Where Loyalties Lie

Contents

Fortune

Chapter 1 - The Phoenix

Chapter 2 - Fortune

Chapter 3 - The Phoenix

Chapter 4 - Fortune

Chapter 5 - The Phoenix

Chapter 6 - Fortune

Chapter 7 - The Phoenix

Chapter 8 - The Phoenix

Chapter 9 - Fortune

Chapter 10 - The Phoenix

Chapter 11 - The Phoenix

Chapter 12 - Fortune

Chapter 13 - The Phoenix

Chapter 14 - Fortune

Chapter 15 - The Phoenix

Chapter 16 - Fortune

Chapter 17 - The Black Death

Chapter 18 - Starry Dawn

Chapter 19 - The Phoenix

Chapter 20 - Fortune

Chapter 21 - Starry Dawn

Chapter 22 - The Phoenix

Chapter 23 - Fortune

Chapter 24 - The Phoenix

Chapter 25 - Fortune

Chapter 26 - The Phoenix

Chapter 27 - Fortune

Chapter 28 - Starry Dawn

Chapter 29 - The Phoenix

Chapter 30 - Starry Dawn

Chapter 31 - The Phoenix

Chapter 32 - Fortune

Chapter 33 - The Phoenix

Chapter 34 - Starry Dawn

Chapter 35 - The Phoenix

Chapter 36 - Fortune

Chapter 37 - Mary’s Virtue

Chapter 38 - Fortune

Chapter 39 - Fortune

Chapter 40 - Fortune

Chapter 41 - The Phoenix

Chapter 42 - Starry Dawn

Chapter 43 - Starry Dawn

Chapter 44 - Fortune

Chapter 45 - Starry Dawn

Chapter 46 - The Phoenix

Chapter 47 - Fortune

Chapter 48 - North Gale

Chapter 49 - Fortune

Chapter 50 - North Gale

Chapter 51 - The Phoenix

Chapter 52 - Mary’s Virtue

Chapter 53 - North Gale

Chapter 54 - Fortune

Chapter 55 - North Gale

Chapter 56 - The Phoenix

Chapter 57 - Fortune

Epilogue

Where Loyalties Lie

(Book 1 of Best Laid Plans)

by

Rob J. Hayes

For always heeding the call to Suit Up, I would like to thank my Alpha Team:

Mihir Wanchoo, Rhian Galea, Vicki Orton, and Charles Phipps

Copyright ©2017 by Rob J. Hayes

(http://www.robjhayes.co.uk)

Cover image ©2016 by Alex Raspad

Cover design by Shawn King

Edited by Toby Selwyn

All rights reserved.

Fortune

Black Sands burned and the fire danced in Drake’s eyes. It wasn’t the first town he’d seen disappear in the way of smoke and ash, and by the time his plan was complete it sure as all the Hells wouldn’t be the last.

The flames eagerly consumed everything they touched, racing from the dark, sandy beach to the nearby encroaching jungle. Great plumes of black smoke billowed up into the sky, where they blotted out the twinkling stars.

It was a grim day for the pirates of the isles, but a glorious night for Captain Drake Morrass. The rest of his crew were witnessing the deaths of hundreds and the extermination of one of the few safe havens left for scoundrels like themselves. Drake was witnessing the birth of an empire. His empire.

A single dinghy crewed by eleven men rowed back to the Fortune. Ashore, the Werry Meather, Black Sands’ largest building and only tavern, collapsed in upon itself. Even from out in the bay, all of the crew heard the crack as the final supporting beam gave way. There was a long moment’s silence from the crew; every one of them had been drunk and worse than drunk in that tavern. Drake would miss the place and no mistake, but there were plenty of places to buy grog and he wasn’t about to shed a tear over the loss of one. Besides, it was taking every ounce of control he had not to grin at his good fortune.

The dinghy bumped against the hull of the Fortune and the silence was broken as pirates leapt to their work, knowing better than to slack. Ropes were lowered and secured, men scrabbled on board, and in a short time the dinghy was no longer in the water but on its way to the deck of Drake’s ship.

A single man approached the foredeck, where Drake stood in a bubble of isolation. Weather-beaten skin, long lank hair, and a gaunt complexion made plain the pirate’s long experience on the sea. He was, if anything, slightly older than Drake, and looked every year of it.

