Gunfire boomed between the Tempest and the Fearless Dove, two enemy ships locked side by side, neither willing to surrender. Howling winds ripped at the sails of both vessels, threatening to capsize them both against the looming rocks to the east. Calak kicked his sword back into his hand just as a navy sailor ran toward him. Their blades crossed, the repeated clangs ringing in the young pirate’s ears. Calak dove under the sweeping blade and thrust his shoulder into the sailor’s stomach. The man staggered to the deck as an opportune wave crashed into him and pulled him overboard. Calak wiped water from his eyes and cast a wild look around, searching for any allies that were left. No such luck.

Two more navy sailors closed in on him, their swords glinting as lightning flashed across the sky. Calak raised his blade and flicked his wrist. The sword swiped cleanly through the air, giving the advancing enemy a clear message. He wasn’t going down without a fight. A sudden cannon ball slammed into the mast, and wood splintered as it fell. Calak used the distraction to strike first. He flipped a knife from his belt into his hand, his two fingers gripping the blade. It flew straight and pinned his opponent’s sleeve to the fallen mast. Calak knocked the man unconscious and leaped over the wreckage as he blocked another sailor’s lunge.

“Not bad, runt,” another pirate complimented as she swung from the rigging. Her boots thudded next to him, and she pressed her back into his as they faced two more sailors attempting an ambush. Her thick red hair was plastered to the back of her neck, but her eyes gleamed in the stormy darkness. “We’ll turn the tide of this battle yet!” she whooped. Calak wasn’t so sure.

“Scarlett, there’s too many of them.”

“Nah. Come on, runt. Being outnumbered is half the fun!”

She launched herself at two sailors, catching them both with her blade.

Calak shook himself of his doubts, countering an attack. Once the enemy fell, the young pirate searched for the stairs leading down to the hold. Once he was out of the rain, he wiped the water from his face with his palm and flung it across the floor. He kept his sword drawn, the evidence of battle still raging above him. He kicked open a door to his left, but nothing of value was held inside. As he turned to the door on the right, he heard footsteps. He quickly stepped back into the room and gripped the leather handle of his blade. As the footsteps creaked closer, he found himself holding his breath. Just as the shadow of his enemy reached past the door, Calak swung with a yell. His sword was blocked, and he stared in disbelief at the girl standing in front of him.

“Avila! I could have killed you!”

The maiden snorted, her raven hair piled in a bun that was quickly coming undone. Several strands had already fallen and framed her alabaster face.

“Please, you couldn’t hurt me if you tried,” she replied, an amused smile gracing her lips.

Calak’s look of shock turned to anger.

“You were told to wait on the Tempest. You can’t be here—”

“Why? Because I’m some treasure that should be locked in a vault? I’ve been with you scurvy dogs for three months. I think I can take care of myself. And I can help save my own friends, thank you,” she added, shouldering past him.

“We’ve already searched two navy ships. This friend may not even be down here, Avila. You could be risking your neck for nothing.”

“No, I know he’s here. I recognized the name of the ship. This is the one he’s on,” she countered, checking rooms as they passed. Calak was about to retort when she put up her hand. “Did you hear that?”


Avila stayed silent, listening hard. Calak did the same, catching a faint whisper. Calak put a hand on Avila’s shoulder and pulled the maiden behind him. She sent him a glare as he moved past her. He closed his eyes for a moment, catching the soft sound again. It was coming from the room to their left. He kicked open the door, and Avila shoved past him.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she scolded. “You’re going to scare Arathorn!”

Calak opened his mouth to shout back but stopped when he saw Avila’s friend cowering in the corner. It was a boy, no older than six years old. His face was covered in grime, and his clothes were more like tattered rags. Avila hurried to the child, who burried his face into the crook of her neck as she leaned toward him.

“It’s okay, Ara. I’ve got you.”

“This—this is your friend?”

Avila ignored Calak as she soothed Arathorn’s hushed cries. He clung to the front of her dress with his grubby hands so tightly that the fabric wrinkled beneath his grip. The maiden hoisted the child into her arms and held him close as she turned to face Calak. His expression of rage had softened for a moment, but angry disbelief replaced it.

