The sun’s brilliant rays bore down on the band of young men as they traipsed through the dense overgrowth. Their leader held a rapier above his head and slashed at vines as they blocked his path. Sweat rolled down his bare back, and he panted heavily, wishing for any relief from the sweltering heat. His four friends followed him, just as tired and laden with sweat as he was.

“This is the last hunt for honey I go on,” huffed Alec. “I’m dying in this heat.”

One of the boys behind him swatted his head.

“No more than the rest of us,” Marshall snapped back. “We’re all tired.”

“Dying to get home to your princess, Marsh? Dyanna, wasn’t it? Or was it Elizabeth?”

“I thought I said never to bring them up!” Marshall scolded Fenix, who laughed.

“It was your idea to go after Caspian’s sister and then her best friend. Your love life is more tangled than Alec tyin’ a reef knot.”

Marshall glared at Fenix as he wiped sweat from his brow.

“How much farther, Caspian? We’ve been walking forever.”

“Well, if Jett hadn’t messed with that ant hill, then we all would have been enjoying the fruit of this expedition by now.”

“How was I supposed to know they were fire ants?” Jett said back, scratching at a bite on his upper leg.

“I told you they were!” Fenix said. “Besides, it was Caspian who said it was better to go off the regular trail. He’s the one who’s gotten us lost.”

“We’re not lost!” Caspian called back from his position at the front. “I know exactly where we are. There should be a river not too far ahead. And it’s where I saw the hive last.”

“That’s what you said an hour ago,” Jett complained.

“And I’m still right.”

The boys fell into a disgruntled silence, and Caspian bit back another harsh comment. He couldn’t blame them for being hot and tired. That was his fault. But he’d rather lead them in circles out here than be back in the pirate-infested village.

He slashed at more vines and swatted at a mosquito that tried making his neck its next meal. While they slowly trudged through giant plants, Caspian listened for the river that he was certain was nearby. Sure enough, the low rumble of the waterfall reached his ears as they pushed through a break in the overgrowth. He stopped at the lake’s edge while his four friends whooped with joy. They sprinted past him and splashed into the cool water. A thirty-foot waterfall cascaded over the rocks and into the lake while trees towered over the treasured oasis.

Jett dunked below the water and resurfaced near Alec. The runt splashed at Alec and dove below again as the boy twice his size swiped at him.

“Jett! I’ll get you for that!”

“Just let him be, Alec. He’s not hurtin’ anyone,” Marshall advised. Being one of the oldest of the group, he felt it his job to keep peace. He turned to Caspian, who was still standing on the rocks. “You comin’ in, Cap?” he asked.

Caspian smiled at his usual nickname and sat to relieve his feet. He swished his toes in the cool water as he leaned to fill his canteen.

“So, where’s this beehive?” Fenix asked.

Caspian looked up and searched the trees for a moment.

“There. That tree there on the other side. The one next to the waterfall.”

“Oh, I see it.”

“We have to climb all the way up there?” Alec asked in disbelief.

“Not us. Jett has already volunteered,” Caspian said. Jett stopped splashing at Alec, his eyes wide.

“I what?”

Alec grabbed him and threw him over his shoulder while the rest of the boys laughed. Jett pounded on Alec’s back, but he was no match for the giant’s size.

“Hey! I didn’t ask for this. There’s no way you can make me climb up there!”

“Come on, Jett. You asked for it when you messed with those fire ants. Fen’s going to be finding them in his laundry for days.” Caspian laughed. Neither Fenix nor Jett looked amused.

Alec set Jett down by the tree, and the band surrounded the runt, leaving him with nowhere else to go but up. Jett appealed desperately to Caspian.

“Come on, Cap. I won’t play tricks on you ever again. I won’t put holes in your fishing boat. I’ll stop cutting holes in your hammock netting. I’ll even gut the fish you catch for dinner.”

“Finally, a confession.” Marshall laughed.

“Nope. It’s gotta be you, Jett. You’re the smallest of all of us, and you’re the only one who can climb to the top.”

Jett sighed, unable to argue. He turned to the tree and stared up at the hive; several bees buzzed around it. He wrapped his arms around the skinny trunk and shimmied toward the hive. Caspian watched his friend with a smile, fully aware that he could have climbed the tree himself.

“Keep going, Jett. We’ll catch you if you fall.” Marshall laughed.

“Shuddup,” Jett grunted, inching up the trunk.

