The Scottish Rogue, Part One

by Christine Morgan

vecna@eskimo.com


Author's Note: the characters of Gargoyles are the property of Disney and used
here without their creators' knowledge or permission. Latin by Tim Morgan
(thanks, love!!!). Mature readers only due to sexual content and violence.

Bibliography:
GURPS Swashbucklers, by Steffan O'Sullivan;
Under the Black Flag -- the Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates,
by David Cordingly.



(Broadway, voice-over) Previously, on Gargoyles ... From "Tales from the Skiff" --         "You!" Reaper snarled. "This time, you will die!"         "I doubt it," MacBeth sighed, "but we can hope, can't we?"         "You put the spell on them?" Broadway blurted. "Sure, that makes sense! You must've had it in for gargoyles ever since Demona, but you're too noble to kill them --"         "Noble!" Brand's sword sliced through the air. "He hunted us like animals!"         "You attacked my town! Killed my wife!" MacBeth shot back.         "Stole our lives from us!" Melusine screeched. "Not death, but strange waking in a world not our own! Now we have no clan, no ship, no future! And you, Rogue, will pay!"
*********************************************************


        Three hundred years ago ...
        Cannonfire and the cutlass ruled
        It was a time of piracy
        It was a world of greed
        It was the age of ...
        Gargoyles!
        Wood by day, warriors by night
        Betrayed by the crewmen we were sworn to protect
        Frozen in wood by a magic spell
        For three hundred years
        Now, here in the Caribbean
        The spell is broken
        And we live again!

*********************************************************

Off the coast of the Bahamas
April, 2000

        The gentle surf tilted the Coral mildly this way and that. The sun had
nearly reached the horizon, turning the sky into a pastel dream of pinks, oranges,
and golds. All was an idyllic scene ... except that two of the men aboard the
small vessel were on the verge of a fistfight while a third tried ineffectively to
calm them down.
        "They were expecting us at six!" one man shouted. He was very tan,
very fit, looked like he could have stepped right out of a travel agent's brochure.
He thrust his watch into the other man's face. "At six!"
        "It's not my fault, Scott!" the other shouted back. He was, if anything,
more tan and fit than his buddy.
        "Sirs, sirs, please! The third man was much younger, eighteen if he
was a day, with gorgeous coffee skin and lush black hair. "I'll fix the boat, and
we're back by nine o'clock."
        "Nine!?!" the first man, Scott, gasped. "Are you crazy? I finally get
Dana to come away with me, perfect romantic vacation, she'd give in, finally
give in, and now we're stuck out here in the middle of the frigging ocean!"
        "He said he'll fix it --"
        "By the time we get back, she'll be in bed with some island stud, just to
spite me! Why did I listen to you anyway? 'Hey, the girls want to go shopping,
what say you and me do a little sport fishing?' You conehead! We didn't even
catch any fish!"
        "Sirs, please --" the third man tried again.
        "I wouldn't blame Dana if she did," the second man snapped. "You've
been a jerk all day! She knows the only reason you brought her here was to get
into her pants."
        Roderigo shook his head and walked away muttering. Let them beat
each other up, then, if that's what they wanted. He was going to take a look at the
engine.
        He glumly realized that the men would probably want their money
back. First no fish, as if that was his fault, and then the engine dies. If he'd only
listened to his father, who had told him again and again that a sailboat was more
reliable. But no, he'd had to insist that a motor was more reliable than the wind.
When all the while, he'd just liked the motor better, liked being able to speed
across the crystalline waters without having to wrestle with sails and lines.
        While he tinkered, he heard the argument continue above, but it seemed
his customers weren't going to start punching after all. Then he heard their
exclamations of surprise, as the dusk brought some fish to the surface. They
would get their catch, at least.
        By the time he emerged onto the deck, scrubbing his hands with a rag,
the sky had gone indigo and the sea shimmered beneath the diamond points of
the first stars.
        The men seemed to have made their peace, or set aside their grievances
long enough to do some fishing. The peace had been helped by the now mostly
emptied cooler; their fishing hadn't particularly benefited.
        "Ready in five minutes?" Roderigo suggested.
        "Aw, what's the rush?" Scott said. "Dana's probably already got her legs
wide open." He finished a beer and flipped the bottle over the side.
        "Hey, look!" the other man said, peering into the distance. "I see
another boat!"
        Roderigo looked, and felt sudden nervousness worm its way into his
heart. Another boat, yes, with an odd shape and no lights except for the uneven
flicker of oil lanterns. Every spooky story he'd heard over the past year came
rushing back. Stories he had discounted at the time. Stories that were easy to
discount while basking in the languid sun, but seemed a lot more plausible in the
mysterious dark.
        "We go now," he declared, rushing to do just that.
        "What kind of a boat is that?" Scott wondered aloud. "Bri, do you
know?"
        "It's a pirate ship!" his buddy laughed in boyish glee. "A pirate ship!"
        Although the wind was barely more than a breeze, the ship bore steadily
down on them. It was a schooner in miniature, maybe 1/3 scale of the ones that
had once plied and plundered their way across this part of the sea.
        Scott, also laughing, grabbed the spotlight on the Coral's rail and
switched it on, training it on the approaching ship. The figurehead at the prow
was of a woman-shape in regal garb. Letters were painted across the hull in a
style to suggest woodburning edged in gold -- Lady MacBeth, it read.
        "Where's the crew?" Bri asked.
        Roderigo started the engine but it came on with a protesting cough and
he knew instantly that they were not going to be able to outrun the other ship. He
gave it his best try anyway, nearly throwing his customers overboard with the
shuddering jolt as the Coral leaped forward.
        The spotlight escaped Scott's hands and swung crazily across the sky. It
caught and lit a dark, winged shape descending toward them, then the beam of
light tilted down to illuminate nothing but the sea. Fish, mistaking it for the sun,
swam up into the oblong glow.
        "Did you see --?" Bri bit off the rest, as if unable to believe he'd seen it
himself.
        A butterfly of flame unfolded on the Lady MacBeth. No, not a butterfly,
but wings of fire framing a robed body. The man, or angel, or whatever he was,
lofted himself from the deck and drew a blazing sword as he glided near.
        Something heavy thudded on the roof of the Coral's cabin. Roderigo,
inside, heard it but couldn't see. He did see, though, the expression of utter terror
on Bri's face.
        "You've been boarded!" a deep voice announced.
        The fiery one swung his sword, shattering the spotlight. Glass and
charred metal rained hissing into the water. Scott screamed and backpedaled.
        "Huh?" Bri said. "Huh? What?"
        "Idiot human!" the voice thundered.
        Roderigo had a quick impression of feathery black wings, great and
sweeping. A curve of silver whispered through the air. Then Bri was on the deck,
his legs kicking as if he were swimming, his arms clutching spasmodically ... yes,
Bri was on the deck ... in two places on the deck ... he'd been cut in half and in
the moment before life fled him, his eyes met Roderigo's with hellish awareness.
        The shape standing over Bri turned to see what the dead man's last sight
had been. Roderigo felt his mouth fall open, heard himself yammering a prayer
he had learned at his grandmother's knee and thought he'd entirely forgotten.
        Death stood before him. Death, his skeletal form somehow seeming
awesomely powerful, his hooded face monstrous. He held a scythe, its gleaming
edge now dulled by blood, and his eyes were the white-blue of St. Elmo's fire.
        Without pausing for thought, Roderigo slammed through the small door
and raced for the rail. He expected at any moment to see his legs run on ahead of
him as his severed torso toppled like a felled tree, trying to prepare himself for
the swift, awful invasion of that slicing blade.
        He saw without caring that the wrathful fire-angel and cornered Scott
and was toying with him, feinting with his blazing sword as if Scott might have a
chance of escape.
        Roderigo dove, and felt or imagined the billowing back of his shirt split
by the tip of the scythe. Then he plunged into the cool, silken waters and started
swimming for all he was worth. He'd been swimming since before he could walk,
nobody could outdistance him in the water. He left his boat behind and never
cared if he saw it, or his customers, again.
        A shape glided through the depths beneath him. He saw the sleek
fishtail ... the bare breasts ... the long streaming green-gold hair ...
        A mermaid? But it couldn't be! His mind was playing tricks on him!
        Yet she came closer, propelling herself with fluid ease. A mermaid, the
most beautiful thing he had ever seen! He gasped, forgetting that he was
underwater. His lungs rebelled against the intrusive seawater. He kicked toward
the surface ... then felt a three-fingered, webbed hand close around his ankle.
        As she drew him down, the last things he saw were the batlike wings
folded tight against her sides, and the deep turquoise glow of her eyes.