“What’s the news ashore, Princess?” Drake said.

“Town’s on fire,” his first mate replied casually.

“No, you don’t say.” Drake let slip a brief grin, but quickly removed it lest any of his crew noticed. “Any survivors?”

“Not a single one. Seems those bastards wanted ta be, what ya call it, thorough.”

“Did you happen to witness who committed this terrible tragedy?”

Princess nodded; a loose clump of hair flapped in front of his face, and he tucked the errant strands back behind his ears. “Jus’ so happens I took a few of the boys to check on the other side of the island, Cap’n. Would you believe it, there was one of them nice new Sarth navy ships jus’ setting course away from the deed.”

“Good. Make sure the whole crew know about that, Princess. Wouldn’t want anyone missing out on such a vital piece of the puzzle. We’ll set course for Port Sev’relain come first light, and I want the whole crew talking about nothing else.”

“Right y’are, Cap’n.” Princess turned and walked away, leaving Drake alone once again on the foredeck.

He stood there for a while, watching the town burn. “Break out one of the barrels of rum, boys. I want everyone to have a drink for Black Sands. Then I want everyone to have a drink to never letting those bastards do it again.”

His crew cheered, their sombre mood replaced with a rowdier, more vicious temperament better suited to pirates. But his crew were the easy marks. The real test would come in recruiting the other captains.

Part 1 –Before the Storm

Stillwater said the Oracle

You’re fucking joking said Drake

I’m not said the Oracle

Shit said Drake

Chapter 1 - The Phoenix

“She doesn’t look like much,” Keelin Stillwater said, peering through the monoscope. It was the only artefact of his old life he still kept; all the rest had been lost to either fire, the sea, or the debt collectors.

Next to Keelin, his first mate, Yanic Bo’larn, peered out across the open ocean. “She looks to be riding low.”

“How could you possibly tell from here?” Keelin said. Without the use of the monoscope the ship on the horizon was barely more than a speck.

“Good eyes,” Yanic said, with a nod that made his hangdog expression seem utterly serious. “My ma always fed me plenty o’ greens. Gave me the eyes of a hawk.”

Keelin lowered the monoscope from his eye and glared at his first mate with such severity that any other member of the crew would likely have fled; Yanic, however, just smiled. “Last week you told me you were orphaned at the age of four and never knew your parents.”

“Boggles the mind some, don’t it,” Yanic said seriously.

Keelin laughed and returned his attention to the ship in question. “You’re not wrong though. She is sailing low.”

“Full hold, I reckons.”

“Full of what though?” Keelin mused. “She doesn’t look like a slaver.”

“Could be gold.”

“Could be stone.”

“Stone sells.”

“Not for much.”

“We’d get more for stone than we will for nothin’. Hold’s looking a little empty, Cap’n.”

“And who would we sell this stone to?”

“Stonemason?”

“You know any?”

“No,” Yanic admitted solemnly before his face broke into a grin. “But I reckon Quartermain does.”

Keelin considered the situation carefully for a few more minutes. He’d already made the decision, but it did his crew good to wait on the captain’s pleasure. Yanic looked just about on the verge of mutiny when Keelin finally gave voice to his decision.

“Aye, let’s do it. Pile on sail and change course to intercept. Wake all hands and chase Lumpy into my cabin. We don’t want the mangy cur attempting to jump ship again. Oh, and fly the colours…”

“So soon, Cap’n?” Yanic sounded sceptical.

“Might as well make some sport out of it.” Keelin grinned wide, showing plenty of teeth, and Yanic returned the grin for just a moment before turning and bellowing the captain’s orders to the rest of the crew.

The Phoenix couldn’t claim to be the fastest ship on the seas, but she flew through the water with even the barest breath of wind, and they had more than that as they chased down the heavily laden fluyt. Keelin watched through his monoscope with a smile as their quarry attempted to increase its speed by piling on more sail. They bought themselves a little longer, though nothing more. Before long The Phoenix was alongside the other vessel, and Keelin could see its small complement of crew spread out along the railing with all manner of weaponry, from swords to axes, to crude knives clearly fashioned out of whatever happ ...

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