“You sure that’s a honeybee hive?” Fenix asked Caspian.

“Nope. I guess we’ll find out when he gets to it.”

The boys laughed. Marshall paused when he heard rustling. He turned and spotted movement on the other side of the lake. He elbowed Caspian and nodded toward the moving plants. Caspian and the other two boys fell silent and faced the movement, their backs to the tree. Jett noticed too and froze on the branch he’d reached.

“We know you’re there,” Caspian called, eyeing his rapier that was still on the other side of the bank. “Only cowards hide in the shadows.”

“Careful, Cap,” Fenix whispered.

Caspian ignored him and stepped closer to the lake, his dark eyes narrow as he surveyed the opposite bank. He glanced up at Jett, who was mostly concealed by the leaves. Jett nodded to the left. Caspian looked as two men stepped out of the shadows.

“Easy there, son. We’re just looking for water,” one of the men said, holding up his hands. Caspian’s eyes swept up and down as the men walked closer. They wore billowing white shirts and had red sashes tied around their waists. One of them was missing a foot while the other had a scar over his right eye. Caspian exchanged a look with Marshall, who bit his lower lip. These men were pirates. They were sure of it.

“There’s plenty of water to go around,” Caspian said carefully, stealing another glance up at Jett. He nodded to the right and held up four more fingers.

“What brings you to this part of the island?” Marshall asked.

“We’ve been chasin’ Tarence’s goats all morning. His brother left the gate open. You haven’t seen any, have you?”

“No. No goats around here,” Fenix answered while Caspian looked to their right. He noticed four more figures hiding in the bushes.

“But we’ll yell if we see any,” Caspian said, giving them a broad smile. “Good luck to ya. You and your four mates who’re hiding in the taros.”

“My, we’ve got some smart ones, Duggan,” one-eyed Tarence said with a chuckle. Caspian swallowed hard as the four other pirates stepped out from behind the plants. They were just as rugged as the other two, all sporting red sashes and the same fox brand on their biceps.

“These four will be fine stock for the cap’n.” One of the three new pirates laughed. “I reckon we’d earn a handsome amount for just their leader.”

“Four?” Caspian thought, remaining expressionless. They hadn’t seen Jett.

“We’re not going anywhere with you!” Alec shouted at them. The five pirates laughed harder. The giant wilted.

“Ah, smell the desperation, lads,” Duggan said, drawing his cutlass.

Caspian glared at him.

“Don’t you insult them!” he ordered, the sternness of his tone giving the pirates pause. “Come anywhere near us, and you’ll get the pain you deserve. You pirates.”

The contempt in Caspian’s voice was plain.

Caspian’s gaze slipped to his rapier for a moment. He prayed that Jett got the hint. The five pirates all exchanged smirks as they began to advance on the boys. To the pirates, the boys were unarmed. They were easy prey. But Fenix, Alec, and Marshall all knew that Caspian wouldn’t let them down. They all stood back-to-back as the pirates surrounded them.

“Those are brave words coming from a runt like you,” Tarence scoffed, his cutlass level to Caspian’s heart.

“Aye,” Duggan agreed, all of the pirates proceeding closer. “Your courage is futile.”

“Futile.” Fenix snorted. “I’m surprised a rapscallion like yourself knows such an educated word.”

The boys laughed. Duggan growled, looming over Caspian. He was so close Caspian could smell his sour breath. But despite their apparent disadvantage, Caspian smiled.

“There’s something ya need to know about me and this crew of mine,” he said, rolling his shoulders back. “I always put my men first. And we don’t go anywhere we don’t want to—NOW, JETT!”

As Caspian yelled, Jett released the beehive. The four boys launched out of the way, ducking under the pirates’ swords. As the hive hit the ground, an angry swarm exploded from the crumbled remains. They were, in fact, not honeybees, but very angry, very dangerous wasps. The pirates jumped about, screaming as the boys dashed for cover. Caspian retrieved his rapier and whipped around as his friends sprinted past him.

“Come on, Jett!” he shouted. Jett had been climbing down from the tree and grabbed a vine that hung on the lower branches. He jumped and swung over the dancing pirates. He flew over the lake and thudded to the ground in a cloud of dust. Caspian lunged for him and grabbed his upper arm to help him up. He tossed Jett toward the bushes and kept his rapier raised as he locked eyes with Duggan.

