James Cutlass and the Pirate King

Here is the entire first chapter of the new book coming out soon. Enjoy!

Ch. 1: Damean Briggs

My dearest Prince Vance,

I am writing to you today in accordance with your wishes and interest in pirateering, their ways and lifestyle, and all the wonders of the sea.

Pirates. Those notorious scum of the sea. Those men who make a living defiling other’s majestic ships. Robbing the rich and poor alike. Having no mercy. And taking no prisoners.

Your father has taken a liking to the idea of eradicating these often times obnoxious buccaneers. Although his wife, the queen, has often times employed them and has even knighted a few!

I would agree that the evil, villainous ones of their vocation should be, if caught, brought to terms with justice. But, you my prince, do not so much as believe that all non-licensed, non-government owned, and not tracked ships are full of evil men, and often times women too.

There are some who, in fact, are noble men. Who have some sense of morals. These men are far and from between, but you must not be fooled into being scared of the unknown like your father the king is.

Some of these men are good. Seeking to create a wealth for themselves impossible on the mainland. Or, in the case I am about to detail to you most noble prince, seeking something much more. That can only be found in the glorious, and often times perilous, uncharted portions of the sea.

My prince, I will now share with you a story that is often time untold. Unbeknown to your father, I am going to recount everything that happened. This story is in fact true and complete. I hope you will take heed and listen intently. And you will learn of the powers at sea that your father, even to your father the king is unknown. Now I recount to you the tale of James Cutlass and the Pirate King.

It was a glorious morning. The town, which happened to be situated on one of the largest islands in the south sea, was basking in the warm summer daylight. The cool wind swept over the beach and into the large town behind. Its merchants seemed to be overly exuberant in their sales that day.

This town was one of the most significant outposts for the British in the Eastern Sea. It was placed on Dakreo Island which was very much close to the center of the sea. It was surrounded oceanside by a large wall that protected them from any French or pirate raids. Raids happened very infrequently though, because a good portion of the British Navy was stationed at this island and more came and went as they pleased. None dared to defy the British anywhere near Dakreo, although a significant black market had arisen under the British’s noses.

Most of the island’s inhabitants that were not directly affiliated (and some that actually were) with the British Navy frequented the small market behind the Shaky Saw Inn. It was the known hideout of the shadiest merchants. The center of blackmarket trade. Either the Navy higher ups did not know about it or, more likely, used it often enough that the market was barely ever bothered. Except for today.

The market was set up in the small yard behind the inn. Large tents covered the area, shielding it from anyone who might want to peer in. The only way to enter was through the back of the inn, and the innkeeper only let those who were trusted back in the market.

“Innkeeper!” a naval soldier wearing the typical red overcoat, white-though greying with wear- pants, and large brown boots yelled as he entered the inn. He and another man wearing the same fashion charged into the first floor of the inn that served as a welcome area and pub for any new arriving guests.

“Innkeeper!” The second man cried while he pounded the front desk and bar. “Come this once! By order of the British Navy!”

“Hold on to yer horses!” a chubby, dirty man yelled as he came down the stairs. “I don’t care where ye came from. No one needs to be breaking down my inn. Now what do you good sirs need?”

“Allow us passage into the market out back.” The first one, who seemed to be higher rank than his friend based on an insignia on his coat, said.

The innkeeper seemed shocked at this remark. “I don’t know what you speak of,” he lied.

“You know plenty well!” The younger lesser ranked cried. “We all know that the black market is back there!”

“I still have no idea what ye be talking about? All I keep is a vegetable garden back there. All different colored ones.”

The young one grabbed the innkeeper by his collar and got so close their noses were almost touching. “Show us now! Or we might just have to confiscate all the smuggled rum out of this place!”

“There’s nothing smuggled here.” The innkeeper cried bravely though his breathing became heavy.

“Would you like us to search the place?” The superior ranked soldier asked.

The innkeeper’s eyes widened. “No, no please. I’ll show you out back right this way.” He went behind the counter and pulled a lever that was hidden under it and the wall behind him slid open to reveal a fairly normal looking wooden door.

The two soldiers jumped behind the counter, opened the door, and exited into the secret market. “Just a vegetable garden, huh?” The young soldier scoffed as he headed out into the market. All eyes were fixed upon the two newcomers. The low life in the market, the best mixture of pirates, smugglers, and thieves, glared intently at the men.

