Authors: Justin Somper
Tags: #Action & Adventure - General, #Vampires, #Action & Adventure, #Children's 9-12 - Fiction - Horror, #Juvenile Fiction, #Family - Siblings, #Fantasy & Magic, #Fiction, #Horror & Ghost Stories, #Twins, #Children: Grades 4-6, #General, #Children's Books - Young Adult Fiction, #Pirates
way we can get Connor out of Captain Wrathe’s articles? Is there a way we can both get off
“Of course,” said Cheng Li, matter-of-factly. “I was about to come to that.”
“Pirate Academy?” Connor repeated. “You want us to jump ship and go to
“It isn’t a question of jumping ship,” Grace said. “It would all be aboveboard. And it would just be for a week. Captain Wrathe would sign us off...”
Connor stared incredulously at his sister over the now-empty pot of Sea Lily Tea. Cheng Li had disappeared to the bar and Grace had fetched Connor to join her in the booth.
, Gracie? You know me and schools ...it’s just not a good combination.”
Grace smiled. “I know, Connor. But we’re not talking about Crescent Moon Bay High. We’re talking Pirate Academy. Forget dull old tests and required reading lists. We’re talking classes in combat and navigation and EMS . . .”
Grace smiled. “Extreme Maritime Survival!” she an-nounced proudly.
Connor laughed. “Wow! Cheng Li did a good selling job on you.” He paused. “And that’s another thing. Just suppose I
think this was a good idea — and I’m not saying that I do — but just
I did...how on earth would we get Captain Wrathe to agree, knowing that Cheng Li invited us and that she’d be looking after us there?”
Grace nodded. “I’ve thought of that,” she said. “We can’t pretend that Cheng Li isn’t involved. Captain Wrathe is no fool. But we’ll play down her involvement. We’ll just say that we’d like a chance to see what the Academy is all about — and to bring back some new skills to
. Maybe even a new recruit or two?”
“I don’t know if he’d go for that.” Connor shook his head.
“You know him better than I do,” Grace admitted, “but we’re only asking for a week away . . . initially.”
“Initially? What do you mean ‘initially’?”
Grace took a deep breath. “Connor, I’ve been wanting to talk to you.” She could see a wave of caution cross over his face, but she gritted her teeth and persisted. “It’s about your articles.”
“What about them?”
“I just wish ...Well, I just wish that you hadn’t signed up to Molucco quite so quickly.”
“He saved my life, Gracie.”
“And now he’s endangering it.”
“What do you mean?”
She hadn’t meant to lay it so bluntly on the line. But now it was out there, so she might as well be frank.
“Cheng Li told me that it’s only a matter of time before one of the other captains turns on Molucco . . .”
“Drakoulis is a fruitloop, Grace, a nutjob, a psycho. We were unlucky . . .”
“Jez was a little more than
,” she said. She saw Connor’s face fall. “I’m sorry Connor, but I’m concerned about you. I’m concerned about
. I think we’re in grave danger if we stay on
Connor grinned at her. “Hey, kiddo. We thrive on danger, you and I.”
She couldn’t return his smile. “Please, Connor. You have to take me seriously. I have nothing against Molucco Wrathe personally. I’m grateful to him — he gave you a home and now he’s offered me one, too. But Cheng Li says it’s only a matter of time before one of the other pirate ships attacks
. With you in the attack line, I’m worried — really worried — that you’ll be killed.”
Connor reached out a hand toward hers. “I understand how you feel,” he said. “And, for what it’s worth, I’ve had the same thoughts since Jez was killed. Molucco isn’t a bad man but the way he behaves does invite trouble. I’d never say this to anyone else, but I think Jez died needlessly.”
Grace gripped Connor’s hand tightly. She hadn’t expected to hear him say such things. After their separation — and all that had happened to them subsequently — it was sometimes too easy to forget the deep bond they shared. It was good to know it was still there.
“So, will you ask Molucco, then?” she chanced.
“For one week’s leave to visit Pirate Academy?”
“I’ll ask him. But I’m not at all optimistic that he’ll agree.”
“Thanks, Connor. Apart from anything, it’ll be great to be away, just for a bit. We can have a proper talk about the future. About where we want to go, what we want to do.”
“Gracie, I’ll ask Captain Wrathe to give us a week’s leave but when that’s over, I have to go back to
“And I have to go back with you.” She couldn’t stop the words from spilling out.