                *               *

Manhattan
May, 2000

        "No offense, Uncle Brendan, but this is more boring than a seminar on
investment planning."
        "So much for next weekend's outing."
        Her boisterous laugh at his deadpan reply turned many heads in her
direction. Birdie Yale, center of attention yet again. Dressed, as usual, in
typically eye-popping style: amethyst-colored tube dress belted with a silver
chain, black tights, black jacket, low black boots with clunky soles.
        The New York Conference on History and Archaeology was in full
swing. The hotel's meeting rooms were packed with seminars on everything from
Incan pottery to Native American medicine to African folklore.
        "Should be Elisa here instead of me," Birdie remarked, studying the list.
"She's experienced most of this stuff first-hand."
        "Uh-huh," Brendan said, rising on his toes to peer over the crowd in the
large ballroom, which had been converted into a dealer's hall where a display of
yellowed maps might be flanked on one side by Roman coins and on the other by
reproductions of cave paintings.
        Most of the attendees were as dry, dusty, or mummified as the artifacts
they studied. Elderly professors whose hands were permanently bleached with
chalkdust. Aged adventurers whose strong chins and manly chests had softened
over the years. Here and there, college students who hungered for a time when
the world had been full of mystery and challenge, a simpler era when instead of
clear-cutting the rain forest, brave men explored and found hidden temples,
fabulous treasure.
        Yep, all that ... and her and Brendan. But Brendan even qualified in a
half-assed sort of way; his grandfather had been an explorer and he himself had
been on a thrills-and-chills vacation with Broadway and Elektra. So he fit in.
Which left her.
        "Why'd you want to come, anyway?" Brendan sank back to his feet with
a look of disappointment.
        "Fergs asked me to check it out," Birdie said. "She would have come
herself, but a.) it's daytime and b.) she still hasn't gotten the knack of illusions on
film. Her dad's birthday is coming up and she wants to find him some moldy
oldie from the Middle Ages."
        "I certainly hope you're not talking about me," a voice said behind her.
        Birdie smiled and turned. She'd know those drop-dead-sexy inflections
anyplace. "Heya, Prof!"
        "Good afternoon, Miss Yale, Mr. Vandermere."
        "Professor MacDuff," Brendan said, shaking his hand.
        "So what's this about moldy oldies?" he demanded with a teasing glint
in his eye.
        "Oh, I wasn't talking about you," Birdie assured him. "If Fergs gave you
to her dad for a birthday present, I'd never speak to her again!"
        He gave her a look as if to ask 'and what is that supposed to mean,' so
she fired one right back that said 'what do you think it means,' with a little
extra smolder. Nothing like some nice safe flirting for a lost cause.
        "Are you speaking on any of the panels?" Brendan asked.
        "Tomorrow at three," MacBeth said. "The effects of gunpowder on
warfare, downfall of the era of castles, that sort of thing. Yourself?"
        "Just ... looking around, mostly," Brendan said.
        Birdie smirked, knowing full well why he was here. "So, Prof, see
anything you like?" Turn the smolder a little higher ...
        "A few exhibits have caught my eye," he said, either low and
insinuating on purpose or she was reading too much into it ... no, she was
definitely reading too much into it, wishful thinking, anybody? "But at the
moment, I was on my way to lunch. Would either of you care to join me?"
        "We'd be delighted," Brendan said, and Birdie could have stepped on
his foot, whaddaya mean we?
        The hotel pub was called Canterbury's, and they were between the noon
and dinner rushes. The decor was heavy on the dark oak, going for the country-
squire-fox-hunting motif. Maroon leather chairs with about a bazillion brass
nubbies punched into the backs. Slightly schmaltzy faux-history that probably
annoyed the living hell out of 80% of the conference guests.
        MacBeth took the booth side, while Birdie and Brendan sat opposite
him in those leather-and-nubby chairs. The menus transcended shmaltz, with
theme names taken from the Canterbury Tales. The Miller, the Wife of Bath ...
decisions, decisions.
        "I can't believe they carded me!" Birdie groaned in chagrin as the
waitress left with their order.
        "Compared to most of the people they've been seeing all day, you're just
a baby," Brendan said.
        To change the subject, Birdie filled MacBeth in on the latest Aerie
Building news. Things had been fairly quiet since Alex's accidental trip to a
world that sounded suspiciously like one she'd read about in a novel two years
ago. Goliath doted on baby Amber to the point that Angela was starting to get
her feathers ruffled, not that she'd ever admit it, of course. Elisa had been getting
threatening letters from some crackpot. Xanatos had been busy with Illuminati
stuff, Owen's kids had spent some time in the castle. That was about it.
        "And you? Keeping busy? Out of trouble?"
        Brendan chuckled into his wineglass. "Half her friends call her Jail Bird
now --"
        "Watch it," she warned her uncle. To MacBeth, she said, "Trouble?
Me?"
        "Tell him about your audition," Brendan said.
        "Oh, God." She rolled her eyes.
        "Audition?" MacBeth prompted.
        "I wasn't even there to audition," Birdie said. "I was just tagging along
as moral support for Jeff Morton, do you remember him? I didn't say a word!
But the director took one look at me and said I was perfect."
        "You don't seem very pleased."
        "I'm an actress, dammit! I want to act! They cast me as Rizzo!"
        It took MacBeth a moment, but then he started to laugh, and Brendan
joined him.
        "Yeah, yeah, very funny," Birdie grumbled.
        "I'm sorry, Birdie," Brendan said, "but I just couldn't see you as Sandy.
Your friend Aiden, maybe ..."
        "Oh, now, that'd be something," MacBeth said. "A gargoyle version of
Grease."
        "I could so do Sandy!" Birdie protested.
        "The final scene, maybe," Brendan allowed.
        "What, where she's a slut?" Birdie plucked the festooned toothpick
from her sandwich, put it in her straw, and aimed it like a blowgun. "The 'tell me
about it, stud,' scene? Is that what you meant, uncle dear? Think before you
speak, now ..."
        "I'm sure you'll do splendidly, whatever the role," MacBeth said.
        "Thank you, professor," she said regally, putting down the straw. "It is
nice to know that someone has confidence in me." She saw him grin, saw his
struggle, and added, "Just leave it at that, okay? Whatever you were going to say
about how they should do a movie based on Madonna's life or something, just let
it go. Deal?"
        "Deal." They shook on it.
        It was Brendan's turn to change the subject, so he showed off his find
from the dealer's hall, a fragment of an urn that showed the little-known Egyptian
goddess Kal-Tet. That turned into a lively recounting of his trip there.
        "Is he embellishing?" MacBeth leaned over to ask Birdie in an
undertone at one point.
        "I know it sounds like one of those cliffhanger shows, but according to
Broadway and Elektra, that's really how it happened. Of course, they were
sleeping for most of it ... "
        Brendan, oblivious, went on. Dakota this and Dakota that, until it
passed endearing and went straight to annoying.
        And then, like timing from heaven, an announcement filtered in from
the conference desk over the hotel sound system, that there had been a change in
the schedule and the seminar on 3rd Dynasty Egypt would be taking place in
fifteen minutes in the Ames Room, and due to a cancellation, Professor Henry
Jones, Jr., would be joined by his granddaughter, esteemed Egyptologist --
        The fastest excuse-me-gotta-go-nice-seeing-you that Birdie had ever
heard came rapid-fire out of Brendan's mouth. He nearly smacked her in the face
throwing her his Gold Card to cover lunch, and was out the door so fast he
nearly left flaming treads like a cartoon character.
        "I do believe your uncle is in love," MacBeth said once Brendan was
out of earshot.
        "I guess she made a hell of an impression. It's about time, though. He
and Aunt Margot were never really what I'd call romantic. Not sure exactly
what I'd call it, but it's over now so it doesn't matter. She's Castaway's cuddle-
bunny now."
