Authors: Conrad Mason
Half-goblin boy Joseph Grubb is the newest member of the Demon's Watch. He and his fellow watchmen protect Port Fayt, where humans live in peace alongside trolls, elves and fairies. And now the town needs them more than ever, because the almighty League of the Light has sent an armada to wipe it off the map.
The Fayters' only hope is to persuade the magical merfolk to fight with them. But the merfolk won't go to war. Not unless their princess is returned to them from the clutches of the most dangerous nine-year-old in the Ebony Ocean.
It's up to Joseph and his friend Tabitha to rescue the mermaid princess â¦ But a secret from Joseph's past is about to change everything.
Also by Conrad Mason:
Tales of Fayt, Book I: The Demon's Watch
For Mark and Verity
IT'S NOT THE
pain that he enjoys.
It's the fear.
He straightens his glasses with a thumb and forefinger and inspects the creature squirming on the desk before him. It is pinned to a wooden block, wings pierced with Azurmouth steel so that it cannot escape from the darkened cabin.
A female fairy.
There is a grotesque fascination in the way it struggles, tries to lift its wings against the steel of the pins, begs, pleads with him to let it go. Almost unbearably disgusting.
âI'll tell you anything,' it cries. âPlease. I promise.'
âAnything? Truly, you'd tell me anything?'
He is rewarded with a flicker of hope in the creature's eyes.
âYes, sir. I've lived in Port Fayt all my life, sir. I've seen some things, I can tell you. Just give me a chance.'
He leans over the desk, one hand resting on a green marble paperweight, examining the way the creature's wings protrude through holes cut into the fabric of its dirty dress. So foul. So unnatural.
âBut what could you possibly know that might help me?'
âI've seen their fleet, sir. The Fayter fleet. I can tell you about their men and their guns. I can tell you all about Governor Skelmerdale. I can tell you â¦ I can â¦' Its voice peters out. The flicker of hope dies.
âSuppose you could. What difference would it make? Do you really suppose the Fayters stand a chance against us? No, my dear. I fear you are no use at all.'
âKill me then. I'm not afraid.'
It has stopped struggling now and lies, tiny arms folded, glaring up at him. Its body glows faintly against the wooden block.
He raises his eyebrows. He had not expected this. Bravery, from such a despicable creature. He would not have thought it possible. And this bravery has driven away all trace of the fear. The fear that he so enjoys.
âI am impressed,' he admits. âMost impressed.'
There is a knock at the door.
Morning sunshine spills into the cabin as a white-jacketed marine ducks his head inside.
âYour honour, a vessel has been sighted to the west of our fleet. A wavecutter, flying no colours.'
The Duke of Garran considers for a moment, then nods.
âVery well. I will attend to it.'
He sweeps his hat from the desk, making the fairy flinch.
âDon't worry,' he tells it. âYou've shown me that you are brave. You're not afraid any more. That's good. Very good.'
Hope returns to the fairy's eyes. Delicious. And in one swift movement, the Duke of Garran lifts the marble paperweight and brings it down.
There is not even a scream.
He turns back to the marine.
âSend someone in here,' he says, âto clean my desk.'
JOSEPH GRUBB CLUNG
to the ratlines, gripping the ropes so tightly they burned his hands.
âWhat are you waiting for?' came Tabitha's voice from below.
He gritted his teeth and kept climbing, doing his best to block out everything except the regular motion: left foot, right hand; right foot, left hand.
Come on. You can do this.
Back in Fayt, he used to scramble up the stepladder in his uncle's pantry every day. Two weeks ago he'd even clambered onto the rooftops of the Marlinspike Quarter to chase a cat. And now he was climbing to the crow's nest of a wavecutter, swaying on a few bits of rope more than
a hundred feet above the deck, so high that the people below looked like colourful beetles. So high that â¦ He swallowed.
He paused again, panting, brow prickling with sweat. On his raised right arm a fresh tattoo was scored into his greyish-pink mongrel skin. A swirling blue shark â the mark of a watchman. It was still almost impossible to believe that this was what he was. But the proof was right there, in front of his eyes. The Demon's Watch. Protectors of Port Fayt. Scourge of all sea scum.
Scourge of Mrs Bootle's pies, more like.
The thought made him smile, and he started to climb again.
The crow's nest wasn't far now. As he moved, a spyglass bumped around inside the right pocket of his breeches, balancing out the bouncing of the cutlass on his left hip. Captain Newton had given it to him on the day he got his tattoo. The hand-guard was made of thick, solid brass, and the hilt had smooth oiled leather wrapped tightly around it. There was a small shark carved on the blade, and a word neatly lettered beneath it â GRUBB.