a fine fantasy of the sea, well worth the read.” Midwest Book Review

“…a pirate fantasy that’s sure to entertain. I couldn’t put this one down! ” Barbara Theisen, Seven Seas Cruising Association

“…action packed…a very entertaining romp.” Latitudes and Attitudes BoatBooks reviews www.seafaring.com

“Adventure and intrigue on the high seas, in a richly imagined world of danger and magic.” Gail Z. Martin, author of the
Chronicles of The Necromancer
series

“Refreshingly different. A sparkling tale full of engaging characters you’ll want to see again. More please!” New York Times bestselling author Ed Greenwood, creator of
The Forgotten Realms®

Scimitar War

A Scimitar Seas Novel

Book Four

By

Chris A. Jackson

Scimitar War

Copyright © 2012 Chris A. Jackson

All rights reserved. Reproduction or utilization of this work in any form, by any means now known or hereinafter invented, including, but not limited to, xerography, photocopying and recording, and in any known storage and retrieval system, is forbidden without permission from the copyright holder.

Dragon Moon Press

www.dragonmoonpress.com

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Dedication

This novel is for all those who work in or on the sea.

She is a harsh mistress indeed, but treat her like a lady.

Acknowledgements

Great  thanks, as always, go to Gabrielle Harbowy for her patience and fine editing, and Gwen Gades for taking on this project to begin with. You have both given me the one thing I can never forget: a chance to prove myself as a writer. We, together, have done that and more.

To my wife Anne, I owe more than I can ever repay. Your patience, love, honesty and telling me when I’m wrong are but a few things that come to mind, and without which I could never have achieved the successes of this series. Oh, and for leaving everything to go sailing, for exploring the glories of the sea with me, for swimming with sharks and standing night watches, for doing without the creature comforts to join me in this adventure, and for all the things I can’t say…thank you.

Prelude

Host

Something neared. Something warm...alive…human. Blood pulsed through the human’s veins, a siren song only the demon could hear. Blood was its true love, its glory, and it lusted for a taste of the sweet, hot nectar.

Cold stone confined the demon, a prison fashioned by man. Millennia ago, lured by the promise of blood and the power it gave, it had answered the summons of those men. But they had trapped it, forced its essence into the water of the sea, which it hated with every fiber of its malevolent soul. They offered only titillating droplets of blood, then stripped away the power for their own use. But finally, in their greed for more power, they had made a mistake.

Its captors brought a woman, the sole survivor of a wrecked ship. She was not of their tribe, so its captors thought to sacrifice her to the demon, expecting to harvest even greater power in return. They slit her throat and plunged her head into the pool that was the demon’s prison, but the demon was clever. It followed the strong, pulsing flow into her body and closed the mortal wound behind itself. It filled her mind with thoughts of vengeance, and rejoiced when she welcomed the union. It reveled in this new vessel of flesh, infusing her blood with its essence. The demon was free from its prison, still captive within this malleable shell of skin and bone and unable to return to its otherworldly home, but liberated. Strong with its host’s blood, and using her hatred toward those who had sacrificed her, the demon exacted its revenge.

Blood…

It reveled in the deaths of its former captors until every last man, woman and child lay consumed at its feet. Suffused with the power of their blood, it lured a passing ship and walked for years through the cities of men. Humanity provided an endless feast, but those who feared and pursued its kind discovered the deception, and it knew what it was to be hunted. And always, the compelling magic of the demon’s stony prison called it back to that place. Finally, it found the means to return.

Bloodwind…

The demon offered power in exchange for blood; a good bargain until the host used too much power without the offer of blood. The pact was broken and it burst free of its fleshy prison to feed upon the blood of a seamage. But it was betrayed, pierced by cold iron.

Pain…

Imagining release from this hated world, it fought to the death. Instead, it found itself once again in the prison of stone and water, weak and impotent, alone in the dark, powerless to escape.

Until now…

The human drew near. The demon felt her fear, her thirst.

Water…
The projected thought used precious power, but the potential reward was blood.
Cool, clear, delicious water

Finally, a tentative finger dipped into the water and…it knew her. Hair like fresh-spilled blood, skin like cream…Camilla…and her blood was hot with fear, hatred, and despair. The demon had lusted after her blood for years when she was under the protection of Bloodwind, but now…here she was. She touched the drop of water on her fingertip to her exquisite lips.
Rapture…life…thirst
…it thought. Another drop.
Longing…thirst…hunger…

Her hands clutched the stone, and her lips neared the pool, touched its surface…she drank. The demon exulted as she drew its essence into her glorious vessel of flesh, bone and blood. Warm again, whole again, it reveled in the bliss of infusing a human body, swimming in the rivers of blood. It fed sparingly; she was frightfully weak and it was all the demon could do to keep her alive. Also, it knew her mind; Camilla would not be a willing host. And if she died, the demon would be stuck back in the cold, wet stone pool. Cautious, wary of her fear and of discovery, it soothed her mind and kept her alive with a thread of its power. It delved deep behind her thoughts, buried itself among her secrets, her dreams, and her nightmares. It was weak now, but the power would come.