        "All of this must be very difficult for your family," he said.
        "Yeah, well, life's not a weenie roast," she said. "The weirdest part is
that Chas and I both like Brendan a lot better now, but he's not really our uncle
anymore. We get stuck with Aunt Margot as a blood relative. Ugh."
        MacBeth shook his head resignedly. "One cannot choose one's kin."
        "Good thing, too, or I'd be on my own!"
        "That would be a shame. No one should be alone." He peered into the
depths of his glass somberly.
        "You're not getting depressed on me, are you?" Birdie chided. "Are you
one of those mopey drunks?"
        "I'm hardly drunk, nor am I mopey. I was merely making an
observation. Your uncle is most fortunate to have found someone to capture his
heart. I wish them the best of luck. Love is a treasured thing; to live without it is
to suffer."
        "And you say you're not mopey?"
        "Perhaps I am," he admitted. "Or envious."
        "What happened with that woman from the pirate place? Broadway told
me he thought you two really hit it off." Lucky thing, lucky, lucky thing!
        He sighed. "Lynne ... a charming, elegant woman. My mistake was in
being honest with her. I told her everything, right from the start so that there
would be no surprises later. It was more than she could take. Not at first, but it
grew on her. The knowledge that I had lived so long, done so much, would
remain forever unchanged. That I was unlike everyone else. It disturbed her so
that the only thing we could do was end our acquaintance. I'd dared to let myself
hope again, and once again it came to nothing."
        "Maybe you're looking for the wrong things in a relationship," Birdie
said.
        "And what do you mean by that?"
        "Well ... what are you looking for? You seem too hung up on this
lifespan thing. Why not just enjoy what you've got while you have it?"
        "I do not like dishonesty in matters of intimacy. How could I love a
woman while keeping such a truth from her? Yet the knowing of that truth erects
a wall of difference."
        Birdie mulled it over. "One -- you could find someone who doesn't care
about that. So you're immortal? So what?"
        "So what?!?" he echoed, clearly appalled. "So what? I have lived for a
thousand years! I have seen and experienced things no one alive today will ever
know outside of a history book!"
        "Yeah ... your point?"
        "It has a tendency to upset people when they learn that."
        "Exactly, so you find someone who doesn't freak out."
        "Mmm-hmm," he said, unconvinced. "And your second choice?"
        "Just get laid."
        He'd made the error of lifting his glass and very nearly sprayed a
shocked mouthful of beer. "What?!"
        "Quit being all long-term about it and just get laid. You get so wrapped
up in thinking that she'll get old and die while you remain how you are, so you're
already doing the grief and loss thing before you've even gotten started. Forget
about what'll happen in fifty or twenty years. Carpe diem, for crying out loud!"
        "I don't think of myself as the sort of man who would indulge in a
casual affair," he said, drawing himself up proudly.
        "Didn't you ever, in all those centuries, tumble a wench or something?"
        "That's hardly the same."
        "Bull puckey."
        "Not to mention greatly frowned upon in this day and age. Wenches are
no more. Respectable women expect, with good right and reason, something
more than a single night, and whores are illegal."
        She laughed again. "So find someone in between!"
        "Your counsel is thought-worthy --"
        "Oh, stop, that's the same tone of voice you used in the classroom when
you thought your students were so full of crap they squeaked."
        "This is why you never made the Sterling Academy Debate Team," he
said.
        "I was robbed; I would have been great at it!"
        "I witnessed the tryouts. You flipped off the opposition. With both
hands. And a raspberry."
        "I was trying to make a point."
        "You certainly did. Two alumni fainted and your friend Aiden very
nearly joined them."
        She tossed her head, the burgundy blaze at the front of her mass of
black curls bouncing across her line of sight. "It could have been worse."
        "I'm well aware of that."
        What she was going to say next was drowned out as two college-age
guys passed behind her, half-drunk and pretending to spar. One of them tripped
on the leg of her chair, blundered into his friend, and they came to a discordant
clumsy halt.
        "Hey!" the one who had tripped shouted. "How about moving your fat
ass out of the aisle?"
        MacBeth had him by the shirtfront before the punk even realized the
older man had gotten up. "That's no way to speak to a lady."
        "Come on, lay off!" protested the punk's pal apologetically, a little less
drunk and with keener animal instincts that let him see MacBeth not as a grey-
haired old fart but as a powerfully-built warrior of excellent reflexes.
        "Don't break him, okay?" Birdie said nonchalantly. "He's too 'faced to
walk straight."
        "I'd be fine if your fat ass wasn't blocking the aisle!" the punk, Mr. One-
Track Insult, spat. He threw in, "Bitch!" for good measure
        Birdie then started as if she realized he was speaking to her, and
whirled around with an innocent look. An innocent look, hand curled over her
mouth in a pose of astonishment, and one elbow raised so that the pointy wedge
of bone whammed squarely into the fly of the punk's jeans.
        "Oh, was I in your way?" she inquired all breathy and wide-eyed.
        "Hhhoargh!" the punk groaned.
        "Maybe I'd better just sit someplace else," Birdie continued, pushing
hard away from the table. The back of the chair collided smartly with his already
abused groin.
        MacBeth released him, and the man duck-walked backward with his
hands cupped.
        His friend grabbed him by the shoulders while those around them
snickered. "Come on, Randy. Let's get out of here."
        "Uuuurgh," Randy agreed.
        Birdie abandoned her chair and slid into the booth. "That was very
gallant," she said.
        "They had no right to treat you in that manner."
        "Well ... I do have a fat ass," she said, shrugging. "It's not like he was
totally out of line."
        "Nonsense," he said sharply. "You have a lovely figure. You forget, it's
only within the past century that women such as that --" here he jerked his head
toward a pair of model-types lounging artfully by the bar, "-- have come to be
considered attractive. Throughout most of history, beauty such as yours was the
ideal."
        "You shouldn't tell me things like that."
        "Why not?"
        "Because," she said, sliding around the curve of the table to sit closer to
him, "it might make me think I have a chance."
        He chuckled. "I'm afraid you're much too young for me."
        "Who isn't?"
        That one caught him without a ready reply, as she thought it might.
        "I already know your secret," she added. "Doesn't bother me at all. My
best friend is a spell-chucking gargoyle, remember, and my roommate is part
faerie."
        Still speechless, he only stared at her.
        "And maybe there is a wench or two left in the world," she concluded
with a wink.
        "I'm beginning to think you've seduction in mind."
        "What gave me away?"
        "Your hand on my thigh, for one."
        She looked down in apparent surprise. "Oh, mercy, how did that get
there?" She retrieved it, spanked it briskly with the fingers of her other hand.
"Bad Birdie! Bad!"
        "I'm relieved to see you have some sense of propriety."
        "No, I meant to put it higher."
        "Did you," he said evenly.
        "Shall I demonstrate?" She knew the devil-may-care look was dancing
in her brown eyes, making him wonder and worry that she would do it, would do
that and more, right here in this dimly-lit little bar with sixty or more people in
close quarters.
        "Not here." He spoke with decisiveness, rising and pulling on his long
black coat.
        Astonished, it was her turn to stare. "What?"
        "Not here." He pulled her to her feet.
        "Are you serious?" Her mind was whirling. Did he think he was calling
a bluff? Or did he really mean it?
        "Aren't you?" He fixed her with a steely gaze that said he didn't
appreciated teasing wenchly games, that in his view, a man or a woman should
say what they mean and stick to it.
        "Yeah, but I never thought ..." she shook her head smartly, took a deep
gasp, and recovered. "Well. Let's go."

