Mists of Kel Doran
Season 1 - Dragon-Touched
Episode 1 - The Weave of Fate
Chapter 17 - Puppetmaster
Chapter XVII - Puppetmaster
Approximate read time ~ 8 minutes
Hatchets and swords sprang to action as the crew of the Orcus cut the pirate ship loose from the wreckage. Burning rope and debris littered the deck of the Cyrean vessel as the ship listed heavily to the port side, the remnants of the Promenade serving as an overzealous and undesirable anchor. The passenger ship had slipped beneath the waves, masked by the opaque waters of the sea. The Cyrean soldiers tore through the ropes and poured water across the flaming tatters of sail while another group rigged a pulley to lift the massive, lumbering mast off their deck. Every man burst into action while the soldiers attempted to create order in the chaotic scene that had unfolded before them.
“Line ‘em up!” bellowed a tall, clean-shaven man from the forecastle of the pirate ship. “Flank the deck with this swine…so they may see one another gutted,” he continued, each word dipped in the bitter taste of hatred. Cooper lurched as a soldier grabbed him by the collar and threw him to the deck. His face smashed against the boards while a nail tore a jagged line across his cheek.
“Hey!” yelled Taryn at the sight of his brother’s treatment, forgetting which side of the fight Cooper had entered. Taryn’s brother coughed up what water was left in his lungs, then rolled to his back to reveal a long, clean gash the length of his cheek. The young pirate wiped his sleeve across the wound, looked up to the soldier, and drew the most sarcastic smile he could muster.
“Say, think you could grab me a pillow or two, lad?” Cooper said with his usual flourish. “An’ I wouldn’t mind a blanket, long as it’s not too much trouble for ya’,” he continued, giving a sly wink to the soldier standing over him.
The crimson-cloaked man swung his boot across the newly forged line on Cooper’s face, sending the pirate head first into the railing. He then reached for Cooper, his gauntlet glistening in the morning sun. The soldier clenched his fist, pulled back as far as he could, and lunged.
“That will do, Sergeant,” came a stern, unyielding voice. The soldier stopped mid-punch as if grabbed by some invisible object. He released his prey, though Cooper would likely call it a shove. As the pirate fell back to the deck, the burly sergeant stood up, adjusted his armor, and spun to face his superior.
“Of course, Captain,” he said with the tone of a different man. The gristly snarl had left, replaced with a congenial tone of respect and sincerity. The sergeant stood at attention, unwavering, as the other soldiers continued to round up pirates. When the captain gave a knowing nod, the sergeant slapped his heels and returned to his work, unceremoniously hoisting yet another pirate off the deck.
“Dammit Coop!” came a familiar voice. “I see you haven’t learned to control that mouth of yours,” Taryn continued, trying to size up his brother’s wounds. He motioned toward the fresh scar with a sympathetic wince. “Mom would be so proud…” he began, but silenced his thoughts. Cooper snapped his eyes to Taryn, daring the thought’s completion.
“You know what I mean, Coop,” Taryn finally said, the moment lasting longer than either would have liked. “Anyway, what do you make of this guy?” Taryn’s thumb pointed absurdly to the side. The tall man descended the stairs as a God descending from the heavens. Every step was deliberate; every move made to look more graceful than it actually was. With fluid efficiency, the captain worked through the sea of soldiers, their ranks parting before him.
The brothers exchanged disapproving glances, each saying what the other was thinking. A playful smirk crept across Cooper’s bloody lips while Taryn tried his best to stay on the captain’s good side. As the stern man approached, both brothers stood to greet him. A Cyrean soldier immediately jumped in front of Cooper, but the captain merely raised his hand and the soldier slid away. A long moment passed as the captain studied each brother, sizing up their lives in a single glance, though his eyes lingered longer on the disheveled young pirate.
Finally, the captain lifted his chin and spoke as a teacher would address a student, “Quinn.” His eyes stared at Cooper, though both brothers quickly replied, “yes?” Taryn looked to his brother, then back to the Captain before realizing he was not going to be part of the conversation. The tall soldier’s eyes glanced toward the younger brother, a subtle wrinkle of confusion forming across his rigid brow. He then looked back toward Cooper, his firm jaw and intimidating stare regaining its strength.
“It’s been a long time,” he continued, ignoring the prior diversion. The captain’s eyes drew across Cooper’s scar, down his soaked clothes to his torn, ragged boots. As if it took a great deal of effort, his lips slowly curled into a smile before saying, “looks like we get to add high seas piracy to your list of deeds, eh Quinn.” He thought for a moment before continuing, “quite a step up from desertion, yes?”
Taryn’s eyes widened in horror as he looked back toward his older brother. “Coop?” he questioned in disbelief. His mouth tried to form more words, but it only served to make him look like a quivering fool.
“Yes, Puppetmaster, sir!” Cooper proclaimed, another shy smile creeping across his face, though a hint of disdain crept behind his lips. The sight of the captain’s face unnerved the pirate and the smile washed away, replaced by a look of shame and guilt. “Captain Ferael, you’ve got it all wrong,” he stammered. “I can explain everyth….”