“Ow! They’re escapin’, lads! Ow! After them!”

Caspian ran into the overgrowth, following the trail his friends had left behind. When he’d made it several yards, he jerked in a different direction. He broke branches and trampled bushes. The pirates’ arguing wasn’t far.

“Dug, they went this way! Ow!”

“No. They went that way!”

“They split up!” Duggan snarled. “Tarence, you and Cutler go that way. Flynn, Ember, and Horace, follow me.”

Caspian continued to run, the grip on his rapier getting more slippery by the second. As he ducked into a bunch of taros to hide, he tripped over a body. Both he and Jett yelled, immediately clapping their hands over the other’s mouth. Caspian pushed Jett away, his rapier falling into the plants.

“What are you doing here? I was leading them away, you idiot!”

“I wasn’t going to leave you on your own!” Jett argued back.

“You two, shuddup! They’re coming!” Fenix whispered harshly, popping up next to Jett. Caspian stared at him, bewildered. But he was snapped back to their plight as the three pirates crashed past them. Caspian and Jett ducked down. They weren’t fast enough. An unusually strong hand grabbed Caspian’s shoulder. The boy was wrenched from his hiding place, his hand swiping just above his fallen rapier. He fell backward, and Duggan pressed his foot onto his chest. Caspian coughed and grabbed onto the pirate’s ankle, trying to throw him off balance. Duggan stayed firm as the other three pirates grabbed Jett and Fenix. Both boys tried lunging for Caspian’s weapon, but they missed. Duggan laughed as Caspian writhed beneath him.

“Some leader you turned out to be.”

He looked up as Tarence and Cutler appeared. They were empty-handed.

“They got away,” Tarence panted. Duggan waved them off as he pressed harder on Caspian’s chest.

“Leave them. We got their leader, and the captain is waiting for us.”

Caspian was hauled to his feet and thrown toward Horace, the giant of the group. But before the pirate could grab him, Caspian lunged for his rapier. His fingers closed around the hilt as Duggan stomped on his wrist. The rapier was snatched from him as a boot connected with his jaw. Caspian lay sprawled across the ground, blood trickling from his split lip. Duggan laughed again, swinging the sword around carelessly.

“Did you really think you stood a chance? Grab ’im, Horace, and this time don’t let go.”

Caspian was dragged to his feet again, and his arms were wrenched painfully behind his back. Horace held both his wrists in one giant hand and squeezed. There was no chance of escape.

The trek through the forest was a long, painful one for the boys of Caspian’s troupe. They prodded through thorns, tough foliage, and tangling vines while banging their tired feet on sharp stones and roots. The deeper into the forest they went, the less familiar it became. Caspian licked his swollen lips, his chest tightening with every painful step. After what seemed like an eternity, the trees and thick plants altered into a carpet of white sand. Caspian stared at the ground, too tired to move another step. Duggan grabbed his chin and wrenched his head up.

“There, boy, is your new home.”

Upon the horizon lay a ship. An unnatural ship. The longer Caspian looked at it, the more he sensed a powerful force emitted from it. A force so dark—so evil—that Caspian felt his soul being sucked from his body. He tore his gaze away, feeling sick. He glanced over at Jett and Fenix. Their pale faces told him that they felt the same about the Siren’s Ghost.


“Ahoy, Captain! We’ve got some fine recruits for ya!” Duggan announced as he reached the top of the rope ladder. Caspian climbed after him, prodded by Horace, who was just a couple rungs below him.

As Caspian reached the top, his heart fell deeper into his stomach. The rest of the crew were just as rough and well-built as Duggan’s band.

“They didn’t give you any trouble, did they?” one called to Duggan, who laughed.

“No, boys. No one can stop ol’ Dug.”

“We dropped a wasp nest on his head!” Jett yelled. “And I’d gladly do it again. His scream sounded like Cap’s sister!”

Duggan whipped around, striking Jett across the face. He crumpled to the deck. Caspian wrenched free and jumped between his friend and the pirate.

“Leave him alone!”

Duggan chuckled.

“Or what?”

“Or—or I’ll gut you and feed your innards to the sharks!”

“You insolent brat,” Duggan thundered, pressing the blade of Caspian’s rapier to the boy’s neck. “I ought to kill ya.”

“Go ahead and try, you villain.”

Duggan pressed harder against Caspian’s neck, drawing blood.


