The purple dawn was metamorphosing into an amber shade before easing into the cornflower blue of a spring day. The heavenly breeze blew wisps of salty water through the sails of the Stellar Pearl making young Sara breathe in the fishy scent with a smile.
“It is quite rejuvenating is it not?” Captain Alice grinned lopsidedly, standing lazily at the ship’s wheel.
“It’s quite fishy too,” Sara giggled. She felt better now after her two days of sea-sickness.
“Gotten your sea-legs, ‘ave ya?” Lacy approached them in her usual loose Victorian gown, “Oh, and mother, we’re twelve degrees off course North-West. Timothy says we can make it there by sunrise tomorrow if we go at 40 knots and take advantage of the clear seas.”
Captain Alice nodded and went about making the modifications, shouting at her crew various orders. Everything seemed to be running smoothly aboard the steampunk pirate ship. What Sara really wanted to do was be in the air but they had taken precautions, and the lack of enchanted Pixie Sand had made it too risky to attempt to conceal the airborne ship in the cloudless sky.
A shout of panic resounded from above, cutting Sara’s stream of thoughts short.
“Kraken! Kraken ahead! Kraken!” the young green-haired lad bellowed from the crow’s nest, waving his arms animatedly.
Sara gasped and was thrown back when the Captain attempted to change course, causing the ship to lurch to the left. The young girl jumped to her feet and ran towards the bow to get a closer look.
“Stay back!” Antoine yelled as he fiddled with a tangled sail. It was at that moment that Sara saw three large red tentacles reach up to grab the boat.
Suddenly, the green-haired lad shouted something that sounded suspiciously like ‘Circe’.
“Circe?” Sara muttered wide-eyed. What kind of entanglement had she gotten herself into this time? This was nothing like joking around with a pixie and saving puppies.
Lacy cursed as she dragged Sara away from the edge, and just in the nick of time too for if Sara had still been standing in that spot she’d have fallen victim to the first tentacle that reached out at lightning speed from the whirlpool of water.
The wind was raging and the sky suddenly turned dark and thick with unfriendly clouds that looked to Sara like bad omens with their smoky teeth and malevolent wispy eyes. Sara shuddered from cold and fear as she tried to avoid bumping into any of the frantic pirates who were desperately battling huge red tentacles with spears and crossbows. The Necromancer was bellowing some strange words in Latin that seemed lost to the world until he threw something at a tentacle a few feet away from him and it evaporated in a poof of purple mist.
Suddenly, Sara heard a voice screaming mad words in the distance, it was so eerily animalistic that it made goose bumps rise all down her spine. Surely that’s a banshee! Sara pondered momentarily before noticing the three islands surrounding them behind all the tentacles and water.
On one of the islands, there was a tall thin woman in a black ragged dress and limp black hair that was blowing wildly in the wind, concealing her face but Sara was certain she had been the one screaming inhumanly.
“Help!” Lacy cried from ten feet in the air. A thick tentacle was threatening to squeeze her in two. None of the other sailors noticed, they were too busy with their own battles.
Sara rushed about frantically looking for something she could do. She understood now that this sudden storm wasn’t natural and the Kraken was possibly Circe’s familiar. The mere idea was terrifying. She had to help Lacy. In her frenzy, she tripped over a harpoon. This should do! Sara fumbled wildly, lifting it and aiming at the tentacle with shaky hands.
The arrow flew through the air swiftly before embedding itself in the soft, fishy flesh, a little below Lacy’s flailing legs. Sara waited for the squid to release her friend in pain but instead the arrow very suddenly disintegrated, blowing the top half of the limb and Lacy into the air.
Sara gasped in horror, her wide eyes followed the screaming girl as she landed on Circe’s island. Sara lost sight of her when she landed.
In utter panic, Sara turned to tell the crew that Lacy was now a prisoner on the island, only to find that the ship was deserted except for the Necromancer who was passed out.