Connor frowned. “What does that mean?”
“You’ve signed up to the articles,” she said. “I haven’t.”
“Not yet,” he said. “But you will, won’t you? Isn’t the only thing that matters that we’re together?”
Grace let go of his hand. “We
be together if you get killed in an attack, Connor. And you know me well enough to understand that I won’t just wait around for that to happen.”
“What will you do, then? Where will you go?” He looked her in the eye.
She couldn’t tell him but she wasn’t quick enough to disguise her thoughts.
“Oh no, Grace.
You’re not thinking of going back to the Vampirate ship?”
She sighed. “There are people there who need me.”
“Not people,” he said, shaking his head. “Vampires. Monsters. Demons.”
“You’re entitled to your views,” she said quietly.
Connor was angry now. “You lecture me about keeping safe and all the time you’re planning on hitching another ride on a ship where they sleep all day and drink blood all night.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said. Now she was getting angry, too. He knew next to nothing about the Vampirate ship. If only he understood the pain Lorcan was in — how much he needed her.
“Grace, I can’t believe you. I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation.”
“Look,” she said, with steel in her voice, “I don’t want to fight you, Connor. You’re the most important person in my world, you know that. And you’re right — we should stay together. But there are things we haven’t talked about — things we haven’t had
to talk about with everything else that’s gone on around us. If you could just persuade Molucco to let us off the ship for a week, we’d have that chance.”
Connor shook his head in resignation. Somehow, she always managed to argue things around to her way of thinking. “All right,” he said. “All right, I’ll go and ask him. But don’t expect miracles.”
He drew back the curtain which separated the booth from the balcony. Leaning over, he could see Molucco, sitting with Ma Kettle and feeding bar snacks to Scrimshaw.
“Captain Wrathe!” Connor called. “Captain Wrathe! Could I have a word with you?”
“Of course, my boy. Come on down!”
In the next booth along, Sidorio and Stukeley hear Connor’s cry.
Stukeley sits bolt upright. “That’s Connor,” he says, “and Molucco.” Instinctively, he reaches for the curtain that closes them off from the bar below.
Sidorio reaches out and catches his wrist.
“I told you. No.”
“Okay, Okay. Ow, you’re hurting me.”
“Sorry,” mumbles Sidorio, releasing his grip but pushing Stukeley’s hand back toward the table. “Just leave that curtain alone.”
“Well this is no fun,” Stukeley says. “No fun at all.”
“No?” Sidorio surveys his lieutenant once more.
“Well, I can’t drink anything,” he says, tapping his tankard. It is still three-quarters full of beer — and the remaining quarter has been spluttered out and spilled on the table. “Can’t seem to keep it down,” he goes on.
“Things are changing inside you,” Sidorio says. “Be patient.”
Stukeley frowns and lifts the tankard once more.
“No!” Sidorio exclaims, infuriated.
Defiantly, Stukeley takes a sip of ale. Sidorio shakes his head with frustration as Stukeley begins to choke once again. He leans over and thumps his companion on the back.
“Ow! Stop attacking me!”
“STOP trying to drink. You
Sidorio sighs wearily. “Be patient.”
Be patient! Be patient! Don’t look at anyone. Don’t speak to anyone. Leave the ale alone.
Captain, you’re sounding an awful lot like my mother.”
Sidorio shakes his head. Maybe it is time to cut this crackpot loose? But no. It is the early days. It is so long since he went through the metamorphosis himself that he can’t predict what will happen next. If he can just wait this out, treat it as an experiment, things will surely be easier with the next one he brings back. And the next one. And then the one after that. Sidorio’s army. Sidorio’s crew. These are comforting words. Just what he needs to cheer himself up.
“Forget the beer. We’re leaving.”
Decisively, Sidorio draws himself to his feet.
“Why? Where are we going? What more thrills do you have in store for me?”
Sidorio laughs. “Thrills? I’ll give you thrills! I know what you need.”
He charges out of the booth. Stukeley grabs his coat and follows his new master.
“What are you talking about? Where are we going? What
I need?” Stukeley says, following on his tails.
Sidorio has reached the stairwell. He freezes for a moment and turns back to face his tiresome lieutenant.
“Blood, Stukeley. What you need is blood.”
“Well,” Connor said, rejoining Grace, “It’s all decided.”
