Savage Miraya



Previously: Pirate captain, Morgan Seagrave, double-crossed another pirate, gaining two halves of a treasure map but receiving a blow to the head. A dispute followed between Seagrave and his first mate, Hengist -- Hengist wanting to kill the prisoners, Seagrave ordering them to be allowed to join his crew. Hengist wasn't happy, but backed off. Dizzy from his head wound, Seagrave passed out in his cabin, then woke in the night just as a beautiful, nearly-naked and orange-skinned girl tumbled into his arms. She exclaimed two words: "T'an lac!" then was snatched away by a two-headed, bald, hook-chinned monster.

Now, moments later on the Sea Dog...

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Seagrave staggered out onto the deck, shouting furiously as he went. In minutes the waist was crowded with his startled and dishevelled crew, their hastily drawn cutlasses flickering in the silver moonlight. They looked about them with wide, expectant eyes, thinking by his cries to find the deck aswarm with boarders.

"Where did they go?" shouted Seagrave, rushing up the companionway to the quarterdeck. He wheeled and surveyed the waist below. "Someone must have seen them?" The Buccaneer Was a Picturesque Fellow, by Howard Pyle

"Seen who?" asked Hengist doubtfully. "What's going on, Morgan?"

"There was a naked girl," Seagrave replied breathlessly. In his confusion, he didn't stop to wonder why the first mate was fully clothed in the middle of the night. "She came into my cabin."

Instantly the crew broke into boisterous ribald laughter, and one man called out: "Does she have a sister?"

Seagrave silenced them with a furious snarl. "I know what I saw, you dogs. Now search the ship. There was...something... that attacked her and carried her away. They can't have gotten far. Hurry! Spread out, I say! A gold piece to the man who finds her first."

Though grumbling, the men grudgingly obeyed and began searching for their mysterious stowaways. The search continued for an hour, with no sign of the girl or the monster. Seagrave knew how his story must sound but he was certain of what he had seen. It had been so real. She had been so real. Indeed, he could still feel her slender body straining in his arms, still smell the scent of her, like lilacs. They had to find her. They had to!

At one point, he heard one of the men mutter to another: "If I can find a naked girl on this tub, he can keep his damn gold piece."

At the same moment, Hengist appeared at Seagrave's shoulder. "They don't believe me, do they?" Seagrave asked, grimly avoiding the other's eyes. "You don't believe me."

"What do you want us to believe, Morgan? A naked girl?" He chuckled softly, but the sound had an oddly strained quality to it. "I told you you should have had your head looked to."

"I know what I saw." Seagrave pushed past his first mate and bounded back down to his cabin. Inside, he lit a lamp and turned slowly around, searching the scene for a clue, some proof that it had not been his imagination.

Then he saw it.

He stepped to the bunk and, bending, caught up a dazzling emerald gemstone the size of his thumb. Had the girl dropped this? It wasn't his, he knew that for certain. As Hengist appeared in the cabin doorway, Seagrave furtively slipped the gemstone into the breast pocket of his shirt. Proof it might be to him, but the gem would hardly convince Hengist -- and could only lead to trouble if the crew thought he was hiding treasure from them.

"Perhaps you're right," Seagrave said, as Hengist stepped up behind him. "About my head I mean. Perhaps I need to sleep it off."

"Perhaps you do, Captain," replied Hengist in a low voice -- and struck Seagrave from behind...

* * *

The blood-soaked lash whistled and cracked explosively like a gunshot, made all the louder by the sullen silence of the sun-drenched deck.

The crew stood in a gathered throng, some with eyes shamefully averted, others watching with evident malice and pleasure. There was a moment of expectant silence -- a momentary lull disturbed only by the rigid sound of drily creaking cords. Then the knotted lash swished again, and another brittle crack shattered the stillness.

Another crewman turned quickly away.

On the bottom step of the quarterdeck companion, Hengist raised a hand, signalling the flogging to stop. The torturer lowered his tool and stepped back, massaging his shoulder grimly.

Slowly Hengist crossed the deck and surveyed his former captain through slitted eyes.

Seagrave hung by his wrists, suspended by cords from the yardarm above, his feet dangling a foot off the deck. His white shirt hung in tattered ribbons torn wide at the back, and his black breeches shone with the blood of his ordeal.

"Until the wind blows on their white ribs, I believe you said," Hengist commented sardonically. He appraised Seagrave's wounds with a clinical squint, then smiled: "I'd say we've about reached that point now, wouldn't you, Captain?" He stepped around to face Seagrave from the front. "You understand this was necessary, I hope? It isn't enough to kill you. If I'm to have the loyalty of your crew, I have to show them you are just a man, who bleeds like any other. I can't have them thinking about revenge. After all, that was why I killed your prisoners last night while you were sleeping. I don't like loose ends."

Slowly, Seagrave's eyes opened half-lidded, and he regarded his betrayer with blistering hate. His voice was a parched croak. "You dog -- those -- men -- were to be -- left alone."