Shaking, Sara helped the Necromancer up.
“Fiddlesticks! What happened?” he asked, rubbing his bird’s nest hair out of his eyes, taking in the sight of the wet and messy deck.
“I’m not sure but it has something to do with the mad woman on the first island to the left,” Sara replied, looking around at the suddenly quiet surroundings.
“Is that the Captain’s hat?” the Necromancer asked wide-eyed, staring at the black object sitting in a pool of water near the wheel.
“Yes… They’re all gone. One moment they were fighting the giant squid and suddenly it’s quiet and they’re all gone…”
“Take a deep breath,” the Necromancer suggested to the young girl.
Sara tried to do as he asked without hyperventilating. She managed at long last to take in a few fire-yoga breaths. Feeling slightly more level-headed, she said, “We have to find them, I bet that Circe has taken them to her island”.
“Oh no! Not me. I will not face that witch again!” the man looked like he’d rather eat rotten fish.
“Again?” Sara was feeling optimistic all of sudden.
“Yes, but don’t ask for the story. Witches are crazy in reality; don’t think they’re as lovely as in some tales you humans tell. She’d sooner eat me or kill me than let me live happy and sane. She tried to steal my free-will and make me her familiar and her l…” the Necromancer shuddered, unable to finish his words in disgust.
Now Sara was curious, it seemed they had a history. She grinned despite the problem at hand and decided to probe deeper.
“Her what? What did she want of you?”
“Don’t make me say it! Her island’s a loony bin, a maze of absurd surrealism. Don’t make me go back. The pirates don’t stand a chance of escape,” he barked back rather sharply.
“But you escaped didn’t you? A smart man like you, one with such unimaginable powers could surely take on anything. You’re all but invincible!” Sara put on a sweet tone and innocent look of adoration she’d usually use on adults she wanted to please.
The Necromancer wasn’t fooled however. He may have been a bit of a scatter-brain but he could see right through her. “Your sweet talk won’t help you with Circe, I’ll have you know. Well, maybe a bit…” That’s when he blushed crimson.
Sara burst out laughing. “I knew it! She’s smitten by you and you just played to her weaknesses. Come on! You’re perfect for the job! Please, think how Captain Alice will reward you and how you’ll be the hero for a change.”
The Necromancer’s shoulders dropped as he sighed in defeat. “I want no less than a tenth of the Sky king’s royal treasure after this,” he looked Sara square in the eyes. Sara nodded, hoping Alice would agree to that.
The Necromancer muttered a few words and the entire ship rose in the air and turned towards the island.
“Woah, isn’t this too direct an entrance? Isn’t there a secret route or something? Like can’t you make us invisible? We’ll be captured and spotted in seconds!” Sara yelped in surprise as she tripped backwards from the sudden turn.
“Trust me; there is no way of going onto her territory without her knowing. The direct route is the best. Besides we’ll escape invisible if all goes as it should.”
Sara shrugged, hoping she had placed her trust in the right person. Maybe he did know better. The ship fell on the shore with a slight crash that rattled it. Sara fell for what seemed like the tenth time that day. She frowned rubbing her possibly bruised bottom.
“Oh if Alice saw that landing…” she muttered, glaring at the still upright Necromancer.
“Did you say something?” he asked, turning to face her with a slight smirk.
“Nope,” she said with a false smile, following him off the ship.
“Smug pug,” she mumbled, making a face at his turned back as he stepped onto the sand with an expression of curious discomfort.
Sara made it to the ground without the help the Necromancer offered her. Her breeches caught on a bit of wood splinter and nail and tore slightly, scratching her skin. She scowled angrily.
“You’re only harming yourself, love,” he said bemusedly, watching her struggle in a temper.
She was just about to retort with her sharp wit when they both stopped in their tracks.
A large pack of wolves was standing before them, each one looking more menacing and larger than any normal wolf. It seemed the real adventure hadn’t even started.