Captain Viper sailed over the deck of the Wicked Woman. It was as if the music and thunder had been siphoned from the air, tucked into an envelope and sealed with hot wax. Silence possessed the sky.
Below, waves reached to claim the captain. The icy kiss of the gunman’s daughter awaited.
For the captain, the hourglass smashed. Time halted between sky and sea. The creature diving from the clouds blotted out all else.
The dragon’s scaled body scintillated a pale blue, mirroring the sky. Its eyes cradled onyx. Spikes iced the spine like guitar strings. Wings fanned into a delicate, stretched leather. Their breadth far outspread the Wicked Woman, but the enormity of the beast wasn’t what caught Viper’s eye.
Symbols branded the wings. The dying sun shown through them like fire. Viper drew in his breath mesmerized by the runes: long strokes were followed by short ones, all within triangles.
The wings flapped, closed, and spread again.
The Ice Metal dragon was a fierce creature—otherworldly, uncapturable. Who had imprinted the symbols? How? And most importantly, why? Big Bob’s words, from what felt like hours before, answered him back, “Th’ hairy son o’ a biscuit eater that be screwin’ wit our ship, our fate. He be drivin’ the dragon o’ metal.”
Messages, Viper thought. He recognized the patterns. It was the same phrase or word, repeated over and over.
Cold, then shock overcame the captain. Water nymphs clutched him, entered his lips, his throat, lungs, then thrust him under to the frothy fathoms of a sleepy
A sting across his cheek. And then another. Viper came too with a sopping Strudel crying over him. AC/DC and Slayer clashed in his ears like swords. Someone nearby carried the distinct smell of a wet dog. No. A dead, wet dog. He swallowed the vomit that threatened to rise, and closed his eyes against the kaleidoscope of senses.
Big Bob’s hand stung his cheek again. There was a slight pop! And the captain felt his wooden eye break free. He opened his other eye. Tried to yell. His voice wouldn’t come. He didn’t know which was worse, being strangled by sea nymphs or slapped silly by Big Bob. He felt the tiny Viper inside the hollow coil and hiss.
“Cap’n wake up! Wake up! We need you to–” Big Bob’s hand came again, only when it struck home, so did the baby Viper.
Viper found his voice. “Ye’ll be damned to Gehenna, you jelly!” He sat up as Big Bob fell to the deck. A vertigo of music struck Viper again, he grabbed his head and waited a moment, then snatched Big Bob’s arm to inspect the bite.
Strudel sidled up beside Viper, and popped the wooden eye back into the hole. The snake gave one last hiss, and Strudel tripped backwards with a shriek.
“Shhhh!” said the captain, more to himself than to Strudel or the blazing hell in the clouds. He held Big Bob’s arm between his hands. A welt formed where the snake had bit. A red streak flowed from the welt to his elbow and was climbing further.
Viper shook his head and glanced at Big Bob’s pale face. Big Bob knew. Of course, he did. The bloke seemed to know everything. It was a waste of words to say anything and yet Viper did, gently. “Ye be meetin’ Davy Jones himself soon, matey.”
Big Bob’s eyes grew huge and Viper glanced away. “Tis be th’ way o’ lore an lust.”
Big Bob said nothing, but he raised his bitten arm and pointed.
Viper followed his finger. “Shiver me timbers!” He scrambled back and drew in his breath.
They’d all be meetin’ Davy Jones soon! The figurehead of the Wicked Woman was only a bucket throw from the ghastly spikes of the ice mirror. Viper jumped to his feet.
The ice dragon howled louder than ever. Skulker’s music barely kept the ice at bay.
“Strudel,” yelled Viper above the cacophony, “Tell th’ lads t’ fire at th’ wall!”
Viper felt a tug on his britches, and looked down. Big Bob nodded at the captain, and he knelt to him.
“We haven’t time. There’s only one way…” Big Bob sweated despite the icy blasts. He fell back. Viper caught him before his head smacked the floorboards.
“What be that?”
Big Bob grasped Viper by the shirt collar, brought his mouth to Viper’s ear and whispered.
Viper drew away and stared at Big Bob in shock. “Bloody brilliant, lad.”
Big Bob’s eyes closed, he muttered, “But ye’ve got t’ be haltin’ Skulker’s music.”
“Strudel! Get Big Bob an th’ rest o’ th’ sea dogs below t’ th’ bilge!
“Albie, grab ye strongest mutts an’ haul up all th’ kerosene barrels.”
Albie nodded. “Aye, aye, Cap’n!” He scrambled past the captain to carry out the orders.
Viper grabbed him by the scruff of his shirt and shouted into his ear. “An’ Albie? Fetch me a bloody match!”
The crew ducked down the hatch. Barrels of kerosene were hauled to the top.
“Toss me a bear skin!” Viper yelled into the hatch. Someone tossed him a polar bear fur, finest there be. He battened down the hatch. Grabbed an iron bar, opened all the kerosene barrels.
Sweat dripped from his brow. Either Big Bob’s plan would work or they were all doomed to the green-eyed mistress of the seven seas. He drew his pistol and aimed at Skulker.
Skulker played the strings as if he were born to it. How did he know of this music? Where had the strange instrument come from? Whose fiery loins spewed forth this swashbuckler of shadows and secrets? The captain had asked no questions of the man who’d claimed his admiration long ago. And there be no time for questions now. There never would be. The music be too intense. Too loud. There be no way to stall or alert Skulker.
What must be done, must be done. Tis be th’ way o’ lust an lore.
A blast of wind threw Viper’s aim off. He took a deep breath and steadied. Putting what he aimed for between his sites. He thought of his love, Wisteria, the woman who he’d gone to all this trouble for. He calmed and his hand steadied. Suddenly, Viper knew he would make it come dragon, storm, or hell. The treasures of the cave of Ali Baba would be his and so would Wisteria.
The ship drew nearer, nearer to the spikes. Inches away from the bowsprit.
Viper cocked his pistol and fired.
To Be Continued….