Duggan stepped back from Caspian, falling silent. A tall, lanky man emerged from the crowd of pirates. Despite his underwhelming appearance, the rest of the pirates shrank back from him. Caspian turned to help Jett to his feet. Both boys stood tall as the captain studied them. Fenix was pushed forward to join them, but Caspian stayed in front.

“You.” The captain prodded Caspian’s chest with a bony finger. “What’s yer name?”

“Caspian Silverius, son of Captain Florian of the king’s navy!”

He puffed out his chest and tried standing taller.

“Captain Florian, eh? I remember ’im. Too bad his fleet was no match for me crew.” Captain Fox chuckled, glancing at the rapier in Duggan’s possession. “That’s yer father’s sword, I assume.”

“Yes! And I command that you keep your filthy hands off it.”

Old Fox gave a hearty laugh.

“Ye found a spirited one, Duggan.”

His smile suddenly turned downward, and his hand flew across Caspian’s face. The boy staggered back, but Jett and Fenix kept him upright. For the first time since their capture, he felt genuine fear. The captain had barely moved, yet his blow felt like it had come from a three-hundred-pound wrestler. It was—inhuman.

“Let me make something very clear,” Old Fox said, looming over Caspian and his friends. “Yer mine now. My property. Whatever rights ye think ye have, whatever family ye still love, and whatever hopes ye have of escaping, forget them. I have only two rules aboard me ship. Obey all orders put to ye, and never take what doesn’t belong to ye. If ye can manage those, I’ll permit ye to join me crew. If not—well—use yer imagination.”

Caspian bit his lower lip so hard he drew blood. Any more smart remarks could get him or his friends killed. But the rage burning in his chest was so hot he could barely breathe. Captain Fox studied Caspian’s hard expression for a moment before turning to Duggan.

“Lock ’em in the brig,” he said, eyeing Caspian carefully. “This one’s going to take a while to break.”

Pirates swarmed toward the boys, and none of them fought back. There wasn’t a point. Any amount of resistance was just going to get them killed. As Duggan dragged Caspian below deck, the boy strained his neck as he tried looking at his beloved island one last time. He studied the coastline, memorizing every detail.

Duggan tugged him to the stairs and threw him down. Caspian tumbled to a halt at the bottom. He’d knocked his head against the final stair so hard his vision blurred. Duggan’s breathy laugh only fueled Caspian’s anger.

“Watch yer step. The stairs be slippery.”

Caspian was yanked to his feet and led down the corridor, Jett and Fenix close behind him. There were several doors on either side of them. All were open except the last one on the left. A haunting blue light radiated from under the door. As they walked past it, all the pirates’ jabbing remarks and light-hearted laughter ceased completely. Caspian wrenched his eyes away from it, but his mind lingered and tried to make sense of it. There was something evil behind that door. He could feel it.


Caspian paced in front of the door, tensing against the searing pain in his arm. A fresh tattoo of a fox’s head burned against his skin. He bit his lower lip to suppress his angry tears. The door opened, and Fenix came tumbling headfirst into the small enclosure. Caspian jumped out of the way and glared at the two pirates standing in the doorway.

“If you hurt ’im, I’ll have yer heads!”

“Pipe down, Silverius, or you’ll both lose yer rations.”

Caspian’s stomach growled. He fell silent.

“Ye should follow yer friend Slayer’s example. This is yer life now.”

The door thudded closed, leaving Caspian and Fenix in total darkness.

“Thanks for the advice,” Caspian muttered. He felt through the dark and found the door. He ran his hands across the smooth surface as Fenix groaned. “You all right, Fen?”

“I can’t keep doing this, Cap. These half-witted escape plans just ain’t workin’. And there’s no way I’m gonna swim six miles again. I’m still coughing up salt.”

“So what? You want to join Jett the Slayer now?” Caspian asked.

“If it keeps me alive, then yes. I do. The runt’s got a better life.”

“Yeah, one built on luck,” Caspian mumbled, thinking about how Jett had accidentally gotten Duggan killed in their latest skirmish against a navy vessel. Caspian had seen how the real culprit had been a dying navy sailor, but Jett was given the credit. His award was taking Duggan’s place as Old Fox’s second-in-command. “You know, Fen. You might be right. I think it’s about time we found our place here.”

Both boys fell silent, and Caspian knelt next to the door. He looked in the gap between the door and the floor, catching a glimpse of a pair of boots walking away from their prison. He smiled. Their plan was working.