“Silence!” Ferael commanded. At once, the entire deck went quiet, soldiers and pirates alike. “Always the comedian, eh Mr. Quinn?” he continued, his labored smile returning. Cooper looked around the deck, his mind fixed on the little strings that Captain Ferael held in his hands and the puppets that danced at his command.
Cooper once again bore the casual, lopsided grin that always preceded an ill-advised remark. “Well, Mr. Puppet, I do pride myself on bringing a little life to your parties. I see you’ve brought your own dancers this time.”
Captain Ferael held his eyes to the pirate, his gaze steady, his patience unwavering. He took a small step toward Cooper and looked down to his perfectly white gloves, noticing one was slightly off-center. He subconsciously tugged at the fabric, lining up the seams while speaking in a soft, determined tone, “You…are a dead man, Mr. Quinn.” Without looking back toward the young pirate, Ferael systematically examined his cuffs, his sleeves, and his belt, all while keeping the same calm voice. “You are a deserter of the King’s Army, a pirate of the King’s Sea,” he added. “You are a rogue, a bandit, and a thief,” he continued, taking a slow, deep breath.
“Well, actually, Puppetmaster Sir…those are all the same thing,” said Cooper, unable to contain his need for self-detriment. Taryn, hearing yet another ill-advised salvo from his older brother, could do nothing but roll his eyes. He implored Cooper to let go of the sarcasm, if for only a moment.
The Captain studied Cooper’s words for a moment, then exhaled, as though he had been holding in the same breath for quite some time. An inquisitive look struck his face as he looked back and forth between the two brothers. He reached down to his side and grabbed the polished, golden hilt of his sword. With a long, steady motion, Ferael withdrew his weapon from its sheathe, allowing the morning sun to linger across its edge for effect. He studied the weapon, its ornate design, its elegant craftsmanship, its impossibly pristine surface. He looked upon it as a shiny jewel or an ancient relic.
“I wonder,” the captain began. “Did you wake up this morning knowing that you would die this day?” he continued, emotion lost from his words.
Cooper took his turn to roll his eyes, “not this again, Ferael.” He chuckled as he brushed the hair out of his eyes. “Do you have any idea how many times I’ve had my life threatened?” Cooper said. He took a subtle step forward and drew his eyes closer to Captain Farael. “This week,” he added, making sure his former captain’s eyes met his own.
Ferael studied Cooper’s face, listening to his words, but blew them off without hesitation. After a moment, that small, dreadful smile crept back across his ironclad jaw. “Silly pirate,” he said scornfully. “Why do you always assume I’m talking to you?” With lightning quickness, Captain Ferael’s cutlass shot forth, piercing Taryn’s chest. The younger brother did not have time to react as the point of the blade jabbed mercilessly through his shirt. His eyes widened in disbelief as he looked down to see half a sword protruding from the expanding pool of blood.
“Nooo!” Cooper yelled, lunging for the captain, but yielded the same effect as punching a stone wall. The sergeant had been waiting for this moment and grabbed Cooper before the pirate even realized he wanted to strike. The huge soldier picked him up and slammed him back into the railing, along with a chorus of splintering balusters. Cooper rolled around to see his brother, staggering, a blank look of disbelief strewn across his face. It was then the pirate saw just how young his little brother still was. He remembered playing together in the yard, blaming him for things he did not do, getting yelled at by his mother for no reason. Cooper saw his entire childhood flash by in a single instant, the same instant that Ferael withdrew his bloodied weapon.
Taryn stumbled, backing up as he dabbed a hand at his gaping wound. Blood had already coated his shirt and his hand would do nothing to stop the flow. He staggered again as realization took hold. Taryn’s eyes welled up with tears and his face contorted in pain as he instinctively reached for his brother. His senses, however, had left him. Taryn lost his balance and stepped into the ship’s railing. “Taryn!” Cooper yelled as his younger brother disappeared from sight, a dull splash echoing from the sea below.
Captain Ferael looked at his weapon, a distraught look across his face. “Pity. Will need a good polish now,” he said. He lowered the weapon back into its sheathe and gave a commanding pat on the sergeant’s shoulder, congratulating him for his quick action. He then looked around at his soldiers and the pirates that lined either side of his ship. Ferael’s gaze finally fell upon the mass of civilians gathered near the front of the vessel, drying themselves and holding one another for warmth. Cooper studied the captain’s face as that same, crooked smile returned.
“Well then, we have our orders, men,” Ferael spoke as he worked his way back toward the stairs. The pirates on both sides of the ship pleaded for their lives…crying, begging. Many slumped to their knees as the soldiers all drew their crossbows and took aim. Cooper looked on bewildered, his thoughts still on his brother. His concern was no longer for his own life, but for the life that just went overboard. He looked around blankly at the people he knew, the civilians, the pirates, those that had gathered aboard the Promenade looking for better days, and those that he sailed with knowing they would not come. He stared at the soldiers and their weapons.
Cooper then looked to the pack of civilians. He saw their faces turn from relief to concern. He saw their joy turn to agony. He heard their cries of panic as they turned to face the soldiers, soldiers that formed a line, raised their crossbows, and took aim…at the men, women, and children standing at the front of the ship.
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Mists of Kel Doran