                *               *

Veradoga Island
May 2000

        "More of this useless parchment," Reaper said scornfully, flinging a
wad of money into the barrel. "What a world we've awakened in!"
        Melusine poked through the glittering pile of jewelry. "Even their gold
is thinned with base metals, and many of these gems are imitation."
        "But spices!" Brand said, holding up one container after another.
"Pepper, cinnamon, ginger, so plentiful!"
        "I like the toys," Imp piped up. One of their most recent victories had
been against a houseboat, which had yielded the chest of fanciful childrens'
playthings.
        Reaper looked down fondly at his son. It was lonely for Imp with no
other hatchlings, but the playthings delighted him and kept him busy. Chimera
was as always a dutiful caretaker, better than many other gargoyle beasts Reaper
had known because Chimera's three heads let him keep an eye on every possible
avenue of mischief.
        "Yes, the food is much better in this time," Melusine agreed. "No more
hardtack, or salt pork. These humans live as kings at table."
        "Food will feed our clan, but what of gold?" Reaper said. "As we once
took sails, we now take fuel drums ... but what of bolts of silk, kegs of rum,
slaves, cotton, tobacco?"
        "What would we do with them?" Brand asked. "Where would we sell
such plunder? The world has changed, Reaper. The pirate havens of old are long
gone."
        "Those we meet see us even more as monsters now than ever,"
Melusine said.
        "Aye, that fear and their weakness mean that with only three warriors,
we can seize entire ships, but for what?" Reaper picked up a gun. "Even the
weapons we seize are small and feeble! I cannot fit my smallest claw to pull the
trigger. We've not seen a cutlass or a saber all this year! That place we awakened
was a stage for playacting nonsense; the weapons aboard our ship were as much
for false show as the ship herself!"
        "What else are we to do?" Melusine asked. "This is our purpose, what
we know, all we have. We've a ship, we've each other, we've the wide seas to call
our own. Better this, even if the gold is thinned and the weapons are strange,
than to be frozen again in wood. Better this than to join with those other
gargoyles we saw, the fat one and the frail one who were allies with our old foe."
        "She was not so frail," Brand murmured with a lecherous smile.
        "Can't we find pirate men?" Imp asked, clinging to Reaper's leg and
peering up at him with large wistful eyes. "Like before?"
        "I will not ally with humans again," Reaper declared. "The rest of our
clan paid the ultimate price."
        "Captain Tate would not have willingly let us come to harm," Melusine
said. "You know he was in Vera Cruz when it happened."
        "His place was on his ship, not in his mistress' bed," Brand said. "For
all we know, he could have had foreknowledge of the attack and let us go to our
deaths."
        "We'll never know; he and all his crew are fish-food long since."
Reaper sighed. "No, we cannot trust the humans. We cannot trust other
gargoyles. We have only ourselves."
        Melusine rose, balancing on her tail, and undulated to him. "At least
that, my love. At least that."
        He gazed into her turquoise eyes. "I promised you a ship of gold, my
angel of the deep. This cavern is not much of a dream come true."
        "It is home," she told him, opening her arms to include the cavern with
its clutter of furnishings gleaned from plundered pleasure boats. At one end, an
opening was veiled by the moonlit sparkle of the waterfall that cascaded from the
height of Veradoga Point. At the back of the cave was a steeply sloped tunnel
that wound down to the concealed seacave where the Lady MacBeth was
moored. "Where the five of us can be together, it is home."
        "Yes." He embraced her, but even her warmth and the glory of her hair
could not entirely turn his thoughts from the time that had been, when their clan
was strong and the Wyvern ruled the seas ...