“You could have mentioned we were trying to save a child.”

“Would it have made any difference?” Avila retorted, shouldering past him. Calak grabbed her upper arm and pulled her back toward himself. He pulled harder than he meant, and Arathorn’s body was the only thing that prevented Avila from falling into his chest.

“Yes,” Calak whispered sharply. “A teenager could have at least helped fight his way out of here. The kid is dead weight.”

“I’m not leaving him.”

“He’s going to get you killed, Avila. Just think about it. Please.”

Avila hoisted Arathorn to her hip, and the boy wrapped his arms around her neck.

“He needs us, Calak. These men may be from the king’s navy, but they are anything but kind. They steal children and sell them as galley slaves. Arathorn can’t stay. He’ll die,” Avila whispered, her voice breaking. Calak took another glance at Arathorn’s fear-stricken face, his heart softening.

“Fine. But stay behind me. There’s no telling how many navy dogs are still milling about.”

Calak let go of Avila’s arm and stepped past her. He walked down the corridor, back the way they had come. Avila followed close behind with with Arathorn still in her arms. When they reached the stairs, the sounds of cannonfire and guttural battle cries still raged above the storm.

“Come on. Stay close,” Calak called back and climbed the stairs. He jumped two at a time and reached the top just as two navy sailors were thrown across the deck. The young pirate readied his sword, and he finally saw Captain Silverius. The man looked almost regal as he stood with a pistol in one hand and a glinting sword in the other. He seemed to have spotted Calak because he raised his gun and fired a shot into the air. The signal.

Calak glanced back at Avila, who returned his serious look with one of her own. He gripped his sword tightly and ran out into the rain. He cut down three navy dogs, creating a path to the gangplank for Avila and Arathorn. The maiden sprinted across the deck and set the child down onto the plank. Arathorn started to cross the plank with Avila right behind him, but she screamed when a navy dog caught her by the ankle. She fell, the plank rattling beneath her. Churning waves crashed below her, and she shouted for Arathorn to sprint across. The boy obeyed and jumped aboard the Tempest. As soon as he was safe, he whirrled around and grabbed onto the plank with two tiny hands, trying to keep it from falling.

Calak ran toward Avila, swinging his blade at the sailor. Blood dripped onto the deck as the man yelled. He let go of Avila and clutched his bleeding arm. The maiden sprinted across the plank, and Calak jumped onto it to follow but stopped short when he heard another gunshot. He turned around and spotted the captain of the Fearless Dove.

“Stop right there, boy,” he shouted above the storm. He was aiming his gun at Calak’s chest. “Just give me back the child. He’s worth nothing to a band of criminals like you.”

“Criminal yourself, you black-hearted dog!” Calak yelled. “Only heartless men sell children as slaves.”

The captain’s face twisted into a fierce snarl. As he pulled the trigger, a knife shot out of nowhere, striking him in the arm. Calak sheathed his sword and ran across the plank. He swept Avila and Arathorn out of the way and grabbed the gangplank. He ripped it toward himself, and the flat wood rocketed away from the Fearless Dove and onto the deck of the Tempest.

“Quick, lads!” Captain Silverius shouted. “To Poseidon's Cove!”

The pirates kicked off the remaining navy sailors from their ship and sailed past the Fearless Dove and into open water. The rain continued to beat down on them as they managed to put some distance between the Tempest and the navy vessel. Once they were at a safe distance, Captain Silverius let Jett take the helm and found Calak.

“Good work, runt. I reckon the lass and her friend are below?”

“Yes,” Calak replied. “But it’s a child.”

Silverius’s expression changed. The captain didn’t look angry, but he wasn’t happy either. He went below without another word, and Calak shoved his hands into his pockets. He spotted Scarlett untangling the rigging and went to help.

“Thanks for the help back there, Scar. That knife was well timed.”

“Don’t mention it, runt.” Scarlett smiled and ruffled his hair. “Now, what’s this about a child?”

“He and Avila are below deck. Apparently, the navy dogs were going to sell him as a galley slave.”