“We are looking for a man of the name Damean Briggs!” The senior soldier cried out so all could hear. “The admiral sees his capture as the utter most important. If any of you have information as to his whereabouts we will expect a prompt and thorough enlightenment.”

“And what if we don’t?” A brave man selling, most likely stolen, jewelry asked.

“Then you will spend an awful long time in the dungeons of the keep,” the younger soldier declared.

“What’re ya mean?” An old blind man sitting on a small rug sitting with a young boy asked.

“He means,” the other soldier answered, “that by order of the British Navy that occupies this isle, all of you are hereby under arrest until the capture of Damean Briggs.”

“You can’t do this!” A lady demanded.

“Can we not? How much of these wares are you selling legally?” The soldiers smiled and unsheathed their swords. “Please come quietly, this does not need to get messy.”

The merchants, not having another choice, decided to obey promptly. They all gathered single file and began heading into the inn.

“You two. Come along!” The soldier was looking at the poor blind man and his young companion.

“Come now, James,” the man said in a soft raspy voice. “Lead me will ya.”

“Of course sir,” James said in proper accent, he was obviously a learned boy. He helped the blind man to his feet and led him toward the line of others.

James was no more than twelve and dressed plainly. He was slightly smaller than most boys his age and also slightly thinner. He was, in fact, a very learned boy. Having been brought up in the house of a wealthy baron on the island and attending the only school for the entirety of his life, he was well trained in almost every area. Why a boy like he was hanging out with the crowd that rummages the blackmarket the soldiers could not figure.

The line of fugitives exited the inn into the dirt street. Five more soldiers armed with bayonets were waiting for them just in case one of them tried to make a run for it.

And one of them did. A man who was selling some sort of potions in the market and who looked slightly disturbed made a break for it five steps into their journey. Two soldiers ran after him.

“Don’t try anything as stupid as that!” The high ranking soldier commanded the group. “I don’t want to have to shoot anyone.”

“I would say make a break fer it,” the old man whispered in James’ ear. “But by the sound of it, seems like a bad idea.”

“No sir, I won’t run.” James declared with confidence.

“Good on yee, but I will say. If ye tell the soldiers that you are the baron’s nephew. I am certain they would let ya go.”

“Zacharius, I will not abandon you till I know you are safe. Today is not a day for me to be a coward, now is it?”

“I’m afraid not me boy.” Zacharius laughed. “Fer a boy of twelve, you sure have some bravery.”

James did not feel brave. He was absolutely terrified of what was to come. He had  never seen the dungeons of the keep before, and, to make matters worse, he had heard stories that they were haunted. Even worse than that was the thought of his uncle the Baron having to come rescue his mischievous nephew from the depths of the dungeons. The embarrassment that he would feel, and after everything they had done for James .

After a good twenty minute hike up a hill, they reached the keep. It was built on the edge of a cliff side. High towers and a thick wall that outskirted along part of the island circling the entire town and even blocking the water to the docks. At any time the guards could lower the gate keeping in a ship, or more likely keeping out enemies. But the ocean was not where they were headed.

They made their way into the main entrance of the building through large oak doors into a room that seemed to be the main intersection for all other hallways. They took a right and descended a staircase, then headed down a hall toward the east wall, descended even more stairs, and finally reached the dungeon.

It was a dark, damp, and dreary place. The light was scarce and the warmth was scarcer. A few torches were placed along in between the cells. They entered through a gate and a guard met them.

“What am I supposed to do with this lot?” The guard questioned the ranked officer.

“That is your business not mine,” he replied. “Hold them till we find the real criminal. And if any of them decide they would like to talk, call for me.”

The ranked officer helped the guard cram them into only two different cells. The cells were designed comfortably for three or four people, but each were filled with about ten.

“Why not separate us into more cells?” a tall thin man complained to the officer.

“I would rather not waste space.” The officer smiled. “Just in case we catch some actual wanted criminals.” He then turned around and marched off with the other soldiers.

James led Zacharius to the corner of the cell and sat down next to him. “How long do you think they will keep us down here?”

“I dunno, boy,” Zacharius seemed to have little concern as if this was completely normal.

“I didn’t bring my coat,” James complained.

“Of course ye didn’t,” Zacharius laughed. “None of us did. It’s a nice warm spring day out there. None of us were ‘specting we would get thrown down here.”

“My uncle is going to be perfectly livid,” James said dismally. “Wait till he hears I’m down here. I’m going to get it good.”

“I don’t think yer uncle will be concerned with punishing yer. He may not be around too often, but he loves ya, James.”