Three weeks passed. Caspian dunked his mop into the rickety bucket and swished the suds over the deck. He’d swabbed the deck an hour ago, but apparently his work hadn’t been good enough. Captain Fox sat on a barrel near the mast and surveyed Caspian’s work with a watchful eye.

“Yer doin’ solid work, Silverius,” Fox said. The pirates barely called Caspian by his first name. “Ye could be an asset to me crew.”

“Thanks. I think.” Caspian barely looked up.

Captain Fox got off the barrel and clopped toward him. Caspian swallowed hard as the captain squeezed his shoulder.

“Follow me.”

Caspian didn’t dare argue. He left the mop on the deck and hurried after Captain Fox as he went below deck. No one spoke to them—rather, no one dared. It was clear that the captain was on a mission, and he wasn’t to be disturbed. He and Caspian stopped in front of what everyone called the forbidden door. The eerie blue light seemed even stronger when Old Fox was near it. In the eight months since their capture, Caspian and his friends had never tried discovering what lay beyond the door. And as Caspian stood in front of it, he was certain that whatever lay behind it was unfathomably evil.

Old Fox turned the handle, and the blue light washed over them. The captain stepped into the room, but Caspian didn’t move. He couldn’t. He stared at the source of the light in complete disbelief. Captain Fox looked back at Caspian and smiled a chilling grin.

“Come on, boy. Come look. You know you want to.”

Caspian stepped forward even though his mind screamed at him to run. It was as if his feet had a mind of their own. The door closed before he realized that he was in the room, and his breath seemed to leave his body.

“W-what is that?” Caspian choked.

“It’s called the Light of the Siren,” Captain Fox said, circling the room. Caspian couldn’t take his eyes off the glowing object. For a moment, it looked like a staff. Then a sword. Then the shape changed instantly into the figure of a mermaid. Caspian blinked hard, and the form changed to a sword again. The uneasy feeling in his stomach rose to his throat, and Caspian bit his lower lip as his senses were suddenly assaulted by a low hum. The noise seemed to be coming from the floating object.

“W-why? Why—”

Caspian stopped. His brain swam with overwhelming thoughts of pain, suffering, and hunger. It was as if all his bad memories were surfacing at once. Ones he’d tried for so long to forget. He fell to his knees, clutching his head while the memories swirled and blended together. He was barely aware of Captain Fox, who continued to circle him and the object.

“That’s it, Silverius. Give in to the Siren. Accept yer place. This is yer home now. Poseidon’s Cove isn’t yer home anymore. Yer family has abandoned ye. Yer friends can’t be trusted. Only I believe in ye.”

Caspian writhed as he tried shoving the memories away.
           “You’re lying. You’re lying. It’s not true,” Caspian thought, battling his pain. “Fenix and Jett would never betray me. They’re counting on me!”

“Yer own father died a failure,” Captain Fox continued. “He never loved ye. He never cared. He left ye and yer family to die!”

“No, it’s not true,” Caspian thought desperately, memories of his father leaving flashing before his eyes. “He cared! He hugged Dyanna. H-he gave me his sword.”

Caspian froze, arriving at a sudden conclusion. He stopped struggling, the Siren’s hold decreasing. Captain Fox chuckled, but Caspian thought the blue light surrounding them dimmed for a second. The captain hauled Caspian to his feet and shoved him out of the room.

“Yer one of us now,” Captain Fox was saying. Caspian stumbled next to him, concluding that Old Fox had interpreted Caspian’s victory as submission.

“Aye, Captain!” Caspian agreed. “Just tell me what to do!”

“That’s the spirit, lad.” Old Fox laughed, clapping him on the back. “There’s this ship I’ve got me eye on. She’s called the Tempest. The finest ship I ever did see! She’ll be the start of me very own fleet.”

“That’s quite an ambition, sir,” Caspian said.

“Aye! And she’ll belong to Slayer. He’ll need his own crew, naturally. How’d ye like to replace him as me first mate?”

Caspian feigned interest.

“It would be my honor, Captain!” he said. They continued walking, and Old Fox started laying out his plans, but Caspian was barely listening. His own plan was forming. Getting the Tempest was the key. He could feel it. He stole a glance back at the door that concealed the Light of the Siren. He was going to get Fenix and Jett out of here. And they weren’t going to leave empty-handed.