“Poor runt,” Scarlett said. “Well, at least he’s with us.”

“What are you talking about? He’s just another mouth to feed. And we can’t have a kid with us on our quest. He’ll slow us down.”

“Sure. But it doesn’t mean he deserves slavery. You of all people should know that.”

Scarlett turned back to her work, and Calak glanced away. The storm was beginning to break, and he headed below to find dry clothes. Once he got to the crew’s quarters, he peeled off his soaked shirt and searched a trunk for a dry one. As he searched, he heard the door creak open. Arathorn stood in the doorway. The dirt had been scrubbed from his face, and he was dressed in a shirt much too big for him.

“What do you want, kid?”

Calak’s sharp tone made the child flinch, but he didn’t run. Arathorn stepped into the room and went up to the young pirate. Calak stayed where he was. His anger from before was quickly dissipating into curiosity. Arathorn reached toward Calak and traced a red line on the pirate’s shoulder to his side.

“Not used to scars, huh?” Calak asked. Arathorn stared up at him and shook his head. Calak slipped on a clean shirt and offered the child a smile. “There. All gone.”

Arathorn didn’t reply. He simply continued to look up at Calak with wonder in his big green eyes.

“What’s the matter, kid? Can’t you talk?”

“No, he can’t.”

Calak looked up as Avila came in.

“How long has he been like this?”

“As long as I’ve know him. I met him on the streets of Garents Pass a couple years ago. He tried stealing a loaf of bread, and I paid the merchant before he could grab Arathorn. He could have been killed.”

“That was very noble of you.”

“I did it for him, not me,” Avila said as Arathorn grabbed onto her skirt. Further conversation was interrupted by Sedge’s shrill voice calling for the captain. They hurried into the corridor and followed the woman to Silverius’s quarters.

“Silver, old pal. You might want to see what I nabbed from the navy captain’s quarters,” she was saying, waving around a soiled piece of parchment. They filed into Silverius’s room, and the captain looked at Sedge with a raised eyebrow.

“This better not be another one of yer pranks.”

“See for yerself,” Sedge replied, handing him the parchment. “That navy ship wasn’t here on accident. Nor were the other two we met last week. According to this, Old Fox is sendin’ them after us.”

“That means he knows,” Silverius growled.

“What?” Avila asked.

“He knows we’re headed to Poseidon's Cove. And he wants to get there first.”

“How does he know that’s where we’re headed?”

“Because there is treasure there. A treasure that can defeat him and his gang of ruffians once and for all. Jett, Fenix, and I stole it from Old Fox years ago and hid it on the island. Yer father, lass, must have slipped the information.”

Avila instantly paled.

“Do you think he’s all right?”

“It’s hard to say. My guess is the old dog has dragged ol’ Fenix out of his dusty tavern and back onto the sea.”

“My father would never do such a thing!”

“He would if it meant saving you, lass,” Silverius replied.

“Well, I ain’t gonna stand around and let that old dog get to the treasure first,” Sedge said, turning on her heel. She looked back at the rest of them, a smile spreading across her face. “What are ye scurvy dogs waitin’ for? An invitation?”

Avila grabbed Arathorn’s hand and led him past Sedge, who blinked a couple times as if she’d just noticed the child.

“Who’s the kid?”

“Our new cabin boy,” Silverius replied flatly. “Tell Marshall he’s got a new assistant in the galley.”

Sedge skipped back on deck while Avila went with Arathorn to find Marshall. Calak paused when he saw the strained look on his uncle’s face.

“What’s bothering you?”

Silverius looked at his nephew, allowing a small smile.

“You always were perceptive. Ah, it’s nothin’ ye should be concerned about, boy.”


“Let’s just say I’s ain’t too thrilled at returning to Poseidon's Cove. I had a lot of rotten memories there.”

“Right, when you left Old Fox.”

“No, I mean before that. I grew up on that isle, Calak. It’s where I’m from. Jagger and Marshall too. It’s where this ol’ crew banded together for the first time.”

“And how’s that rotten?”

Silverius’s look hardened.

“That, I hope ye never find out.”