"Ah, yes. Your orders. You've lost the stomach for this game, Morgan. And I for one can't follow a man without stomach. That's one reason I'm taking your ship and crew. The other being the treasure map, of course. Too bad for you I saw your half before you made those additions."

"Watch -- your back," Seagrave gritted through grinding teeth. "These men -- are loyal. This -- whipping -- didn't change -- a thing."

Hengist's brows arched in mock surprise and he laughed lightly. "This whipping? Of course, not, Morgan. What did you think? Did you think we were done? No, no. I only stopped the flogging so someone more rested could take a turn." He nodded to another crewman, one who Seagrave had recently punished for falling asleep on watch. The man took up the lash and stepped silently into position.

Hengist smiled coldly. With casual ease, he reached out and tore off the ragged remnants of Seagrave's shirt, then strode to the gunwale. "You won't be needing this," he commented, tossing the shirt flapping down into the sea. "You won't be coming down from there -- not alive, anyway. So what do you say, Captain. Another hour perhaps? Two? We'll see. We have all day."

He returned to the companion and settled comfortably on the step. "Continue," he said, with a careless gesture.

Again there was a momentary pause, tense with apprehension. Seagrave inhaled quickly. Then the lash whistled sharply and cracked like a slap of searing thunder.

* * *

"Is he dead?" asked Hengist, as if the answer was of only mild interest to him.

Having been cut down, Seagrave lay as he had fallen, the severed cords still knotted around his wrists. A man knelt beside him.

"He's still alive," the man replied soberly. "Barely."

Hengist frowned. Seagrave's stamina was amazing -- inconveniently so. The first mate had expected the flogging to kill his former captain. Then the corpse would have been left to hang for a day or two, just to drive the point home to the rest of the crew: Hengist was captain now. But, as the morning wore on, and the brutal punishment continued unabating, the prolonged and grisly spectacle had begun to work a dangerous spell over the crew. They were a superstitious lot, and it almost seemed as if, no matter how terrible his suffering, Seagrave could not be killed. Hardly Hengist's intention.

In the end, reluctantly, Hengist had halted the punishment and ordered Seagrave cut down -- hoping the fall might finish what the lash had started. But here too he had been thwarted.

Damn you, Morgan, Hengist thought. Why must you make everything so difficult?

"You men," he said, indicating several pirates he knew he could trust. "Carry this dog to the gunwale and throw him to the sea. The sharks will finish the job soon enough."

The men hesitated uncertainly. "What are you waiting for?" Hengist snapped angrily. "You think he's going to bite you? Throw him overboard, I say!"

Nervously, the men lifted their captain, a man at each arm and leg. They carried him hurriedly to the gunwale, his body sagging between them. Then, just as they prepared to heave him over the railing, his body stiffened and he groaned weakly. The four men dropped him in surprise and stumbled back. Seagrave landed against the gunwale, his head slumped on his breast. Dimly, the crew heard him speak, but the sound was too faint to make out.

"What was that?" Hengist asked uneasily. "What did he say? You there -- see what he wants."

The crewman nervously knelt with his ear close to Seagrave's face. After a moment, he stood and stepped quickly back.

"He wants his cutlass," the man said, obviously mystified by the request.

"His cutlass?" Hengist was amazed. "You want to duel with me, Morgan? Is that it? You poor fool -- why can't you just lie down and die?" Hengist inhaled slowly, considering a moment -- then he nodded. "Very well. You -- fetch his blade from his cabin." To Seagrave he said: "After all our years together, the least I can do is bury my old friend with his weapon."

In seconds the crewman returned bearing the sheening cutlass, carrying it as if it were a magic talisman. When he hesitated, Hengist snarled, "Give it to him, you dolt!"

The man bent and held out the blade, but Seagrave lay motionless, his head still slumped forward. After a moment, the crewman reached out and gently placed the hilt in Seagrave's right hand, setting the blade upright against Seagrave's chest. Abruptly, Seagrave stirred as if delirious. He groped blindly at the crewman's sleeve, pulling him closer. Hengist didn't see Seagrave's fingers lift the dirk from the crewman's sash.

"All right," snarled Hengist. "Let's be done with this. Throw him over - -"

Too late he saw the flash of light that glinted in Seagrave's hand. Hengist gasped, throwing up his arms. The hurled dirk spun flickering in the air --

And thudded into the wooden mast an inch from the first mate's ear. His look of startled horror melted into a sneer of vindictive amusement. "Close," he said, with a cruel, mocking laugh. "But not close enough." Then the smile chilled on his lips and his voice was laced with hate. "Throw him to the sharks -- now!"

Seagrave had used his last remaining strength to hurl the dirk, and he put up no resistance as four men heaved him up and over the gunwale...

Next episode...Monsters on the Bridge
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Savage Miraya is copyright 1998, by Jeffrey Blair Latta. It may not be copied or used for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews. (Obviously, you can copy it or print it out if you want to read it!)