                *               *

Belize, on the Gulf of Honduras
July, 1698

        The sun slipped below the horizon, and the pirate galleon Wyvern was
filled with the sound of splintering wood. An observer might have first thought
that the ship itself was coming apart under some unimaginable stress, until that
observer chanced to look upon the dozens of wooden figures that lined her sides.
        Wood split, falling away in scrap and sawdust, revealing living bodies
beneath. The figures stretched and moved, their eyes coming alight in white-blue
or blazing turquoise. Wings began unfolding, wings like those of angels or
dragons, bats or birds of prey.
        Reaper roared as he cast off his wooden skin and welcomed the rush of
the sea air through his dusky black feathers, over his dark-and-pale patterned
skin that gave him the appearance of a skeletal nightmare. Gripping his scythe,
he dove from the prow and swooped in a soaring arc to join the rest of his clan as
they glided around the masts and sails.
        As always, their first matter of business was to scan the horizons for
enemy ships. Nary a one this night, neither plump barque laden with sugar and
rum nor hunter's vessel bent on scouring the seas clean of pirates.
        The newest additions to the crew stared upward in awe and dread as the
gargoyles descended to the deck. A few began babbling prayers but were quickly
silenced by clouts from more senior crewmen.
        "They're na demons, ye squealing, squalling nancies!" Sharkey scolded.
"Na the wrath o' God come ta punish ye for yar sins, less'n thar be a man among
ye what's been given over to buggery!" He laughed and pointed at Reaper's
scythe. "If so, thar's the answer for ye!"
        Reaper turned toward the old sailor. "What news?"
        Sharkey spat over the rail. "Gah. Yon fool --" he jerked a thumb in the
direction of the captain's cabin, "-- be bent on plotting a course for the Red Sea."
        "Why?" Brand demanded. Reaper's rookery brother was fiery by both
appearance and nature, the brightness of his wings dictating the intensity of his
mood, and now they flickered red and gold. "Why sail so far when there's wealth
aplenty to be had here?"
        "The talk of John Avery's what's done it," Sharkey explained. "Every
man-jack worth his powder's heard tell o' his prize. The Great Mogul's daughter
to ransom? Shares of a thousand pound? Aye, who'd not be thinking o' trying his
luck against the pilgrim fleets? Including our own captain. The English and
Spanish have gone and put a scare into him, that they have. He's thinking the Red
Sea sounds much more to his liking."
        "Aye, 'tis gone bad, here," the first mate said, overhearing. "Port
Royal's gone, sunk into the sea, and we'd all do well to set sail for the heathen
lands. It's raiding the Christians what's done it. Talk o' God's wrath, Sharkey,
look on Port Royal!"
        "Our clan has sailed these islands for two centuries!" Reaper said. "We
know every beach, every cove, every sandbar! Why should we abandon our
home?"
        "Ye'll go whar the cap'n sails ya." Fat Jim's gap-toothed grin was
anything but friendly. "Ye're no better'n a mast or a cannon. Whar the Wyvern
goes, so go ye."
        Reaper turned slowly to the round-bellied carpenter. "No better than a
mast or cannon?"
        "Here, now!" Sharkey interposed himself between them. "Jim, ye'd do
well to mind yer manners. Carpenter ye may be, but na worth yer weight in
doubloons."
        "That'd be a pile of doubloons indeed," Scylla, one of Reaper's rookery
sisters, muttered snidely.
        "I will speak to the captain," Reaper decided.
        "Yes, tell him we cannot make such a long and dangerous journey
now!" Melusine said. "My sisters and I plan a breeding season soon!"
        "Thar's all we need," Fat Jim said. "The best hold taken up with yer
mess o' straw and eggs."
        "I've told ye once, Jim!" Sharkey said. "Again and I'll take a belaying
pin to ye, so help me!"
        Scowling, the carpenter hauled himself upright and began lurching
away on the wooden foot that replaced the one he'd lost off Nassau.
        "I don't trust that man," Brand said. "I don't trust him not to come at us
with his carving tools one day."
        "Captain Santiago would never allow it," Melusine said. "He is a good
man."
        "A good man, but a frightened man," Scylla said. "British warships
everywhere like ticks on a dog, not to mention the Spaniards! Is it any wonder
Santiago's thinking of far seas?"
        "I will speak to him," Reaper said again, and strode purposefully to the
door of the captain's cabin. He knocked and opened it without waiting for a
response.
        Within, Enrique Santiago was bent over his table, where maps of the
Indian Ocean were held in place with brass clamps. As befitted his alleged status
as an exiled Spanish nobleman, he wore a crimson damask coat and a ruffled
shirt, and his black hair was pulled back in neat waves to be caught in a ponytail
with a red ribbon.
        "How sounds Zanzibar, Reaper?" he asked without looking up. "Or
does Mogadishu better strike your fancy?"
        "Portobello," Reaper countered. "Or Cartagena."
        A grimace crossed Santiago's face. "The Caribbean is not as welcoming
as once she was."
        "When have we ever been welcome? When has the black flag ever been
greeted with joy?"
        "There are better prizes to be had --"
        "You've lost your spine. You flee like a coward at the first sign of
danger. All it's taken is one whisper of that Scotsman --"
        "Better a lost spine than a lost head," Santiago said sharply. "And you
should heed those whispers, my friend, because they tell me that the Scottish
Rogue, as they call him on Hispaniola, knows your kind and has no love for
them."
        "Show me a man who does." Reaper crossed his arms and looked down
on Santiago -- no mean feat, for the Spaniard towered above most men and many
gargoyles. "My clan will not forsake their home for fear of some would-be pirate
hunter."
        Santiago pinched the bridge of his nose as if his head pained him. "This
Moray is no normal man, from what I've heard."
        "I suppose they say he can catch musket balls in his teeth and spit them
back with the force of a cannon," Reaper said with contempt. "My clan do not
wish to leave."
        "Who captains this ship?" Santiago, out of patience, snapped.
        "Whoever the crew chooses," Reaper replied. "You know as well as I
that they choose a man both bold and ruthless. If you'd keep your crew and your
ship, then you'd do well to keep that in mind. It's been weeks since we've taken a
ship, months since we've sacked a town. You can't think these men will follow
you all the way to the Indian Ocean with no victory to feed the fire in their
blood!"
        "I will not linger here to be slaughtered! I have a wife and son in
Tortuga to think of!"
        "Then take another ship! Leave the Wyvern --"
        "To you?"
        "To another captain, whoever that may be. I have seen six captains
come and go, and the leader before me knew close to twenty. You humans come
and go. Only our clan remains constant."
        Santiago crossed to the porthole and stood staring out at the moonlit
verdant hills that rose above Belize. Reaper fell silent and let him think.
        "Very well," Santiago finally said. "We'll find a good prize ship, seize
her, and those of the crew who wish to stay behind may do so with my blessing.
We'll divide our plunder and go our separate ways."
        Reaper inclined his cowled head, grimly satisfied, and went back on
deck to give his clan the news.

                *               *

Excerpt from a letter to Albert Barker
From his brother Henry, a passenger aboard the Marie Jeanette
August 14th, 1698

        The crew did not seem to expect an attack by night, but they chose the
brave and foolish course of rallying to fight back. I was wakened by the shouting
and came onto the deck to see the pirate vessel Wyvern bearing down on us.
        There were gargoyles flying vanguard, and a more ferocious and
horrible sight I thought never to see -- this was yet before I witnessed the
atrocities committed upon the crew for the crime of their resistance.
        It is said that pirates do these hideous deeds to create a terrifying image,
and from what I saw that hellish night, it is an image well-deserved. To those
who surrender without a fight, more leniency is accorded, or so I have heard,
because the pirates wish quick victories.
        The crewmen, and I fault them not for this, concentrated their fire upon
the gargoyles in their raw panic. But the demonic things avoided and evaded
with what seemed to me scornful ease, and in the meanwhile, the Wyvern drew
close and allowed the pirates to swarm aboard our decks.
        That show of defiance had doomed the crew. The pirates fell upon
them, and soon the air was filled with the stink of black powder, smoke, and
blood. Those who resisted were given brutal beatings, then hacked with cutlasses
and thrown, many yet conscious and screaming, into the sea.
        I thank God my dear Margaret had not accompanied me, for the
indecent molestations accorded to the wife of one Andrews are too horrid to
relate, and Andrews himself in trying to defend her was punished by having the
heart cut from his breast, soaked in spirits (of which I believe rum was chief
among them), and then devoured by a many-headed serpentine monster which
accompanied the gargoyles.
        Our captain, wounded but unbowed even in the face of all these terrible
acts, refused to divulge the whereabouts and nature of the ship's cargo and
treasures. For this, he was subjected to a torture I was later to learn is called
'woolding,' in which a length of cord was wrapped about his head and twisted
until the eyes burst from his skull.
        Six other passengers and I were spared any harm, once we had turned
over all that we had of value. Of the crew, the surgeon's mate and the carpenter
were forced to sign Articles agreeing to join the pirates, three others willingly
petitioned to join, and the rest were killed with cutlasses and knives the better to
save gunpowder.
        The pirates then seized control of the Marie Jeanette, and spent two
days ransacking the ship from end to end. The fate of myself and my fellow
survivors was not yet determined, but as the pirates grew more drunken and
high-spirited, taking to wasting the gunpowder they had only two days ago
sought to save by firing on gulls and other seabirds, we began to fear for our
lives ...