It was Hydra once again…and it hungered.

Chapter 1

Search for Truth

Huffington lay awake in his bed, considering his assignments from the emperor. Kill the pyromage; that was straightforward. The boy had immolated the emperor’s flagship and all aboard her. Death was the only option. The seamage, however…More was going on with Cynthia Flaxal than met the eye. Huffington felt like he was looking into clear water ruffled by a breeze, the details distorted. One needed to slip beneath the surface to perceive the true picture. He was good at that.

The quiet click of the door latch, the scuff of a boot across the floor, and Huffington was instantly alert. He was billeted in the servants’ quarters of the seamage’s keep. The intruder seemed not to have disturbed any of his roommates, their slow, deep breathing unchanged.

The dark figure bent over him. Huffington sensed its arm being raised, and his reflexes took over.

“Blimey, mate!” Light from the newly uncovered lantern gleamed off the dagger at the marine’s throat. The wide-eyed corporal backed away from the bed. “Little touchy, ain’cha?”

“Sorry,” Huffington said, though he wasn’t. He sheathed his dagger and sat up. This room had no natural light, so it was impossible to tell whether it was day or night, but his body knew that it was not yet dawn. His mind leapt intuitively to the reason for the disturbance, and his spirits sank. “Master Upton?”

“Uh, yes, sir. Captain Donnely sent for ‘im, and ‘e sent for you.” Huffington could see the corporal make his own presumption regarding Upton, the emperor’s spymaster, and Huffington waking with a dagger in hand. “Said to have you meet ‘im on the pier.”

Huffington half considered refusing the summons, but relented. Though he had gained the upper hand in his last encounter with Upton—refusing to reveal how he intended to carry out the emperor’s orders—only a fool would continue to bait that bear. Huffington was no fool. Sighing, he levered himself out of bed and began donning his clothing. “Did he say why?”

“There’s been a murder, sir,” the corporal said, one finger working at the neckcloth of his uniform. “The Master of Security is to investigate.”

That stopped Huffington cold, halfway into his waistcoat. “Murder? Who?”

“One of the night watch, sir. The captain will show you.”

“Right.” He finished buttoning his waistcoat, tucked his dagger into the sheath sewn into the vest’s lining, put on his spectacles and reached for his shoes. “Thank you, Corporal. I’ll be there in a moment.”

“Very good, sir.”

The man saluted and left him to finish dressing. Huffington pulled on his shoes, trying to quell an uneasy thought: Had Tipos or Paska finally taken matters into their own hands? The natives had been furious when the admiral impounded the
Flothrindel
and refused to relinquish it to them so that they could search for their abducted kinsmen.

The stars were fading overhead as Huffington exited the keep, but the mountain shadowed the beach and bay from the first light of dawn. He could just make out the dark shape of a longboat pulling across Scimitar Bay, the coxswain’s muffled voice and the steady cadence of oars disturbing the fragile silence. By the time he reached the pier, Upton had climbed from the longboat and was walking toward him.

“Master Upton.”

“Mister Huffington,” Upton said coolly as he looked around. “Ah, Corporal. Where…”

“This way if you please, sir.” The marine whom Huffington had nearly killed turned on his heel and led them toward the shipyard dock, where a crowd of soldiers had assembled. To his relief, Huffington saw
Flothrindel
bobbing gently at the end of the dock.

Huffington waited until the marine was out of earshot before asking, “May I ask what service I’m expected to render here, Master Upton?”

Upton glanced sideways at him, “Given your background,” he said quietly, “I thought that you might be able to assist me in determining what happened.”

“Make a hole, lads! Make a hole.” The corporal pushed back the murmuring crowd to reveal a dismal scene. The sodden body of a marine lay on the dock, his lifeless eyes staring straight up at the lightening sky. Water soaked the boards around the corpse and dripped quietly into the bay. Huffington swallowed, not in reaction to the body itself—he’d seen death in many forms—but in an involuntary sympathetic response to the sight of the gaping hole in the man’s throat.

BOOK: Scimitar War
11.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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