It was true. James’ uncle, the Baron Claud Bartemius, had taken him in without question when his parents had died. His mother had specifically requested that he was to be raised near the ocean and on Dakreo island. The Baron owned a large estate here, but barely had time to visit. He and his wife, Evangeline, worked on the mainland; they were both powerful political figures. Every couple months or so the Baron would visit the island to check up on his various exploits (which is why he owned the estate here in the first place) and to check up on James . Sometimes the Baron would bring his wife or one of his various children. James loved his uncle, aunt, and his cousins like they were his real family, and cherished every visit. But why did he have to be caught at the black market checking up on old Zacharius today. A day when the Baron had brought his aunt with him.

“Let him out!” A feminine voice was heard down the hall. Then the sound of the guard grumbling. After a little argument that could not be heard completely by the prisoners, two figures approached the cell that contained James .

“Where is the one called James ?” The guard demanded.

Almost everyone claimed to be James at once, even some of the women.

“Well that was no help.” The guard declared.

“I’ll find him! I know what he looks like,” the other person said coming out from behind the guard.

James now recognized the voice. It was Penelope, daughter of the British Admiral that was stationed on Dakreo. She was the same age as James but not quite as tall. Blue eyes matched the dress she was wearing and long blonde hair flowed down over her tan shoulders. She was James’ best friend since they were very young.

“Jamesie!” She yelled into cell. “Where are you James, I’ve come with my father’s orders to have you released.”

“I’m right here,” James declared as he stood up.

“Come on!” She looked at the guard who quickly obliged and opened the cell not wanting to anger the girl.

“What about Zacharius? I can’t just leave him down here all alone.”

“I’ll be fine me boy,” Zacharius declared with confidence. “It’s not me first time in a cell, and hopefully won’t be me last. As long as business continues smoothly. Do tell Thatch that we are all down here please when you see him.”

“I will sir.” James left the cell and followed Penelope out of the dungeon.

“What were you thinking?” She demanded as they exited the keep and headed toward the Baron’s residence. “Of all the days to visit the black market!”

“I didn’t know there was a famous pirate on the loose,” James defended. “I had to give Zacharius his food. He’s not well.”

“Just don’t do anything stupid again till they catch the man, will you? And don’t say I’ve never done anything for you.”

They reached the gate that led up to the Baron’s villa. “Thanks again Penny,” James  said with a smile.

“You’re welcome. Do tell your aunt that I said hi!” She replied as he opened the gate and headed up the walkway to the large villa.

The villa was a large white mansion. The Baron was obviously very wealthy. A large wall surrounded the well kept yard. A stone pathway edged by perfectly trimmed green bushes led up to the entrance of the house. The villa was two stories high and extended very wide. Its many rooms made for many windows that stretched along toward the sea giving the occupant a beautiful view of the ocean that’s waves swept across their gated private beach.

James entered the building without knocking. The main entrance hall was built with an extremely large ceiling, where hung a crystal chandelier. The rooms were decorated pristinely and set with the most luxurious of memorabilia. Paintings dotted the walls and dark oak furniture furnished the rooms. He stood on a large patterned rug.

“Ah there you are James!” A man’s voice was heard exiting the room to the right and catching James in the entryway. “We were just about to send someone looking for you. You’ve been gone for hours. Your aunt has been worried.” The voice belonged to Mr. Thatch, caretaker of the grounds. He had been working there ever since James could remember. His sea blue eyes and greying long black hair made him look irregular for a groundskeeper. Growing up, Mr. Thatch had been somewhat of a guardian of James’ whenever his uncle was not around. Even in his middle age, he was kind, forgiving, and understanding toward youths. He very much loved to tell stories to James and Penelope, and had even once known James’ father.

“I shall go to her,” James stated feeling bad that his aunt was worried. “Where is she?”

“She be upstairs getting ready to ship off,” Mr. Thatch cracked a smile. Every once in a while he broke his typical proper English and spoke like a sailor, which was his previous occupation and how he knew James’ father.

“Thank you sir.” He began running up the half spiral staircase when he remembered Zacharius. “Mr. Thatch, Zacharius wanted me to tell you that the entire blackmarket has been thrown in the keep’s dungeon.”

“So that’s where you’ve been aye?”

“Yes sir,” James became downcast. “They are trying to find a pirate name Damean Briggs. They thought throwing us all in there could get some of them to talk. Don’t tell uncle will you?”