                *               *

Manhattan
May, 2000

        "Oh! Oh, now! Now!" Birdie tugged on MacBeth's hair, gently at first,
then with more insistence as he did not quit but kept on with what he was doing.
"Now! Oh! I can't stand it!"
        At that, he did raise his head, but only long enough to look at her with a
bemused smile. "Young people today have no patience. Is nothing worth waiting
for?"
        "I'm going crazy!" she informed him.
        He slowly ran his tongue along the inside of her thigh, his beard
brushing like soft plush against her skin. Then he slid both hands beneath her
buttocks and lifted her hips, resuming his diligent efforts, until Birdie really
did think she was going to lose her mind.
        Most of the other guys she'd been with seemed to take increased
excitement as a cue to fixate harder-and-faster attention, not realizing that too
much direct stimulation quickly sent many women right over the narrow line
dividing extreme pleasure from extreme discomfort. MacBeth knew better. Oh,
did he ever know better!
        Several minutes later, when she could move her legs again and the
tremors had dwindled to occasional little twitches, she rolled onto her side and
looked at him. He'd moved up to rest beside her as she recovered, and only the
stiffness prodding her hip betrayed his own state.
        Now she reached down and caressed him. He was uncircumcised, which
shouldn't have surprised her but did, leaving her feeling silly for being surprised
in the first place -- of course he wasn't; they didn't do that in early 11th-
century Scotland ...
        Besides, she'd discovered that although it looked different flaccid (not
that she'd seen it that way for very long, a fact of which she was quite proud), it
sure didn't seem to matter once it was a fine upstanding citizen.
        And, really, given whose it was, she probably wouldn't have cared if
it was painted purple or shaped like a curlicue ... well, she would have cared
but it still wouldn't have mattered all that much. This was MacBeth, MacBeth
naked, naked and in bed with her; to hell with everything else!
        Luckily, though, it wasn't purple (a tad rosy at the tip, was all) and
not at all curlicued, just the right length and thickness. If there had been a
contest, the blue ribbon would have been all his.
        That reminded her of a bawdy song, and that made her laugh.
        Generally, laughing while gripping a man's erection is an automatic trip
to Shrivel-Town, but that applied only to insecure guys and not to supremely
confident immortal kings. He just hoisted an eyebrow at her and invited her to
share the joke.
        "There's a song, I can't remember how it goes, called The Sleeping
Scotsman," she said. "This Scotsman is going home drunk and passes out under
a tree, and two girls walk by ... I do remember that part. See yon sleeping
Scotsman, so fair and handsome built, I wonder if it's true what they don't wear
beneath their kilt. So they hike his kilt for a look, then tie a ribbon around it as a
joke. The Scotsman wakes up later, has to pee, so ..."
        MacBeth sang the rest. "He marveled for a moment at the sight before
his eyes, and said, Lad, I don't know where ye've been --"
        Birdie joined in, "But I see ye've won first prize!"
        "I'm flattered," he said when they were done laughing together.
"Though I don't wear a kilt."
        "That's okay; I like what you're wearing now."
        "I can think of something I'd like to try on."
        "I'm sure it'll fit."
        "Shall we find out?"
        Later, much later, Birdie was fairly sure she wouldn't be able to stand
steadily for an hour  or more, and would probably have a smile on her face for
the rest of the year at least.
        She curled against him with her head resting on his chest, crisp grey
hair tickling her cheek, the rhythm of his heartbeat beneath her ear. She couldn't
get over how at ease with each other they were, but knew that to talk about it
would be to ruin it, so she just basked in the utter companionable comfort.
        "Older men," she eventually murmured.
        "Hmm?" MacBeth replied from what sounded like the threshold of
sleep -- usually, she found that annoying as all hell, that men were poof! out of
energy and ready for naptime right after, but hey, he had earned it!
        "Older men," she said a little bit louder. "Guys my age don't know what
they're doing."
        "Is that so?" Amused now. "Well, as we noted before, you won't find
many as old as me."
        "Does that mean you're the best ever?"
        He gave her bottom a friendly squeeze. "I would never come right out
and say such a thing."
        "Oooh, and he's modest, too!" she teased.
        "So then, what is the problem with men your age?"
        She blew through her teeth, making a pffff sound. "Seems like they
think they can learn everything they need to know from a porno movie. I can't
speak for every woman in the world, but I for one know that there are some parts
of my body I don't want yanked on, jackhammered into, or eja --" she bit off
what she was about to say; too crude. "And I sure as hell wouldn't want to be
trying to balance on a barstool with my legs in the air."
        "A spinal injury waiting to happen," he agreed.
        "Though probably a damn good abs workout," she said.
        "I assure you, even before such movies were commonplace, many men
held very foolish ideas about what a woman liked. Those men that even gave a
damn, that is."
        "Right, our male-dominated history; a man's pleasure is in the act, a
woman's is in raising the resulting kiddies. A real lady wouldn't be allowed to
enjoy herself, would she?"
        "Hence the wenches," he said with a grin. "Wenches were free to enjoy
a good tumble."
        "And we're back to wenches. So, do I qualify?"
        "You would have made a fine wench."
        "Have you known many?"
        He chuckled. A bit self-consciously, she thought.
        "Aw, come on, do you think I'm easily shocked?" she wheedled. "I
heard you used to be a pirate, so there must have been wenches aplenty --"
        "I was a pirate hunter," he interrupted to stress.
        "How'd you become a pirate hunter, anyway?"
        "Well, first," he admitted, "I _was_ a pirate ... "
        "Every woman's fantasy," she grinned.
        "Oh, no," he said seriously. "It was not like that at all. The romantic
ideal of the swashbuckling rogue was fictionalized even in those days, but the
truth was ruthless, brutal, and vicious."
        He was wide awake now, arms behind his head as he gazed up at the
ceiling and the sheet bunched just above his waist. The posture put his well-
defined pecs on gorgeous display, but Birdie kept her hands to herself (for the
time being, at any rate). His eyes had taken on a faraway look, remembering
those wild events of three centuries past.
        "I left London in the early 1600's," he said. "Following the death of
Elizabeth, England lost much of its charm for me. She was a great lady, and
although we'd had our differences, I, like many of her courtiers, loved her well.
But there were beginning to be a few too many questions about Lord Moray,
who'd come to Elizabeth's court thirty years earlier. So, I began a period of travel
that would take me first to France --"
        "Musketeer France?" Birdie interjected.
        He nodded. "An era also greatly glamorized today. Eventually, I set sail
for the colonies. I lived many years in Charleston before deciding to return to
Europe. A few weeks out of port, our ship was attacked and all able-bodied men
were given the choice to sign the Articles or be tortured for the amusement of the
crew."
        "Nice."
        "Oh, very. That particular lot was made up of some of the most
inventively cruel people it has ever been my misfortune to meet, and that is
coming from a man who spent centuries in pursuit of Demona."
        "So you joined up ... sure, it's not like they could kill you, but pain still
hurts, right?"
        "Right. And given that pirates are superstitious by nature, had they
noticed the rate at which my wounds mended themselves, they might have
decided I was some unnatural creature. I didn't relish the idea of being burned
alive in an attempt to sear the devils from my flesh. So I signed their Articles,
joined their crew. And to my surprise, I found that many aspects of that life
suited me."
        "Travel, adventure, nobody staying around long enough to start
wondering why you weren't getting any older ..."
        "In time, I got a ship of my own, a letter of marque from Louis XIV,
and a good stout-hearted crew. Now they call it the Golden Age of piracy, and I
suppose it was. We were with Henry Morgan at the sack of Panama in 1671, but
my greatest prize and my greatest folly would come several years later ..."