“He said yes?”
“Yes,” boomed Molucco Wrathe, appearing at Connor’s side. “The captain said yes.”
Grace flushed with embarrassment. “I’m sorry, Captain Wrathe. I didn’t see you there. But thank you ...for letting us go. That’s great news.”
Captain Wrathe waved her thanks away. “It’s been a difficult few days aboard the ship,” he said. “I’m sure a break will do you both some good.”
Grace couldn’t believe that he was being so easygoing about it.
“Well, I must say,” said Cheng Li, returning from the bar, “that’s refreshingly forward thinking of you.”
“Mistress Li,” Captain Wrathe said. “What an unexpected
“Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!” laughed Cheng Li, sarcastically. “It’s good to know that the recent turn of events has not robbed you of your rapier-like wit.”
Molucco fixed her with a look. “The man who cannot laugh, Mistress Li, is a very poor man indeed,” he said.
He was joined by Cate on one side and Ma Kettle on the other. More pirates began turning toward them or getting up and walking over. Everyone was aware that this was the first meeting between the captain and his former deputy since Drakoulis had leveled his accusation that Cheng Li was a spy.
Unintimidated, Cheng Li ignored the crowd and addressed Captain Wrathe and Cate directly. “I was so very sorry to hear about Jez Stukeley,” she said. “He was a fine pirate.” She fixed her smoky eyes on Cate. “Congratulations, by the way, on making deputy captain. I hope the additional responsibilities are not proving too onerous for you.”
The two women looked at one another — the former deputy captain and her successor. Grace had noticed that Cate was growing into her new role, showing more confi-dence and authority daily. But now, face to face with her predecessor, she looked a little unsure of herself.
Molucco placed his arm around Cate’s shoulder. “Cate is a very fine deputy,” he said. “At last I have someone at my side I can trust.”
Cheng Li smiled. “You could always trust me, Captain.”
“Yes,” Molucco laughed. “I could always trust you to have an objection to my plans, to place obstacles in my way, to question my motives and my authority. On matters such as these, you were one hundred and ten percent reliable.”
“Oh, Captain,” said Cheng Li, smiling, “once more your good humor has the better of me. But now, I’ll take my leave of you. There are preparations to be made for Grace and Connor’s arrival at Pirate Academy. That is ...so long as you’re sure I can be trusted with them.”
Cheng Li saying? Grace was alarmed. Talk about raising a red rag to a bull! But Molucco remained unusually composed.
“I don’t trust you any farther than I can smell you,” he said. “But I trust Connor and Grace implicitly. They are keen to visit the Academy and I see no reason to decline their request.”
“We have very different ideas about piracy there,” said Cheng Li. “Aren’t you worried we might corrupt their young minds?”
Once more Grace felt a sharp stab of panic, but Molucco only laughed.
“Base metals like you, Mistress Li, are more easily corrupted than pure gold like the twins.” He lifted his arm from Cate’s shoulder and stretched out his hands, one settling upon Grace’s shoulder, one upon Connor’s. “Go and have your fun, my friends. You’re young. It’s no more than you deserve. There are some good people at the Academy. Keep your minds open to what they teach you.” He squeezed both their shoulders. “And then come back to
and we’ll get on with the real business of being a pirate.”
Captain Wrathe took Ma Kettle’s hand and began walking away. Then he stopped and turned back.
“They’re members of my crew, Mistress Li, but they’re not my slaves. I encourage individual thinkers and freedom of expression on my ship. Can you, your precious headmaster, Kuo, and the others say the same?” He glared at her, then took Ma’s arm once more.
“Well,” said Cheng Li, “we will see, won’t we? Oh, Captain Wrathe, I almost forgot. Captain Quivers asked to be remembered to you.”
“Lisabeth Quivers,” he said, his face lighting up at once. “Now
a name I haven’t heard in a full moon or two!”
He turned to the twins. “Lisabeth Quivers! There was no finer captain in her day.”
Ma Kettle cackled. “No finer captain and no greater
With those eyes and that flame-red hair. Oh, Lucky, she certainly kept you and your brothers in line! Wasn’t
a one-off?! What larks we had back in those days!”
“Yes,” Molucco said, his voice tinged with sadness. “Yes, those
grand old days.” He turned to Cheng Li. “Please send Captain Quivers my very best wishes.”