“Of course not!” Thatch laughed. “Damean Briggs. Famous pirate that one. Luckily, me and my old shipmates only met him once. Barely escaped with our lives. Nasty brute. Hope they find him.”

“I would hope so too,” James agreed and finished ascending the staircase. He ran toward his aunt and uncle’s room and knocked.

“Come in!” He heard his uncle answer.

He obliged and entered their room. It was large and open. Two doors opened out into a long white marble balcony that viewed the beach below.

“Why, James!” His aunt who was dressed in a violet gown and had long dark hair said in surprise. “Where have you been? We’ve been worried. We were just about to send Mr. Thatch to find you.”

“I’m sorry,” James said disappointed in himself. “I didn’t mean to be away for so long. Penelope says ‘hello’ by the way.”

Immediately his aunt’s expression changed from one of worry to one of happy suspicion. “You’ve gone to see her? Well I was worried for naught then.”

“How is the admiral?” His uncle chimed in. He was wearing a long red vest and had his short blonde hair out instead of the usual white wig.

“He’s fine,” James lied. “Perfectly splendid.”

“Ah good, it’s a pity I did not get to see him on this short trip.” They had only been on the island for a little over a week.

“Yes sir, when do you leave?”

“In a few minutes darling,” aunt Evangeline answered. “Your uncle is being called back to the mainland I’m afraid. I’m sorry our visit has been so short. But we have a surprise for you!”

“What is it?”

“Well,” the Baron began, “we have decided to leave your cousin Jules here for a while. To keep you company over the next few months. He’s plenty old enough to stay here with you and Thatch.”

“I say eleven is barely old enough,” Evangeline said disappointingly. “I’m worried about leaving him, but your uncle assures me you two will stay out of trouble.”

James smiled in delight. Jules was his favorite of all the cousins. A boy his own age was always fun to have around. “When does he arrive?”

“Tomorrow morning, darling.”

A knock on the door stopped the conversation. “Your coach has arrived.” Mr. Thatch called from the other side.

“We must be off then, dearest,” the Baron said to his wife. Both of the adults embraced their nephew and bid him a farewell then they were gone. James would have been disappointed, but the thought of his cousin arriving the next morning brought much excitement.

—————————

A few hours passed and darkness had fallen over the island. James lay in his room that was built similarly to his aunt and uncle’s though much smaller. His balcony door was closed and the room was illuminated by a small lantern he possessed.

He thought about the day’s events. And found himself hoping that Damean Briggs would not be caught. He typically did not root for scum like pirates, but for some reason Briggs sounded familiar.

Someone knocked on his door and Mr. Thatch entered quickly with a worried expression on his face.

“Mr. Thatch!” James  declared worried. “What is wrong?”

“Briggs is what’s wrong,” Thatch responded. “I dared not say anything while your aunt and uncle were still here. Secrets must be kept secret.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The map, James. He’s come for the map. I don’t know how in the world he’s figured out you got it. But he’s come for it, I’m sure.”

“What map? What are you talking about? Thatch?”

Mr. Thatch’s eyes glanced worriedly around, as if someone was about to break into the room. He glanced from the ceiling to the door and then checked under the bed.

“The map your father left you of course!” Thatch said as if it were obvious.

“My father left me a map?” James heart was delighted but his head was confused. His uncle never told him about a map.

“Yes, James. Your father left you a great deal of things.”

“I’ve never heard of anything,” James  questioned.

“Your uncle does not know, he can not know.”

“I’m confused. What has my father left me.”

“Well for one, he left you this house. Turns out the Baron does not own it. He’s keeping it for you till your old enough, good intentions I’m sure.”

“This house belonged to my father?” James asked excitedly.

“Yes, yes. But keep your voice down. We don’t need anyone hearing us.”

“So what’s the map?”

“Your father’s greatest treasure. The treasure he was killed for. It’s a small map, but it contains some powerful magic. It can see anywhere. Show you any place you want to go. All you have to do is ask it.”

“That’s amazing!” James declared.

“Yes it is. So amazing in fact, that your father was murdered by…”

“I know the story of my father’s death,” James cut Thatch off, not wanting to hear the painful story again. “I thought he was killed for treasure.”

“No, this is worth far more than treasure.”

Just then the door to the balcony swung open with a crash. A man entered the room with a small flintlock pistol pointed at the ready.

“Where’s the map?”  He demanded. James knew this must be the notorious Damean Briggs.

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