                *               *

Off the Spanish Main
November, 1688

        "The vows men make when drunk," the man going by the name Lennox
Moray said, shaking his head ruefully.
        "It were a grand funeral," Tag said. "Every ship's gun in Port Royal
harbor all firing in salute. His wife wept, I heard."
        "You speak fondly of him for a lad who was a babe in arms when
Panama was burning to the ground," Moray said.
        "I'm eighteen now, hardly a lad," Tag pointed out. "And what was
Panama to me? You raised me. No town is my home, but the wide and rolling
sea!"
        "Aye."
        What good would it do to tell the youth how it had been in those final
violent days? The assault on Panama had been a lengthy and grueling process
indeed, from the costly battle at San Lorenzo to the overland trek through the
jungle to the disappointing and deadly findings in Panama itself.
        They'd overrun Don Juan Perez de Guzman's army, leaving better than
five hundred men dead or dying at a cost of only fifteen of their own, but the
determined Don Juan had made sure the pirates would have little to show for
their victory. The city's wealth had been loaded onto ships and spirited away, the
houses rigged with barrels of gunpowder.
        Moray closed his eyes briefly, still seeing the grisly aftermath although
more than seventeen years had passed. The furious buccaneers, running from
house to house searching for gold, while the city burned around them. They'd
even raided the outlying villages and islands, savagely torturing the inhabitants
to get them to reveal where they had hidden their money.
        Tag's mother had been one of those unlucky villagers. When beating
failed to gain her cooperation (in the eyes of her attackers, anyway; they would
later find that she could not tell them where any gold was for she had none), they
threatened to slaughter her infant son before her very eyes.
        Unable to stand a drop more of bloodshed, Moray had intervened. The
woman died from the extent of her injuries, and with her dying breath had
exhorted him to look after her son.
        Now Tag was grown tall and strong, and on occasion reminded Moray
forcibly of his own son, although there was no resemblance between them. Tag
was dark, quick as a whip, and given to poetic flights of fancy, quite unlike the
level-headed Luach.
        "It is the end of an era," Moray said. "Morgan's death will bring many
changes."
        "Seems a strange way to honor his memory," Tag said. "Didn't he spend
the past half-score years hunting pirates? Yet here we are, lying in wait for a
likely fat merchantman."
        "That's what I meant -- the vows men make when drunk. To recapture
Morgan's glory days and sack some Spanish silver."
        "Aye, and give it all over to the French, like as not," Bosun Guthrie,
lounging indolently by the helm, said sourly.
        "The men will have their shares," Moray told him.
        "Shares or no, ye're treating them like they signed on with the Royal
Navy. Rules and drills ... why, there's some what say ye'll be having us in
uniform before much longer."
        "It has been my experience that the better disciplined a crew, the more
profitable their endeavors."
        Guthrie's expression suggested that he'd heard this particular line of
reasoning many a time before, and was less impressed with it upon each
repetition. But he chose to say nothing, settling for fishing out his tobacco
pouch.
        Three days later, a sail was sighted. The Saunders, a barque leaving
Puerto Cabello. She was riding low, her hold likely brimming with provisions
and silver.
        Under the pretense of hailing for news, Moray had the Fleance close to
a short distance before hoisting the black flag.
        Surrender at once, that flag proclaimed.
        Immediately, the captain of the Saunders tried to bring his ship around
and flee.
        Now that the chase was underway, Moray's growing doubts fell away
from him and he barked orders sharply. His men swarmed to obey -- when
plunder was at hand, they didn't complain about discipline; it was only during
those long becalmed days when the air hung still and humid that laziness spurred
resentment.
        The black flag came down and the red was raised. The Saunders had
had her chance at peaceable surrender and declined.
        Riding low, yes, of course she was riding low! The Saunders swung
about and revealed a design of shipbuilding Moray had never seen before, three
ranks of cannon ports, so that the entire side of the ship was pocked with black
holes.
        He barely had time to shout a warning before the cannons roared. The
angle was off, so many of the balls splashed into the deep, but several others tore
through the planking of the Fleance. Men cartwheeled overboard from the
impacts.
        "She'll send us straight to the bottom!" Guthrie shouted.
        "Fire a broadside!" Moray yelled.
        The Fleance's return fire was a pitiful spitting compared to the
thunderous voice of the Saunders. Men on both ships raced to reload, but the
Saunders was turning, turning to bring her other side and other ranks of cannons
into play.
        "Ram her before she can come about!"
        "Ye madman!" Guthrie opined. "'Tis suicide!"
        Moray clouted him on the shoulder. "Just do as I say!"
        The Fleance, even damaged, was the more maneuverable of the vessels,
and responded deftly. Wood shrieked as the hulls collided and scraped. More
men were thrown in all directions. Moray saw one unlucky crewman fall with his
legs tangled in a line, dropping into the crevasse as the ships rebounded apart,
then slammed back together.
        Ropes flew, grappling onto the Saunders to secure them together.
Moray led the charge across the pitching deck, Tag at his side and his crew
behind him, bristling with weapons and bloodthirsty cries.
        The men of the Saunders met them, fighting ably and determinedly.
They knew that, having resisted, they were sure to meet an ugly fate, and thus
planned to take as many of their foes with them as possible. But Moray's drills
paid off; his crew worked in concert without even seeming to be aware of it. Tag
comported himself admirably, taking a shot in the shoulder but still managing to
disarm the Saunders' first mate and then best him in a short but brutal knife fight.
        The battle raged back and forth for nearly an hour, but then the favor
slowly turned in favor of the crew of the Fleance.
        "Blow her!" the captain of the Saunders bellowed when it came clear all
was lost. He was clearly an expert swordsman, holding off three of the pirates
while contending with a keg tucked beneath his left arm.
        Those of his crew that were still able paled at that order, and many left
off fighting to scramble to the longboats, or to the rails to leap overboard. Many
of the Fleance's crew caught their fear like the pox and followed, for it was
suddenly clear to all of them that the ship was packed with gunpowder.
        Moray spied two men headed for the hatch, terrified-looking black
slaves who dreaded their captain's wrath more than the certain death that awaited
them.
        In the best tradition, he grabbed a line and swung. His fold-top boots
struck one man in the midsection, knocking him over the rail. The expression on
his face was almost one of gratitude.
        Then Moray let go and tackling the other. They rolled-bounced-crashed
through the hatch together, fetching up against a lashed triangular stack of
barrels. The flaming taper the man had been carrying flew from his hand,
guttered as it struck the wall, then gusted to new life when it landed in a heap of
wood shavings. Tongues of yellow flame licked hungrily at the curling wood,
leaping as they tasted the draft from the open hatch.
        Moray was none too eager to survive an explosion at such close range.
He seized the man, pummeled him senseless, and hurled him onto the flames,
hoping to smother them beneath the body.
        It worked, or almost did. A sole ember, coughing out from beneath the
man, alit on a spill of powder and grew too quickly to be extinguished. With bare
seconds left, Moray scooped up the unconscious man and carried him back on
deck, hurling him over the side into a crowded, bobbing longboat.
        "Here!" Tag beckoned, waving frantically.
        He returned the wave, looking about for the Saunders' captain, and
spied him. The keg had become fouled in a tangle of cut lines and a torn sail, and
the man was disregarding his own safety to struggle with it.
        Moray raced across the deck, fancying he could feel the gathering
rumble of the explosion readying beneath his feet.
        "No, you shan't!" the captain yelled, brandishing his sword. "'Tis mine!"
        The gleaming steel swept toward him, biting through the sleeve of his
black frock coat and into the meat of his left arm just below the shoulder. Moray
drew his own sword, and attacked. He would just as soon leave the man to die in
the dragon's breath of the explosion, but he wanted that keg, for whatever was in
there was evidently worth the lives of a hundred men, and after all of this, he
meant to have it.
        A cloud of swirling embers and heated air belched from the hatch,
setting the tattered sails afire. A single loud report, like the world's largest
cannon, shook the Saunders. Both captains staggered across the heaving deck.
Moray's back slammed painfully into the rail, and then his enemy's hand was at
his throat, forcing his head backward, clenching on his windpipe.
        They wrestled and struggled, neither able to bring their swords into
play. Then the Saunders captain hooked his fingers into Moray's sash and
heaved, flipping him over.
        Moray caught the rail, his legs smashing into a cannon port. He had
time to think that a few inches lower and he would have never needed wonder
again if the Weird Sisters' spell had somehow left him infertile, for it would have
been a moot point.
        Rather than lean down to finish him off, the other captain turned and
went back for his keg. Swearing in a hodgepodge of languages, Moray hauled
himself back up and limped after.
        "Mine!" the captain, unaware of Moray coming up behind him, shrieked
in triumph as he freed the keg from its entanglement.
        Just then, the powder blew. The rear of the ship seemed to lift
completely out of the water, and in the eerie silence following the deafening
boom, Moray imagined he heard seawater dripping from its raised hull.
        A fist of fire drove both captains into the air, their coats ablaze. They
went into the churning froth, with debris raining down all around them.
        Moray came up, gasping, and saw his foe only a few yards away. Hair
burnt away, skin crisped to char in places, the man was still clinging to the keg.
His eyes turned toward Moray, huge and dark, but then Moray saw they weren't
eyes at all but only sockets from which the soft tissue had been boiled away.
        In horrified pity and revulsion, Moray drew his knife and thrust it deep,
piercing the man's heart. Clutching hands slowly released the bobbing keg, and
the captain of the Saunders slipped under and disappeared.
        The longboats had been tossed and wallowed by the waves, but Guthrie
and Tag rowed over to Moray and pulled both him and the keg aboard. Soon
they were back on the Fleance, dousing small fires started by burning debris.
They'd lost twenty men and salvaged six from the Saunders, who had pleaded to
be allowed to join the crew.
        The ship's cook passed out grog, the rum only slightly watered. The
surgeon went about his business, but when he came to Moray, it seemed once
again the captain had had a lucky break, his enemy being between him and the
worst of the explosion. His only wound was a faint scratch on the left arm, and
his dip into the ocean had washed away the worst of the blood that would have
exposed it as originally being far worse.
        "I told ye t'was suicide!" Guthrie snapped. "Why, if we'd rammed her a
touch harder, 'twould have been like the Magdalena for us all! And for what?
One keg? Twenty men dead and twice that wounded, for a cask of sugar, most
likely!" He lashed out at it with his foot.
        The keg, weakened and scorched black in places, cracked open and
emptied its contents onto the deck in a glittering torrent.
        Diamonds.
        Uncut diamonds.
        "God and all the saints," one of the sailors said softly.
        "A cask of sugar?" Moray asked Guthrie.
        A cheer rang to the crow's nest. The crew would have fallen upon the
treasure as children in later centuries would dive upon piñata candy, but Moray
ordered them back and scooped the diamonds into a bag.
        "Each man will have his share," he promised again, "But we'll need to
divide them fairly."
        Some grumbling, not entirely surprised, greeted this. Moray noted the
look that passed between Guthrie and a few of the other crewmen, not a look he
cared for, but he was certain that once they'd gotten their share of the prize, they
would be more jovial.
        "There's papers in here as well," Tag said, holding up a half-dozen rolls
of thick parchment bound with ribbon and sealed with stamped dollops of wax.
        "Give them over," Moray said, a thrill going through him at the sight of
that seal. No wonder the Saunders captain had been willing to destroy his ship!
The diamonds were bounty enough, but magic scrolls as well?
        Thanks to his experiences with the Sisters, he had devoted much time to
the study of secret arcane arts -- which was why it had been so ironically funny
in 1603 when Demona had tried to arrange his trial and would-be execution for
the crime of sorcery, for she had no idea he truly was capable of some of the
things of which he was accused.
        Once the Fleance was underway, he returned to his cabin and locked the
bag of diamonds into his seachest, along with the scrolls.
        They sought a deserted cove where they could careen and repair the
ship, a task which the carpenter estimated would take several weeks. During that
time, Moray examined the scrolls, determining the safest way to open them.
        He found, to his surprise, that one of them contained information about
gargoyles. Not the sort with which he was familiar, Demona and her ilk, but
gargoyles who turned to wood with the rising of the sun, who made their homes
on ships instead of castles. Here was a spell to waken them even at the hottest
noonday of summer, here was one to imprison them in sleep ...
        Although the weeks of work -- making their camp, winching the
Fleance onto the beach, scraping her hull, repairing the holes, caulking the
planking, applying the pungent sulfur-and-tallow mix to deter teredo worms,
hunting, fishing, drying and smoking the catch, mending and making barrels,
gathering and preparing herbs for the surgeon -- were hard and unpleasant, the
crew were in high spirits.
        Moray was soon to find out why ...

                *               *

Manhattan
May, 2000

        "Mutiny," Birdie said. "The bastards mutinied on you, didn't they?"
        MacBeth sighed heavily. "The diamonds were too great a temptation.
Bosun Guthrie convinced them that I would keep most of the haul for myself,
leaving scant shares for the men. Enough of them believed him to let him seize
the camp, and most of the others joined their cause soon after. I was left with
only a handful of loyal men, and the battle was over before it really began.
        "They killed two of my men, took the rest prisoner, and demanded that I
hand over the diamonds and command of the ship to Guthrie. They planned to
take me to St. Kitts, where the governor was offering a substantial price on my
head for an incident some years previous.
        "But matters got out of hand. The men fell to arguing, fearing
retaliation from the rightful owners of those diamonds should they appear too
soon. Finally, Guthrie suggested burying the swag, something done much less
frequently than movies would have you believe.
        "During the days it took them to settle these debates, I was able to sway
some of the mutineers back to my side. Guthrie learned of this, and decided that
I was too great a danger to be left alive. And so, when they buried the treasure,
they shot me through the heart and threw me into the hole as well."
        "Fifteen men on a dead man's chest," Birdie said, shocked.
        "Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum," he finished gravely.
        "They didn't know ..."
        "So there I was, left for dead atop a chest containing a fortune in
diamonds and six scrolls. I began to recover quickly, but by then I was buried
alive. I could hear and feel each successive spadeful of sand and earth as it
landed atop the rest, filling in the hole. Pain ran all through my chest, I could
scarcely scrape out room to breathe, and I must have died countless times over
from taking in the used-up air, then reviving."
        Birdie took a deep breath, her own lungs automatically tightening.
"Jeez-Louise! How did you get out of that one?"
        "I dug," he said. "Bit by bit, gradually forcing myself up through the
loose soil. Until at last I broke through."
        "How long were you down there?"
        "I don't recall, and I prefer it that way. Yet to this day, I am not terribly
fond of enclosed spaces."
        "No wonder!"
        "Once I had recovered, I dug up the diamonds and scrolls. Eventually, I
hailed a passing ship and made my way to London. I had been somewhat soured
on piracy by then, and vowed to do what I could to put an end to it. In 1695, I
commissioned a new ship and returned to the Caribbean, and set about making a
new name for myself as a pirate hunter."

                *               *
Continued in Part Two ...